Blacknight note: With the impending launch of the new .GAY gTLD, we have invited the folks from the Top Level Design Registry to tell us the story behind the domain name – which has been a long and fascinating journey. Blacknight will be offering the .GAY domain from September 16 – please sign up here if you’re interested and you’ll be notified as soon as it’s available. This is a guest post. 

In one of the biggest coming-out events in the domain industry, the brand new .gay domain namespace is launching to the world on September 16, 2020! This groundbreaking domain presents a historic opportunity for LGBTQ people, companies, organizations, and allies to connect online with a domain name that is responsive to and supportive of the communities it represents. Accordingly, the .gay domain is accompanied by a pioneering commitment from its registry, Top Level Design, to centre the needs and interests of LGBTQ people around the world. But how did Top Level Design, best known for creative domains like .design, .ink, and .wiki, bring the .gay domain to market?

Laying the Foundation

With encouragement from family and friends (including their late, gay brother, Clyde) Top Level Design’s co-founders made the decision eight long years ago to pursue the launch of the .gay top-level domain. After winning the rights to .gay, Top Level Design set out to ensure that the domain’s mission and purpose would serve the full spectrum of LGBTQ communities. In addition to recruiting a team of employees and collaborators with diverse lived experiences, Top Level Design built upon their informative discussions with family, colleagues, and local LGBTQ community leaders by undertaking a comprehensive, professional survey — gathering feedback from LGBTQ audiences as well as allies and those wholly outside these communities — to better understand how people perceive the .gay domain and its potential.

That research revealed that 61% of LGBTQ community members would be more likely to use a .gay site because of the value they see for their communities. Additionally, more than half of those surveyed believe that .gay sites could create a better online experience and change freedom of self-expression for the better.

The .gay Difference: Serving LGBTQ Communities

As a result of their research and community outreach, Top Level Design instituted special policies, unprecedented in the domain name industry, to ensure that .gay truly serves LGBTQ communities.

First, the registry made an ongoing commitment to donate 20% of all new .gay registration revenue to LGBTQ nonprofit organizations. The inaugural beneficiaries of this giveback are GLAAD and CenterLink. GLAAD’s work is rooted in fighting against misrepresentation and hate in the media. CenterLink is an umbrella organization for over 250 LGBTQ centres around the world that provide safe spaces and empowering services for LGBTQ people. Top Level Design’s first donation generated $34,400 shared between the two organizations!

Second, Top Level Design created their .gay Rights Protections Policy to ensure that .gay domains remain safer online spaces where LGBTQ people are respected. The registry does not aim to police content generally but instead responds specifically to reports of anti-LGBTQ content, hate, and harassment. There will be a diversity of content and opinions, but no room for hate on .gay.

COVID Pivot and Early Adopters

As the registry neared its anticipated launch date, the sudden global crisis of COVID-19 necessitated a quick pivot. The planned launch in May 2020 was pushed back, and the team considered what they could do in the near-term to help LGBTQ people struggling with the new reality of life in a pandemic. Partnering with influencer and renowned out celebrity George Takei, .gay offered a limited number of domain names for early activation with one year of free registration to LGBTQ organizations, community groups, individuals, and small businesses looking for new ways to serve their communities online. Many of the .gay Early Adopter sites were activated through this program, including community nonprofit organizations (Pittsburgh.gay), small businesses (Coffee.gay), mental health professionals (feeling.gay), and artists and entertainers (Sappho.gay).

Early Adopter Success Story: Coffee.gay

A particularly inspiring success story came from Coffee.gay. This site, created by progressive coffeehouse Perky Planet in Burlington, VT., sells ethically-sourced roasted coffee beans as well as local Vermont maple syrup. When COVID-19 forced the closure of the cafe’s indoor dining area, the owners, Richard and Chris, planned a pivot to online retail. They converted their dining area to a production space for roasted Coffee and launched Coffee .gay. Not only does Coffee.gay’s business model include charitable donations generated from purchases, but the company also provides meaningful, competitively paid, and inclusive employment for people with disabilities in their local community. Thanks to the business opportunity of Coffee .gay, the owners were able to call a young employee with Down syndrome back to work, providing him with income and social interaction that had been severely limited due to the pandemic.

Pride 2020: A #BigGayThankYou to LGBTQ Community Centers

With LGBTQ community centres around the world going above and beyond to support their communities through difficult times, .gay’s observation of Pride in June of 2020 — coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march in New York City — delivered a #BigGayThankYou to the staff, volunteers, donors, and board members of CenterLink’s Member Centers. Every day throughout the month, .gay gave special recognition to a new CenterLink affiliate. The campaign served to highlight the diverse communities working together to ensure that LGBTQ people everywhere can thrive.

The collaborative, community spirit took hold between .gay’s beneficiary partners as well. GLAAD held an unprecedented star-studded digital fundraiser — featuring Barbra Streisand, Adam Lambert, and Kesha — raising money for fellow .gay beneficiary, CenterLink. Together in Pride: You Are Not Alone raised over $225,000 in April, just as the global pandemic began wreaking havoc for so many.

Brands & Influencers Stoke Excitement for .gay

High-profile brands and celebrities are also excited to replace their generic website domains with .gay. In addition to George Takei, celebrities like tennis champion Billie Jean King, pop singer Bright Light Bright Light, and San Francisco drag legend Juanita MORE! have all become Early Adopters. Brands such as Atari and its affiliated LGBTQ relationship app Qutie, MisterBandB, Instinct Magazine, IGLTA, the Gay Games, and Gay Days (the officially unofficial LGBTQ takeover of Disney theme parks) have all signed on for .gay domains.

Expect the excitement around .gay to increase over the next few weeks leading up to the launch. The diverse slate of LGBTQ celebrities, influencers, and media personalities participating in the .gay launch continues to grow, making this sure to be one of the most talked-about top-level domain launches in history.

General Availability of .gay is Coming Soon!

So, when is the big launch? On September 16 at 15:00 UTC, all unregistered .gay domains will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis, and we are thrilled that Blacknight is participating. Note that some names are premium names (e.g., travel.gay) and have a higher than normal registration and renewal price. Don’t miss your chance to join this historic opportunity to make the internet a more inclusive and representative place for LGBTQ people. If you’re extra-curious about .gay domains and want to find out more, check out the official website at OhHey.gay.

Ready to get your own .GAY domain? Register your interest here!