Alan Dunn is Managing Director of NameCorp®. A senior digital naming expert and brand consultant with over 20 years experience. He is the former Managing Director of Domain Holdings and a contributor to TechCrunch, Business Insider, Quartz and other key publications. Alan regularly speaks about the domain name industry, has been interviewed by BBC Radio 1, profiled by DNJournal and is the host of the podcast Domain Stories.
Owning the right domain name is a critical part of branding. Public companies like Facebook, Endurance and Twitter have all acquired better versions of their original domain name. A reverse WHOIS search will even show celebrities like Mark Cuban have invested in key domain names such as Matter.com, Practice.com and Replace.com (presumably for future projects).
The acquisition of great domains is not a small business anymore. Weekly sales are in the millions of dollars. Brand purchases have their own column at DomainNameWire, and the attention from China has catapulted many domain name values to all-time highs.
But what happens when you really want a domain name and don’t want to pay the price and/or can’t agree to a deal?
Just ask Nissan Motor Corporation.
I think it’s fair to say most American consumers automatically think Nissan Motors is located at Nissan.com. After all, Nissan has spent hundreds of millions — possibly billions — promoting the brand “Nissan” around the world.
But if you think that, you would be wrong.
Nissan owns the domain name NissanUSA.com.
A man named Mr. Uzi Nissan, who owns a computer company called Nissan Computer, actually owns the domain name Nissan.com.
For trademark experts, intellectual property attorneys, domain name owners and well… anyone who likes a David vs. Goliath story, this is one to bookmark.
The story has everything you want to read. A man registered his family last name (Nissan.com) in 1994, for a company he started in 1980, when Nissan Motors was known as “DATSUN.” Years later, he is sued by the Nissan Motor Corporation, starting what would become almost two decades of legal arguments and maneuvers, even entering a request to the United States Supreme Court.
And David (Mr. Nissan) is winning … so far. It doesn’t look like Nissan Motors is any closer to obtaining the domain name today than it was 20 years ago.
Mr. Nissan’s last update shows that Nissan Motor Company (after a decade of lawsuits) applied for a trademark for the term Nissan under the category, “Computer software games; computer storage devices, namely, flash drives.”
USPTO records show the trademark application was filed on March 27, 2007, and then finally registered and live six years later, on April 23, 2013.
Remember, Mr. Nissan has a computer company so we may see another chapter in this saga soon.
Why is this case important?
For domain name owners, this is a case your attorney should read before responding to any purchase request from a company with a similar name.
For business owners and marketing professionals, however, this is much more important. This case of Nissan (Motor Co., LTD.) vs. Nissan (Computer Corporation) is a visual example of the possible struggles from not choosing the right company name, not obtaining the right domain name, and/or not valuing the acquisition of a key domain name the same as a key piece of real estate.
Paul Graham, a well-known VC and co-founder of the Y Combinator seed capital firm, published a post in 2015 called, “Change Your Name.” The article starts by saying “If you have a US startup called X and you don’t have x.com, you should probably change your name.” Paul goes on to explain, “The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness.”
Weakness is only one aspect. Not having the best version of your domain name also causes brand confusion, exposes you to potentially embarrassing content (ask Jeb Bush), and very real security issues with people emailing the wrong address.
Unlike global companies like Volkswagen, BMW and Fedex.com, where consumers can type in VW.com, BMW.com or Fedex.com and choose their country of choice, Nissan Motors offers a more complicated user experience where one has to visit country code sites to see local information (such as Nissan.ca or Nissan.co.uk).
In fact, on Page 26 of the opening brief, it reads:
Nissan Motor’s Internet Strategy Manager, Merril Davis, puts it in a firm-wide memorandum distributed in 1999, ‘our current proliferation of regional websites and URL’s creates confusion for customers and fragments [the] Nissan and Infiniti brands.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Furthermore the corporate website for the Nissan Motor Corporation is located at Nissan-Global.com, which doesn’t show up on the first page of Google when you search for Nissan. The company even owns NissanGlobal.com (without the hyphen) and doesn’t forward the name to Nissan-Global.com. Obviously, Goliath has some issues in understanding how domain names work.
Nissan Motor Co. also operates ChooseNissan.com, NissanFinance.com, NissanNews.com, NissanOnetoOneRewards.com and likely others.
We could also mention the thousands of people likely emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by accident every month, probably even Nissan employees, but that would be too painful.
No matter how big your company is, it’s not always possible to get the domain name you want.
Nissan is a victim of its own success in many ways, as well as bad timing.
Choosing a short name makes branding easier, and 20 years ago the Internet wasn’t nearly as popular. For perspective, it wasn’t until another year after Mr. Nissan’s registration of Nissan.com (in 1995) that Joshua Quittner wrote the legendary “Billions Registered” article for WIRED Magazine, where he called McDonalds only to fail and find anybody interested in registering McDonalds.com — so he did.
New companies can learn from this by paying attention to naming at the time of launch and making sure their domain name is available. Once you start building a brand, it may be very expensive or impossible to change course.
On a positive note, Tesla Motors finally acquired Tesla.com.
National Security is one of the greatest expenditures globally. According to The Washington Post, the United States alone has a “black budget” of $52.6 billion, with the CIA and NSA enjoying 48% of those funds. Israel’s Mossad is reported to have a $2 billion annual budget and other countries surely have similar ones.
Human intelligence operations, the oldest method for collecting information, account for $3.6 billion of the United States’ black budget, with informants often paid thousands to millions of dollars in fees.
These budgets should not surprise anybody. However, the failure to spend a small fraction of them on “logical” purchases should.
Monitoring messages is something of high value to any government. The NSA reportedly collects over 200 million text messages a day for analysis, according to The Guardian, and based on data leaked by Edward Snowden.
Then there’s the fallout for individuals and companies when a leak or scandal happens. Take, for example, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, multiple politicians destroyed by “secret” text messages, the massive leak of Sony emails and more.
NameCorp™ analyzed emails from a generic dot-com domain over a 30-day period and were surprised at the results. On a low-traffic, non-government-related domain name, there were almost 100 emails of significance emailed to the wrong company, including loan contracts, bank statements, fully executed contracts, personal information and more.
So what happens when you are a National Security or Government Agency with a billion-dollar budget?
You would think purchasing the most obvious domain name for the agency makes sense — for security purposes. But you would be wrong.
Who owns FBI.com, DOD.com, CIA.com and other “cool” domains?
Let’s Start with North America
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
According to Vice, the FBI wants $38 million more to buy encryption-breaking technology for a variety of vague reasons. Understandable of course, so naturally someone must have purchased FBI.com for the Bureau.
No. FBI.com is owned by DigiMedia.com, L.P. — The same people who own Recipes.com, PeopleFinder.com, Judo.com, etc.
The NSA has the second-largest piece of the black budget mentioned above. What happens if you send a security tip to email@example.com? You probably won’t get a reply.
NSA.com is owned by a company called DV8 Media (UK) LTD. and the domain name is home to the Neptune Shipping Agency which doesn’t seem like they’re in the spy business. Wait, it almost sounds like the perfect cover.
If you are going to apply to the Central Intelligence Agency, then emailing firstname.lastname@example.org will not get you very far. In fact, the email will end up in Canada, sent to a company called CyberSurf Corp. Maybe this is all a test of your IQ.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Interested in space? You won’t find a space shuttle by visiting Nasa.com. The domain Nasa.com is forwarded to a subdomain of Jerusalem.com and offers a pretty standard ad-supported search box, registered to a Mrs. Jello, Inc. — not of Bill Cosby relation.
This is a government division “Committed to Excellence in Defense of the Nation.” One quick visit to DIA.com will quickly make you think the agency has shut down. But then a review of the WHOIS — Design Institute of America, Inc. — will remind you that you are probably not at the right place.
Take a look at this organizational chart — I’m going to bet more than one. Luckily for the department, defense.com is marked for sale. And for those part-time rockers at state, one visit to DOD.com introduces “the triumphant return of the original boutique synthesizer pedal”.
The slogan, “Reborn to Be Wild” is likely not state-approved.
China’s fascination with domain names has increased exponentially in the past few years, with many of the world’s largest sales coming from Chinese buyers purchasing domains like We.com ($8 million), 360.com ($17 million) and more.
So where is the Chinese Ministry of State Security’s (MSS) website?
Good question. We checked MSS.cn, which goes to Morning Snow Studio, and MSS.com is a page advertising Math, Science and Social Studies. Still searching for the real one.
Official Site — good question
Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB)
The KGB is legendary, with its initials evoking many emotions around the world, but “Ask Me Anything” isn’t one of them.
KGB.com is owned by a privately held New York company. According to their website, KGB “extended the brand to the Web with the launch of kgbanswers.com, a site where users can search the vast KGB database of questions and answers, or ask their own question directly to a KGB Special Agent.”
Probably not the 007 you’re looking for, but they certainly have a wordsmith on staff.
Official Site — the KGB has been rebranded to the FSB (Federal Security Service) so let’s check them out.
Federal Security Service (FSB)
Who said America-Russia relations were dead? Time, Inc. owns FSB.com and forwards the domain name to Fortune.com .. not home to Putin’s personal blog.
The UK is home to James Bond, so surely these agents know a thing or two about marketing.
Mi5.co.uk does not resolve, but is registered to a UK company, Enterfirst Limited, based in London. The .uk version is not registered (Mi5.uk) and visiting Mi5.com leads us full circle, back to one of the reasons that agencies should consider buying the .com version of their domain — defensive purposes.
It may be time to engage the marketing team behind Bond for a little help here.
The Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service) is the foreign intelligence agency of Germany, with an estimated annual budget (2015) of € 615 million. It is commonly referred to as the BND, and is one of the leaders in global intelligence. However, if you visit BND.com, a visitor will find Breaking News for Belleville, Illinois. On our visit, they were announcing a new German restaurant and brewery under construction, so maybe they are related after all.
Good news is a Henri Vogel from Germany has registered Bundesnachrichtendienst.com and has the domain forwarded to the BND’s official site. Bad news is we don’t know if Henri is a spy or someone who just registered the domain name for fun.
The ASIS was established on May 13, 1952, to “protect and promote Australia’s vital interests through the provision of unique foreign intelligence services as directed by Government.” However, if you want to apply, it’s probably best not to visit ASIS.com, unless you want a reminder of what the Internet looked like in 1989.
According to Bloomberg, the government has spent $2 billion on Healthcare.gov. Some of that money might have been better spent limiting the confusion caused by not owning the dot-com version of the domain name. Healthcare.com is self-described as “a privately-held internet start-up for healthcare consumers.” They have Obama to thank for marketing.
Our favorite. A visit to the dot-com version of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and you will see nothing but sponsored links for ads relating to Trademark Search, Patent Ideas and more. Even the government office in charge of issuing trademarks has a lot to learn about efficiency.
Finally, a winner. USPS acquired the domain name USPS.com more than 15 years ago. According to Wikipedia, “The USPS is often mistaken for a government-owned corporation because it operates much like a business, but as noted above, it is legally defined as an ‘independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States.’ Maybe this is the key to winning here.
You may read this article and immediately say, “wow, look at all the cyber-squatters,” but you would be wrong.
How many people have the initials FBI?
How many companies have the acronym CIA?
The word Healthcare is pretty generic — How could one ever say the government should own the .com?
How about the word Medicaid?
It sounds like a government term — one the government should surely own. But wait…
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has 22 trademarks which include the word “Medicaid” with a LIVE status.
These trademarks include: “The Medicaid Experts” registered to a Financial Planning Company in Florida, “Medicaid University” to Brokers Choice of America, Inc. and “Medicaid Direct” to Centris Group LLC in New York.
The government clearly is not concerned about having the exclusive right to this so why should the people?
Ownership rights of domain names are not as clear as you may think. For almost every one person claiming they should own a domain, there are possibly dozens lined up to say they should also — especially for acronyms that can stand for almost anything.
Private and public companies around the world, such as Salesforce, Microsoft, Facebook, WeChat and more, spend tens of millions annually on domain names. Some are upgrades, some are brand protection and some are vanity. But at the very core, these investments are made to secure stronger brands and protect the security and financial investments of the company.
National security is a much bigger reason than any profit or brand protection goal to secure the most obvious dot-com domain.
The world has seen leaks and scandals before, and will again. From Edward Snowden to WikiLeaks. From the Panama Papers to Hilary Clinton. How all of these happened are different, but one can bet another will happen.
The next one may not even be intentional. It may just be from somebody doing what humans do, and that is email the dot-com version of the expected domain name.
Maybe it’s time for Global Intelligence to take a lead from the private sector and invest in a few domains.
How much do you really not like your current domain? — let’s be honest.
Even if you personally don’t get the whole internet thing many of your competitors, customers and employees do. Well, at least the natural ability to extract only words which matter from your brand name.
Employee confusion is real. Consumer confusion ever more so. Even those companies with really cool made up words almost never make consumers spell the wrong way.
If budget is the issue that’s fair. We all have to eat Mac N Cheese some days. However, one primary reason many companies do not have a better domain is simply the person/people making decisions.
Yep. Many times it’s just good old ego getting in the way of a better brand.
Below are 100 companies who understand brand. Some are your competition. Some you like better than your own. One thing is for sure.
Somebody WILL almost always buy the best one word .com version of your brand.
When that happens its likely off the market forever.
Why? Because the internet is the foundation of a global economy and .com is the pinnacle extension. Most common words no single company exclusively owns, even with a trademark.
100 Companies Who Understand Domain Names.
The point of this list is reference for those who say “we don’t need the domain” or “no one is going to pay that much”.
These examples prove how your competitors think different and are branding better than you. Almost every one of these domains sold for big bucks proving (once again) domain names have value. A few simply teach a lesson. Remember it’s supply and demand driving prices. Just ask the companies who lost a chance to acquire FireFly.com to another company called FireFly who paid the asking price last week, or well, you get the point.
Obviously not a complete list. There are hundreds of millions of domain names registered. These are just some good ones, all better than yours.
Peace and Love.
Advance.com — Acquired by Advance Publications, Inc. The perfect domain name especially for such a huge company who owns titles such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ), Architectural Digest (AD), The New Yorker, Condé Nast Traveler, and Wired.
Arrive.com — Acquired by ParkWhiz as a rebrand to Arrive. Love it when companies go from zero to hero. The ParkWhiz name does nothing for me. Arrive is awesome and you can bet more VC’s will now take their call based on name only. They have arrived.
August.com — acquired by smart home company August. Fantastic branding with a word everybody knows. Think about it — for 30 days every year the entire world is saying your brand name. You brand on a word like this and losing is your fault.
AWS.com — acquired by Amazon. Imagine the customer service emails from people saying they went to AWS.com and couldn’t find anything. Now they can. Time is money.
Buffer.com — acquired by Buffer. Final upgrade from bfffr.com -> bufferapp.com -> buffer.com. Read the story here. It’s worth the font.
Bungalow.com — acquired by Bungalow. A real estate company who upgraded from livebungalow.com. If you have to ask why just stop reading now.
BTM.com — acquired by Bryn Mawr Trust. A 3 letter .com matching your brand can almost never lose. Upgrade from bmtc.com — sure it’s technically the Bryn Mawr Trust Corporation but no one cares if you are an inc, corp or llc. Match the brand you advertise, not the name on your bank account. Really good upgrade here.
Cabbage.com — common sense acquisition by Kabbage. Proper spelling is always good to have except when you’re President. Then it doesn’t matter.
Casper.com — acquired by Casper Mattress Company. Serious upgrade from caspersleep.com and now the coolest ghost around.
Carrot.com — acquired by OnCarrot. What does On Carrot even mean? Great upgrade. Your customers, staff and Bugs Bunny should be proud!
Chewy.com — acquired by Chewy. The killer startup PetSmart paid $3.35 Billion for.
Chivalry.com — acquired by Chivalry, a company offering “Amazing Relationships Through Amazing Experiences”. Personally I would have rather seen a good scotch buy this one.
Close.com — acquired by Close.io. They know how to close!
Common.com — acquired by Common Living, a co-living company. “Private rooms and beautiful shared spaces in friendly homes.” Another great upgrade to the matching .com domain.
Compass.com — acquired by real estate company Compass. Slogan is “Let us guide you home”. Is there a better real estate brand? The upgrade from domain doesn’t matter. Perfect. Just Perfect.
Copper.com — acquired by ProsperWorks as a re-brand. I won’t explain why they re-branded, you can read it here. It’s everything a re-brand should be.
CT.com — acquired by Cointelegraph, a leading provider of cryptocurrency news. Only 676 two letter .com’s exist. Go Bitcoin!
DCC.com — acquired by Davies Collison Cave in 2017. Awesome upgrade, many typos of Davies and Collison is just a colossal cluster-fudge of a word. Money well spent.
Doc.com — acquired by Docademic, say that three times.
DropBox.com — acquired by Dropbox. Not a one word but a great upgrade from the getdropbox.com domain. Let’s put this very bluntly. If your domain name starts with “get” you almost always need the better one. It makes you look like an ad all day long. How many ads do you like?
DXL.com — acquired by Destination XL. Common sense upgrade for a public company especially when branded as DXL. Again, match the brand you advertise, not the name on your bank account. Awesome upgrade here.
EEN.com — acquired by Eagle Eye Networks. The thing about this one for me is I would trust a company who owned EEN.com much more than a company who operates on some version of eagleeyenetworks.com or similar. The 3 letter tells me you are real. The long URL tells me I need to do some homework. Yes, you can buy trust with a domain. You can also question that trust with the wrong one.
Enhance.com — acquired by a UK Hosting company. Looks like a small company (I think) but the new domain name makes them look HUGE. That’s a real ROI.
Facebook.com — acquired by Facebook. Not a one word but Watch the movie — Justin Timberlake says it all.
Fallout.com — acquired by Bethesda Softworks for their Fallout game which is much better than using Fallout4.com since the latest version is Fallout 76 and 15,987 more versions seem possible.
FireFly.com — acquired by Firefly Space Systems. A much better domain name than FireFlySpace.com and one companies like this and this entirely missed the shuttle on.
Fortnite.com — acquired by Epic Games in 2013. Great upgrade from the FortniteGame.com domain. Value today? Who knows, probably a Gatrillion V-bucks.
Freedom.com — acquired by Freedom Mortgage. Not only does the domain match the brand but what better domain to sell the American dream on? Freedom is not free and neither was the domain name – $2,000,000.
Handle.com — acquired by Debt Collection Company Handle. Automatically provides brand authority and class to a rather negative industry. I love this one. I mean who better to “handle” your debt receivables. And, even better, an upgrade from the (yucky) handle.us domain name.
Insider.com — great acquisition by Business Insider. They have multiple brands with the word “Insider” attached. If you are going to spend millions branding around a word take note — own the word.
Instagram.com — acquired by Instagram. Not a word (real brand). Point is they started on instagr.am, don’t get me started on hacks.
Invision.com — acquired by Invision which is only logical as an upgrade from Invisionapp.com. They are so much more than an app.
Jump.com — acquired by JUMP Bikes. One of my favorite all time acquisitions and now they can Jump anything not just bikes.
Knock.com — acquired by Knockaway, Inc. as an upgrade from Knockaway.com. Watch this company.
LA.com — acquired by Tribune Publishing when they owned the Los Angeles Times. Unclear whether the domain name name went with the sale of the Times to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. WHOIS still shows Tribune as the owner and the domain has the same coming soon page on it. Time will tell.
Ledger.com — acquired by Ledger SAS. Logical upgrade from ledgerwallet.com because again, they are more than just a wallet.
Lola.com — acquired by Lola, a corporate travel company. When you are trying to compete with and/or secure giants the right name will help. Never underestimate how many doors a great domain can open.
Magnolia.com — acquired by Magnolia Market. Fantastic domain. Great flowers are almost always great brands.
Marcus.com — acquired by Marcus by Goldman Sachs. If Goldman is involved you pretty much can expect the best domain. Take lead from those who rule the world.
Marshalls.com — acquired by The TJX Companies. Seller was UK Superbrand Marshalls Mono Ltd. Finally some good news for America. I mean really, who hasn’t visited Marshalls.com looking for the blue-light specials. Or maybe that’s K-mart. I have no idea.
Mya.com — acquired by conversational ai company MYA Systems. Upgrade from hiremya.com. Not having Mya.com is almost like Apple not having Siri.com. If you are going to give your ai a personal name buy the exact domain!
NWM.com — acquired by NatWest Markets. NatWest is owned by the RBS Group (Royal Bank of Scotland) who owns RBS.com so keeping with the family tradition this only makes sense.
Onyx.com — acquired by Onyx Enterprises their slogan says it all. “We are Onyx”. Yep. You are not ONYXwhateveryouwerebefore.com. Why? That’s what you are telling everyone!
Packet.com — acquired by Packet Networks. An upgrade from Packet.net thank be da heavens.
Pitch.com — acquired by German startup Pitch. Homepage reads “The future of presenting starts here.” Says enough to me. Perfect domain name. After all, how less professional do gopitch or pitchapp or pitchworld sound? If you want to learn how to Pitch then Pitch sounds like THE expert. You can’t buy that kind of authority. Oh wait, you can — with the best domain name!
Pilot.com — acquired by Pilot, a bookkeeping service. Who would you trust more with your bank statements? Someone with a super name like Pilot.com or someone with a second tier name. All things equal, a one word .com will likely win every time.
Presto.com — acquired by Presto, a company who digitizes the dining room for restaurants. Great domain name.
Prime.com — acquired by Amazon. Need I say more?
Pro.com — acquired by a Home Services company. Seriously would you hire a contractor from Pro.com or Rocco123.com? The name gets them business. Rocco makes you consider insurance.
Purple.com — acquired by Purple Innovation, LLC (the Purple Mattress Company). Upgrade from onpurple.com. With $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 products you don’t want consumers typing in the most obvious domain version of your brand only to find competition. Secure the domain!! My guess is the ROI earned from owning this domain name has already returned the purchase price and more. Going forward the registration costs are $10 a year. Win-Win-Win.
Sierra.com — another acquisition by TJX companies to match their exact brand names. An upgrade from SierraTradingPost.com. This Management team gets it.
Sportsmans.com — acquired by Sportsmans Warehouse as an upgrade from SportsmanWarehouse.com. Warehouse always sounded cheap to me. I may even visit now. Who am I kidding? If there is no room service I’m not going.
Rain.com — acquired by Rain Autonomics. Upgrade from Rainnet.com which is probably the worst suffix around. Is it Rainnet.com or Rain.net? Good news is they bought Rain.net also in the same deal.
Rock.com — buyer still unknown. I hope it’s Dwayne Johnson but highly doubtful. He’s the only one who deserves this domain.
Snap.com — acquired by Snapchat. Perfect acquisition, especially when they define themselves as “a camera company” not a chat company. Think about what you do and want to do. If removing a word means also removing boxing your brand in then hey, it’s probably worth jumping on.
Square.com — acquired by Square, one of the largest payment processing companies in the US. They still use squareup.com as the public site but we all know that will likely eventually change.
Sandbox.com — acquired by a large full-service design agency this domain is perfect. High end design is killer competitive. Owning sandbox.com is already an ice breaker for pitches and sometimes it’s that ice-breaker which wins the account.
Super.com — acquired by The Super! Fund. Solid acquisition and certainly the best domain for their brand.
Surround.com — acquired by Bitfury Group Limited. All I know is they work with music and automatically I think they are pros. Any conference they attend people will now comment on this name. Can you do that with your brand? Probably not.
Trailblazer.com — acquired by Salesforce. Trailblazer is a key word for Salesforce developers and partners. When almost 200,000 people come to your hometown every year for a conference built around Trailblazing you really should own the .com. If not for you, for them. Well done.
Tesla.com — acquired by Tesla Motors. Even with rocket ships and gazillions it doesn’t mean you get your best domain. The word Tesla is actually a last name and many companies use Tesla in their company name. Some as homage to Nikola Tesla, the renowned Serbian inventor. Elon Musk finally acquired this for a reported $11M after 10 years of trying. Persistence pays. Wait, Musk just made another $11m since I started typing. What does money really matter anyway?
TN.com — acquired by Tuft & Needle. Another player in the billion dollar mattress business. That’s three on this list.
Triangle.com — acquired by Canadian Tire. Perfect addition for their Triangle Rewards program. Note that selling off a rewards program to a third party does happen and having such a great domain likely adds value if the time ever comes. Plus when companies like Square.com and Box.com have become a hit why not acquire a primary shape if you can.
Tube.com — The fact that Amazon acquired this domain name instead of YouTube makes me question who is in charge of YouTube domains. This domain probably gets millions of natural visitors a year (people typing it in). At the very least, it’s a name you don’t want a competitor with gazillions to have. First world problems I know.
Turbo.com — acquired by Intuit. Basically a financial planner system branded like TurboTax. Intuit owns TurboTax so this a great acquisition. However, the whole branding and lookalike logos make it pretty confusing. I would imagine many consumers think Turbo is TurboTax and TurboTax is Turbo. Whatever, they make billions every year and I’m not getting paid for these words. Rock on.
Twitter.com — Acquired by Twitter. Upgrade from original domain name twttr.com. WTF was that? But hey, now they are billionaires and you (and I) are not. Who’s really winning?
UI.com — acquired by Ubiquity Networks. Like you need a reason not to shorten Ubiquity. I’m not going to look at what they previously used. It sucked compared to UI.com. Well done.
URW.com — acquired by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. Why? Do I really need to explain the tsunami of typos with any other domain name option for these 3? I mean it’s bad enough employees have to say all of these but imagine the time wasted trying to spell email addresses? URW.com could have been a billion dollars. Worth every penny.
User.com — Acquired by UserEngage as an upgrade from UserEngage.com
Valley.com — acquired by Valley National Bank. Not only is this domain name one of the best around it’s also a great upgrade from the three word valleynationalbank.com domain. A real bonus is now those customers sending email@example.com loan documents may actually get them to the right place. Any financial services company should learn from this one. If you want to be the best get the best. New companies like RobinHood, n26, Simple and more are kicking butt at branding. Valley just got a lot cooler, you probably didn’t.
View.com — Acquired by View as an upgrade from the viewglass.com domain. View has raised almost $2B in funding so far. Whatever they paid for view.com was worth securing their word on the net forever and not boxing the brand in to just glass.
Visible.com — acquired by Visible, a phone service in an app. I don’t get this one nor the word’s connection to cellular service. Whatever, it’s short and sweet. Anytime in doubt just remember somebody pitched a script called Sharknado and today there is the original Sharknado movie, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming and The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time. Go Visible Go!
Visor.com — acquired by an online personal tax advisor company, Visor. Previously used the myvisor.com domain. Great upgrade.
Vivo.com — acquired by the China’s Vivo Mobile Communication Co. Monster sale at $2,100,000 by a monster company and a great upgrade from vivoglobal.com
Walker.com — acquired by Walker Manufacturing. Big company with a whole lot of mowers. If you or your company name is Walker forget it, you are never getting this domain. You snooze you lose. Walker Manufacturing is the winner.
Wing.com — acquired by WING, a Google Moonshot Company. With the money they have you can likely bet on something flying there. Awesome domain name and 100% relevant to secret Moonshot projects.
WW.com — acquired by Weight Watchers for a re-brand. Love the “WW. Weight Watchers re-imagined.” slogan. Love the double-double two letter .com even more.
WMP.com — acquired by West Monroe Partners. Another huge company acquiring the exact match 3 letter .com domain. Nothing screams authority like a perfect three letter .com, maybe only a two letter.
Workplace.com — acquired by Facebook for their Workplace product. Smart acquisition. When you are likely investing hundreds of millions in a product you want to own the word. Facebook is very good at this. The unlimited budget doesn’t hurt either.
Zoom.com — acquired by Zoom Video Communications. You know that worldwide video conferencing company using .us (yuck) forever. One of the top 10 upgrades in 2018 for sure.
– 100. Insert pretty much any good one word.com here. I’m tired and need coffee.
These domain names represent not even a fracture, a sliver, or even a sliver of a sliver of upgrades which have happened.
If you think for a moment no one will buy the better one word .com version of your brand’s name THINK AGAIN.
IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.
Commerce today is global. Even with a trademark there are 100 plus countries to file a trademark in, and over 40 classes to register. At half this math there are still over 2,000 openings for someone else to acquire TM rights to the same brand name.
If you are on the fence then make a decision or possibly lose forever.
To those who still don’t get domain names: May your dreams be crushed by those who do. And I wish you luck — just to be balanced here.
Do I need to say more?
Follow Alan Dunn on Twitter All of these domain name movements are sourced from public information. Many sales are reported by multiple sources.
Domain name acquisitions are an important transaction for any company – especially primary domain names for consumer brands.
While some domain name acquisitions are fairly easy, many large transactions can be quite complex. Whether it’s a buyer wishing to keep their identity private, timing an acquisition before announcing a funding round or simply trying to find a domain name owner. Almost every domain name deal is different and hiring a domain name broker can be one of your best decisions.
Think about the transaction for a moment:
Would you buy a house without a real estate agent, appraiser and/or attorney?
Would you write a $25,000 check to a stranger?
Do you know anything about the current owners relative value of money?
How do you contact a domain name owner for a domain name with redacted or private WHOIS?
There are hundreds of questions a good domain name broker considers with each acquisition. Not only to set expectations for a buyer but also to ensure the seller is responsive and all parties walk away with a fair transaction.
NameCorp primarily works with brands to acquire domain names. We generally do not represent domain names for sale unless they are extraordinary. This focus, and over $50M in experience, provides us with the unique perspective to help guide and complete your transaction.
As we move more into a digital world brands are often faced with naming and branding questions. For new companies it’s about choosing the right name to convey their message. For more established companies the idea of re-branding becomes a possibility. Whatever the stage, it’s important to get naming right.
A couple months ago ProsperWorks re-branded to Copper and acquired the Copper.com domain name in a private transaction. By almost all measures, this was one of the great re-brands of the year. Jon Lee, Copper’s CEO/Founder, wrote why it was important to change to a non-traditional name:
“… the fact that our software is used by marketing, sales, service, support, and even product teams… well, that meant no more “sales____” this or “pipe____.” And yes, we made a clear decision to not have “____CRM” as our name. We wanted a name that was relatable, memorable, fun, and instantly recognizable the world over.”
Re-branding moments are supposed to go like this. They are supposed to elevate the brand, heighten employee enthusiasm and show long term dedication to consumers.
However, not all re-branding stories are the same.
The story of SEVA.com is one of those other stories.
The founders of ConvertKit presumably fell in love with this name for a re-brand, so much they paid $310,000 USD for the SEVA.com domain name back in July.
On the surface, this word seems perfect for many companies. After all, who wouldn’t want a great 4 letter pronounceable word as a brand. Furthermore, by definition the word SEVA means “selfless service: work performed without any thought of reward or repayment”.
Almost a perfect name for a company whose values include Teach everything you know, Create every day, Default in generosity and more.
However, it was not meant to be.
While by definition SEVA seemed to be a great fit it was the community reaction which caused a shift in re-branding. A shift so important that the founders of Convert Kit should be recognized for what they did.
Less than 8 weeks after spending $310,000 to acquire the domain name the re-branding to SEVA was shelved and Nathan Barry, the company’s Founder and CEO, explained why it was necessary to recognize the importance of this word to various cultures and religions and not commercialize the word.
These are words any founder, any agency .. any person should read.
Not only did it take guts to incur the financial loss but also a sense of humanity (and humility) to accept what was unknown prior to the acquisition and make the decision not to change.
Words are powerful. Commercializing words is more powerful.
Most words don’t have such deep meaning as SEVA however imagine if Hanukkah.com was a tabloid, Christian.com was a vice magazine or Shalom.com was a crypto company. The very moment a word enters mainstream as a brand it can often weaken the word, lead to a loss of meaning and hurt people never meant to be hurt.
This moral sense. This type of humanity. This public display of humility.
This is what we need more of today.
In a world where money rules, decisions like this keep things sacred.
This question is asked by thousands of people a month and the answer is never clear. Unlike stocks, real estate, commodities and other more popular assets, domain names have many x factors which contribute to value.
Some of these factors are tangible such as the elements of the domain name (dictionary word, three letter dot com, etc) but the most valuable factors are intangible. A seller’s relative value of money, a buyer’s need for the domain, the buyer’s relative value of money etc.
Many articles and tools exist to help measure how much a domain name is worth. Some articles have value. Some tools have value. But there is no magical formula accurate enough to broadly value domain names in general. In fact, it’s mathematically impossible due to the numerous amount of x factors included in the foundational data set of comparison.
Note that public sales comprise the primary data set foundation for which most automated valuations are formed. Many other factors are also used (such as keyword volume, CPC etc) however, the data set is not complete, nor ever can be, without incorporating intangible and immeasurable factors.
SO HOW MUCH IS YOUR DOMAIN NAME WORTH?
The quick answer is there is no simple answer. However, speaking with a domain name broker can help answer many questions such as:
How much do you think a buyer will pay?
Why did other domain names sell for so much?
What if I auction the domain name?
Is the domain name a good investment?
A good domain name broker can not only help you understand value but also may be able to identify other available domain names of similar value or other potential buyers.
Note that if your domain name is considered super premium (one word dictionary .com, two/three letter .com or two/three/four numeric .com) then its imperative you look at current sales or speak with a broker. Most anybody who owns these type of domains typically has a floor value in mind since they have likely been offered a great deal but premium domains continue to rise in value so you need current information – not a valuation based on offers made a year ago.
Also remember that 98% of domain names have no liquid value. This means the words you buy today (thinking they are great) likely have zero resale value unless you get an inbound lead. Yes, almost every domain name registered today is not valued high enough to liquidate for cash tomorrow .
Some of this 98% however were worth nothing yesterday and over $100,000 today. That is the gambling side of domain name investing.
If you want to know how much a domain name is worth before you buy then understand the LIQUID value of the domain name – the value if you needed to sell today. Most people will never answer this question correctly so learn from people who have been around. There are many who have already lost millions learning what not to do. Understand the word “liquid” otherwise you are just gambling.
One of the most common questions we are asked is how to transfer a domain name to GoDaddy. The video below provides a really good explanation of the process. While most domain name transfers to GoDaddy are fairly simple there a few important things to note below.
BOTH PARTIES MUST APPROVE: Both parties (the buyer and seller) must now typically approve any change in registrant. It’s common for a domain name transfer to get stuck simply because one of the parties has not approved a “registrant change” notification email.
CONTACT CHANGE (60 DAY LOCK): Domain names can be locked for 60 days for a number of reasons, especially if you make any registrant changes. Some registrars may allow you to opt out of this lock period when updating domain name contacts however many do not. Please be very careful of making changes before moving a domain name.
CHECK NAMESERVERS: Once a domain name is successfully transferred (to GoDaddy or any registrar) its important to check the DNS (domain name servers). This is critical for domain names you are not planing to use right away you since by default the domain name may resolve to a page of ad units. While rare, this can compromise your rights to a domain name if other parties have trademark claims.
Naming has always been a critical element of branding. Whether it’s a global brand or a school newspaper, the power of a name can evoke many emotions; therefore it’s critically important to spend time curating a name that represents your company correctly.
Historically, once a name was chosen the route to naming was fairly simple. A quick corporation or trademark search would essentially comprise most of the clearance legwork to move your name forward. Once you had clearance then maybe you tried to get a matching toll-free number, but that was about it.
Today, however, the complexities of naming are only growing in scale and finding the right name involves so much more than a trademark search. Not only should you obtain legal clearances but you need to check on the competition in search results and whether or not your preferred domain name and social handles are available. If they are available, you then need to search for brand confusion from global companies and more. Finding a name is the easy part now—securing the digital assets has become the higher challenge.
There have been many articles published about the value of a good domain name. Many companies understand this value and are quite proud when they are finally able to acquire their .com (such as Discord App, which acquired the domain name discord.com last week and posted about it on Twitter), while others simply do not understand it at all.
However, it’s not just domain names and social handles anymore.
One of the newest naming solutions is happening now in the crypto currency space. In fact, the numbers are mind-boggling for something still so new.
$1 Million for a Crypto Wallet Name
When investing in crypto currency you need to understand what a digital wallet is and how blockchain works. Hundreds of thousands of users have created digital Ethereum wallets using solutions like MyEtherwallet.com and Mist, and it’s highly unlikely few can remember their own wallet name.
Ethereum wallets by design have a naming convention that reads something like this:
With this ID you can send and receive many digital currency forms, and if you know somebody else’s wallet ID, you can look it up on sites like etherscan.io.
For example, if you want to look up the balance of the wallet above (a wallet we created for this article), simply visit etherscan.io and punch in the wallet ID. And a page will appear detailing the transaction history associated with this particular wallet.
This naming convention is called the ENS, short for Ethereum Name Service. It’s a naming system based on the Ethereum blockchain and very similar to the DNS protocols for domain names. According to ENS documentation on GitHub:
“The primary goal of ENS is to resolve human-readable names, like ‘myname.eth’, into machine-readable identifiers, including Ethereum addresses, Swarm and IPFS content hashes, and other identifiers. A secondary purpose is to provide metadata about names, such as ABIs for contracts, and whois information for users.”
Sounds a lot like the Domain Name System, right?
Well, just like IP addresses, which work wonderfully for computers speaking to one another, the odds of people remembering addresses such as 0x06C426A3D6889a8D3326c2d4eB6c9BF899DcCa8F are about the same as you winning the lottery—impossible at best.
Much like domain names, ENS has an option for users to choose a custom handle. So, instead of 0x06C426A3D6889a8D3326c2d4eB6c9BF899DcCa8F, you could identity your wallet as tickets.eth, for example.
However, securing a custom handle is not as easy (or affordable) as you may think. In fact, it’s pretty fascinating because many of these .eth wallet names are selling for tens of thousands of dollars already.
For example, tickets.eth sold for 2,977 ETHER. That converts to… wait for it … $1,049,154.34.
It’s a fascinating read, actually. Just like social handles and domain names, these vanity Ethereum wallet names are becoming highly popular and are still in the early days of naming – they were only launched less than 45 days ago on May 4th.
In fact, they have character limitations, auctions, the ability to create subdomains, and more. The system is even built with future dispute resolutions in mind and auctions are based on the Vickrey auction model – where bids are sealed and the highest bidder wins but only pays the bid of the second-highest bidder. Sound familiar for those involved in new gTLD applicant auctions?
It’s also important to note that these names are not sold, per se, but funds are withheld for a period of time and then eventually released back to the owner. Either way it can be a lot of money tied up for rights to a name. You can learn about the deposit and auction rules here. Medium contributor, Maurelian, also published a good post on this topic noting:
“The value paid by the winner will be held in a deed in exchange for ownership of the name. There is no recurring fee, or subscription required to own a name. After 1 year of registration, the owner of a name is free to release it, and the full value of the deed will be returned to them.”
If you are interested in naming as much as we are, and want to to learn more about currency wallet naming, here are some links to help understand the market.
Great brands are more than just words. Great brand names evoke emotion, inspire engagement and provoke discussion. The greatest brands, however, are those that tell a story. Gemini.com is one of those great brands.
The Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, founded the Gemini Trust Company in 2012 as part of their journey and commitment to the future of Bitcoin. This commitment includes the pursuit of an ETF named the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust and a Bitcoin price index called WinkDex.
Both brothers have continued to be passionate about this sector of the cryptocurrency space, and Gemini Trust Company was launched in 2015 alongside a banking relationship with a New York State charted bank. This relationship was not only one of the cryptocurrency industry’s first key moves closer to Wall Street recognition, but also provided individual and institutional investors with the protections of FDIC insurance.
However, there are a few stories here. We already know the story of the Winklevoss twins and Mark Zuckerberg. We also know that the Winklevosses have been a driving force behind Bitcoin in an industry that (like all new technology) depends on such recognizable support to launch.
The brand story behind it all, though, is the reason they choose Gemini as their company’s name.
In 2015, the Winklevoss brothers also acquired the domain name Gemini.com for an undisclosed sum. While the NDA may tell a story of a high-priced domain name sale, the real value lays in what the brand name says to them.
“So, why the name ‘Gemini’? After white-boarding a list of possible names for several weeks, we settled on Gemini for a host of reasons. Gemini is the Latin word for ‘twins’ and as such, it inherently explores the concept of duality. We were drawn to this both because of the two worlds of money (old and new) that will intersect on the Gemini platform as well as the two-way nature of trade that it will facilitate. But that’s not all. Once we picked our name, a fun fact emerged. We realized that NASA’s Project Gemini was a spaceflight program focused on laying the groundwork for Apollo’s later mission to land man on the Moon. As such, it was coined (no pun intended) man’s ‘bridge to the moon’. In this spirit, we’ve built Gemini to be ‘your bridge to the future of money’. Oh, and Tyler and I just happen to be identical twin brothers.”
Branding is so much more than a catchy name. The Winklevoss twins have an engaging story to tell about their company until the end of time. One of interest. One that inspires. And one that discounts their fame and elevates their branding knowledge.
Automattic, the company behind WordPress, announced on May 12 they were the successful winner of the auction for the new top-level domain name extension .blog.
The winning bidder was a company called Knock Knock Whois There LLC, but it wasn’t until now that the true owners of this LLC were announced.
Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress, published a post explaining the need for privacy. “We wanted to stay stealth while in the bidding process and afterward in order not to draw too much attention, but nonetheless the cost of the .blog auction got up there.”
Automattic has now joined the list of brands who have invested millions of dollars into owning new domain name extensions. Google paid $25 million for the .app extension last year, and Amazon acquired .buy for $5 million.
According to ntldstats.com, total new top-level domain (NTLD) registrations have now surpassed 17 million. While this number sounds impressive, it’s the adoption of these new domain names by companies and publishers that really matter. WordPress has the X factor here. It’s massive, relevant customer base is almost second to none. VentureBeat has reported that WordPress now powers 25% of the web, which may just be the perfect match for seeing adoption of new domain name extensions scale.
It’s well known that most all the best dot-coms are taken. So, for personal brands, the cost of acquiring the perfect dot-com is often far greater than the typical person can afford. However, it’s not just a dot-com-world anymore.
Take, for example, Ryan Anderson Bell, founder of streaming conference site Summit.live, and a nominee for Periscoper of the Year. Ryan has collected almost 4 million likes on Periscope and is followed by over 17,000 people. We asked Ryan why he chose Ryan.live.
“Dot-com simply doesn’t mean anything,” said Ryan. “And, who wants to say Twitter dot com slash Ryan underscore A underscore Bell?” – (Ryan’s actual Twitter handle).
Ryan may be on to something. New domain name extensions like .live or .blog intuitively tell people what to expect before they arrive.
And it’s not just tech founders like Ryan seeing the advantages of these personalized domains. Gene Marks, president of the Marks Group, published an article on how professional athletes are adopting the new domains, including D.J. Fluker of the San Diego Chargers, pro golfer Lee Westwood, DeMarre Carroll of the Toronto Raptors, and more.
Even large celebrities like Joe Rogan (of Fear Factor / UFC / NewsRadio fame), who has 650,000 YouTube subscribers and 1.8 million Twitter followers, have embraced the new domains. Joe adopted JoeRogan.live, and is promoting his asset every day, not the vanity URL owned by YouTube. Sure, he still has the community at YouTube, but since he’s telling everybody HE is JoeRogan.live, then he controls much more of the brand messaging.
Will .blog change the world?
No. But it is another opportunity to acquire a premium piece of the Internet for your personal brand, instead of saying follow me at “Twitter dot com slash Ryan underscore A underscore Bell”.
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