Many job board operators are fearful of the .jobs expansion. The value we provide to job seekers and employers flows through our domains whether we like it or not. Many of us chose those domains long before we knew what we were doing or where our businesses were going.
But we know domains are important. And we care deeply about anything so central to our businesses because this is our livelihood. As entrepreneurs the health of our businesses shape our lives and our kids lives and last but not least – our teams lives.
So our responses to ICANN’s public comment forum is not some sort of maneuver or strategy to discredit or pollute anything. It is rather a natural expression of our experience and desire to remain productive and vibrant in our businesses and professions. Our comments may not be the result of a deep understanding of legal issues, but they are expressions of sincere and deeply held beliefs about fair competition. ICANN itself may not be purely directed by legal issues either if it’s anything like most organizations.
Most people have a problem accepting the idea that an individual can own an important word simply because he was the first to realize the value of owning something like vote.org for example. Should the Republicans own it? The Democrats? Now, ICANN wants us to accept the idea that one company can own an entire class of words that describes our industry precisely with complete discretion over the distribution or lack thereof of individual domains.
But why are job board operators fearful?
First, because the .jobs extension is simply unique. “Jobs” is the last word in every dominant exact match search keyword in our industry. Job seekers heavily favor searches like “colorado jobs” over “jobs in colorado”. This is significant because colorado.jobs ends up being an exact match for the dominant format of a job seekers search. Whether job board operators know this explicitly or not, I believe they still sense it.
The .jobs extension is also unique among other extensions in that there are 100,000,000+ searches performed every month with an extraordinary variety and depth – job seekers don’t just search for “colorado jobs”, they are also typing in “western colorado jobs”, “university of colorado jobs”, etc. etc.
These unique characteristics of the .jobs extension make it a potential landmine for ICANN. Will the largest job boards launch lawsuits over their exclusion from the domains? I don’t think the proposed new extensions have the same capacity to generate legal problems for ICANN as .jobs. Seems to me the path of least resistance would be to put a hold on .jobs and revisit it after clearing the way with the other new extensions on the drawing board. Just wild speculation on my part, but this is a blog, not a research report.
The second reason job board operators are fearful is that Employ Media’s partnership with JobCentral sketches for employers a vision of a future without job boards. Or rather, let’s say a future without job boards not owned by JobCentral. That’s a very attractive vision during a deep recession. The shine will come off that vision in a couple years, but right now, it has legs.
Ironically considering the SEO value of the .jobs extension, the vision for the .jobs universe also paints a picture of a world where job seekers don’t need Google. If all the real jobs can be found by typing any keyword into your browser URL bar and adding .jobs at the end, what do you need a search engine for?
Finally, it’s threatening for job board operators to have a powerful organization like SHRM backing .jobs. SHRM’s conferences are surely the single biggest draw for traditional offline job board advertising expenditures. That’s a serious problem for job boards.
To summarize, we fear the:
- search engine value
- powerful vision that’s some employers will buy with or without results
- exclusion of job boards
- SHRM blessing
So, we have fear, yes. Understandably. Are we right or wrong to object? It’s hard to tell when you have a horse in the race. Is .jobs a real threat? That’s hard to tell also with so many moving parts.
The one thing I’m sure about is that it’s time to take that fear and harness it for something good. Let’s redouble our efforts to create value for our users. Let’s go back to work and remember that the most successful organizations in our industry do not operate generic descriptive domains! They create brands.