Self-storage REIT Extra Space Storage is carving out a small piece of the Internet for itself and others in the $25 billion storage industry — a move that appears to be designed to unite certain players while possibly shutting out others. How? Salt Lake City-based Extra Space soon will control its own industry-specific domain: .storage.
For years, any web address on the Internet had to end with one of 22 domain extensions, such as .com, .net, .gov or .edu.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, recently began approving a slew of new domains catering to specialized niches such as .organic, .attorney, .investments, .rodeo and .ninja. More than 1,900 applications have been submitted by businesses and organizations to secure one of these unique domains. ICANN, the global regulator of domain names, already has registered more than 400 new domains, including .storage.
Andrew Allemann, editor of DomainNameWire.com, said it remains to be seen how most companies plan to use new domain-name extensions like .storage. One obvious use, he said, is marketing. Companies also can charge others to register websites that use the domain.
But Allemann said there’s another factor that’s prompting companies to seize specialized domain names.
“My guess in this case is that it’s more of a competitive play for them rather than a money-making, selling-domains-to-people kind of play,” Allemann told The SpareFoot Storage Beat. “If a particular brand buys [a specialized domain], it is so they can have ownership of that name and keep it out of the hands of another brand.”
In its ICANN application, Extra Space lays out a plan for a new “storage network” where self-storage owners, operators and vendors will be able to snap up a web address ending in .storage — but the REIT wields the power to decide who can get one.
Internet land grab
Akram Atallah, president of generic domains at ICANN, told The New York Times last year that all of the good .com and .net names are already taken, and that new domains were meant to “provide real estate availability in the market.”
Major companies such as Google and Amazon filed dozens of applications to claim new domains like .app, .movie and .search. Personal care giant L’Oreal applied to control .beauty and .hair.
Applying for a specialized domain isn’t cheap: The application fee is $185,000. If more than one would-be owner claims the same domain name, then the winning applicant could end up paying even more at an auction.
In its bid for .storage, Extra Space faced a competitor, but not another storage operator. A domain registration company called Donuts Inc. also sought .storage. That company applied for 307 domains, more than any other ICANN applicant.
Allemann said Donuts’ business model involves snatching up a broad array of specialized domains and selling registrations for them. “Donuts would have wanted it so they can sell all the different self-storage companies domain names under .storage,” he said.
In an ICANN auction last August, Extra Space beat Donuts for the .storage name. In all, eight contested domain names were up for grabs in that auction. Collectively, the winning applicants paid more than $9.65 million for the eight domains. Individual auction results were not disclosed.
Extra Space also has applied for the .extraspace domain.
In its application, submitted by the REIT’s senior director of business development, Scott Jensen, Extra Space said it will offer the .storage domain to self-storage owners and operators, trade associations, vendors and other players in the storage industry. The company said the .storage domain will “provide a single trusted ecosystem experience for the millions of businesses and consumers that access information about [the] self-storage industry through online, mobile and social platforms.”
Extra Space said it will assign .storage domains only in cases when .storage corresponds with the name of the self-storage business or group applying for it. For example, Store It Right Now could qualify for StoreItRightNow.storage.
My guess in this case is that it’s more of a competitive play for them rather than a money-making, selling-domains-to-people kind of play.
— Andrew Allemann, editor of DomainNameWire.com
Extra Space wants to reserve generic domain names, such as rental.storage, indoor.storage and boats.storage, for its own use. The same goes for city and state names, such as utah.storage or atlanta.storage.
As for companies and groups that would qualify for a .storage domain, Extra Space said it will publish a list on its website of “individuals and organizations that have a nexus with the self storage industry.” Only those that meet its criteria would be allowed to register for .storage domains.
The REIT said it’s still figuring out whether it will validate domain eligibility on its own, hire a third-party outfit to handle that task or offer blanket eligibility to trade association members.
Pricing for .storage domain registrations hasn’t been set. Allemann said Extra Space might charge steep prices if it’s aiming to prevent certain competitors from owning a .storage domain.
Scott Jensen, the Extra Space executive who submitted the application, declined to comment when contacted by The SpareFoot Storage Beat.
Control the space
While Extra Space stands to make money from selling domain registrations, a bigger goal likely is motivating the company.
In its application, Extra Space said the .storage domain could play a “larger role in the evolution of the self storage industry’s future online strategy.” If Extra Space is the gatekeeper for all .storage websites, that means it can prevent major rivals like Public Storage and even smaller private operators from joining the .storage crowd.
While that might not seem like a big deal today, domain registrations for new extensions like .storage are expected to outnumber those for traditional .com and .net domains by 2020, according to domain registration consulting firm NetNames.
Allemann said it’s still too early to tell how prevalent specialized domains will be, but it’s clear that Extra Space isn’t taking any chances.
“I think some [companies] are doing this just in case it becomes an important thing,” Allemann said, “or to keep it out of the hands of one of their competitors.”
Chris Edwards, director of technology at The Storage Group, said he thinks it’ll be awhile before specialized domains are fully embraced. The Storage Group builds websites for storage operators.
“Extra Space is taking a big leap going from being a self-storage operator to being a technology company,” Edwards said. “It does make one wonder if there may be another reason to be making this big leap.”
Edwards said several questions remain unanswered, such as who gets priority for the .storage websites and whether Extra Space will lock down the best names for itself. Nonetheless, he’s excited to see .storage become an option for websites.
“As the new domains catch on, there is a big opportunity for unique branding,” Edwards said.