Mainstreaming the Spanish-Language Internet: An Exclusive Interview with .UNO CEO Shaul Jolles
A new province of the World Wide Web intended for Spanish speakers launched Wednesday, March 19. The .uno domain, one of the Internet's new web address suffixes helping to sort out the ever-expanding web, is looking to become the one place for "El Internet en Español." We talked with Shaul Jolles, CEO of Dot Latin LLC, the company behind .uno.
The Expansion of the Web
.Uno is one of many alternatives to .com or .org launching this year. New web address suffixes, technically known as generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), were approved by the Internet's governing body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, because the web had simply grown too large to efficiently use the legacy domains we all know: .com, .org, .net, .edu, .biz, .info, and country codes like .co.uk or .cn.
Having relatively few domains available is a big problem: new websites being registered have been forced to get creative with their names (remember Bit.ly, riskily using Libya's country code domain?) or register a longer, more difficult-to-remember web address for a .com domain -- not to mention potentially having to pay domain-name squatters for the right to use it.
So hundreds of new gTLDs are rolling out this year, like .photography, .film .ninja, and company codes like .youtube and .google to make more sense out of the wild, wide web.
.Uno Aims to Fix Two Problems
.Uno is "the Spanish .com," CEO of .Uno's registry company Dot Latin LLC Shaul Jolles told Latin Post in an exclusive pre-launch interview. "I expect that within a year, every time you are going to a .uno site that is equivalent to a .com, you'll get the same exact content in Spanish."
Jolles sees the potential of .uno as a globalizing tool in the burgeoning Latin American online market, but first, it will serve as a way for Latinos in the U.S. and Spanish-speakers around the world to more easily find content intended for them.
Dot Latin touts its new domain as the equivalent of the "Press 1 for Spanish" phone tree option for the Internet, but if Jolles realizes his vision, it'll be more like if every major business had an easy-to-remember, Spanish language-dedicated phone number serving those customers.
The idea is that, once established, typing ".uno" at the end of a web address will be a natural, common-sense way to instantly access Spanish language versions of websites, as opposed to searching for the "en Español" link, or in the absence of that, manually trying any number of possible /en_espanol/ URL combinations that websites might use. So, for example, typing in Apple.uno, YouTube.uno, Google.uno, or Amazon.uno will instantly take you to their Spanish-language pages (and the latter three have already reserved a domain with Dot Latin).
Applying for .Uno and Finding Little Competition
It wasn't always obvious that .uno could become, essentially, the Spanish-language compliment to .com. When Jolles and his partner decided to apply to manage one of ICANN's new domains two and a half years ago, they knew the expansion of the web would be a big thing, but Jolles didn't know how big .uno could be.
"We understood pretty quickly that [ICANN's expansion] would be a pretty popular program, and some big players like Google and Amazon were joining in and were going to apply for names, themselves," said Jolles about the gTLD expansion. "So we tried to think of something that was unique, that we know that maybe other players would not think about -- specifically because they're such big, big players," said Jolles.
"So we thought, 'Okay, let's think about something that's specifically in Spanish,' because, as usual, we think this is a market that people just fly by and not pay attention to. Which, obviously turned out to be correct." Jolles added, "Like we predicted, the whole Spanish angle was not looked at, and very few people applied for a complete, open, generic word in Spanish -- while there were many in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Russian."
Of the new gTLDs, "Uno's really the only open, generic Spanish word," said Jolles. In keeping with ICANN's idea of simplifying the web -- and not just adding to the name chaos -- Jolles and his partner gravitated toward the word Uno because "It's three letters; because we didn't want more than three letters. The shorter the better," said Jolles, (the minimum for new gTLDs is three letters).
Because no one else seemed to be paying attention to Spanish gTLDs, Jolles secured his domain with little friction, especially compared to other contentious domain registrations.
"No one [else] applied for Uno, so they went really quickly through the process of approving us." Painless approval is an advantage, but the dearth of competition also pointed toward an opportunity for Jolles, expanding his vision beyond a domain for the community of Spanish-speaking businesses.
The Expansion of .Uno's Domain
"I'll tell you the truth... I didn't really know the potential of .uno when I applied for it," Jolles told Latin Post. "I didn't think that it was going to be as big, as important, that I'm really finding out that it is right now." Jolles added, "Which is obviously every entrepreneur's dream—that his plan is actually better than he planned for."
Jolles says he's seeing a big reaction by big companies, grabbing on to .uno domains faster than other new gTLDs approved by ICANN. As we previously reported, the popular website services company GoDaddy -- best known for its racy Super Bowl commercials -- seized on the .uno domain as a path towards its own expansion into Latin America. It recently announced a new office in Mexico City, appointing a Latin American entrepreneur as a new company VP to reach out to register businesses with .uno.
IBM and Deloitte also signed up for a .uno for their joint venture, Trademark Clearinghouse, a central repository protecting brand names in the new ICANN expansion. Other big names have already registered, including Amazon, 1800Flowers, Flickr, Fox, Google, Kindle, LegalZoom, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Rolex, Target, Tumblr, Vine, Windows, WordPress, Yahoo, and YouTube, among many others.
The big reaction -- before the .uno domain even officially became active -- makes sense now, even just looking at the name: uno has a cross-cultural awareness built-in to the word. "Everybody knows," said Jolles. "Everybody knows what it is. It doesn't matter if you speak Spanish or not. It's just a universal word and it means so much more than just a number," with its connotations like unity, first, and the best.
More Than a Domain—Almost a Cause
"We feel like awareness -- and actual usage -- will be more important than anything right now," said Jolles in Latin Post's exclusive pre-launch interview. "We want every company that has a .com to have a .uno for their Spanish content. And yes, it's going to take a while -- I'm not expecting anything to really change in the next few months -- but I do think... that within six months to a year, [Spanish-speaking] users will start demanding it from the people that they do business with."
Jolles feels that .uno is an opportunity for companies to reach out to Spanish-speaking customers and businesses in Latin America -- where the Internet, social media, and technology markets are beginning to explode -- but also to better serve monolingual Latinos in this country.
While Jolles expects .uno to be the Spanish-language compliment for .com websites in the U.S., he's cautious to emphasize that .uno shouldn't be used just as a makeshift marketing ploy. On companies' .uno pages, Jolles told the Latin Post, "I do want it to be exact content, but I don't want it to be a one-time shot at getting a page in Spanish, but never updating it."
Jolles's vision of a dynamic .uno domain reflects the growing importance of the bilingual, bicultural Latino in the U.S., especially for businesses. For example, as we previously reported, a study 2013 study found that nearly one in four U.S. Latinos would be likely to give their attention to a brand simply because a Spanish-language website was available. And Latinos, one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S., are also growing in spending power.
"I do want people to just pay more attention to this market, and pay their respect -- and really quickly, you'll see the results," said Jolles. He's committed to this principle of an active Spanish-language web, to the point where he avoids domain-name squatters, who are willing to pay a good deal for in-demand addresses in order to resell them at a higher price. "Actually I reserved a lot of the [premium] names," said Jolles. "I want companies to use the names that they're registering. I'm really focusing on the users... In a lot of cases, I'll give premium names away, as long as they're really being used."
Plus, Jolles adds, "In the .com world, [businesses] are overpaying for everything because there's so much content." So Jolles tells companies thinking about registering with .uno, "Do something in Spanish. Do just as much as you can in Spanish, and everything that you do in Spanish costs just a fraction of anything in English." This applies to running Google ads, promoting YouTube videos, or any promotion in social media, according to Jolles: "Everything in Spanish costs less... there's just not enough content in Spanish, but there's so much demand for it."
"I'm optimistic," Jolles told Latin Post. "I think it'll be a year or so before people really understand the possibility and opportunity this means to every single business, whether they're a Hispanic-owned business or are non-Hispanic, but want to do more business with the Hispanic community, or in Latin America."
"I really feel a sense that this is a new identity -- a new voice -- that's coming to the Internet, and it's going to be, I think, one of the most significant things that's come to the Internet in the next couple of years."
Follow @rkschoon for more from this writer, and @LatinPost for more Latino news.
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