“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

Roty batty

The quote above from the “artificial person” villain in the science fiction movie classic Blade Runner is starting to apply in 2023. 

With recent improvements in technology, artificial intelligence (“AI”) has become a buzzword in technology and media circles. Per the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, artificial intelligence is “the ability for computers to imitate cognitive human functions such as learning and problem-solving.

In late 2022, OpenAI introduced ChatGPT, a large language model (LLM) that “is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response.” The GPT “stands for ‘Generative Pre-trained Transformer,’ a natural language processing (NLP) technique that generates conversations that seem like they were had by real people.” After ChatGPT’s release many other large companies opened their own AI tools for public use in 2023, including Google Bard in march and Microsoft’s Bing AI Chatbot in May. 

While the ethical questions surrounding AI are many (even if no aggressive replicants are running around), they are outside of the scope of this post — we simply want to point out some of AI’s direct effects on the current business environment. 

Artificial intelligence and domain names

As with most trends, eventually they find their way into the domain name industry.

In this case, .ai, the country code Top-level Domain (ccTLD) for the country Anguilla, has benefited from this technological shift as as many companies and domain speculators have registered .ai domains since it contains the same letters as the abbreviation AI. This is shown in the number of total .ai registrations increasing by 73% in less than a year, from a count of 143,737 on July 20, 2022, to 248,609 on June 14, 2023. 

The many applications of ccTLDs

The .ai TLD is the most recent in a long line of ccTLDs to benefit from connections to abbreviations or acronyms for other terms that are sometimes: obvious (Tuvalu’s .tv being associated with television), reasonable (Colombia’s .co being short for company; it is primarily targeted at startup companies), or a bit less well-known (the British Indian Ocean Territory’s .io being a play on “input/output” in coding; it is now used by a number of technology companies). 

Google also recently announced that it would treat .ai like a gTLD in regard to global search versus as a ccTLD which would normally localize search results to Anguilla. All these facts point to the idea that .ai has made the “mainstream” in the domain world. 

Trends in .ai domain registration and acquisition

In 2023 we’ve seen a recent rise in the number of acquisitions of .ai domains, at an incredible 528% increase over all of 2022. Anecdotally, we’ve also witnessed asking prices in the six-figure range or higher when just a few years ago a four-figure price was common in the .ai aftermarket. 

On a wider level, the term “AI” has been the number one keyword trending on aftermarket platforms like Afternic as recently as May as well. This means that “AI” has appeared in a high number of domains to the left of the “dot,” not just in the TLD portion of the domain name — reinforcing that “AI” has penetrated part of the domain zeitgeist. 

Another piece of information to consider is that OpenAI was recently awarded a European Union trademark for “GPT” and has filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the same mark. While “GPT” is an acronym and may be used in different ways, this shows that OpenAI is on the path to attempting to protect this part of its ChatGPT brand in various jurisdictions. 

How can you apply these .ai considerations to your overarching domain and business strategy?

Consider the following:

  • Is my company involved in the technology space and active in AI-related products and services?
  • Does my company directly employ actual GPTs in its products or services?
  • Does registering in the .ai ccTLD and/or adding terms like “ai” to an existing brand string (e.g., brandai.tld or aibrand.tld) in other TLDs make sense within my current coverage level for similar brands in my portfolio?
  • Would I intend to use such domains for active use or as part of a defensive registration strategy?
  • What other information from my broader domain strategy should I be drawing from in such a scenario?
  • Do I have budget available to register and/or recover existing domains with potentially inflated prices in this segment?
    • As noted, domain acquisition is a potential recovery method and domain disputes may be available depending on the TLD of a taken domain in question — for instance, .ai falls under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP.)

Pro tip: regularly review the composition of your domain portfolio (at least annually) to ensure that the influence of these kinds of trends can be quantified within its larger context. 

The answers to these questions are the beginning of the process to help guide you down the right decision-making path. 

Markmonitor is here to advise your domain strategy

As always, Markmonitor suggests careful deliberation in reviewing industry trends to determine whether they may affect a given domain name portfolio holder’s main registration strategy — indeed, one size rarely fits all. For further discussion about your registration strategy or assistance with other domain name-related issues, please reach out to your Domain Portfolio Advisor before all these “moments will be lost in time.