Have you every been scammed buying or selling a domain name? I have, it only happened once and since then I have sworn by online escrow services to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Here’s how I got scammed:

I sold a domain name to someone and decided to use Pay Pal for the transaction. It was one of my very early domain sales so I still didn’t have too much experience with the process. The buyer insisted on using Pay Pal, I had used Pay Pal for years, so I thought it made sense.

The buyer paid quickly and after receiving the money I transferred the domain. Then a few days later I received a notification from Pay Pal, apparently the buyer claims they never received the merchandise (i.e. domain name) and requested a refund. I responded to Pay Pal with all the details of the transaction, clearly showing that the domain was transferred and was now in their name.

I contacted the buyer to understand what was going on, and no surprises, I got radio silence. Pay Pal got back to me and said there was nothing they could do and they refunded the buyer. I got scammed, it sucked, but luckily it was only a few hundred dollars which is a small price to pay to learn a lesson like this IMO.

A domain name escrow service prevents scams like this by securing the money first, holding it until the domain name is transferred and then transferring the money to the seller. If the buyer tries to pull a scam like they pulled on me, an escrow service will verify if the domain was indeed transferred rather than just siding with the buyer.

Payoneer is one of the most trusted escrow services on the Internet, and having raised over $180M last year, they are also the most well-funded. After Escrow.com was sold to Freelancer, Payoneer brought the former CEO Brandon Abbey onboard, a domain industry veteran and domain escrow expert.

It’s been amazing to see how quickly Payoneer has grown as a go-to escrow service in the domain industry and this growth seems to be accelerating. Last week one of the top domain investing platforms, Efty announced integration with Payoneer and free escrow transactions for the month of April.

“Payoneer is very pleased to partner with Efty, enabling their marketplaces to offer our premier escrow services. Efty continues to excel in providing best in class solutions for domain investors. Payoneer recognizes the strong growth in the domain investing community, and we continue to add new features to our system to better support the needs of domainers.” (Brandon Abbey)

It’s exciting to see growth and innovation in the domain name escrow space. It’s definitely ripe for disruption and Payoneer is definitely leading the charge right now.

Have you ever been scammed before when buying or selling a domain name? If so feel free to share your story in the comment section below.

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morgan-linton-tedx-roma-2017

Happy Friday and hello from Rome. Tomorrow I am speaking at Tedx Roma giving my very first TED talk, something that has been on my bucket list for a while now. I still can’t believe I’m here – I’m nervous, excited, honored, and thrilled for what’s ahead tomorrow.

The main theme for Tedx Roma is what the world is going to be like 20 years from now in 2037. My talk is titled, “The Future of Commerce – From Ancient Rome to Virtual Reality” a topic that I’m really passionate about since it’s something we’re living and shaping every single day at Bold Metrics.

A few weeks ago we announced our partnership with Morph3D and were one of the first companies in the world to show how commerce changes when you introduce holographic augmented reality through a device like the Microsoft Hololens. In the future, the screen you’re reading this blog post on right now will be gone, and instead you’ll be reading this through an AR or VR headset.

Tomorrow I will take the stage in Rome to share our vision of the future, a world that I think is really only 20 years away, or less, and a world that is dramatically changed as AR and VR become a part of our everyday lives.

If you want to watch my talk you can view the livestream (note it’s at 4:30AM PST) you can see me speak by visiting tedxroma.com and clicking on the link for the livestream. Okay, that’s enough from me, I’m off to bed – Ciao!

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Expired domain names can come with baggage

Buying expired domain names is one of the best ways to find investment-grade domain names at wholesale prices. Of course you’re likely not going to be the only person to find the name and if it’s a really good name you can expect to get into a bit of a bidding war to get the name. Since you never know who you’re bidding against all it takes is one end-user who is buying at a retail price to quickly move the auction from a good deal for an investor to a terrible one.

Usually when you buy an expired domain you’re laser focused on getting the best price, what you might overlook is that the domain you bought might come with a bit of baggage beyond the price tag. I’ve learned this lesson before but saw it happen again just yesterday when I found a very official looking letter from a law firm in my mailbox. I opened the letter and it said that I had some website that was selling products with someone else’s name on it and they demanded that I stop…confusion set in.

I emailed the firm back to figure out what they were talking about and it turns out they were referring to a website that was on the domain name years ago, i.e. before the domain expired and I acquired it. There’s no website on it now and I never put a site on it, but the domain came with some real baggage from the previous owner. In some cases it’s easy to figure out if the expired domain you are looking to buy comes with baggage, just do a Google search and see if anything funky comes up. If you ever get a demand letter or something similarly scary – make sure to find out if it actually refers to you and something that you’ve done with a domain, or if a previous tenant might not have been an upstanding citizen.

So don’t be surprised if something like this happens to you someday, just don’t panic because it might not actually be referring to you! I’d say this is probably the second time in ten years that anything like this has happened to me so it certainly doesn’t seem to happen too often but it is a good reminder that expired domains can come with baggage.

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House Squatter

People have been investing in real estate for a long time, and if you were lucky enough to be in a family that bought property a long time ago, you’ve probably seen firsthand how the value can skyrocket over time. The median price of a home sold in the US in 1970 was $23,600, today it’s $231,000 (source – Yahoo Finance). My guess is that you know someone who invests in real estate, and likely more than one, real estate investing has taken off as a way for people to make either a primary or secondary income.

flip-or-flop

There are popular television shows about buying real estate and then flipping it for a lot more than you paid in as short a time period as possible. The stars of these shows aren’t buying the property to live in themselves, they’re buying it to resell for a profit, and people around the world at watching, learning, and getting into the real estate investment game themselves.

Starting in the 1990’s, people started buying and selling domain names. Imagine going back to the early days of land ownership, before electricity, before just about every single creature comfort we have today. That’s where we are when it comes to digital real estate, it’s still a very new concept. There isn’t a single TV show about domain name investing, but blogs like DNJournal and DNW.com have been covering the domain investing world since the very early days and conferences like NamesCon and The Domain Conference bring investors from around the world together every year. The foundation is there, just think of real estate investing in the 1,500’s…these are still the very early days for domain names.

As a relatively new investment vehicle, domain names are still new territory when it comes to pricing, sales, etc. While there is a formalized system and appraisal approach used with physical homes, the same does not exist for domain names. The challenge is that the average person doesn’t realize there’s been an entire industry taking place around investing in domain names.

Instead, when most people think of people who own domain names, they think – squatter. Here’s the problem with that term. The same term applies in the real estate world, but it’s pretty easy to tell between a real estate investor and a squatter. Here’s the definition of a squatter:

DEFINITION of ‘Squatter‘ A person who settles in or occupies property with no legal claim to the property. A squatter is one who resides on a property to which he or she has no title, right or lease. A squatter may gain adverse possession of the property through involuntary transfer.

So if someone is occupying your property and unwilling to move but with no legal claim to it, then they’re squatting. Let’s apply this same term to domain names. A squatter would be someone with no legal claim to the domain name yet claims ownership and/or will not transfer it back to the legal owner.

Just like real estate investors aren’t squatting on the property they legally buy, domain investors are not squatting on the property they legally buy. It’s that simple. Yes – sometimes people squat on domain names just like they squat on homes, those are squatters. In the digital world squatting often means violating a trademark which means the owner doesn’t have the legal right to own the name. In the real world people squat in homes, in fact in some cases squatters make it next-to-impossible to sell your home/investment property (here’s an example).

I agree – squatters are suck. Let’s just make sure we’re clear on the term because just like we wouldn’t call someone who legally buys and sells real estate a squatter, we shouldn’t apply the same term to people who buy or sell domain names.

Or should we? You’ve heard my two cents, now I’d love to hear yours. Comment and let your voice be heard!

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In case you missed it, last week two well-known folks from the domain industry, Andrew Rosner (Media Options) and Ryan Colby (Outcome Brokerage) had a disagreement, that went public on NamePros last week. The thread seems to have been taken down, but here’s a quick recap of what happened:

Andrew bought a domain name for $5,000 from Ryan, and it turned out that the domain name has a $1,000/year renewal fee. So as you might imagine, Andrew wasn’t very happy about the surprise renewal fee and asked Ryan for his money back. Ryan responded and told Andrew that he was not responsible for telling Andrew about the renewal fee and that as the buyer it was his responsibility. The two had a bit of an exchange and since the post was taken down from NamePros I’ll leave it with this high-level summary.

I personally do think that domain brokers owe it to buyers to disclose critical details like this, period. A premium renewal fee of $1,000+ is quite rare and this is definitely information that as an investor, you would need to know to make a decision. But that’s me, now I want to hear from you.

Do you think domain brokers should disclose things like premium renewal fees to buyers? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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When I first started investing in domain names Rick Schwartz’s blog (aka the Domain King) was one of my regular reads. I’ll be honest in saying I don’t always agree with everything Rick says, but I absolutely see him as an industry leader and someone whose successes in the industry speak for themselves. Which IMO means that I’ll still continue to read what he has to say, and what Rick says has moved from his blog to Twitter account @DomainKing.

Lately Rick has talked quite a bit about new gTLDs which he is generally very bearish on. That being said, Rick is bullish on .WEB which I think is interesting and makes me think more about the long term value of this TLD.

Rick Schwartz .WEB

In back-to-back tweets Rick shared his thoughts on .WEB which he thinks will get more registrations in its first 30 days than any other new gTLD. It’s hard not to listen when someone who has been in the domain industry since the very beginning highlights a new gTLD when he’s in general not a huge fan of new gTLDs. Right or wrong I’m always a fan of people sharing their opinions and have always liked that Rick isn’t shy about it.

Domain King .WEB

In short, I’m listening and I am very interested in seeing how .WEB does, Rick has been made some pretty solid predictions over the years, could this be his next big one? What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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So it’s no secret that new gTLDs have been in the news even more than usual lately. A lot of this was kicked-off earlier this month when Frank decided to increase the renewal prices on a bunch of new new gTLDs which seemed to ripple through the domain industry in a major way. I wrote an article titled, “Did Frank just burst the bubble?” which definitely created a fair amount of controversy with 29 comments and one comment which called me a cheerleader…

cheerleader

I guess I have to repeat myself over, and over, and over again until it hits home, so here we go. I think that most new gTLDs will fail. Yes, I said it, and I’ll keep saying it until everyone reads it. What the heck are the chances that over 1,000 new domain extensions will be a homerun? Slim to none.

That being said, I do think it’s realistic and probably damn important for our industry as a whole that at least some of the new gTLDs do take off. I also think there are some good examples of new domain extensions that are seeing real momentum like .CLUB, .XYZ, and .SITE to name a few. You can keep track of the leaderboard on one of my favorite sites, nTLDstats.com. Here’s the current top ten:

top-ten-newgtlds

So here’s my question for the all the new gTLD naysayers…sure, a ton of these new domain extensions will fail, and fail big…but did you really expect them all to be a success?

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npr-marketplace

Today was an exciting day for us, last week we did an interview with NPR which went live today. For those who followed the action last week, you know that we announced a partnership with Morph3D to showcase what I think we’ll all look back on years from now as the future of commerce. Imagine a world without screens, yes, those screens on your laptop, on your smartphone, on your flat “screen” TV they are all going away. Don’t worry, it isn’t going to happen overnight but it’s going to happen.

bold-metrics-morph3dWhile most people are familiar with VR headsets from companies like Oculus, HTC and Playstation, augmented reality is still a very new technology. Yes, you might think of games like Pokemon Go as augmented reality, which they are, but they still rely on the normal screens we use today. Imagine looking through glasses and having images appearing as holograms. It might sound crazy now but so did the telephone when it first came out, and the TV, the car, new technologies always seem far off until everyone has one.

meta-2

Last week we announced our partnership with Morph3D and our technology can now power the creation of true-to-life human avatars. For those who don’t know what we do at Bold Metrics, our technology has become the gold standard for predicting the human body. Think super fast AI algorithms that can predict over 90 body measurements after getting only a few simple inputs from a user, none of which require a measuring tape.

Want to learn more? Okay – enough reading, feel free to listen to NPR Marketplace and if you fast forward to 21 minutes you might recognize the voice. Exciting times and I can’t wait to watch the future of commerce unfold, just like your computer has Intel Inside…soon your commerce experiences will have Bold Metrics inside 🙂

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How do we break the “squatter” stigma?

This weekend me and my college friends got together for a weekend reunion in DC. It was always and it’s something we try to do every year but end up doing every 2-3 years. That being said, it was a blast and it’s also incredibly interesting to see how all our lives change over time. The best part is, the moment we’re all together it’s like we spend every weekend together.

Here’s us after completing an “escape room” in DC, this one had a VR component to it.

the-cmu-crew

At dinner last night I was talking with one of my friend and he shared his experience getting the domain name for his startup. They do very cool things with VR and 360 video and if you’re looking to do a VR promo video for you company I highly recommend you check them out at Foundry45.com.

My friend then said to me, “the problem with buying a domain is that there are so many people squatting on all the good .COMs” Of course as domain investors we’ve heard this all the time, so I asked him to go a step further to explain what he meant by a “squatter” – his definition was similar to what I’ve heard before, essentially anyone that owns a domain name and isn’t using it.

I used an example that I use all the time, “can’t people buy land, a house, heck even an island, and not use it, or do what they want with it and then re-sell for a profit?”

It’s strange isn’t it? If you bought a house in Malibu 20 years ago and sell it for 10x what you paid you’d be called a successful real estate investor. If you bought a domain name 20 years ago and sell it for 10x what you paid for it, you’d likely be called a squatter.

When will people start appreciating digital assets? Why do people praise buying and selling physical assets for a profit and not digital ones?

More importantly, how can we as domain investors break the “squatter” stigma? I’d love to hear ideas from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Well I think I may have broken a record for my longest streak without a blog post at six days without writing. It was a strange feeling but we did something this week that consumed absolutely every waking minute, meaning that my life had no balance, just one singular focus – it was awesome, and it really feels like we made history.

This week we announced a partnership between Bold Metrics and Morph3D, and unveiled what I think we’ll remember years from now as the first look at the future of commerce. What does all this mean?

bold-metrics-gold-standard

Over the years our technology has emerged as the gold standard for predicting body measurements. We’re helping to create a world where you don’t need to measure yourself, take a selfie, or step into a body scanner. Instead, our AI technology can calculate your body measurements more accurately than you can likely measure yourself, and return a result in milliseconds. All a user has to do is answer a few simple questions like height, weight, etc.

Today we provide solutions for brands and retailers where they want to connect people with products. This can be clothes, furniture, sporting goods, and this week we announced the first application of our technology in augmented and virtual reality with our partnership with Morph3D.

bold-metrics-morph3d-shoptalk

Morph3D is the world leader in realistic human avatars that are used in AR and VR. With this new partnership the Bold Metrics API is powering nearly instant true-to-life avatar creation which solves a huge problem – creating a real “to-scale” avatar of your body. Why is that important?

While having a virtual you that actually matches your detailed body measurements might not be a requirement for gaming and entertainment, to enable commerce, it’s a must. Imagine a world where we no longer have physical screens, the digital world isn’t flat any more, and instead you can shop in 3D again, just like the real malls but virtual. This experience will likely be powered by virtual or augmented reality, and we think augmented reality will likely have the most interest when it comes to commerce.

Now think about what you do when you buy things relative to the human body today…you go to a store? You sit on the couch, you stand on the bike, you try on the jacket. It’s not hard to envision a world 5 – 10 years from now where incredibly similar experiences can happen, but from the comfort of your own home. In this world having your body actually there in AR or VR will make it possible for the next evolution of commerce. This is incredibly relevant now given the struggle brick-and-mortar retailers are seeing, VR Focus did a nice write-up about that partnership that did a deeper dive here:

vr-focus

Retails stores in the real world have suffered a slow in sales and profits since online retailers like Amazon began their rise to prominence. Brick-and-mortar stores need an extra incentive to lure customers away from the internet, and Bold Metrics and Morph 3D believe they have found it.

The technology they are introducing allows shoppers to create 3D avatars of themselves.
The Bold Metrics algorithm maps body measurement details onto an avatar, a process that involves no measuring tape or time-consuming 3D scans, only a series of simple questions. The resulting virtual avatar can then be used to experience products and services available in the virtual world. (Source VRFocus)

shoptalk-2017

We made the announcement at one of the biggest shows in the retail world, ShopTalk, and let this group of retail leaders and innovators be the first to try-out the future of commerce using one of the most cutting-edge AR headsets, the Microsoft Hololens.

ed-hololens

Today Discovery Channel including our partnership in a segment on their popular Canadian TV show, Daily Planet and next week you’ll be able to hear me talking more about this exciting move into the future on NPR. On top of sharing the future of commerce I think we also broke a new record for the number of new client’s that are going to come on-board using our core solutions. Our technology is already  used by some of the worlds largest brands and retailers, in fact you might have even used us before and never even knew it! As a backend technology, we plugin to eCommerce sites and in-store experiences, today we do this in the same way we all access content, on laptops, desktops, smartphones and tablets.

In the future we’ll plugin to some of the most immersive and exciting AR and VR experiences and with it power the next generation of commerce. As you can probably tell, I’m more than a little excited and I don’t think it’s just me!

bold-metrics-shoptalk-celebrate

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