This is a re-post of an interview conducted By David Goldstein at DomainPulse.com

Recently the .asia top level domain made a number of changes to eligibility, the main one being to enable anyone, anywhere with an interest in Asia to register a .asia domain name. As the Asian region expands, and Asian communities around the world grow and diversify, there are some great opportunities ahead. There are challenges ahead for .asia, as with any top level domain, but their experiences can also be instructive. Recently Leona Chen-Birkner, Vice President of Registrar Relations for DotAsia Organisation, sat down with Domain Pulse to discuss DotAsia’s experiences, and what the future looks like.

Domain Pulse: The recent liberalisation of eligibility for .asia means anyone, anywhere can register a domain and has made .asia much more available. Have you seen any changes in domain registrations?
Leona Chen-Birkner: We’re definitely seeing an increase in domain registrations from outside the region. Although the growth is not as obvious when you look at the overall creates since July. One reason for this is due to a general market downturn for registrations coming from China.

DP: And what was the impetus for the changes?
LCB: It signals to the world that .Asia is open for business and that your business can rise with the rapidly growing Asia market place.

As included in our original agreement with ICANN, it has always been DotAsia’s goal from the start to offer .Asia domains to anyone who is interested in Asia, regardless of they are physically located within the region or not. The latest changes completes that vision.

DP: Most importantly, why should a brand or person register a .Asia domain name?
LCB: I get asked this question a lot, and to me it’s very simple, if you want to gain an Asian audience, you should get a .Asia domain; if your business is about Asia, it makes good sense to get a .Asia domain.

Even if you already have another domain name for your storefront, it’s still a good idea to register YourName.asia and forward it to your social media page. Print it on your business card so you’re not just featuring a Facebook logo. Make it part of your social media strategy, make it easier for others to connect with you.

DP: What’s the ratio of business and brands to individuals registering .asia domain names?
LCB: From the .Asia domain data we have come across, a large number of website are developed by Small to medium size businesses, we also see a fair number of brands, PR firms and media outlets.

In terms of personal websites using .Asia domains, we do see .Asia domains used by Asia pop stars and personalities that want to reach audiences in Korea, Greater China and Japan. Pop bands like Code-V (code-v.asia), or CrossGene (crossgene.asia) are good examples. As well as Livenation.Asia that offers concert tickets from Bruno Mars to Kpop group for fans across Asia.

Based on our recent research, we have identified 5 personas that exemplifies the use of .Asia domains:

  1. Asian Identity – individuals and businesses with services/products that carry the Asian identity (e.g. Asian celebrities, Asian restaurants, cultural products, etc.)
  2. Asian Expansion – businesses looking to expand across (or into) Asia
  3. Location Services – destination products and services serving an Asian audience (traveling across Asia) or those coming to (traveling to) Asia
  4. Asian Info (Media) – aggregation, platforms and channels dedicated to the Asian and Asian Expat communities
  5. Asia Events – Events about Asia, Asia-wide events and Events held in Asia

DP: You ran a major discounted promotion in 2013 that saw a huge growth in registrations, but then many of these didn’t renew. And it’s a trend that’s been mirrored in other TLDs – ccTLDs, legacy gTLDs and new gTLDs. Going forward, would you run promotions and what would you change? If anything!
LCB: Yes, we ran a comparatively price aggressive promotion in 2013 that led to considerable growth within a very short time. We had full expectation of low renewal rates, but we also understood low barrier cost for the registrant is useful for driving demand in some markets where price sensitivity is high. We did put more focus on preparing for the large amount of abusive/potentially abusive domains that came through. And we have had a great record of mitigating abuse, our anti-abuse team stepped in and suspended numerous domains that were determined to be a threat.

There is always the ebb and flow of market trends and demands to consider, so yes we would run price aggressive promos again. Robust usage is most important to DotAsia, and we feel that meaningful discounts for registrars in some markets are useful to spark stronger motivation to push .Asia out to end customers.

As for change, we are constantly exploring new ways to promote the .Asia extension. We are even more committed than ever to promote real usage. On the organisation side, as a not-for-profit organisation, we are investing in educating the next generation of youth coming online and familiarising them with the .Asia opportunity. In alignment with our latest call to #RiseWithAsia, we are focusing our efforts to support Asian youths setting out, starting new things, to change the world.

DP: DotAsia has an altruistic side supporting a number of issues and events. So what is DotAsia supporting?
LCB: We are big on supporting initiatives involving youth, and the next generation of leaders in Internet Governance from the Asia Pacific. Just last month DotAsia was involved in the Asia Pacific Internet Governance Academy (APIGA) conference in Korea, to help educate and empower university students and young professionals in Internet Governance issues. This is also what we do through our flagship program NetMission Ambassadors Program, where we engage and collaborate with young minds dedicating our efforts in supporting digital inclusion projects and expose young leaders to Internet policies and collaboration opportunities in Asia.

DP: Has the launch of new gTLDs had any noticeable impact on .asia?
LCB: The 3 most noticeable impacts have been:

  1. An increased number of accredited registrars for .Asia, especially coming from the Asian region. As a fallout of the new gTLD launches, new registrars that are getting accredited for new gTLDs are also adding .Asia to their offering.
  2. An increased difficulty in gaining the attention from registrars and registrants. It has become harder to work with the schedules of channel partners as they now work with many more other registries. However, this has challenged us to become more engaged with value added support such as through social media and our youth engagement projects to bring new customers to the table.
  3. Improved usage and general awareness of options beyond “.com”. We are seeing better real usage of .Asia domain names alongside new gTLDs as more people realise that there are options beyond “.com” and are consciously seeking and choosing their TLD.

We are seeing some impact on registration numbers, especially since we were, prior to July 15, a comparatively restrictive TLD.

On the flip side, we are also seeing an increase in usage in the past couple of years of .Asia domains. And I think this is because of the broadening exposure of domain names to the general market. Businesses and their customers often see their .Asia domain as a trustworthy source of that brand and their place of business.

DP: And finally, Asia is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies which means there’s a huge potential, so what does the future look like for .asia?
LCB: If I could look into a crystal ball I would say that .Asia domains will continue to grow organically and flourish within the region, especially from South East Asia where overall economic performances are progressing quickly in part due to Government led investments and reform that favoured Startups.

I think we will continue to see more Asia-based businesses, especially those operating online, to go beyond their border to neighboring countries where they share similar lifestyles or cultures. I see .Asia domains resonating and elevating this kind of expansion.

With the liberalisation of .Asia registrations, we hope to see more businesses from outside the region taking advantage of .Asia domains that echo their business or audience. I can also see .Asia domains being used to market to Asian Americans. Difference in ethnicity aside, I think the .Asia extension speaks to a shared immigrant culture, a collection of rich yet diverse heritage and and a strong Pan-Asian pride.

As a consumer segment, the Asian-Americans have accumulated substantial wealth. Their purchasing power is currently ranked third largest of all multicultural groups in the US, at $825 billion that’s 4x the GDP of Portugal. I hope to see brands in the West use .Asia domains to promote to Asian communities with in-language and cultural nuanced advertising message along side English.

 To register a .asia domain name, check out the registrar Asia Registry here.