Did Frank just burst the bubble?

So there’s really no way to sugar coat it, the last 24-hours has been about as tumultuous as it gets in the domain industry. At the same time, it probably shouldn’t be that surprising to those of us who know the numbers. It costs money to run a new domain name extension and if registrations don’t take-off, the only way to keep the extension alive is to charge more for annual renewals.

new-gtlds-price-increase

Painful, yes, but realistic, well, yes as well.

Domain name blogs have been going nuts over the last 24-hours with posts likes:

Franks Schilling just killed the new gTLD program (warning!)

Schilling: big price increases needed to keep new gTLDs alive

Yowza! And I don’t think I’ve said yowza in the ten years I’ve been writing my blog so now seems like the most appropriate time to break out the term. Like I said in the first sentence of this post, there really is no way to sugar coat it, a big move has been made.

All that being said, here’s my take, for what it’s worth.

These are the early days. Sure, maybe new gTLD pioneers jumped the gun on the expected success. Maybe the marketing machines got ahead of reality. At the same time I still think it’s fair to say these are the early days of new gTLDs and none of us really know what consumer adoption is going to be like long-term.

I for one have always looked up to Frank as someone who really does have his finger on the pulse of the domain name world. Does that mean Frank will always be right? No. At the same time, does it mean he could be early? Yes.

So here’s what I’ll say. Yes, Frank increased prices on new domain name extensions because as a business owner he realized that his pricing model wouldn’t support the business he’s trying to build around new gTLDs. Still, as a pioneer, adapting to change is paramount and Frank isn’t shying away from admitting to the industry that he’s had to adapt, and he’s doing it now to preserve his business.

Yes, I’m prepared to get absolutely slammed in the comment section below…but so be it. I’m proud to stand behind people like Frank, who might make less-than-popular decisions, but do it to stand up for a cause they believe in, and a cause that very likely progresses our industry as a whole.

Sure, I agree that .COM is king, heck .COM is probably getting stronger by the day. However I think we as an industry need people like Frank to venture into unexplored territory. One of the problems early explorers face is uncovering something different than what they expected.

I’m proud to be in a part of an industry with people like Frank who aren’t afraid to forge ahead, try new things, and change course when they see something different than what they expected. These are the times that will define us as an industry, and while we all might be shocked by what’s happened in the last 24 to 48 hours…let’s give it time, learn from what we find and remember that without out pioneers, many of us wouldn’t be where we are today.

What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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Rick Schwartz currently has a poll running on Twitter asking the question, “If you are into buying gTLD’s which best reflects your current outlook?” I think it’s very safe to say that this question is geared towards Domainers and that’s likely the bulk of the folks who are following Rick on Twitter.

Rick-Schwartz-DomainPoll

I had a bit of a tough time answering this as I didn’t find an answer that really covered my position. I have never been all in on the new gTLDs, for me I’ve always told myself I’m okay experimenting but the only TLD I’m all in on is .COM. So the first two answers wouldn’t really apply to me.

At the same time, I wouldn’t want to return the new gTLDs I registered so the only answer that would most closely describe me is that I have stopped buying. That being said, I haven’t stopped buying but it’s pretty close to accurate since I never really bought big on new gTLDs and I do buy new gTLDs pretty darn rarely.

What the numbers do show though is that 71% of folks don’t seem to be incredibly bullish on the investor side and I think that’s probably pretty fair. I personally have seen end users doing some great things with new gTLDs but I haven’t heard of many investors that have made a killing yet.

If you haven’t voted yet I’d pop on over to https://twitter.com/DomainKing and cast your vote. Of course I’d also love to hear your thoughts below. Are new gTLDs going to be a good investment for Domainers long-term or will those who have spent big be out big bucks?

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Mike Mann announced on Facebook today that he rolled out new landing pages on his DomainMarket.com platform and apparently they’re seeing some pretty solid results out of the gate. Here’s what the above-the-fold of the new pages look like…in this example it’s a pretty pricey name but a darn good one:

domain-market-landing-pages

Below the fold they cover two pretty critical bases, the first being the advantages of owning a premium domain name and the second being why DomainMarket is badass. Here’s what you see once you scroll down:

domain-market-landing-pages2

I’ve seen a lot of landing pages over the years and I have to say that I can see why this would be performing well. A landing page like this gives the buyer trust in the marketplace and the Testimonials link is a great idea and something I can’t say I’ve seen before. Accepting Bitcoin is the icing on the cake which definitely makes it easier for international buyers or people who might be flush with Bitcoin so more willing to buy with them.

What do you think of the new DomainMarket.com landing pages? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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There’s a category of domain names that I’ve never delved into and I honestly don’t know much about. I’m talking about “Trend” domain names, which might be a term I’m literally just making up right now so forgive me if there’s a more official term for what I’m talking about here.

By “Trend” domain names I mean domains that are registered because they align with a current trend or saying that is trending at the time. Google makes it easy to keep track of trends in both search and news through Google.com/trends and then of course there’s the “Trending Now” section on Twitter which I’ll admit I look at at least five times a day.

twitter-trends

So here’s an example, the hashtag “FirstWordsToAliens” is trending right now with close to 5,000 tweets. The .COM is available as of this writing, so should you rush out to buy it? I personally think that even though a particular phrase or hashtag might be trending on Twitter, Google, or in the news, that doesn’t mean the corresponding domain name has any value.

I think the challenge for most “trend” domains is that it’s hard to think of who the potential buyer would be? Do you really think someone wants to buy FirstWordsToAliens.com to build a site listing the first words we would say to aliens? Probably not.

Now I’m not a fan of making blanket statements so I will say that of course there are a handful of “trend” domains that probably would have some meaningful value. That being said I think 95% or more of the trends out there wouldn’t make great domain investments. Like I said in the beginning of this post though, I don’t have any experience with “trend” domains so maybe I’m missing the boat here.

What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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emailing-domain-owners

Without a doubt the number one question I get from other startup founders about domain names is, “I’m trying to buy a domain, what should I say in my email to the owner?” In the best case you’ll email the owner, the name will be for sale, the price will be reasonable and the deal will go smoothly.

In the worst case you’ll get in a big argument with the owner, the price will go through the roof, and you’ll end up naming your company something else, or adding the word “Get” to the front of your domain or “Online” to the end of it.

So how can you make sure you’re living in the “best case” scenario? Here are three ways to frame your email to give you the best chances:

  1. Reach-out and just be honest with the owner. Let them know who you are, what you do and make a clear offer for what you’d be willing to pay for the domain. From what I’ve seen over the years this approach works the best.
  2. Write a short and sweet email not revealing anything about yourself but just saying that you’re interested in the domain and asking them what price they are looking for. This approach works well sometimes but just know that if you don’t make an offer you might not get a response.

And now, how can you totally screw things up? Just do one of these two things:

  1. Email the owner and tell them that you’re a startup, don’t have a big budget, but could pay a few hundred dollars for the domain. This usually just offends the buyer, it’s like me offering you $500 for that BMW you paid $25,000 for.
  2. Write a strongly worded email to the owner telling them that they clearly aren’t doing anything with the domain name and you want to use it for your business. Like the approach above, starting a business deal by offending the person you want to do business with isn’t a winning approach.

Now is the fun part. I’d love to hear from some of my readers about some of the “best” and “worst” emails they’ve received from prospective buyers. Comment and let your voice be heard!

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I was having a conversation with a friend earlier this week who was talking about .AI, which they mistook for a new domain extension. When I told them it wasn’t and it was actually a ccTLD, this brought up the question, “well then what new domain extensions are out there?” I turned the question back to him and he rattled off some extensions like .CLUB, .XYZ, .ME, .CO, .IO (which is also a ccTLD) and then he started drawing a blank.

While I think it’s easy for those of us who have been in the domain industry for years to know every extension under the sun, it’s important to remember that many consumers don’t. I asked him if he knew about .GURU, .LIVE, .BUZZ, and continued to get a blank stare.

Now I’m not saying that other new extensions aren’t doing a good job marketing, in fact many of them are. The challenge is, with so many new domain extensions out there, how can you really expect consumers who spend less than .1% of their time dealing with domain names to know them?

So now I wanted to turn the question back to you – what domain extension do you think real people (yes like your family, friends, etc.) actually know off the top of their head? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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The Day The Internet Broke…

Well I think it’s safe to say that today a lot of the Internet as we know it, broke. Okay, that’s an exaggeration in many ways since the fact is, most of the Internet worked fine, most of the web was up and running a-okay, and domain names continued to do exactly what they were designed to do. What did happen is that websites powered by AWS, Amazon’s hosting service and major profit center had a pretty serious failure.

This took down sites like Trello, Flippa, WPEngine and many, many, many more. I’ve been getting a stream of apology emails from services that were down as a result. One of the most ironic parts of the whole day is that Amazon’s Cloud VP was actually on stage, talking about how awesome AWS is, as it went down.

And unfortunately that was the case on Tuesday when at the very moment Cockcroft was on stage making the case for AWS, a good chunk of the internet had been taken down (including Business Insider’s site) because AWS’ computer storage service, S3, was suffering major technical problems. (Source – Business Insider)

What the outage revealed is that many of the sites we know and love depend on the same hosting service, and when that service goes down, everyone goes down. It’s easy to think we’re now well into the history of the Internet but that’s far from the truth. Imagine using a television in the early 70’s, 20 years after the TV came out…would you really consider that mature perfected technology?

Remember, 20 years ago, back in 1997 you bought nothing online. Yes – absolutely nothing. In fact 20 years ago Google wasn’t a thing, it didn’t exist. While we now depend on the Internet for so many aspects of our everyday life it’s important to remember that these are still the early days and when a service like AWS falls down, there is no backup, no failsafe, and nothing that really keeps some of your favorite sites running.

The world has returned to normal now, and not surprisingly, we all managed to get through the day. Twenty years from now we’ll look back on today and say, “remember the early days of the Internet?” because what happened today shows that these still are the good old days of the Internet.

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One of the ways that many people get drawn into the domain industry is by stumbling on a domain sale, or a list of sales and thinking, “hey, I could register names like these.” Fast-forward to 2AM and they are sitting in front of their computer hand-registering names that to them look just like that domain name they saw sell for $10,000.

Then reality hits them hard when a year later renewals are coming up and they realize they haven’t sold a single one of those incredible, magical, amazing domain names that they bought that night. This is the point that most people throw in the towel and say, “domain names suck, everyone that made money bought domains in the 90s”

First off, this story above was almost me, except I’m one of those incredibly persistent people that takes every failure as a lesson, and one of my first lessons in the Domaining world was to be careful not to take individual sales as signs of a trend or to predict future value of another name.

Today is a great example, news broke that famous domain investor Mike Mann sold RiseUp.org for $75,000.

riseup-sold-for-75k

Quick note: Now before I go any further let me just make it clear that I’m not trying to slam Mike Mann or TNTNames. I’ve known Mike for years he’s an awesome guy and I always love reading about sales like this. TNTNames is another awesome blog about domains and if he didn’t get to it first I might have written a similar story…or one somewhat similar to this.

Okay, now back to my post.

A sale like this is exciting, buying anything for $350 and then selling it for $75,000 is, pardon my french, fucking fantastic. That being said, don’t mistake this for a trend and go out and buy 100 two-word .ORG names for $350 a pop thinking you’re on your way to becoming a millionaire.

What’s important to remember is that people like Mike have a lot of domains and a broad range of names. Mike didn’t make his millions on two-word .ORG names and you likely won’t either. So celebrate sales like these but be very careful how much you extrapolate from them.

Being a domain investor is a lot like being a detective, you really have to dig deep, do your research, and make sure that you can tell the different between a one-off sale, and a real trend. Congrats to Mike on the sale, that’s a great one and I think we’d all be very happy to ring the register there!

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Here are the three blogs I read the most now

blogging

As someone that has been blogging for almost ten years (yes, October of this year will be the 10th anniversary of this blog) I tend to be pretty blog-focused when it comes to reading. It’s how I’m programmed and I guess now I’m old so reprogramming me is hard. Okay, not that hard since I now post on Snapchat more than I do Facebook, but it’s fair to say that both reading and writing in blog format has been my method of choice for learning from other people.

Some people learn from You Tube videos, others binge watch the History Channel or try to attend as many talks at conferences as they can, for me blogs have been my go-to and that hasn’t changed in ten years so it’s probably not going to change anytime soon. I think blogs can be particularly valuable when you’re taking a new path in life, your career, etc. and want to learn from someone that has been in your shoes.

One question I get a lot from other founders and blog readers is, “what blogs do you read?” So here’s the answer – right now I’d say my three favorite blogs are (in no particular order):

Tomasz Tunguz – it’s safe to say that Tomasz is one of the most well-known and well-respected VCs out there. I’ve been reading his blog for years now and he always has really insightful posts often backed-up by solid data. Tomasz tends to write about SaaS startups quite a bit so as the co-founder of a SaaS startup just about all his posts are incredibly relevant to me. So why listen to Tomasz? He’s a VC at Redpoint Ventures which is one of the most badass firms in Silicon Valley with close to $4B under management, 468 investments, 17 IPOs and 88 companies that have been acquired. Boom, those stats blow my mind every time.

Both Sides of the Table – written by Mark Suster from Upfront Ventures, this might just be the blog I’ve been reading the longest since I took the plunge almost five years ago, left everything I knew behind and took the startup road. What I really like about Mark’s blog is that he tell it like it is, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and he has a ton of experience both as a founder and venture capitalist which means that yes, he has sat on both sides of the table. Mark sold his first startup to Salesforce and it’s actually one of the best acquisition stories I’ve heard because everyone in the company made very good money, and some of the team is still at Salesforce not because they have to, but because they love what they’re doing. I have a ton of respect for VCs that have been founders themselves and a founder with a couple solid exits under their belt is even better.

Alex Iskold – Alex is the MD of Techstars NYC and we’ve been lucky enough to know him since the early days of Bold Metrics. Alex’s blog has some of the most solid articles about fundraising out there, period, seriously I send his articles around to founders probably weekly. Alex sees a ton of companies both applying to Techstars, going through Techstars, and that he’s invested in himself as an Angel. What I really like about Alex’s blog is that he isn’t biased by what everyone else says you should do, he uses his own insights and experience to share advice that I find you won’t read anywhere else. One great example is a post he wrote about why it’s a bad idea to send pitch decks to investors before the first meeting, you can read it here.

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dropping domains

This might end up being my shortest blog post of the year, at the same time it emphasizes one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned buying and selling domain names for the last ten years. And yes, the title really does say it all…

“Don’t be afraid to drop some of your domain names”

Now that being said let’s be clear. I’m not saying to drop your best names, what I am saying is to drop the garbage, the domain that you know deep down inside probably has no interested buyers. You know that name, the one you registered at 3AM for an “idea” you had for a new business that someday you might start. Take a loss, kick it to the curb, and say goodbye to some of the domain names you “invested in” that are more than likely going to cost you a renewal fee every year for the next 5-10 years until you finally actually decide to drop it. Here’s

That being said, don’t just drop a name. Think of how much you would spent renewing it for the next few years and take that money and buy a new name, replace it in your portfolio but with a better name. It sounds simple but I’m still amazed by how many Domainers will spend thousands of dollars a year renewing garbage when they could take that money and put it towards better names.

Just think to yourself right now – how many domains in your portfolio have been collecting dust for years? What if you just dropped them, or listed them at No Reserve somewhere and then put the money you saved into better domains. My guess is that for most people out there you would have a better portfolio in the end.

What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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