.com or .physio? We explore the roll out of profession specific domain names

The race to secure web domains continues. With competition increasing and availability of traditional extensions like .com decreasing, we look for new and innovative ways to gain recognition and credibility. As the web expands, specific domain names offer not only a way to gain access to your niche audience but to give your identity a unique and memorable stamp. Some of the reasons toted for use of specific domain extensions include: greater promotion of your profession, instantly professionally recognizable, short, memorable, better ranking on Google and protection of your brand.

With this exciting prospect nearly upon us, illorem takes the time to examine what this means for physios more closely. I spoke to Glenn Ruscoe, who is the man behind this big operation. Glenn is a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist, entrepreneur and managing director of Riseley Physiotherapy, working in private practice in Perth, Western Australia. His interests in technology go quite a long way back, starting a science degree with majors in physics and computing before moving over to physiotherapy. It was while attending the 2011 World Confederation for Physical Therapists (WCPT) Congress in Amsterdam, where domain specific extensions jumped out at Glenn. He recalls,  “I was reading the European edition of the Wall Street Journal when I noticed a small article reporting of plans to extend the internet domain naming system from .com, .org and .net, by allowing anything to the right of the dot”. He hoped that .physio would be made available, as he could imagine the benefits of changing the practice’s domain name over to the more specific extension. Branding doesn’t stop there. The possibilities extend over to registering your own name, location of your practice and area of specialties. These might all be key words customers and/or patients use when searching the web. Is it possible an internet-identity, unique to physiotherapy could help unite and raise the profile of the profession across the world?

Glenn contacted the Australian Physiotherapy Association and WCPT to alert them of the opportunity. However, while both organisations recognised the value of the initiative, they were unable to participate directly. Like many start-up ideas, in the true spirit of “do-it-yourself”, Glenn rolled up his sleeves, created a company, wrote a business plan and made an application to the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to be the registry operator for the .physio Top Level Domain (TLD). What we didn’t know was that he took out a second mortgage on his house to make it all possible. Why? He knew he was on to something with real potential. As you could imagine, applying to register top-level Internet domains is no simple task. This has been ongoing for three years, with work going on with world class IT organisations like Melbourne IT and ARI Registry Services to help set up the Registry, etc. Consultation with the professional bodies and physiotherapy leaders has been essential and provided invaluable advice on policy development.

What is .physio all about?

The Internet has been comprised of 22 generic top-level domains. Most of which we are quite familiar with, e.g .com, .net, .org, etc. Add to this approximately 200 country coded top-level domains, e.g. .au, .uk, etc.  Glenn explains, “In 2011 the global body for Internet governance, ICANN, decided to allow a much larger number of domains to enter the Internet to increase competition and consumer choice”. This opened the door for new namespaces to potentially form to compliment brands, geographical locations and groups, eg. .apple, .doctor, .toyota, etc. “.physio is one of 1,400 new top levels that will soon be online”, Glenn says. It will be exclusively used for the world’s physiotherapy and physical therapy communities.  This includes, practitioners, students, assistants, universities, organisations, products and services that help form our physio community. They will all be welcome to utilise a .physio domain name. We asked Glenn what this would mean for the profession? “For the industry on the whole, .physio will provide greater opportunities for networking, promotion, education, fellowship and business enterprise; as well as improving communication with customers and advocating for the profession”.  For the health consuming broader community, .physio should mean improved service and relevance/accuracy of information. Enthusiastically, Glenn explains, “we believe that through the provision of an industry-specific, internet name-space, .physio will unite, rally and promote the physiotherapy profession in new ways so that the whole world benefits.



What will it mean for physios professionally?

By registering a .physio domain name members of the physiotherapy community are identifying themselves as belonging to a unique, highly credible profession.  This will provide professional recognition and credibility. “.physio will become the online brand for the profession and by connecting your personal name or your business name with it, you automatically strengthen your connection to the profession”, says Glenn.  With each .physio domain registered, it can add to the collective advocacy effort promoting the profession. Web experts believe that top-level domains will facilitate higher ranking on search engines like Google because the searched for key words are within the domain name itself. Given Google have purchased over 100 top-level domains themselves, we might argue that they are certainly a supporter of the program….

Do our larger physiotherapy bodies support the .physio move?

Glenn’s application to be the Registry Operator for .physio was supported by both the Australian Physiotherapy Association and the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT).  Throughout the whole process developing the policies controlling .physio, the WCPT and their members (106 national professional associations) were consulted, providing highly valuable feedback. “We are in regular contact with the WCPT and the physiotherapy associations of Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States who have all expressed strong interest in utilizing and promoting .physio”. At an individual level, support from the wider physio community is also very strong. Glenn and his team have already received 7,500 requests for .physio domain names from practitioners, practices, organisations, institutions and businesses.

When can we expect .physio domains to roll out and be available?

.physio will be officially  launched on 1st  September 2014.  According to Glenn, the program will “..occur in stages to find the right balance between community benefit, early mover advantage and the protection of intellectual property”. The one factor physios should be aware of is that not all domain names are equal. As you can understand, preferences for premium names are of greater value and will attract a higher price. For more information on the roll out stages of .physio, please go to the Registry Operator site at www.registrydotphysio.com/launch.

Final say…

The move towards .physio reflects a pivotal shift in the online landscape and may be the signal that if you are not already active online, you may need to re-think this. If you are not there to be seen by your target audience, then you will simply not be found. I asked Glenn to provide three final pieces of advice he can offer to physiotherapists in relation to the .physio launch:

  1. Act quickly to secure your preferred domain names before others do,
  2. Recognize that many domain names are assets that can significantly appreciate in value, and
  3. Protecting your personal brand via yourname.physio or any other name by which you are known is the smartest marketing strategy you could ever have.

Have you registered for your .physio domain name? What do you think of health specific domain names? I’d love to get your thoughts about this….


Mark Merolli, illorem



Image: dotphysio.com

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