Years ago, when dot jobs was introduced as a Top Level internet domain (.jobs), I had a hard time taking the idea seriously. HR is no more separate from the operation than marketing or sales. You don’t and won’t see proposals for a dot sales, dot marketing, dot engineering or dot operations as Top Level Domains. Why? Because it’s a nonsense idea.
In those earlier days, I was repeatedly approached for support of the concept. I laughed and got on to the pressing things in my business and family life. I have, for those exact same reasons, stayed out of the current conversation about Direct Employers, SHRM and ICANN.
If you haven’t followed the story, here’s a synopsis. The dot jobs initiative, shepherded by SHRM and a firm known as Employ Media, more or less failed. After five years, 15,000 domain names had been issued. Basically, no one used dot jobs for much of anything.
In stepped Direct Employers, about a year ago. Direct Employers is a weird sort of anti-job board coalition of large US Employers who operate as a job board cooperative. Founded by Bill Warren (who famously sold his non-profit company, the Online Career Center, to monster for a fraction of its value), Direct Employers is a quasi job board that offers membership rather than subscriptions or job postings. The company delivers a variety of services from job scraping to job post distribution to its ‘members’.
Direct Employers proposes to upstage the existing market for jobs (job boards and other services) by creating a ‘single platform for jobs’ in the dot jobs domain. Essentially, this means that any of a kajillion domains (like stupid.jobs, boring.jobs, callcenter.jobs, eastlansingwastemanagement.jobs and so on) will point into a single technical platform, a huge data base of jobs scraped and maintained by Direct Employers.
It’s a great big giant SEO scam whose success is dependent on the capabilities of the Direct Employers’ marketing and sales teams. In other words, from a ‘should you take this seriously’ perspective, you probably shouldn’t. More likely than not, this is a tempest in a tea pot. There is nothing about the history of Direct Employers that suggests they’d actually be able to turn the dot jobs domain into something damaging. If they were that effective, they’d be a lot bigger.
For sure, the moment that Direct Employers gets their hands on the domain, there will be more confusion in the job market. Job hunters, who might have to flip between company job boards and the company web page will have diminished capabilities to find a job. Job boards and other job distribution channels will be forced to spend more money on advertising and traffic development (which might be good for the HRExaminer). The job market is already confusing and the move won’t help anything.
Today, my phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from people who want me to weigh in on the question. I’ve listened closely to the various concerns and questions raised by the folks who called. I’ve decided that the issue is more than a little thing.
The question isn’t whether or not Direct Employers will make a mess of things, after all. There is a more important and fundamental question at stake.
When the dot jobs Top Level Domain (TLD) was authorized, ICANN made it clear that the domain was for the use of individual employers using individual employer names (like Boeing.jobs, HRExmainer.jobs and so on). The TLD could only be used by an employer to publicize its jobs on their domain. In that agreement, Employ Media could sell domains under SHRM’s watchful eye.
The new proposal subverts the original idea in order to create an SEO behemoth and creates a charter for a monopoly. The Direct Employers notion of a TLD that is a single database would be unlike any of the other TLDs. A TLD is supposed to be agnostic about the platforms that run using its names. TLDs are for naming, not operations.
Additionally, SHRM has been demonstrating some pretty bad behavior recently. In this case, it abandons its users and customers again with little in the way of public comment or oversight. SHRM’s support of the Direct Employers juggernaut is evidence that they are out of tough with technical reality. More and more, it’s starting to look like the problem with HR is SHRM.
I have been an independent analyst of the online employment industry since its inception in 1994. I have authored nearly one hundred reports on the subject for public and private consumption. I understand the detailed technical issues associated with this case.
I want to offer my support for Gerry Crispin’s position, as outlined in his letter to ICANN. As he says,
““I strongly oppose Employ Media’s history of dissembling, lack of transparency and willingness to enter into backroom deals and, am even more strongly concerned with SHRM’s inability to choose to act as a trusted referee…..due to misinformation, lack of interest etc. etc. it goes without saying that the community of legitimate job boards feels threatened by the proposed expansion of the .jobs top level domain.”
Further, I note that this is the wrong time, economically, to disrupt the job hunting process. Adding friction to job discovery, as this initiative obviously will, couldn’t be more ill timed. The last thing that global job hunters need today is more confusion in the online employment marketplace.
Here are several links to the necessary background if you want to understand the issues more completely:
- Gerry Crispin’s letter to ICANN against the proposal
- A summary article on ERE about the debate
- An article on CollegeRecruiter opposing it
- The Dot Jobs Universe website
- The About Us page of Second Generation
- The Direct Employer’s letter about the SHRM survey
- Harry Joiner’s strong objection to the expansion
- The formal .Jobs Policy documents and amendments