phone-call

In between all of the people trying to buy your domain name for a “student project” or a “personal website” are real buyers, people with a budget that could even exceed your price expectations for your domain. The challenge is, if you get a lot of inbound offers on one or more domains, real buyers can easily slip through the cracks.

There are all kinds of ways to filter and yes, if the buyer puts in a low-ball offer and won’t budge, well that’s an easy filter. Or like I said above, you probably don’t want to sell your six-figure one-word .COM to a student with no budget.

At the same time, sometimes you’ll get a buyer that doesn’t want to throw out an offer, but is a serious buyer. I’ve always found that the best way to sell if someone’s serious is actually a lot more simple than it sounds – ask them to hop on a call.

Think about it. If you really wanted to buy a domain, you’d hop on a call with the owner ASAP right? For any of my domains that I’m looking to get five figures for (I don’t have any six-figure domains) I like to hop on a call because I know a serious buyer with a real budget will hop on a call and talk through things with me.

Once you’re on the phone, this is the best opportunity to actually “sell” your domain, share comparable sales, learn more about the buyer, and do things that might take a dozen emails back-and-forth to figure out. If a buyer doesn’t want to hop on the phone, or takes days to respond when you ask if they can, well, that probably just means they’re not as interested.

Of course, this is just my opinion. What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Every year, as consumer get ready to spend big in November and Decembers, scammers get ready to scam big, and domain names is a core weapon in many scammers arsenal. So what kind of domains are these scammers buying? Confusingly similar names to major online destinations, and they register so many domains that the companies can’t possibly shut them all down.

Direct navigation is still alive and well, yes – people type domain names into their browsers. Not surprisingly people make mistakes when typing out a URL, and when they do, they could land on a site that looks exactly like the site they were trying to go to. People rarely double-check the URL, if the site loads and looks like the site they expected, they assume they’re in the right place.

Look-alike domains are increasingly finding favor with criminals eager to rip off online shoppers, according to a new report from Venafi, a cybersecurity firm.

Its research found that the “total number of certificates for look-alike domains is more than 200 percent greater than the number of authentic retail domains.”

To drive home the danger and scope of the problem, Venafi said that one top 20 U.S. retailer has more than “12,000 look-alike domains targeting their customers.” In Germany, meanwhile, there exist “four times more look-alike domains than valid domains” when measured by the top 20 online retailers in that country. (Source – Pymnts.com)

In the example above, like the article says, scammers registered 12,000 look-alike domains targeting customers of just one retailer. This is such a large number that the idea of even trying to shut down the scam sites is impossible.

So as you gear up for your holiday shopping adventures, make sure you’re at the right domain. We’re all going a million miles an hour, life is busy, and just missing one letter could lead you right to a scammer that’s sitting there ready and waiting to take your credit card info.

I haven’t done much searching around but I’d be interested to know if any of you have found any of these scam domains yet?

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google-plus-domains

This week Jason Calacanis, a super angel who was an early investor in companies like Uber shared his thought on Google move to shut down GooglePlus. In his tweet, Jason said that he thinks the biggest mistake that Google made with GooglePlus was not giving the service it’s own domain name.

He suggested a couple of names like Plus.com and Path.com, and let’s be honest, there are a zillion other names that Google can afford to buy that would have cemented Google Plus as it’s own unique service.

Instead, Google Plus was always a confusing offering hidden away behind your photo in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. I can still remember when it launched and nobody could find it, it was confusing and when it comes to a social media offering, if people can’t easily access it, then it’s not going to take off no matter how big the brand behind it is.

Jason’s point here is spot on. If Google announced a new service and put it on Plus.com, that could have really become a destination.

What this really highlights is the power of a domain name when it comes to branding. Your domain name is your brand online, and this just goes to show that even a company as big as Google, can’t build a brand online without a domain behind it.

Now for an interesting question. Since Google can afford any domain they want to buy, what domain should they have bought? Here’s my top three:

  1. Plus.com
  2. Connect.com
  3. Path.com

What domain do you think Google should have bought? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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I stumbled on an interesting article today that did a deep dive into the average lifespan of what they define as malicious domains. While I’ve never heard of “malicious” domains, I assume that they’re talking about domains that are illegal to own for one reason or another. Apparently, these are being registered all the time, and killed off usually hours later.

A lot of the new domain names that are created die quickly, either by being canceled by the person who registered them or by the registrar like GoDaddy or the gTLD registry that’s responsible for whatever dot-domain it is. (Source – TechTarget)

As the article goes on, they start talking about Domain Blacklisting which it turns out is the biggest cause of death for malicious domains. The article jumps around quite a bit but there’s also a pretty interesting read about .TK domains and some of the absolutely insane things that happened with this previously unknown ccTLD.

If you go back a couple of years ago, about half of all new domain names came from a single country-code top-level domain (TLD). That was .tk for Tokelau, a small island off the coast of New Zealand. They did not really have a need for their own top-level domain — they didn’t even have much internet connectivity — so they rented it out to a commercial organization in the Netherlands. The owner of the organization did not have the public interest at heart; he was trying to maximize revenue at whatever cost. He had a way for people to buy domain names in bulk, which they did because they needed to buy cheap domain names for things like comment spam on forums and things like Amazon reviews; the places they wanted to spam were going to notice if the same domain name was trying to send comments again and again. They needed unique domain names for every comment. (Source – TechTarget)

There’s more to the story if you read on, including a system that would allow security professionals to arbitrarily kill off any .TK domain they wanted to.

Did you know about this malicious domain deletion process? What about the .TK saga? Both of these are news to me – always learning!

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NameCheap recently published their 2018 Domain Insights and Trend Report (read it here) and I was pretty amazed to see that over the last ten years, .INFO has been the second most-registered domain at NameCheap next to .COM.

Not surprisingly, next comes .NET and .ORG, but I would have guessed that the data would show .COM, .NET, .ORG, and then sure maybe a .INFO, but second place – I would have never guessed.

That being said, I think we all remember when .INFO was being sold for I think $0.99 or maybe even a penny, do you remember? Whatever it was, people loaded up on .INFO domains and I think those promotions lasted for quite some time driving a massive amount of registrations.

Now data collected over the last decade is interesting, but I’m always the most interested in current data, i.e. this year. Here’s what NameCheap has seen soon far as their most-registered gTLD and ccTLDS:

namecheap-gtlds-cctlds

It’s pretty incredible to see .CLUB now in the #3 spot, and yes – .INFO is holding its own in the #2 spot so this isn’t just a trend that took place over the last decade…it seems to still be happening now.

So here’s my question, who’s buying all the .INFO names? Is it you?

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Good Choice Bad Choice

I got a really nice email from Giuseppe, one of the foremost experts on liquid domains (GGRG.com), he had read my posts about investing in numeric domains and wanted to know why I wasn’t looking at non-numerics, i.e. liquid domains with letters. I didn’t have a good answer for him.

As I’ve been learning more about the liquid domain market it seemed to me that numeric domains had a more immediate/direct liquidity vs. domains with letters that likely have the biggest opportunity with an end-user sale.

So I asked Giuseppe if he would be open to doing an interview on my blog and he’s game. I already sent over a list of questions but as usual I want to let chime in and add your own questions to the list.

As I’ve said in previous posts, numeric domains aren’t something I have much experience with, and I understand the market has changed quite a bit in the last year. This is why I’ve said many time that advice has an expiration date, and with something like domain names, that expiration date can be even a month after you get the advice.

My assumptions that the liquid numeric domain market is thriving based on high sales activity of 5N .COMs might be taking a relatively myopic view and using too few data points to make generalizations about an entire market.

This is one thing, BTW that I love about blogs – whether you’re writing the posts or reading them, blogs allow us to share what we’re doing, get feedback, and learn from each other. While there has been quite a bit of discussion lately about negativity in the domain name world, from where I’m sitting, I actually see a lot of really positive, bright, and helpful people going out of their way to help each other.

One of the things I’ve always really appreciated about Domaining is that it is constantly changing, and with that change comes new opportunities. I’m really looking forward to picking Giuseppe’s brain about liquid domains and sharing how my own investment thesis continues to change over time.

If you have a burning questions for Giuseppe, feel free to comment below and I’ll add it to the list.

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.GOV Domains Get Higher Security

two-factor-authentication

Today .GOV domains got a little security update which will now require administrators to use two-factor authentication. This makes a lot of sense to me and I’m actually a bit surprised that this wasn’t a requirement a long time ago.

Officials at federal agencies such as the departments of Justice, State and Defense can begin adding two-step verification to their accounts on Monday, according to the General Services Administration, the agency that manages dot-gov domains for the U.S. government. In the coming months, state and local officials will be prompted to add the security feature. (Source – Washington Post)

So…I wouldn’t be surprised if this change came because a bunch of government domains were tampered with. Heck, it’s 2018 – critical domain names that our government uses should be protected by more than a simple password, right?

The thing I’m still trying to figure out from the article is if two-factor authentication is now required, or if it wasn’t even an available option in the past? If this is the first time it’s available that’s a little mind boggling.

What do you think? Is this actually a new feature or just a requirement? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Blockchain and Domain Names

A University in China has filed a pretty interesting patent focused on exploring how to better manage domain names using Blockchain. Yes, I know what your first reaction is going to be – “come on, you can’t just revolutionize everything by adding the word Blockchain to it” and you’d be right. The challenge with all new blockchain-based technologies and ideas is determining which can truly deliver value.

The goal of the blockchain-based approach to domain management is to improve security by leveraging a “consortium blockchain.” But wait – there’s more:

An additional claimed advantage is that, being based on a system of distributed nodes, no “consortium or small group” can control the entire process. While cryptocurrencies are potentially prone to what’s called a 51 percent attack (in which an entity that controls more than half of the network can rewrite transactions in their favor), only allowing “trusted” nodes means the proof-of-work mechanism by which miners secure a network “is not required,” the filing says. (Source – CoinDesk)

I think it will probably be 5 – 10 years until we see any major use of Blockchain in the domain space, but it is interesting to see the ideas start to develop and take shape. Remember, crypto may crash and burn, but I think it’s safe to say Blockchain is here to stay and it’s not hard to imagine it being used to improve the way domains are managed in the future.

The question is, who’s going to do it? What do you think, could Blockchain progress the domain industry forward or is this just going to lead us into a confusing mess?  I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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It’s a myth that has spread across the domain name world for years – the older a domain, the more valuable it is. This morning domain industry veteran Alan Dunn hit the nail on the head with this tweet:

domain-age-doesnt-matter

I can’t tell you how many times someone has emailed me about valuable “aged” domains that they have, and when I look at the list, it’s all junk. Just take a quick look at Go Daddy auctions and you’ll find a ton of domains, worth $0, all registered in the 90’s and expiring. Here’s an example from this morning, every name you see on this list was registered before 1997:

aged-domains

Some Domainers have domain portfolios that look like this, and they email other Domainers with subjects like, “Valuable aged domain portfolio” or “Portfolio of aged domains registered in 1996.” If you find yourself doing this, or even starting to go down this path, stop. Seriously, you’re only fooling yourself and if you have somehow convinced yourself that these domains are valuable, you’ll keep renewing junk every year and eating up money that could be used to buy actual investment-grade domains.

Now it’s important for me to say something that should be obvious but that if I don’t put in writing could get confused. Yes – there are some VERY valuable domains that were registered in the 90’s. Think about it, a LOT more domain names were available to register back then so a lot of the super premium one-word .COMs were registered back then.

At the end of the day, it’s the domain name itself and the TLD its on that define the value, age is nothing more than a vanity metric. So go ahead, buy domains registered in 1996, just make sure you buy the 1% that are actually investment grade domains.

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doron-efty-morganlintondotcom

I am starting a new monthly series highlighting founders of companies that make software that I myself know and love. So it should probably come as no surprise that to kick things off I decided to pick Doron Vermaat, founder of the popular domain name service Efty.com. Last year I had the chance to sit down with Doron over lunch in Hong Kong to talk more about his inspiration for the company and the genesis of Efty and I thought his experience getting started would be something my readers would all really enjoy.

Ready to dive in? Here we go – Doron, I have some questions for you!

[MORGAN] When did you first come up with the idea for Efty?
[DORON] I started investing in domain names in 2012 and the moment my portfolio started to grow I found it was difficult to stay organized, track renewals, expenses and measure my performance (was I making a profit, or not?).  At the same time, I started looking for a tool to help me better present and sell my names by using good-looking For-Sale landing pages instead of parking them with pay-per-click ads that hardly made me any money. I also thought it was ridiculous to pay commissions on sales when they happened through direct navigation (when a buyer types in your domain name directly in their browser). When I found there was no solution on the market to help you manage, organize as well as sell your domains without paying a commission I realized there was an opportunity and the idea for Efty was born.
[MORGAN] How long did it take from having the idea to starting on the development?
[DORON] Not long. It just so happened that Lionel, who’s my technical co-founder, and I were looking for the right idea to start a business. We’re long-time friends and we thought that building a business together would be a great “excuse” to travel and see each other more often since I had moved from the Netherlands to Hong Kong several years earlier. So when I came up with the idea for Efty Lionel hopped on a plane to Hong Kong right away and we started working on Efty in November 2013.
[MORGAN] When it comes to building software, everything tends to take longer than you expect. How long did you think it would take to build v1 vs how long it actually took?
[DORON] I can’t really remember if we had a timeline set but while I started to create some buzz and build a list of domain name investors that wanted to help us beta-test the platform, Lionel shipped the first version of the software within 6 months. We launched a private beta version of Efty in May 2014.
[MORGAN] What have you done to get user feedback?
[DORON] Efty is being built around user feedback which we’re very grateful for. We actively ask for feedback at any chance we get. When we publish on our blog, when we attend conferences, in our email onboarding, within the application itself and also while we deal with customer support. Domain name forum NamePros.com has also been invaluable for us to get early and ongoing feedback from the community.
[MORGAN] How do you decide which feedback to act on?
[DORON] A big part of my job is to be in constant contact with our users to gather feedback and then try to filter out and prioritize the most popular requests. We act on feedback when we’re confident that a new feature will add value to the fast majority of our users, not just a segmentation of them. I try to keep in mind that often “less is more” and building an application that is too feature rich can also scare some users who get turned off by too many bells and whistles.
[MORGAN] What has been the high point of running Efty so far?
[DORON] I love hearing from users how much more money they’ve made after switching to Efty and sell domain names directly without paying a commission. We don’t have access to sales data at Efty so it’s always awesome hearing from users who closed sales with the help of the platform while saving a huge amount of money otherwise paid in commision. Another great win for us was bringing Michael Cyger into the company as an advisor and investor. His alignment with our vision for Efty and how it helps create better domain name investors was a great confirmation that we were on the right track and his advice and support over the years are priceless.
[MORGAN] What has been the low point?
[DORON] Since Efty only charges a small monthly or annual fee instead of a commision on sales, we’re essentially a hosting company. You pay us, we host your For-Sale landing pages and marketplace site. This business model caused a lot of stress and anxiety during a time we were growing at such a rapid pace that we were starting to experience some serious scaling issues last year. Luckily we managed to turn the tide and Lionel did a brilliant job getting Efty in shape for the next phase of its growth.
[MORGAN] Can you share a new feature you’re working on now?
[DORON] We’re currently working on bringing Google Analytics visitor stats inside the Efty application so you don’t have to leave the site anymore to check your traffic stats and we’re also working on integration Escrow Pay into the platform. There’s another, very exciting, partnership in the works which I hope we can share more about later this month.
[MORGAN] If you could go back and do one thing differently what would it be?
[DORON] There are many things I am sure but that is the great thing about a startup, you learn so much along the way and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I have to choose one however it would be an earlier focus on turning Efty into the sales platform it is today. We spend a lot of time and resources in the early days on hard-to-scale and costly domain name management features.
[MORGAN] Tell us something about you that we probably don’t know
[DORON] I also spend a significant amount of my time building and growing another SaaS business called Loopy Loyalty. We’re the worlds only blockchain backed web application to create and manage digital stamp cards for Apple Wallet and Google Pay. Our users range from coffee shop and restaurant owners to dog walkers and nail salons. These small business owners often are so different than domain name investors which makes my average day at work very diverse and never boring!

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