About Alan Dunn

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 nominated to the TRAFFIC Domain Name Hall of Fame in 2014.

$25,000 for a Domain Name is (not) Crazy.

2019-10-21T10:14:15+00:00April 10th, 2016|Featured|

$25,000 for a Domain Name is (not) Crazy.

Originally published on Medium

$25,000 for a Domain Name is (not) Crazy.

Or is it?

– Follow Alan Dunn on Twitter

I registered my first domain name in 1996 and have been involved in more than $50 million in sales since then. If there is one word I would never use about domain name prices, it would be “crazy.”

Crazy, by Google’s definition, refers to something that’s “mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.” Synonyms include insane, deranged, lunatic and — my favorite — out of one’s mind.

Every domain name transaction has a buyer and a seller. The price is all but relative and starts with the seller’s asking price.

This is the only place where a little bit of crazy may come in.

Owning a mediocre domain and asking $250,000 for it may seem a little crazy, but if you get a counteroffer then crazy is good. This type of crazy also falls in line with the simple notion of “if you don’t ask you don’t receive” — a basic foundation of anyone selling anything.

Where the word crazy gets thrown out the window is when the potential buyer makes an offer. People do not throw money away. When a counteroffer is made, the exact value of that domain name to their business is known and a financial offer is made that represents this value.

So, before a selling price is established you already have two very sane people negotiating a deal. There is no crazy here.

For first-time buyers and people not familiar with the domain name industry, it’s important to realize that good domain names are incredibly valuable assets today. There is a thriving investor market for premium domain names and an ever-increasing demand for one-word and two-word meaningful domains from companies. In fact, if you have interest in a good domain name then you can almost bet someone else has inquired about the domain name in the past.

How are Domain Names Priced?

It all depends on who you ask. Every investor has their own pricing model, and different expectations of return. Some only sell a few a year while others like to price them lower and focus more on quantity. However one prices a domain name is a personal choice and, as with almost any other rare investment, price is all but relative to the seller’s interest in money and the expected value relative to the buyer’s needs.

Over the last 20 years I have been on the receiving end of almost every imaginable rebuttal for price. From the student looking for a deal (coming from a high-level executive e-mail at a major bank) to “I’m a nun, please can you give me a deal” to one of our most famous internal threads where the person’s maximum budget was initially $50 and then, magically, a few weeks later they were able to come up with $85,000 to buy the name.

Our job as brokers is to represent the client (whether a buyer or seller) and that includes educating both sides of the fence on domain name values. Sometimes the seller’s asking price is so high we prefer to work on other opportunities and sometimes a buyer needs to understand why domain names are valued so much.

Our primary initial goal is to qualify people. Just like an auction house may require a deposit to secure a bidding handle or a real estate agent request your profile before seeing a luxury home, we are focused only on negotiating with people who can qualify as a potential buyer, relative to the seller’s price expectations.

Of course, not everybody is qualified. In the spirit of transparency and education here are a few of our favorite lines from people inquiring about domain names, and a typical reaction from the seller.

“But It’s My Domain Name.”

Personally, this is our favorite statement from a potential buyer. It’s almost the equivalent of us telling the owner of the oceanfront beach home — “wait that’s my house” — explaining that we always dreamed of the home, so in essence (because we had a dream) it’s our house. Maybe we can bring the word crazy back in here.

A few people may actually have the right to a domain name with a valid trademark, but owning a trademark is not a general “pass over the domain please” piece of paper. Trademark law is very complicated and many things, including the use of the domain, when it was registered, its generic factors and so much more, all contribute to whether or not having a trademark provides you with a right to a domain name.

In fact, it’s very rare for a trademark holder to win a generic domain. For most people, the best strategy is typically to make an offer for the domain because, if your case loses, you can bet the owner is going to likely substantially raise the price. Domain name owners who traffic in typos and collect trademark names typically do not argue since they know from the start there is risk associated with these. Generic domain name holders, on the other hand, will typically fight to the end to keep their asset and they usually prevail.

Why $25,000?

I needed a number for a subject line, if you really want to know. Whether its $25,000 or $250,000 is not really relevant. What is relevant is how much a domain name is worth to your business versus the asking price. Remember the asking price is usually just a starting number.

The reason I picked this number arbitrarily is because many domain name owners do the same thing. Before reacting to a price you need to read and understand more about domain names. Having to explain why a great domain is priced so high is only going to get a vague response purely because the sellers we represent are looking for buyers who understand values. Asking us to justify an asking price pretty much discounts any credibility you have as a buyer. However, if you put a reasonable counteroffer in and explain why, then odds are we can work with the seller on that. Very few high-valued domains are ever sold at asking price. There is almost always some negotiation.

“We’re a non-profit and our budget is only $2,000”

Cool. We are not.

The good news is that, if you are a real foundation and the domain is going to be used, then some owners may be influenced by that. Some, not many, but some.

The bad news is that a lot of people try this line and it’s not something many even respond to anymore.

“I’m a student and don’t have a lot of money”

Cool. We wish you the best of luck in the future. Come back when you have a job, and savings.

“I let this domain expire and I want it back.”

Owners do not steal domains. They buy them in auctions and from other owners. If your name expired and you forgot to pay the eight bucks then sorry — win some, lose some.

Let me think on it. Maybe I’ll buy it later.”

Okay, this is where we need to transition out of common replies and talk about domain name values. You never want to assume you can buy it later.

Hobi Michalec of Domain Holdings wrote a fabulous article on this exact scenario when selling the domain name BlueStar.com. Patient and/or aggressive tactics can often backfire on you.

Paul Graham, one of Silicon Valley’s most notable venture capitalists and co-founder of the Y-combinator seed capital firm, wrote an article in August (2015) entitled “Change Your Name”. One of his best comments was “Sometimes founders know it’s a problem that they don’t have the .com of their name, but delusion strikes a step later in the belief that they’ll be able to buy it despite having no evidence it’s for sale. Don’t believe a domain is for sale unless the owner has already told you an asking price.”

Life is too short and time is money. You often can’t afford not to have that domain name.

Why are domain names worth so much?

To answer this question you really need to get past the initial cost of a domain name and understand why a premium domain name is so valuable.

Back in the mid-90s, domain names were free and today they are generally available for anywhere between $8 and $100 annually. But, like real estate, almost all the good .com domains are primarily gone — and if they were available today, no one would ever let you register them for anywhere close to eight dollars.

Keeping in line with real estate, it’s fair to say that almost everyone reading this would buy real estate today at 1995 prices. Hindsight is 20/20 except if the Blue Jays win the World Series, and then I will say I knew that.

You see, domain names are not just a rare asset — a collectible or a modern art piece only a few will ever see. The right domain name can save you thousands (even millions) in marketing costs, help expand your brand authority, increase your brand recognition and make you and your company look smarter. In short, a domain name is everything.

Domain Name Cost vs. Other Media

A $25,000 domain name is still incredibly cheap compared to the value received by almost any other marketing source.

Let’s try this again, but annually.

  • A large roadside billboard can cost upwards of $390,000 annually, according to Blueline Media.
  • According to Entrepreneur magazine, radio ads can easily cost $96,000 to $144,000 a year for smaller companies.
  • The average small business using Google AdWords spends between $108,000 and $120,000 annually, according to Wordstream.

So what happens the next year?

You get to spend it all again. A domain name, on the other hand, typically has a single fee of less than $100 the second year.

$25,000 is sounding cheap.

Because it is.

Whether you own a bad domain name or a good domain name it still needs to be advertised. Our media comparisons above are shown for you to understand how much money is spent on other areas of your business to put the relative cost of a domain name in perspective.

What a lot of people don’t factor in when evaluating the cost to acquire a premium domain name are the intangible values a good domain name also brings, such as:

Higher ROI

When you’re spending your money on advertising it’s important to stay in the real world and keep it simple. The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) acronym is more important than ever with domain names. For all of these advertising costs, your ROI is going to be better with a better domain.

Why? You are asking people to remember and trust you. And people are not the brightest, let’s be real. Collectively, the human race is not full of Einsteins and Jeopardy! winners. If your domain name includes a hyphen, ends with inc/llc, starts with THE, has 48 characters or is something your employees cannot spell, your customers cannot type and even you get mixed up on, then really … why are you questioning the need for a better domain?

Lower Ad Cost

Many online ad publishers have quality scores built into them. These quality scores help determine how much your ads cost, your rankings and more. Having a better domain name often translates to a better quality score and lower pricing.

Greater Authority

Ron Jackson, of DN Journal, wrote an article on the Castello Brother’s ownership and sale of Whisky.com. One of the best quotes from the article was, “I started out walking around the distillery display tables where you could sample great whisky. I walked up to the table to tell them that I was the owner of Whisky.com and handed them a Whisky.com business card. I told them I would like to have a picture for the website. They would all stop what they were doing and have me come behind their booth to take pictures with me while everyone else out in front of the table asked who I was…I realized this is what happens with a Hyper Domain Name like Whisky.com. There is already a built-in trust factor, and it greets you like a Lamborghini in the fast lane.”

It’s true. Would you trust a doctor from doctors.com or thedoctorintheparkclosetoyourhouse.com more?

Time Is Money

Time is the ultimate currency, and in the business world every minute costs you money. Every minute your employees waste having to spell your domain name, or a customer confuses your domain name with a better version, or how many times it takes for a customer to remember your website — all of these (and more) have very real financial costs associated with them.

If you don’t own the very best version of your domain name you are losing money and telling your customers that you are second tier. Using the Whisky.com example above a company could be using aboutwhiskey.com for the last 15 years but as soon as someone calls them from Whisky.com you can bet the consumer will have interest in listening — because the implied authority of being the better brand is built into the domain name.

Should I stick with a .com? What about the new domains?

Personally, I love this question. It’s like asking us who you should marry. There is no solid answer for this without knowing more about you. One thing is for sure though:

We all wish we registered more domain names 20 years ago.

The Internet is changing and many of these new domains are incredibly authoritative. For some, they are the answer. For others, a .com or .org or country code is more appropriate. It really depends on so many factors. There is no blanket answer for everyone.

There are millions of these new domains such as .link, .guru and .club already registered. Launched only 18 months ago big brands like Google, Lady Gaga, LionsGate, TED, Merck and many others have acquired and started using these. Tens of thousands were sold in early access auctions costing upwards of $12,000 + each and more are registered every day.

— Again, $25,000 is sounding cheap. Because it is.

There are so many reasons for owning a good domain name that at this point you either get it or you don’t. The key is not to be upset if somebody buys “your” domain name, but rather focus on understanding the true value of the domain name to your business and then deciding whether or not to obtain the budget for an acquisition.

How do I find a broker that I can trust?

This is a fair question. The domain name industry is small, but it also has grown tremendously over the last few years, especially with the Chinese investment in domain names, which you can read more about here.

Finding the right broker means you need to find someone who represents your best interests. There are many great brokers in this industry who regularly sell premium domain names and have industry awards and nominated staff, including eNaming, Igloo, Media Options, DomainNameSales, GUTA and, of course, my company NameCorp™. Every broker operates similarly; you need to find the one you are most comfortable with. It’s really not much different than choosing a real estate agent.

Where to start?

A great place to start is DNJournal.com to learn more about sales and understand industry names. TheDomains.com, DomainInvesting.com and DomainNameWire.com are three of the most popular sites related to domain name news. DomainSherpa.com is a great site to watch interviews. DomainShane is a great blog who showcases a high-quality list of domains in auction every day. GGRG is an amazing resource to learn more about Chinese and short domains, ran by Giuseppe Graziano. And everyone should register at Domaining.com for an easy RSS feed of the top domain name articles every day.

For tools, DomainIQ is one of the best resources. With an account you can quickly look up WHOIS information, do reverse searches on DNS servers and more. If there is ever a geeky data side to you then DomainIQ is the ultimate place you want to spend your time. Warning, it’s highly addictive.

Of course, you can also always email us at sales@namecorp.com and we will be happy to advise you.

What you can take away from this article is that good domains are quite valuable. And there are a lot of professionals who understand domain names, and can provide solid advice about buying/finding the right domain name for you.

I know very little about buying real estate so you can bet I am going to hire a realtor to help with a home purchase. It’s probably a pretty good idea to do the same when buying a domain name.

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– Follow Alan Dunn on Twitter

30 Days of Catch-All Emails. Wow.

2019-10-18T13:42:21+00:00March 23rd, 2016|Brand Stories, Featured|

Catch All Emails

A Case Study in Human Nature

“The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness.”

This is not a quote by a domain name broker.

This is a quote by one of Silicon Valley’s leading Venture Capitalists. In August 2015, Paul Graham, co-founder of the Y Combinator seed capital firm, penned an article titled, “Change Your Name.”

He goes on to say, “Unless you’re so big that your reputation precedes you, a marginal domain suggests you’re a marginal company.”

Again, these are not words of a domain name broker. These are words coming from somebody who has invested millions of dollars in companies and certainly understands a thing or two about branding.

With that said, there are always two sides of a fence and some may debate that a great domain doesn’t always matter. We obviously would disagree with this side, but deciding whether or not to acquire a domain name should never be about the sales pitch, automated valuation tools or comparable sales. Your decision should be directly correlated to the value proposition a great domain name holds to the value of your business.

Does Amazon need to own every specific product domain name, such as babybeds.com or weddingrings.com?

Of course not.

In fact, some would argue this type of domain is only valuable to a brand for: (a) a redirect, (b) brand protection, and/or (c) a defensive play.

Why?

Because Amazon is the brand, and the danger of diluting that brand by focusing on keyword domains is very real. It also costs a lot more to manage a sea of smaller brands, has possible negative workplace culture effects not having all employees working for the same brand and more.

Buying a Better Domain

Let’s look at the more-common scenario of why companies buy domains. Many acquisitions today are not the result of a name change, but of companies acquiring a better version of their domain. Almost any brand expert will tell you that consistency is the key to branding.

Target is Target.

Target cannot be Target in one place, Target Inc. in another, Target Stores somewhere else, Target LLC back at headquarters and TargetCompany.com on the web.

They have to be known as Target to get the most bang for their marketing bucks, both internally and externally.

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Any marketing professional, domain name broker, brand protection company — anyone interested in selling you something — can provide 1,000 reasons why you should make a purchase.

Only you can determine how much a domain name is worth to you.

However, the value is not always in what is gained — it is sometimes also in what is lost.

So we used data to analyze one of the core intangible elements of a domain names’ value proposition. The Human Nature of emails.

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The Project

A couple of months ago, we were asked our thoughts on a very generic domain name— we loved it. Not only is it a pretty cool ancestry term, but it’s also a popular last name (even our industry has a well-known person with the last name), and there are plenty of companies who could potentially benefit from the acquisition of this domain name. Samples include:

  • A Public Company
  • A Restaurant Franchise
  • An Online Catalog
  • A Furniture Store
  • Many Architectural Firms
  • And more.

For privacy reasons, and on the advice of counsel, we cannot mention the domain name. However, this domain is generic enough that anyone who owned it would clearly defend its generic status. It’s a word we all use.

And this is just the beginning. According to Ancestry.com, there are over 200,000 births, marriages, and deaths of people with this word as a surname. Some of the more famous people include an NFL quarterback.

There are potentially thousands of possible buyers for it across the world.

While the owner was interested in selling the domain, he also understood that selling a great domain name at a fair market price is not always an overnight process. In case the domain did not sell, he started to explore some development ideas of his own. What he didn’t realize was what would happen when a catch-all email address was turned on.

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The Catch-All Experience

A catch-all email address can serve many different purposes.

The most popular being an option for the owner to create all kinds of email addresses such as info@example.com, name@example.com, development@example.com, etc., without having to create individual email accounts. This provides instant flexibility to create any address for specific reasons. For example, if the owner sets up a Netflix account, they could use netflix@example.com and the “catch all” feature would automatically deliver that email to their preferred address.

However, the Left Side of the @ also provides much more fun for great domain name owners. Human nature often leads to the misspelling of a name or two at times, but we also live in a world where shorter is better. Our brains are wired to automatically remove some words when thinking of brands, such as Inc., LLC, etc., and for some companies this can pose a pretty serious problem when it comes to email.

  • Imagine if Google’s website was GoogleInc.com. How many people would type in Google.com?
  • How many employees would send internal email to someone@google.com?
  • How many people email someone@cia.com every day with confidential state secrets?
  • How many job applications for the NSA are sent to the Neptune Shipping Agency monthly?
  • How many people try to order a moving van from Atlas.com?
  • How many employees give out the wrong email to customers every day?

These are just some of the question types many people wonder so we looked at emails from this domain over a 30-day period.

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What We Found

Wow. Our theory on human nature wasn’t far off.

In the last 30 days, the owner had no idea what was about to happen once the email was turned on. He received a total of 261 emails from unrelated addresses relating to his development. Many of these were spam emails, marketing emails or Russian lady friend requests. But there were also emails from employees, contractors, attorneys, job applicants and friends of people at companies that have “Example” in their domain name.

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For clarification, anytime we use “Example,” we are referring to a user emailing someone@example.com instead of the respective longer / alternative TLD version of the domain owned by the intended recipient such as exampleinc.om, examplellc.com, myexample.com, example360.com. There is also a bleed of email from strong brands who do not use a dot com extension and those who use creative spelling versions of commonly spelled words.

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Let’s Break It Down.

Total Emails Received in the 30 Day Test: 261

  • 132 spam
  • 20 LinkedIn (including 4 friend requests to real people at Example)
  • 21 emails from Twitter (with 7 people opening new accounts)

That’s 173 emails (66%) which are basically of little importance.

No big deal right?

Wrong. That leaves 88 emails of some significance to intended users. These emails varied across all security aspects of a company, including:

  • One thank you note from a senior vice president.
  • Three requests for insurance.
  • Two proposals from vendors totaling over $126,000 in work.
  • Private financial correspondence to an “Example” property manager, who then forwarded the email to the wrong “Example” email address, showing more than a $900,000 balance in an account, the account number, the account owners and more personally identifiable information.
  • Several follow-up emails with people thanking them for a conversation, a meeting, etc.
  • Loan contracts for a note over $100,000.
  • Establishment for a new phone line where the presumably “Example” employee opened the account with her work email.
  • Statements for an established wireless account where the user used @example.com email.
  • A fully executed real estate purchase and sale contract asking the “Example” employee to have the buyer initial.
  • Documents from several outside attorneys to multiple employees of “Example” for internal review.
  • A link to the “Example” company’s internal intranet login.
  • Several 2015 1099s mailed to “Example” employees for correction.
  • A refund request for $21,464 in overpayment of rent to “Example” company from an accounting supervisor.
  • Approval designs for custom fit machinery for “Example” company.
  • A character and fitness report from a National Bar Association as part of a background check for an applicant.
  • Numerous receipts for “Example” employees.
  • Multiple Google meeting requests to “Example” employees — from both other employees and outside parties.
  • One not-so-subtle email to someone who will never know.

If there is a full-time job analyzing emails sent to the wrong version of a company’s domain name, we may just apply for it. The entertainment value of some of these emails alone was well worth any cut in salary. However, let’s get back to the article…

The Takeaway

If you can afford it, then you need to acquire the preferred version of your domain name. This really isn’t a question.

Not owning the preferred version of your domain exposes your company to so many different negative consequences. From security concerns about confidential information, data collection, HR correspondence and employee communication to brand confusion between employees and customers. And 1,000 reasons in between.

Almost no one will append a word to your company name.

If your company is called Example, no one is going to arbitrarily add Inc., Corp, LLC, Realty, or any other word to an email address.

However, they will shorten the domain name and send sensitive information via email without hesitation. Scary? Yes it is.

The question you should be asking yourself right now is: Do you know what the preferred version of your domain name is?

The preferred version of a domain name is NOT the domain name you like best.

  • It is the word your customers and employees remember the most.
  • It is the word your employees refer to the company as.
  • It is the word you use to explain to people who you are.
  • It is the word you possibly spent hundreds of hours coming up with.
  • It is the word you have spent (ten or hundreds of) thousands of dollars marketing.

The preferred version of your domain name is all of this and more.

It is not always the domain name you like the best.

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The Value Proposition

Remember, the value of a domain name is not what a domain name broker tells you. The value of a domain name is the “value proposition” it holds to you and your company.

This could be $100 or $10,000,000. It’s a highly personal question for you and your brand and one that no automated appraisal system can ever calculate. The value of a domain name to your brand can only be measured by you and you alone. Whether or not the seller agrees, that’s another story.

Value is not just measured in sales, however. The value proposition of owning the preferred domain name can often lead to stronger brand recognition, greater perceived authority, higher employee loyalty and more. Sometimes just the simple acquisition of the preferred domain name sends employees a better message of long-term dedication than any PowerPoint slide ever will. It can also tell your customers you are growing and becoming more dominant in your industry.

If your company is selling rainbow bracelets on eBay with an average order of $4.25, then owning the best version of your domain name may not be that critical. However, if you’re a million-dollar company, a company handling sensitive information, a company providing data solutions, or 1,000 other types of companies, then you really should understand the important of owning the preferred version of your domain name, what exactly that domain name is, and fight for the dollars to acquire that domain proportionate to the value proposition it holds for you.

Branding is a choice.

You can choose to bet against human nature.

Probably not the best bet.

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Data Collection Notes

  1.  Example.com was NOT a high traffic domain name. Only about 700 people naturally visited the domain name in the last 30 days (about 25 a day).
  2.  There was no mention or link to any @example.com email anywhere on the domain names landing page for this 30-day period.
  3.  All of these emails were sent to somebody@example.com — not generic emails like info@, support@, webmaster@ example.com, etc. Those were discarded.
  4.  No emails were included that resulted from a form submission on the current landing page (hosted by us).

Why Tesla Motors Finally Acquired Tesla.com

2019-10-21T14:04:25+00:00March 17th, 2016|Brand Stories, Featured|

Tesla Motors Finally Acquired Tesla.com

Why Tesla Motors Finally Acquired Tesla.com

– Follow Alan Dunn on Twitter

Elon Musk is no stranger to innovation. Tesla cars lead the world in brand reputation for electric vehicles and last year, Tesla announced the introduction of the Tesla Powerwall home battery. However, for years Tesla never owned the domain name Tesla.com — until now.

According to Andrew Allemann of DomainNameWire, the WHOIS record for the domain name Tesla.com changed on February 17, 2016, to represent a frequently known WHOIS address used by a brand-protection company to acquire domain names.

James Illes from NamePros confirmed the transaction by speaking with seller Mr. Stuart Grossman directly and, if you type in Tesla.com, it now goes to TeslaMotors.com.

How much did Tesla Motors pay?

The rumors have started but we may never know for sure. Companies like Anker, The Texas Rangers and Facebook have paid top dollar to secure preferred versions of their domain. Uber is reported to have traded 1% of company stock to acquire Uber.com.

These days, getting a great domain is no longer cheap. Some may even think Tesla had a right to the name. Oh, that’s so wrong.

The owners of Tesla.com registered the name long before Tesla Motors existed. Another company (Tesla Industries, Inc.) even filed a motion in 2005 to acquire the domain, and well-known intellectual property attorney John Berryhill successfully defended this motion.

A lot of the confusion in domain name rights is simply the equivalent of being the victim of your own success. Companies spend millions building brands but often fail to realize how people truly think. We live in a short-name world and, if you have a unique name like Tesla where marketing efforts have helped establish such high brand awareness, then human nature is to call the company Tesla — not Tesla Motors, Tesla Cars or anything else. Just Tesla.

Did they need Tesla.com?

Maybe not.

But the amount of brand value and brand security acquired by owning this is almost impossible to measure.

How many people email someone@tesla.com every day? How many people type in Tesla.com? What if another company started selling products on Tesla.com that had nothing to do with cars, but was an embarrassment to the brand? It happens all the time.

Just ask Nissan. For over a decade now, Nissan has filed one lawsuit after another to acquire this domain name. It just so happens that the domain is somebody’s (Mr. Uzi Nissan) last name and he has a company called Nissan Computer.

The acquisition of Tesla.com is another leading example of why brands need to pay attention to domain names. At some point it was inevitable that Tesla would do more than just offer cars and the TeslaMotors.com domain wasn’t representative of this growth. Imagine if AmazonBooks was the brand used to try and compete with Netflix — or UberCab was the company trying to sell you data. Both would potentially lose tremendous brand value. However, when you remove the secondary words and simply have Amazon and Uber, then it shows authority and opens the window to innovation without brand dilution. Patrick Swayze said it best in Dirty Dancing: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” Well, the wrong domain can put you in a corner. The right domain can open the world.

The world has changed greatly since Joshua Quittner wrote an article over 20 years ago when he personally registered McDonalds.com, but the process of naming is still a challenge many companies fail to recognize until the need is so high that a price tag comes along to match.

Tesla 1. Nissan 0.

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– Follow Alan Dunn on Twitter

Why You Need The Perfect Domain Name

2019-10-18T10:45:30+00:00February 1st, 2016|Brand Stories, Featured|

Why you need the perfect domain name

– Follow Alan Dunn on Twitter

Building a brand is something every entrepreneur dreams of. Whether it’s the next unicorn, a fashion empire or the local go-to ice cream parlor, your brand name is representative of so much more than your financial statements. It represents your culture, how people connect with you, how customers refer to you, how employees explain what you do and more. The right domain name is a critical part of your brand.

It is also one element that many CMO’s and founders fail to recognize the importance of until its too late (and much more expensive). However, there comes a time when every solid brand will want to upgrade. From Uber to Instagram, Twitter to Anker. Almost every brand matures, and with that maturity comes the need to acquire a better domain name.

Paul Graham, one of Silicon Valley’s most notable Venture Capitalists and co-founder of Y Combinator, published an article in August, 2015 noting that obtaining the best .com domain name was less about getting users and more about signifying strength.

Paul wrote, “The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness”. He also noted an extremely important point “Sometimes founders know it’s a problem that they don’t have the .com of their name, but delusion strikes a step later in the belief that they’ll be able to buy it despite having no evidence it’s for sale. Don’t believe a domain is for sale unless the owner has already told you an asking price.”

All one has to do is look at Nissan.com to understand the headaches associated with someone else owning a name resembling your brand. Over ten years later, and multiple lawsuits later, Nissan (the car manufacturer) is no closer to obtaining the domain owned by Uzi Nissan (yes, Nissan is a last name), and rightfully so. Why should the domain name go to someone just because they are bigger and more well-known? After all, Nissan is his family heritage and the name of his company.

Brand Stories.

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Company: Uber
Founded: March 2009
Valuation: $62 billion +

Original Domain: UberCab.com
Preferred Domain Name: Uber.com

UberCab, which was founded in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, first launched services in San Francisco in 2010, using the eponymous URL www.ubercab.com until it was forced by San Francisco and California regulators to drop the “cab” from its name.

Uber has continued to grow in the past five years, expanding in markets and size. The company that was valued at $60 million in February 2011 now has a valuation of more than $62 billion. It has expanded beyond San Francisco to more than 180 cities in the U.S. and 60 countries around the world, and its car service may be just the beginning — Uber is exploring ways to use its delivery platform in other ways. Recent rollouts include UberEATS, a local food delivery service launched in 12 major cities, and the announcement that Uber would help distribute AMBER alerts via its data network.

At about the same time that it changed its name from UberCab to plain ol’ Uber, Uber bought uber.com from Universal Music Group. Because the young company was cash-strapped, they offered — and UMG accepted — a 2-percent stake in their company in return for the highly desired domain. They later bought this stake back from UMG for $1 million. So, essentially, they acquired this must-have URL, which is now priceless, for a cool million. Not bad at all.

Although Uber may have been originally forced by regulators to change its name from UberCab, it’s undoubtedly a move they would have made at some point anyway. After all, Uber is essentially a technology company, and their continual forays into other services using their delivery platform shows that they know this and are looking at the ways to best monetize it. Uber as a brand is both highly adaptable to a number of scenarios (i.e., UberEATS, UberHEALTH, Uber EVENTS) and very valuable. After all, “uber” means the best of whatever you are, and Uber is striving to be just that for a number of things. And they’ve got a boatload of uber domain names in their portfolio to prove it. Uber cool.

TAKEAWAY:

UberCab had no chance of ever becoming a verb.

They needed the domain to reflect their ever-growing popularity and authority in the marketplace. The word Uber (by itself) did and when your brand becomes a verb you know something is working. Plus Uber is a technology company — they are not just a cab. Imagine if Amazon was called AmazonBooks…

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Company: Twitter
Founded: 2006
Valuation: ~ $19 billion

Original Domain: twttr.com
Preferred Domain Name: Twitter.com

Twitter was first developed by Jack Dorsey and Noah Glass while they were working at Odeo, a podcasting company, in 2006. Dorsey envisioned the service, which went by “twttr,” as an SMS-based service that people could use to track their friends through status updates. Users would send a text to one main number and that text would then be broadcast out to all of their friends. SMS short codes are five digits, so they tried to get twttr, but Teen People were already using it (well, they were using txttp, which is numerically the same as twttr).

A bird enthusiast originally owned the Twitter.com domain, and company co-founders weren’t willing to spend the money to buy the domain name from him until they were confident their platform would catch on. (An early logo features bubble-font lettering in green, making “twttr” look more like “twtta,” which we kind of love.) A lot of joking references have been made to the long-running Wheel of Fortune television game show, at the fact that within just six months, the powers-that-be were willing to purchase the necessary vowels to take control of Twitter.com. It may have seemed like a big deal then — since Odeo had basically foundered and Ev Williams had bought back the stock from investors and taken control of both Odeo and Twitter — but the reported $7500 paid for the Twitter.com domain makes us wonder, from the perspective of a decade’s hindsight, why they even waited at all.

TAKEAWAY:

The Twitter founders got a bargain by getting their preferred domain name early in the game, before even they knew how successful the service would become.

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Company: Anker
Founded: 2009
Valuation : $200 million +++

Original Domain: ianker.com
Preferred Domain Name: anker.com

So Yang, a senior engineer at Google, returned to his native China in 2011 to found the Anker brand. Four years later the company is reportedly doing over $100M in sales annually and is consistently one of Amazon’s top sellers.

With rumored plans to go public in 2017 its no wonder they upgraded from ianker.com to Anker.com in June, 2015 paying a reported $130,000 USD for the domain name.

TAKEAWAY:

The first look at iAnker poses a question of who they are? Is it I AnKer, are they trying to say I An Ker? This upgrade to eliminate brand confusion were dollars well spent.

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Company: Bitly
Founded: 2008
Valuation: A Lot.

Original Domain: Bit.ly
Preferred Domain Name: Bitly.com

Bitly began in early 2008, with an initial $1.5 million in seed funding from New York City-based VC firm BetaWorks (they also chipped in more money during another round two years later). At the time it was one of a handful of URL shortening companies, including TinyUrl.com, and it has since emerged as the dominant player in the field.

Bitly never seemed to have a problem getting users to use a domain with an uncommon .ly extension, but the company began redirecting bit.ly to bitly.com in 2011. Libya, which owns and controls the .ly extension, closed down one or two other domains, accusing them of being anti-Muslim. However, some experts believe that Libya was only able to do this because those sites let their domains expire, though it can enforce the requirement on country codes that users must have a local presence. Either way, the bit.ly domain has been extended through May 2022.

Bitly is not the only URL link shortener out there and with the acquisition of Bitly.com they now have a top level domain to compliment the brand. Think Google’s Goo.gl, Twitter’s t.co, YouTube’s youtu.be, etc. The brand names stand alone as domain names while shorteners live on in other extensions (t.co, goo.gl).

TAKEAWAY:

By shifting to Bitly.com instead of domain hack bit.ly, the company now comes across as more than just a one-trick pony and shows the authority that tech companies need.

It also reduces the risk of operating under a domain name that is is regulated by the Libyan government. This risk alone made it worth upgrading due to the unpredicitability of how some countries regulate country code extensions.

Imagine being a company founder and waking up to this article referencing an extension your company is formed around.

——————————————–

Company: Square
Founded: 2009
Valuation: ~ $3 billion

Original Domain: squareup.com
Preferred Domain Name: square.com

When Jack Dorsey (Twitter’s co-founder) and his friend Jim McKelvey originally thought up the idea of Square, which would allow merchants to accept credit card payments via smartphones, the story is that they went to the dictionary and came across the word “square.” Connotations of the word that fit their concept included the expressions “fair and square” and “square up,” which means to settle a deal (with money, one hopes, not with fists). It didn’t hurt that using Square as the company’s name also gave them a design for their hardware, either.

Not unexpectedly, square.com was not available when the company launched, so Square took instead the domain squareup.com, which was a good second-choice pick. More recently, Square bought the square.com domain for a reported millions of dollars.

TAKEAWAY:

The company is consistently referred to as Square in media everywhere. There was no logical argument NOT to acquire square.com. Our guess is thousands of people email someone @square.com every month thinking they were reaching squareup.com. This email vulnerability alone (especially for a payments processing company) is enough to warrant paying top dollar for the preferred domain.

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Company: DropBox
Founded: June 2007
Valuation: $10 billion+

Original Domain: getdropbox.com
Preferred Domain Name: dropbox.com

DropBox launched services in 2008, using the getdropbox.com domain. The company began as an online data storage system back before the idea of “the Cloud” was as ubiquitous as it is today. In 2009, with users and traffic growing daily, DropBox filed court papers against what it deemed a squatter on the dropbox.com domain, which had been a parked site until it began hosting links to DropBox competitors. They cited the fact that traffic to dropbox.com was growing and they were losing an immeasurable number of potential customers who were visiting the site to find DropBox and not necessarily knowing to go to getdropbox.com. Although financials are unclear, by October 2009 — as TechCrunch reports — DropBox was finally using “the domain everyone thought it [already] had.”

Let’s remember a key point here. Secondary words like GET, INC, LLC, CORP, PLAY, etc. are not your brand, nor will people (including employees) remember them. What people remember, and what the media often refers to, is the primary word of your company name. We live in a short world. Your domain needs to be short.

TAKEAWAY:

This story is a perfect example of the difference between a good-enough domain and the perfect domain. Getdropbox.com was a good choice of URL for a startup when DropBox found that its first choice was unavailable and it needed to roll out its product and business. However, once its product became successful and word started spreading, potential customers assumed they would find the recommended site at the product’s URL. The need to acquire the preferred domain (dropbox.com) became almost mandatory.

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Company: Facebook
Founded: 2004
Valuation: $250 billion (mid-2015)

Original Domain: thefacebook.com
Preferred Domain Name: Facebook.com

When Mark Zuckerberg first launched “The facebook” while still an undergrad at Harvard, he was said to have named the social platform after the papers that were distributed to freshmen to tell them more about other students and staff. The platform rapidly expanded outside of Harvard to other Boston-based colleges and then colleges and universities nationwide. In August 2005, Zuckerberg spent $200,000 to purchase facebook.com and dropped “the” from the company name and its URL. While that was no small amount for a year-old company, a decade later Facebook easily shelled out $8.5 million for FB.com, which tells a lot.

Facebook wasn’t a new concept at the time — MySpace had launched a year earlier, based on Friendster’s original concept — but Zuckerberg was able to build and grow it into the wildly successful social platform it is today. While he may have been able to name it anything he wanted and still have it turn into the 800-pound gorilla in the industry, the history of branding shows that one-word names seem to find the most success. And when your name becomes synonymous with the activity your product actually does (i.e., Hoover), you know you’ve caused a societal shift. Zuckerberg has always been a visionary, and streamlining both the company name and its domain name in the early years undoubtedly helped Facebook on its meteoric ride. Plus, it appears to have helped save the company the millions of dollars it would have needed later on to get its coveted domain name.

TAKEAWAY:

Anytime a company drops THE from a domain name, it becomes more much authoritative. You never want to be known as THE ____ company.

Imagine our world if brands used THE in domain names. THEcocacola.com, THEFedex.com, THEtwitter.com .. Oh please, shoot me now.

——————————————–

Company: Instagram
Founded: March 2010
Valuation: Billions.

Original Domain: instagr.am
Preferred Domain Name: Instagram.com

Instagram was launched in October 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger as a mobile photo and video-sharing social platform. In a little more than a year, it had 10 million users. Facebook acquired the app in 2012 and it continues to grow to this day, especially among the younger crowd, who have grown up with smartphones and image sharing, and prefer the social network to Facebook.

Instagram didn’t just come out of nowhere. Systrom had actually developed, and gotten funding for, a prototype of an app called “Burbn,” which was a location-based check-in app similar to Foursquare. However, after receiving $500,000 in investments and hiring Krieger as the engineer, they looked at Burbn and decided it was too cluttered and needed to be stripped down. Because the photo component was the most popular one with beta users, they kept that feature — along with comments and “like” capabilities — and started again. They named the new app “Instagram,” an amalgam of “instant” and “telegram” that also sounded “camera-y,” in the words of Systrom.

Nobody, not even the two founders, could imagine how rapidly their app would be downloaded from the moment it appeared in the Apple App store. Less than four months after launch, Instagram secured $7 million in a round of funding, putting its valuation at $20 million. At the time, Bloomberg Business noted that the company didn’t even have “real company” accoutrements, such as its own permanent Web address. It was using instagr.am.

Systrom made the decision to pay $100,000 to the owner of the Instagram domain name in January 2011. In 2014, however, a relative of the seller denied that the seller had had the authorization to sell the domain, and wanted the domain name back. Facebook won the 2014 UDRP case, which also included 21 other similar domains that were a typo or two away from the Instagram.com URL.

TAKEAWAY:

Domain hacks look cool but should always be secondary URL’s. When instagr.am launched practically everybody called it Instagram –- they didn’t pronounce it instgr.am (can you even pronounce that?). Always try to acquire the domain your employees and customers will pronounce by default.

——————————————–

Company: Foursquare
Founded: 2009
Valuation: $250 million+

Original Domain: playfoursquare.com
Preferred Domain Name: foursquare.com

After Dennis Crowley sold Dodgeball to Google in 2005 and then left the company in 2007, he went on to create Foursquare — essentially the next-generation of Dodgeball’s location-based social network — in 2009. While you wouldn’t be the first to wonder whether Crowley loves playground games, he has stated in the past that he always wanted to use the name “Foursquare,” but settled first on Dodgeball when the foursquare.com domain wasn’t available.

When he started all over again, he had no such qualms and just went with playfoursquare.com to get the new company going. And it did start out as a mobile gaming app tied into the location-based services, so that “play” in the URL made sense. After Foursquare’s first round of funding, the acquisition of foursquare.com was a top priority. In fact, in mid-2014, Foursquare spun its gamification component into a separate app called “Swarm,” (the domain is for sale) and became even less about gaming and more about personalized local search.

While Foursquare users don’t pay for the service, the company has worked to leverage its knowledge of locations and user visits for revenue-making purposes. Many products and platforms use the Foursquare API — including Twitter, which uses it to geo-tag tweets — and the company’s deep data is anything but child’s play.

TAKEAWAY:

The removal of “play” in their domain makes them sound a little more grown up and, more importantly, shows that their Foursquare service means serious business (regardless of the fact that they briefly, and unintentionally, let the domain name expire in March 2010).

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What does this show?

Simple. It shows there is a proven method for choosing the right domain name.

We live in a world where consumers (and employees) embrace the natural, short versions of domain names. All of these companies (and thousands more) have invested in a better domain name for reasons that make sense across the board including economics, brand recognition, email security and more.

If you haven’t considered upgrading your domain name then maybe you should.

You never want to bet against human nature.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

– Follow Alan Dunn on Twitter

Billions Registered

2019-10-18T04:31:29+00:00January 8th, 2016|Featured|

Over 20 years later, this article remains to be the one of the most important pieces of history for the domain name industry. It shows early brand perspective, early trademark concerns, how only a few people (2.5 to be exact) were responsible for issuing domain names and more. If only we had a time machine.

Originally published in Wired Magazine on October 1st, 1994. Used with permission.

—————-

Billions Registered

by Joshua Quittner

Right now, there are no rules to keep you from owning a bitchin’ corporate name as your own Internet address.

I’m waiting for a call back from McDonald’s, the hamburger people. They’re trying to find me someone – anyone – within corporate headquarters who knows what the Internet is and can tell me why there are no Golden Arches on the information highway.

It’s true: there is no mcdonalds.com on the Internet. No burgerking.com either.

Yet.

“Are you finding that the Internet is a big thing?” asked Jane Hulbert, a helpful McDonald’s media-relations person, with whom I spoke a short while ago.

Yes, I told her. In some quarters, the Internet is a very big thing.

I explained a little bit about what the Big Thing is, and how it works, and about the Net Name Gold Rush that’s going on. I told her how important domain names are on the Internet (“Kind of like a phone number. It’s where you get your e-mail. It’s part of your address.”), and I explained that savvy business folks are racing out and registering any domain name they can think of: their own company names, obviously, and generic names like drugs.com and sex.com, and silly names that might have some kind of speculative value one day, like roadkill.com.

“Some companies,” I told Jane Hulbert, “are even registering the names of their competitors.”

“You’re kidding,” she said.

I am not, I told her, recounting the story of The Princeton Review, the Manhattan-based company that sells SAT prep courses, and how it registered the name of its arch-rival, kaplan.com. Now the lawyers are working it out in court. Very ugly. (We’ll get to that later.)

“I could register McDonald’s right now,” I said, pointing out that the name is still unclaimed.

“You could?” she asked, then quickly answered my silence: “You could.”

“So could Burger King,” I said, and Jane Hulbert rang off, looking for some MIS person with the answers.

How much do you think mcdonalds.com is worth? What could you sell mtv.com for? Is there gold in them thar domains, as a lot of people seem to think, or is it just fool’s gold? No one knows the answers to these questions, though they are being asked, very pointedly, in federal court, as well as in the boardrooms of a number of the nation’s biggest companies.

In the meantime, a frenzy of domain-name registration is going on at the InterNIC, or Internet Network Information Center, the agency that assigns domain names and rules on requests. It’s easy to find an unused domain name, and so far, there are no rules that would prohibit you from owning a bitchin’ corporate name, trademarked or not.

The InterNIC staff has neither the time nor the inclination to scrutinize your application. Not too long ago, I spoke to Scott Williamson, the person who supervises InterNIC registration, to find out what criteria the InterNIC uses to deny registration requests.

There are situations that raise two red flags, according to Williamson: “If the name’s already taken. Or if we catch an ‘obvious one.'”

An “obvious one,” he explained, is a blatant attempt to register a name to which you’re not entitled. For in-stance, let’s say Sprint Communications wanted to register MCI, a competitor in the long-distance telephone biz. That would be an “obvious one” that even the beleaguered staff of the InterNIC would pick up. But wait a second! In the spring of this year, Sprint did register the call letters MCI, albeit briefly. For a while Sprint owned mci.com.

Why did Sprint want to register its rival’s name as a domain name? Sprint won’t say, exactly: “For the record, Sprint won’t discuss its plans for the domain name,” said Evette Fulton, a spokesperson, who added, for anyone too dumb to read Sprint’s lips, “We’re in an extremely competitive business.” As soon as the InterNIC got wind of it a week or so later, mci.com was re-registered to MCI.

How did such an obvious one get by InterNIC?

“It was a fluke,” Williamson said, noting that three requests for the domain name, mci, came in almost simultaneously. (One request was from MCI itself, one was from Sprint, and one was from another company whose initials were MCI.) “All three came in, and the guy in registration registered the wrong one.”

The guy in registration? One person is responsible for assigning domain names on the Internet?

Actually, “We have 2.5 people doing it,” Williamson said, meaning that the half person is really a full person doing it part-time. Or something. Regardless, 2.5 humans is not enough people, or parts of people, to do the job. (Would one person be assigning quit-claims to a gold rush?)

Williamson said that a year ago, his agency received 300 requests a month for domain names; now, more than 1,300 requests stream in each month.

Clearly, the InterNIC can’t research every one of those names for trademark violations. “If we had to research every request for a domain name right now, I’d need a staff of 20 people,” Williamson said. So the policy is simple: “Trademark problems are the responsibility of the requester.”

Which means, I asked, that I could register mcdonalds.com?

“There is nothing that says I can stop you from doing that,” he said. “We really need some policy.”

“The problem with the Internet is, who’s in charge?” he added wryly. “When we figure that out, there will be a meeting.”

But even if the InterNIC figures out some mechanism to more effectively weed out bad-faith registrations, it can’t go around protecting trademarks. That would be too time consuming and would be beyond the scope of its responsibilities.

The situation is analogous to incorporating a company to do business in a particular state, explained Bruce Keller, one of the country’s top trademark attorneys, at the white-shoe Manhattan law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. While I was waiting for McDonald’s Hulbert to call me back, I spoke with Keller on the telephone.

Keller, who is counsel to the International Trademark Association, said that “when you incorporate a company in a state, the state doesn’t bother to see if there are other conflicts with trademarks that may be registered in other states — it just checks with the secretary of state to see if the same name has been registered.” This is the same function, in effect, that the InterNIC performs. If a name hasn’t been registered, you can take it, he added, but beware: “That in no way entitles you to use the name if in fact there is a conflict with a federally registered trademark.”

It’s no different in cyberspace. Keller’s advice to anyone registering a domain name is to do a careful trademark search, just as you would before incorporating a business. “In my view, it’s trademark law pure and simple.”

Trademark law, he explained, offers two general kinds of protection. In the first in-stance, protection from infringement, when a customer associates a certain name with a certain product or services, the law prevents others from using that name and creating confusion. You see the name, “McDonald’s,” and what do you think of? (Quarter Pounder with cheese, medium fries, and medium Coke is what I think of; you can name your own poison.) The question is, Would most people expect to find some connection to fast-food hamburgers in cyberspace when they finger mcdonalds.com? Keller says yes. Trademark protection has to extend from the physical world to the virtual world.

The second kind of protection seeks to prevent trademark “dilution.” “Trademarks are valuable corporate assets. You can put a price tag on them,” Keller said. “Coca-cola, for instance, has a multibillion-dollar value.” If someone else attempted to use that name — as a joke, for instance, or to be cute — the value of the trademark would start to dilute. “This protection comes into play when someone takes the word ‘McDonald’s’ and sticks it on a mailbox” – as in a domain name. “McDonald’s is among the most aggressive companies in stopping use of its name. It goes after everybody, whether it’s a dentist calling himself ‘McDental,’ or a motel calling itself ‘McSleep.’

That, conceivably, might even bar you from using a domain name such as bigmac.com.

Trademark infringement cases are usually settled through a process I’ve come to think of as Big Footing. The big company with the trademark Big Foots the little one, forcing it to give up the name. Usually, this is achieved with a Big Foot letter from the big company’s lawyer, threatening legal action.

McDonald’s does it. So does Wired. Last year, WIRE, a computer network encouraging women to get on the Net, registered the domain name wire.com. This magazine’s lawyers sent them a Big Foot letter: “That sounds too much like Wired’s online service, wired.com. Give up the name, or else.” WIRE became Women’s Wire, and retreated to the domain name wwire.com.

Most trademark infringement cases never get beyond the Big Foot letter. “This is going to cost you a lot of money if you want to fight it — that’s the way the bulk of cases are settled. Who wants to waste time fighting it?” said Keller in an obviously rhetorical question. Keller’s firm is local counsel in the Kaplan versus The Princeton Review case,a good example of someone who wants to fight it.

And here’s another: Anyone ever hear of Adam Curry? In June 1993, Curry, then an MTV video jockey, registered the domain name mtv.com with the InterNIC, “partly because it was a cool address to have, and it was available,” he wrote, in an electronic message that was hard to miss if you were on the Net this past May.

Curry hung his own computer on the Internet and put up a gopher site, which offered, among other things, a daily entertainment “Cybersleaze Report” and “Adam Curry’s Brain Waves,” providing Curry’s own spin on the rock and roll scene. He paid for the site himself and considered it kind of a hobby. He said he told his bosses at MTV what he was doing and encountered no resistance.

Then, in April, Curry resigned from MTV. He was promptly sued for copyright infringement stemming from his ownership and use of mtv.com.

MTV’s lawyer asserted that the case would be fought on traditional trademark infringement grounds.

But Curry, who has agreed in the meantime not to use the domain name mtv.com “in a confusing manner,” said mtv.com is his property, and he’s not relinquishing it. Until the court battle is resolved, Curry is maintaining a site called metaverse.com. In other words, while he might not use the name, he intends to keep it and not transfer title to MTV.

“I will fight this all the way,” he said, adding that the case would be the “Roe v. Wade of the Internet and the information superhighway. There is just no way that MTV has the right to my address. It’s my address. Mine.”

Curry said his site has become exceptionally popular on the Net and has received millions of visits. Indeed, his lawyer, Joe Donley of the Manhattan firm of Shereff, Friedman, Hoffman and Goodman, said that Internet users have come to associate mtv.com with Curry alone.

“We believe that if they were allowed to take Adam’s mtv.com address and use it for themselves — now that Adam has shown what a useful service this could be — there’s a very real danger of reverse confusion,” Donley said. “Millions of Internet users have come to associate mtv.com, not with MTV, but with Adam. If they go out and take the domain name, it will leave those millions of people with the potential to be confused.”

One way around this problem would be to compensate Curry for his efforts, of course. Would Curry be willing to sell mtv.com to MTV? I asked.

“There are things going on that I cannot comment upon,” said Donley. And he didn’t.

John Katzman is another guy whose company registered a domain name that is prized by someone else: kaplan.com. Katzman is president of The Princeton Review, a company that provides courses and workbooks to prepare students for standardized tests such as the Scholastic Achievement Test. The Princeton Review’s main antagonist is Kaplan Educational Centers, which goes a long way to explaining why Katzman’s company might see a strategic advantage in registering and owning kaplan.com.

Katzman said his company decided to launch a site on the World Wide Web “that explains to people the difference between Princeton Review and Kaplan…. We decided to call it kaplan.com.”

Doesn’t that domain name make it sound as if the site is maintained by Stanley Kaplan? “Our position is that the name of the site is descriptive of what’s on the site, which is an analysis of the different courses,” he said.

Kaplan’s former president, Greg Rorke, doesn’t see it that way at all. Around January, Rorke’s people met with representatives of The Internet Company Inc., which helps businesses get on the Net, and looked into the possibility of registering a kaplan.com domain name. “We figured there was no hurry,” Rorke said, adding that it came as quite a shock when someone in Kaplan’s technology department found out a few months later that Princeton Review had registered kaplan.com.

Kaplan fired off a Big Foot letter, and initiated legal action that went to US District Court in Manhattan, the same courthouse-arena, by the way, where the Curry-MTV bout is being fought.

Katzman said he intends to hold onto kaplan.com, unless the court tells him otherwise. In the meantime, he said, Kaplan is more than welcome to find its own, unused name and, “if they want to link it from our server both ways, we’ll do it.”

While awaiting McDonald’s call back (I called Jane Hulbert and was informed she was on the other line), I started playing the Whois Game. The Whois Game tells you who, if anybody, owns what domain name. For instance, I found out that there is a god, at least on the Internet. (god.com is registered to Guaranteed Online Delivery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.) There’s also plenty of sex and rock, if not roll. (Sex.com is registered to Online Classifieds Inc. of San Francisco, and rock.net is registered by Rocknet of Cupertino, California.)

From most Unix Internet shell accounts, you can easily play the Whois Game. From your shell prompt just type, “whois “.

If you type $whois nbc.com, within a few seconds the InterNIC registry will be fingered and you’ll see:

National Broadcasting Company Inc.
(NBC-DOM)
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

plus some other administrative stuff that meant little to me but would probably help a system administrator, lawyer, or someone who spends far too much time in front of the computer and ought to get out more.

While NBC also has an Internet e-mail address for Nightly News, the other three networks haven’t even registered their domain names.

But other people have: as I write this, abc.com is registered to ABC Design in Seattle; cbs.com is registered to a consultant in Golden Valley, Minnesota; and fox.com is registered to something called the Flexible Online eXchange, in California. (I couldn’t believe that Fox hadn’t figured it out. I mean, the Internet was mentioned on an episode ofThe Simpsons, and Rupert Murdoch was smart enough to grab Delphi, the national Internet gateway service. Fox does, in fact, maintain an address at delphi.com, through which viewers can offer feedback.)

The Whois Game is an interesting gauge of who is paying attention to the Big Thing known as the Internet.

In May, I asked a researcher at Wired to check the list of Fortune 500 company names against registered domain names and found that only one-third of the Fortune 500 had registered an obvious version of their names. More telling was that 14 percent of America’s largest corporations had their net.name snapped up by someone else.

That left more than 50 percent of the Fortune 500 names still available to first-comers. The top 15 companies all had their act together and had registered their domain names. But some other very big companies did not. Those include: Nabisco, Sara Lee, Anheuser-Busch, Kellogg, and Coca-Cola, or even Coke. Ooops. That was just nabbed as I write by one Rajeev Arora in Campbell, California. Way to go, Rajeev! The Pepsi generation, presumably, is more wired, since pepsi.com is registered. A John Sculley legacy?

Of course, some companies were on the Net with nonobvious, unhip addresses at places like America Online and Prodigy.

What will these companies do when they attempt to move onto the Net and reclaim their names? Draft Big Foot letters and lawsuits, I guess.

Which made me think of Jane Hulbert, at McDonald’s. I called her again and we finally connected.

She was very apologetic. “I don’t have anything for you, and I probably won’t have anything for you,” she confessed. “I’ve left a lot of voicemail for people, but no one seems to know anything about it.”

Jane Hulbert said she’d keep checking around, but she didn’t seem hopeful that we could get to the bottom of this domain-name thing. “You’ll probably just have to do your story without it,” she said. “It probably won’t be the end of the world.”

She’s probably right. I wondered how long it would take 2.5 InterNIC people to process my application for mcdonalds.com.

Not very, it turns out. About two weeks later, after filling out the Net-available domain-name application form, I got e-mail notification from domreg@internic.net:

“Registration for the domain MCDONALDS .COM has been completed. The InterNIC database has been updated…. The new information will not be visible via WHOIS until the next business day….”

My fingers trembled, as if ripping open a Big Mac. I checked:

$whois mcdonalds.com Domain Name: MCDONALDS.COM Administrative Contact: Quittner, Josh quit@newsday.com

Oh, that’s McCool. I feel like McPrometheus. I have stolen McFire.

I need to get comment from someone. But who?

For weeks now, I’ve been trying to get McJane on the phone, to let her know that I have their name registered if they need it. One week, she’s out on vacation. For two others, she’s on another line.

Is she avoiding me?

“Can anyone else help you?” someone asks. Yes, I tell her, explaining all over again about the Internet, domain names, the Gold Rush, mcdonalds.com. Still, no one returns my calls. Hamburgers are what makes this country great. Burgers are the backbone of our economy. It’s not so far-fetched to think that McDonald’s would be out there on the Net; ISDN, after all, was first used commercially by McDonald’s. Also, McD’s was expected to perform an online first in August on America Online with a 30-second commercial. I’ve even heard that the Golden Arches is experimenting with delivery service. What better way to order your Big Mac than over the Net? Over 25 million users served….

This callous indifference to the Internet worries me. Will the Japanese catch on?

Isn’t there someone in burgerland who cares?

Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce. You can have it your way, at Burger King!

As I said, there’s no burgerking.com either. Still, Burger King seems reasonably wired. The person who answers the phone in communications even has a vague idea about what the Internet is. (“Some kind of information thing, like Prodigy?” she asks. “Yes!” I tell her. “OK, but what does that have to do with Burger King?” she asks. Exactly.) I’m routed to some guy who promises to look into the matter of domain-name registration. A day later, he leaves me voicemail: “I don’t have a definitive answer on the Infonet registration,” he says. “The closest thing I’ve got for you is We are considering it. But no decision has been made.” I’d like to ask him more. Hell, I’d like to see if Burger King is interested in buying mcdonalds.com, taking it off my hands, but his message says he will be out for a week or so.

So here’s the deal: Let’s get interactive. What should I do with mcdonalds.com? You tell me. I could auction it off. I could hold on to it as a trophy, a la Curry and mtv.com. I could set up a Mosaic home page, explaining the difference between McDonald’s and Josh “Ronald” Quittner.

Got a suggestion? Send it to ronald@mcdonalds.com.

—————-

This article was originally published in Wired Magazine on October 1st, 1994. Used with permission. Written by Joshua Quittner.

China and Domain Names. It’s all about Data Now.

2019-10-18T10:33:44+00:00November 18th, 2015|China, Featured|

China Domain Name Market

Data. I love data. And today, investing in domains is all about data.

As Shane Cultra said a few weeks ago, “If you’re not in Chinese domains right now you’re out of the wholesale market.” Not 100% accurate, more like 110%.

Everybody has seen this type of scenario before. A product gets hot, buyers rush in, everybody’s making money and then a bubble pops. I am going to go on record and say my opinion is there will be a bubble, but not any time soon. And when that first bubble pops, it will simply be a slight correction to a foundation not even formed yet. What is happening right now is the most important thing to ever happen in the domaining world.

Traditional Domaining

Up until China started investing heavily in domains, choosing assets to invest in was part art, part science and part gut. Over the years, I have seen so many different opinions on domain name values for brandable and keyword domains. While this data played some role, the value typically ends up based more on a gut check than anything else.

Comparable sales data of brandable and keyword domains can only do so well because metrics used from one sale to another are rarely strong enough to warrant broad extrapolation to similar domains. Sellers often use data like the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to identify the number of searches each month for a particular keyword or phrase. However, if there is no direct navigation traffic (people typing in the domain name), then the owner must develop a website and get on page one of Google to take advantage of that traffic. Otherwise, it really means nothing.

Secondly, my guess is that over 50% of all keyword and brandable domain sales would never had a second buyer anytime soon. It’s one of the main reasons why looking at DNJournal every week is such an addictive read. You never know what’s going to sell. Furthermore, most sales are from inbound leads, which is not the result of 12 people fighting for a domain in auction. It’s typically the result of one person with an emotional attachment to that name. This is a core issue behind the problems in extrapolating sales data for broader valuation analysis.

Numerous other factors exist that make the challenge of quantifying domain name values using an algorithm nearly impossible. Luc and Essa from Estibot are brilliant people. Many of the world’s top technology companies would love to have even a clone of either one who is half as good. Yet, even with all the resources they have, automated domain name values for brandable and keyword domains are still hit and miss when compared to the accuracy of appraisal systems for traditional industries. Take real estate, for example. Ten appraisers could assess the same house and likely come in within 15% of each other. Take 10 automated systems in this industry or even ask 10 true professionals in this industry and you’ll likely see variances of 50-75% – resulting in a valuation that ultimately has more to do with your gut than with data.

Enter China – The New Normal

Did I mention that I love data?

Domain name investing for the China market is now based on data. Four-letter (4L), five-letter (5L), three-number (3N) domains … Whatever the data set is, one can break this set down and find floor prices for a wealth of patterns. Double letters, beginning and ending 8s, double repeating, etc.

And these patterns mean something, since underneath it all we have an extremely large amount of buyers who satisfy the demand. This is not going away, in my opinion. If two-number domains dropped in value tomorrow and China wanted out, then only a small percentage of value would fall before Western bidders all bought back in. Same with four numbers, four letters and even longer strings.

The underlying difference in why this data is so much more important (and relevant) today for Chinese domains is that brandable and keyword domains do not have the same liquidity factor nor the same amount of people lining up to pay $25,000 for a domain. The wholesale market can be 75-90% cheaper than end-user sales.

In China, this wholesale demand is the market. Almost none of these domain names will ever get used. They are being treated strictly as commodities, and we are still in the first stage of this investment: Building a foundation. No popular CHIP (acronym for Chinese Premium) domain name seems like it is going to fall off the charts. Why? Because we are likely not anywhere near the top of the mountain yet. People are acquiring portfolios, registering domains and positioning themselves. And there is a lot of that still to do.

There is also a beautiful difference between Chinese and Western culture. China is a culture where people are taught about saving and building wealth from Day One. North America, on the other hand, is a consumer-based society where we spend, spend and spend. There is an entirely different mindset for building wealth in China and this is something, together with the portable liquidity of these assets, which I truly believe is core to the growth of domain investing as a long term asset class in China.

The Big Picture

Oh, the big picture. I don’t think that reported sales are showing enough of the big picture. Why?

Undervalued Inventory

There is so much inventory being purchased under value at the moment: from buy it now, closed auctions and private sellers. Many owners are not aware or simply have no idea how to price domains right now and – rightfully so – many of us are still trying to understand the China market.

Corporate Life

I spoke to one of the largest domain portfolio owners yesterday and they said: “We are just getting into this market now. Not sure how we really missed it.” Think about it – How many other corporate and private owners who list names on marketplaces follow the daily domaining topics as most of us do? A small fraction, is my guess.

Domaining is still only a full-time job for a relatively small group of people and many of the employees who run domain portfolio sales are not domainers. They simply have goals to meet and, if all is well, then hey, all is well.

Poor Inventory Search

Many auction houses are doing extremely poor jobs of showcasing inventory. Sedo, for example, just added a numeric-only search function in early November. SnapNames still doesn’t have one.

Blocking Buyers

Many auctions are closed, so those buying need to understand where to place backorders, etc. There are visible differences where you buy domains resulting in arbitrage (buy on Snap, sell on NameJet, for example), and many more undermarket sales happening.

The good ol’ days of being in private auctions may very well come to an end soon. In fact, except for personal gain, I really don’t see any reason to have private auctions anyway. As long as bidders are verified, it doesn’t make any sense from a business perspective to limit the last three days of bidding to a closed group of people. People will follow the gold and that gold is inventory, doesn’t matter if auctions or private or public.

New Players Innovating

NameJet is likely the most important player in the West right now. Not only do they provide an API feed for their inventory, but they’ve also been quick to add a numeric search function, have quality standards for sellers, an exclusive lock on Network Solutions expired inventory, longest payment terms and holding more and more public auctions.

DropCatch and Pheenix are also opening up public auctions once a domain name is caught. And registrars like NameBright are advancing bulk tools every day for owners – seriously, try their bulk search of 5,000 domains at once. You will never go back.

Many companies who used to run the drop markets in this industry are being phased out by people who realize the potential in China, listen to buyers and sellers, and have the nimble resources to adapt. This innovation is resulting in greater tools, more opportunities and a more efficient marketplace. All of this would never happen at this pace without the demand from China.

So, going back to Shane’s quote: “If you’re not in Chinese domains right now you’re out of the wholesale market.”

Yep. That sounds about right.


NameCorp™ is a boutique digital agency with an insane appetite for naming and more than 20 years of experience. Contact us to learn more about finding a better domain name.

China. The New King of Domains.

2019-10-21T10:11:09+00:00September 1st, 2015|China, Featured|

China Domain Name King

China. The New King of Domains.

If you own a premium domain name, then odds are you have received an inquiry from a prospective Chinese buyer over the past year.  Domain names have become an extremely popular investment in China and many of the industry’s top reported weekly sales are now credited to both Chinese investors and Chinese companies.

Why is China suddenly the biggest marketplace for domain names?

There are many answers to this question but one thing is for sure: The Western world doesn’t even come close to the influence that China has on domain names anymore.

And this is a good thing.

Let’s go back a few years first.

The Collection Years.

Up until 2009 or so, there were only a relatively small number of large bulk buyers in the traditional domain investment community. The vast majority of these buyers were based in North America, Europe and the Caribbean, and often competed heavily in auctions for any name of quality.

The Adjustment Period.

Somewhere around 2009, Google, Yahoo! and other upstream ad providers introduced quality score payments and many domain name owners who relied on parking revenue saw their payouts drop.  It was the first of many things to shift a primary focus to domain name sales versus monetization.

Pandas and Penguins killed the value of exact match domain names and the introduction of zero-click advertising started exposing premium domain holders to great risk, reducing the interest in parking by many big investors.

(Zero-click parking is almost the worst thing you can ever expose a premium domain name to in our opinion. A domain name’s value has the potential to be exposed to penalties, bans and more, all while you often have no idea. If you own a premium domain and it’s on zero-click ads, you’re just asking for trouble.)

During this period, DomainNameSales.com, Mark.com and other key marketplaces were established, showing the interest in expanding public aftermarket sales platforms.

The New Internet.

Prague, 2012. This is when many of the world’s top domain investors became kids again. ICANN opened up the doors for new domain name extensions and the response was similar to Willy Wonka finally opening the doors of his chocolate factory.

New companies were formed, people became enthused again – it truly was similar to kids in a candy shop, except the candy cost more. Companies like Donuts raised $100 million for new GTLDs; Google spent $18.6 million just on applications. Even well-known industry leaders spent millions on applications to own some of these new extensions.

However, the most important thing was something very few people ever spoke about.

A lot of this money wasn’t from domainers. It was from venture capitalists, private investors, well-known companies and more.

All of a sudden, domain names had Main Street credit with tremendous new cash investments. This was verification the aftermarket for domain names was just beginning.

February, 2014.

This date was critical. The first launch of these new domain name extensions went live. It was like being at the Super Bowl watching the coin drop. No one really knew what was going to happen. Would anybody want these new domains? Would people pay a premium for early access to premium domains? If so, what prices would they pay? Would companies really buy these names? Registries needed adoption for the long term.

The last 18 months have proven that there is an undeniable thirst for these new domain name extensions.

“Adoption is, in fact, key, and it’s borne itself out over the course of the past year and a half. Registrations at Donuts alone exceed two million names and the number is steadily climbing. Consumers not only are buying names in new TLDs, they’re putting them to use. One has to look only at the featured sites page on our website to see daily examples of real world use.” noted Daniel Schindler, Co-Founder, Donuts Inc. when asked about the last 18 months.

A couple weeks ago the industry may have achieved its biggest tipping point yet when Google decided to forgo the traditional .com and consolidate all its companies under a .XYZ domain name.

China Becomes King.

While all these changes were happening with the introduction of new domains, Chinese investors were slowly becoming dominant players in domain name investments.

For those unfamiliar with China, there are very core differences in how wealth can be invested in China. If you live in the Western world, you can pretty much invest in anything. China has much tighter restrictions, especially on funds leaving China.

These restrictions may impose hardship in China, but they also create great demand for alternative investments from Chinese buyers more than many other countries. Domain names started becoming extremely popular for a number of reasons.

  • China has an extremely high Internet penetration.
  • No walled gardens for mobile usage. In the U.S mobile usage is mostly behind walled gardens (Facebook/Twitter/etc.)
  • Mobile Internet is mature since they started and expanded mobile Internet before the App economy took hold, they are still used to domain names
  • gTLDs are not under the control of the Chinese government. The ICANN controlled gTLDs are harder to seize without proper legal documentation versus their domains (.com.cn/.cn) which can be often seized without notice.

But why domains?

Good domains are rare—very rare—and with such rarity comes value and prestige. Most people would love to own a domain like sex.com or money.com, but very few have the means. Furthermore, very few great domains are even available for sale.

The reason China became king is that the Chinese wholesale market has applied logic to inventory and created foundational values rarely seen before in this industry with such high demand.

Instead of applying a Wild West attitude using almost defunct measurements like SEM value or PPC search, Chinese investors focus primarily on the best of the best. Two Letter dot coms, Three Letter dot coms, One word dot com’s etc… There is very little Wild West of anything when it comes to Chinese buyers. In fact, they have proven to be some of the smartest investors in this industry although the latest to arrive.

This year alone we have already seen 50% of the Top 10 reported sales YTD by Chinese buyers and the biggest rumored sales are also from Chinese companies – We.com ($8 million USD), and 360.com ($17 million USD).

Some say this is a bubble but many industry professionals disagree.

Tracy Fogarty, Founder of eNaming.com, said “Many of our best clients are from China and the demand from Chinese companies looking to acquire domains has never been higher than before”.

Perspectives like this further validate there are many signs this is not a bubble. It’s not just investor demand but real companies who are looking to upgrade or acquire the best version of their domain name, and willing to pay dearly for it.

What the Future Holds.

There are many opinons on domain name values. However, it comes down to simple supply and demand. Great names are hard to find and once a great domain is gone it’s typically gone for good. Over the last year many two letter dot com domains have gone to brands – most recently TR.com to Thomas Reuters – and more will be acquired. At some point these will all be owned by brands and almost impossible to buy.

If you are sitting on the fence about acquiring a premium domain name there are a couple things to understand:

  • Domains are global. So is demand. Waiting doesn’t typically help your chances of acquiring a domain.
  • The domain name you want is likely a generic domain name. That means other people want it also.
  • A domain name is an asset. It’s something you own. The $100,000 you spend on ads is an expense; it’s not something you own.
  • Understand the value of the asset before negotiating. It’s not “just a domain name”.
  • If somebody owns a great domain name and they tell you they have multiple offers from Chinese investors, well, they probably do.
  • A US Trademark doesn’t mean you have exclusive rights to a domain. There are multiple classes of trademarks and many countries issue them. Then there’s the situation when the domain owner acquired the name, use and so much more.
  • If your lawyer has never dealt with a domain name issue before and promises they can file a form to get the name, think again. Talk to a domain name lawyer. Odds are your lawyer is wrong.
  • Offers for a good domain name do not start at $500. Add a zero or three.

Nobody can predict the future but when it comes to great domain names one thing is for sure, it’s not a collector sport anymore.


NameCorp™ is a boutique digital agency with an insane appetite for naming and more than 20 years of experience. Contact us to learn more about finding a better domain name.[/av_textblock]

Google Alphabet – A Naming Lesson for Mortals

2019-10-18T03:40:13+00:00August 11th, 2015|Brand Stories, Featured|

Google Alphabet XYZ Domain Name

Google Alphabet – A Naming Lesson for Mortals

When your name is Google, it’s only logical to own the alphabet.

Yesterday, Google announced the consolidation of its companies under a new corporate brand: Alphabet. In reference to the new name, Co-Founder Larry Page said, “We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark).”

Within minutes, the wires were flooded with opinions about this naming choice, especially focused on Google’s choice of using the domain name abc.xyz for the new brand. The Washington Post penned an article titled “Here’s what happens when you try to find Google’s new parent company, Alphabet, on the Internet”.

It describes how Alphabet.com is owned by BMW and the twitter handle @alphabet is owned by one Chris Andrikanich, a self-proclaimed geek in Ohio. Ironically, this brand announcement came the day after Paul Graham, one of the most vocal people in the start-up community, wrote an article stating that, if you have a U.S. start-up called “X” and you don’t own x.com, you should probably change your name.

All of this news has made for an interesting couple of days in the naming space. Why would Google use a .xyz extension? Why not build on a .com domain? Many different answers have been floating around but the answer is a lot easier when you look at the buyer.

Google is the world’s third most-valuable brand, behind Apple and Samsung. This means Google can brand anything. It doesn’t matter if its .xyz, .123 or .supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. You will learn to type in abc.xyz and you will like it. For Google, it doesn’t matter what the extension is—what matters is what the extension represents and, from our perspective, abc.xyz sounds a lot more Google-esqe than abc.com or alphabet.com. Alphabet is also not the consumer brand, but a non-consumer-facing umbrella company for the Google family of brands, which lessens the importance of having a .com domain (if there is any when your name is Google).

Google’s use of abc.xyz is likely the most significant event to date for adoption of the new GTLDs (generic top level domains). Millions of people will visit this site and the .xyz extension will be branded forever as a solid domain name extension. Furthermore, because of Google’s adoption, the automatic trust and credibility will trickle over and make people consider .xyz as a choice in naming.

What does this mean for your company?

Using a new GTLD is certainly enticing, but there is so much more to naming than simply choosing what URL to use. For starters, Google can brand anything and, well, you aren’t Google.

The key takeaways from this new brand announcement are:

Simple is better.

Forget about three-word names and unpronounceable words. Choose a single or two-word combination if at all possible.

You need a story.

Alphabet will forever be a memorable talking point since it doesn’t just stand for letters but also for “alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark)” and “a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations” that form the core of Google’s business model. What story does your name tell?

Eliminate confusion.

This starts with owning the best version of your domain name and also making sure you own the exact match in social handles. This doesn’t always mean .com—what it does mean is consistency among the URL and social handles. If The Washington Post is confused, then you can bet your customers will be too.

Remember, you are not Google.

It takes millions (and millions) of dollars to brand globally. The .com extension is already branded and remains the dominant extension for now. However, Francois Carrillo of Domaining.com said it best: “Times are changing, slowly but surely, and resistance is futile.”

If your budget allows it, then the cost of acquiring the .com will be worth it to eliminate potential confusion. But it’s not the only option anymore.

At the end of the day, if you build something cool, people will come. The Internet is truly like a Field of Dreams, no matter what your domain name extension is.


NameCorp™ is a boutique digital agency with an insane appetite for naming and more than 20 years of experience. Contact us to learn more about finding a better domain name.

Look Inside Your Brand

2019-10-18T10:53:46+00:00August 3rd, 2015|Brand Stories, Featured|

Look inside your brand

For most entrepreneurs, the idea of having their own business is a primary objective. But for some, building a brand is the ultimate goal.

However, building a brand is very different than building a company. One could even say brand building requires an entirely different sub-set of skills that only a few have ever mastered.

The truth is, you don’t need a company to build a brand: What you need are followers.

Today’s world is very different than yesterday’s. Many personal brands are built on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, some intentionally and some unintentionally. A brand could be a company (AOL), a product (Rubik’s Cube) or even an individual (Kim Kardashian).

No matter how a brand is built there are common elements to successful brands. Some of these elements are created by your marketing team while others are created by employees or followers.

Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, wrote: “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

This is one of the greatest quotes about branding and is true today as much as it was when he wrote it in 1997. Why? Because it sums up that great brands are built not just by ads, but from the total experience.

How many times have great brands been tarnished by poor customer service or luxury brands cheapened trying to appeal too widely? And how many times have we fallen in love with a brand, creating a relationship that has stood the test of time?

Building a great brand is not easy. It’s likely the hardest challenge any company has. But when you do it successfully, the rewards are plentiful.

According to Brand Finance®, Apple is the most valuable brand in the world. What is even more interesting is that most consumers will likely feel certain emotions about, and some kind of connection to, almost every brand on this page before thinking about their product. Companies without high brand value do not have this consumer connection.

Having a great product and customers is just not enough. There are several things every brand owner should ask themselves :

Is Your Brand Authentic?

People are collectively smart (excluding those nominees for the Darwin Awards) and authenticity is a key element for a successful brand. Whether it’s a luxury good, an honest review or a promise of a low-cost, high-quality alternative, what people want to know more than anything else is if you’re authentic. No fakes have stood the test of time.

Do You Have Shared Values?

A key extraction from Howard Schulz’s quote is: “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” We would like to dissect this a bit deeper and define “people” as all people involved with a company and not just customers. From employees to vendors to competitors—the more a brand authentically shares value with all people, the greater the emotions invoked for the brand.

Are You Integrating Completely?

Having a person at hello is not enough. The greatest brands in the world incorporate their brand into everything, from product packaging to logo silhouettes to a single font. From an outside perspective, what looks relatively simple is often the result of countless hours spent planning a brand’s integration.

Do You Have a Single Voice

Great brands understand the value of a single voice. They also understand how to minimize damage control by not having too many people tell the same story. It’s very rare to hear Google employees discussing the search engine’s future, or Home Depot employees describing the store culture.

A single voice is critical. Otherwise, your brand may never be consistent and this, in turn, will undermine your authenticity.

Are You Consistent?

Consistency is crucial. Imagine if Starbucks baristas didn’t wear green and everyone could choose a different uniform color. Imagine if Apple stopped paying attention to design. What if Tesla tried to sell regular fuel cars at the same time?

Any of these actions would likely result in only negative consequences for the brand. Consistency and Authenticity go hand in hand, and many times the only way to be authentic is to be consistent.

Branding (in theory) is pretty straight forward but in reality, it is far more difficult. After all, the ultimate goal is to earn the love of others and that is something even the best world leaders find hard to do.


NameCorp™ is a boutique digital agency with an insane appetite for naming and more than 20 years of experience. Contact us to learn more about finding a better domain name.

The Real Value of a Domain Name

2019-10-19T23:26:55+00:00July 29th, 2015|Featured|

Nothing in life is free. At one time, however, domain names were. Twenty years ago – in 1995 – Joshua Quittner penned this historic piece for Wired Magazine and registered McDonalds.com for free.

But, as the expression goes, today is different. A good domain name is hard to find and, when you find it, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even bargain hunters are often hard pressed to find anything of superior quality for less than $10,000 USD.

Why are domain names valuable?

If you start by trying to answer this question then you’re already approaching the answer wrong. Before trying to understand the value of domain names it’s critical to understand what your brand means to you. Ask yourself:

Are you building a global or local presence?

Are you planning to conquer the world or looking to serve a section of Utah? For many companies the world is their customer which means a brand name has to be authoritative, memorable and social.

How valuable is your brand name?

Your domain name is the billboard for your brand. It’s how people talk about your brand, how they find you on the Internet and how they remember you. Settling for a second-tier name should never be an option.

Do you want people to remember you?

Of course you do. Consistency is one of the golden keys of advertising. Brand confusion appears when your company name is one thing and your domain name another. Visual.ly is a prime example of a brand where the average Joe will likely remember the brand as visually. But what happens if someone builds a site at visually.com — a lot of brand value may have just disappeared.

Let’s look back at history for a moment.

The most valuable area code in the world is likely New York’s 212. Today it’s almost impossible to get it without paying a tidy fee. So let’s visually look at the authority that a 212 number brings you.

The 212 number shows a certain pedigree which spills over into the expectations people have for your brand. These are good expectations, such as: you are established, experienced, trusted etc. The 646 is just another number. While it does the job it doesn’t have those intangible benefits that a 212 number has.

800 numbers are the same. Let’s compare:

Both numbers work the same. The owner of the 844 number, however, is likely never going to get a call from someone misdialing the 800 number. The 800 number owner should end up getting lots of calls from customers of the 844 number.

Why?

All toll-free numbers are commonly referred to as 800 numbers. Not 866, not 844 – most people collectively group all toll-free numbers into a group called 800 numbers. This is also why 800 numbers are much more expensive than other toll-free extensions. Supply and demand, just like New York’s 212 numbers.

As for Domain Names…

The comparison above still holds true. A higher quality name speaks to a higher quality brand. Take our company name for example. We have more than twenty years of experience but what if we choose to start with namecorpllc.com?

First we certainly wouldn’t have as much brand value. Second, people would email us @namecorp.com instead of @namecorpllc.com. Third, our brand could be exposed to potential dilution from somebody starting a company at namecorp.com. Trademark laws exist but the odds are not always as they seem.

What about New Domain Name Extensions?

This is where branding gets very interesting. In early 2014 hundreds of new domain extensions became available, such as .link, .tattoo, .guru, .photography, .club and more. Some are meant to be generic while others are very industry and/or community specific. Let’s take a look at two domain name examples:

Which one has more authority? It’s a fascinating question if you consider a future perspective.

While .com is king today this doesn’t mean it will be the only extension to provide authority in the marketplace. Over the next couple years many great companies will build on these extensions. Not only do they provide higher relevancy but they also provide at least four fewer characters, which is huge when trying to market within the text limitations of social media. Plus they are memorable — if you know how to choose one. Take the example above. Both domain names have sex appeal: however FlyFishingToday.Fish is just not going to have the same charm.

Building a brand requires a commitment to detail, whether it’s a local phone number, a toll-free number or a domain name. And it’s critical to understand the intangible value before securing a domain name.

What is the Real Value of a Domain Name?

Only you can answer that question.

The price of a domain name can range from $10 to $1,000,000 or more. This all depends on quite a few variables:

  • Owner Expectations
  • Demand for the name
  • Strength of the wholesale market
  • and more.

However, every domain name is unique and every situation is different.

It’s near impossible to define why domain names are valuable other than simple supply and demand. What makes them unique are owners have an emotional and intangible investment — often the very same reason why a brand wants to acquire a domain. So, you need to understand how valuable a domain name is to your business plan before asking for a price.

Many companies spend tens of thousands on logo designs, advertising, brand consultations, proposals and more. The domain name needs to be part of that conversation.

Only when you can define how much having the very best version of your brand name is worth to you are you ready to buy a domain name.

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