As many of you know, I love games. I grew up playing both board games and video games, still love them both, and over the last few years have really gotten into both indie games and VR games. Since the Moscone Center is just a few blocks from my place, I usually pick up an EXPO pass for GDC so I can get a chance to walk around a bit, play some games, and chat with companies like Unity, Google, etc.

This year at GDC there’s a lot of buzz about all kinds of different things, Oculus released the Oculus Rift S, Unity announced a zillion things including some incredibly slick real time ray tracing, and Google is getting more buzz than they ever had at a gaming conference as they dive into the gaming world with Stadia.

morganlinton-google-stadia-gdc2019

Okay so before I dive into the name, I know most people have no idea what the heck Stadia is, so let me explain. Right now, if you want to play an awesome new game like Fortnite or APEX Legends you’ll need a kick-ass gaming PC to really get the best experience. For those who are in this wacky gaming world, you know that a kick-ass gaming PC costs $2,000+ and for those wondering, yes I built my own gaming PC and no, I’m never happy with it and always want to upgrade.

Google is taking an entirely new approach with Stadia by creating a gaming platform where the games are actually running on super fast computers at Google and streamed to gamers. This means that the speed of your computer really doesn’t matter, you just need a fast Internet connection. To demonstrate this, Google actually tried to find the slowest PC possible during their demo to highlight how powerful Stadia is…and it was damn impressive.

Seriously, a $500 PC can now play a networked game with the same settings that only a $4,000 gaming PC could normally support. While you can use your own controller with Stadia, Google is also releasing their own controller later this year, here’s what it’s going to look like:

stadia-controllerOkay, so now you have a rough idea of what Stadia is…now for the elephant in the room. What about the name? It didn’t take long for people to hop on Twitter to share their thoughts on the name and overall with many people commenting that it sounded like some new medication.

I have to agree, this was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. The domain name Stadia.com was originally bought for $3,601 back in 2010 but I haven’t done the research to see if it was Google that picked it up then or a private buyer who might have resold to Google more recently. Either way, IMHO it’s a pretty mediocre product name and it really doesn’t feel like a name for a gaming-related product or service.

When I think of popular gaming platforms, they all have pretty strong names – Steam, Discord, Twitch. Stadia just feels like it doesn’t fit in with the rest. Of course maybe I’m just being too critical, and let’s be honest, with the marketing machine that is Google behind it, they’ll be okay. I’m really excited about what they’re doing and will definitely be a Stadia customer myself so in this case product > name at least for me.

What do you think? Did Google pick a good name for their new gaming service? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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vpn-com

VPN.com, which has become a pretty happening domain brokerage house just announced a batch of sales including Detect.com, GTA.com and more. While they didn’t reveal pricing for all of their sales, they did list pricing for a few and shared some of the names under exclusive with them now.

The sales that were announced in this latest release are:

SEOService.com – $35,000
Detect.com – $57,000
GTA.com – price not disclosed
SiteMaps.com – price not disclosed
VPNUnlimited.com – price not disclosed

My guess is that GTA.com was likely the top sale out of this list and I’ll be interested to see who picked it up…seems like a logical fit for Rockstar Games, the maker of the wildly popular game Grand Theft Auto, often called GTA.

VPN.com also announced they are brokering some pretty solid names like Workspace.com, SouthernCalifornia.com and Bucket.com. The company is also actively hiring more domain brokers as they are targeting $25M in sales in 2019.

As VPN.com continues to produce quality and consistent domain name transactions, they are actively recruiting more domain name brokers to achieve their goal of selling $25 million in domain names over the next year. (Source – AP)

While VPN.com is, as you’d expect, a company focused on VPN services, the founder, Michael Gargiulo knows the domain game well. He paid a pretty penny for VPN.com, spending just south of $1M to acquire the name back in July of last year.

Now he’s split the brand into two different focus areas – a site reviewing and comparing VPN services and a domain brokerage company. It’s not something I’ve seen done too often but in this case I think it’s actually a pretty unique approach. Who better to broker domains than someone that has themselves shelled out close to $1M for a domain for their business? When it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, it feels like this is a great example of exactly that.

Still I’ve heard some people in the past warn of using one brand for two different businesses. Like I said, in this case I think it works, and given the fact that they keep making sales and keep getting good names under exclusive things seem to be going well.

What do you think? Does using VPN.com both as a site to compare VPN services and a domain brokerage company make sense? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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As we all know, Google launched the .DEV domain name extension this year, and whenever I write about it I find it’s a pretty polarizing topic. In case you haven’t read what I’ve written about the extension let me be clear before I go any further. I think .DEV would be a terrible investment as a Domainer. If you buy and sell domain names, stick to .COM and don’t look back.

That being said, I do think .DEV could be a good choice for a developer, if the .COM they have their heart set on is not available. If I want a place to show off some of my code, a link to my Github profile, etc. honestly .DEV feels pretty natural to me.

The reality is, “dev” is a term used all the time to describe developers. Living in San Francisco and running a software company I can tell you that I both hear and say the word “dev” multiple times a day. I’ve heard a few people say that “dev” is not commonly used so I thought it was time to put that to bed. Whether you love or hate .DEV, the word “dev” is a thing and it’s used all the time.

Below are a few examples of “dev” being used, and there are honestly tens of thousands of examples I could give you from articles and tweets…

unity-nvidia

devs-gdc

devs-airport

for-devs-by-devs

venture-beat-devs

So I get it, maybe you think .DEV is the most ridiculous domain extension on the planet and maybe it’s only popular because Google owns it. Sure, no issues there. But there really is no argument – “dev” as a word is used all the time in the tech world and I don’t see that going away any time soon.

What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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domain-theives

Something seems to be in the air in March as I’m noticing quite a few stories that seem to really miss the mark when it comes to understanding the domain industry. Earlier today, DarkReading published an article titled, Are You Prepared for a Zombie (Domain) Apocalypse?

Which in all honestly, does sound pretty darn scary. Until you hear what they mean by a Zombie (Domain) Apocalypse.

They mean, people simply buying expired domains. This is something me and many other domain name investors have done for years. This article makes it sound like anyone who buys expired domains is a shady figure looming in the shadows.

“When a domain registration expires, they can be claimed by new owners. And sometimes, those new owners have malicious intent.” (Source – DarkReading)

Spooky. The reality is, people registering expired domains aren’t usually a big problem online. Like anything in life, a bad person doing something a normal person does can go bad easily. Have a criminal (let’s say someone running a meth lab) moves into a suburban neighborhood and starts a “Breaking Bad” style drug house…well that doesn’t mean that we now should believe that everyone moving into suburban homes is running a drug ring.

The domain name world has long been both not understood and misunderstood. This article highlights another pretty big misunderstanding. The reality is, most people have no idea that you can just buy expired domain names. The people out there registering expired domains are often just investors, not nefarious criminals.

Hey, there are even blogs and newsletters focused on highlighting opportunities in the expired domain market. They aren’t there to support scammers and criminals, they’re supporting investors, just like a real estate investor or stock investor would share places to get good deals on either of those assets.

The silver lining for all of us who choose domain names as an asset class is, the rest of the world still hasn’t quite figured out what we do yet…and maybe that’s okay.

What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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domain-investing-news

Another week is behind us, and as usual, there was plenty of news in the domain investing world to keep us all busy. In case you missed it, here are some of the top stories that caught my eye. Last week I think I covered too many stories and I really want to keep this short and sweet because it’s Friday and you really don’t have the time to read a bunch of news stories, so I’m sticking with three, if you want more in the future just let me know in the comment section below.

Now, onto the news!

  • ICANN shuts down Alpnames – one of the top stories this week is the shuttering of a registrar that I frankly have never heard of called Alpnames…they broke some rules, are no more, and now hundreds of thousands of domains are in purgatory. DNW broken the news (to me at least) and also wrote a solid article about how to rescue your domains from Alpnames.
  • Mike Mann declared himself the real domain king – here we go again. It’s happened before, and it’s happening again. Domain Investor Mike Mann went on Twitter and said he really should be the domain king. I like both Rick and Mike so I’m staying out of this one.
  • Sketch.com was acquired just before a $20M raise – another great one-word .COM is off the market forever as Sketch.com was acquired by the startup of the same name, perfectly timed just before they announced a $20M raise.

A little bonus story, while I don’t want to promote my own articles too much here, I am excited for Efty who announced this week on the Domain Sherpa show that they’ll be supporting larger portfolio owners (i.e. 5,000+ domains). Woot!

Okay, now stop reading domain investing news and go out and enjoy your Friday night. If you think there’s a story that should have made the list, share away in the comment section below.

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huh

So a pretty strange article hit the news today. The article states that traditional domains have stagnated and a new class of domains, “blockchain domains” are going to take over.

Some companies in the .com era may have succeeded largely due to their domain and its primacy in search results. Today, this market has become stagnant, but innovation is popping up in a new area  — blockchain domains. (Source – InvestInBlockchain.com)

Uh…I’m not sure this guy knows that millions of dollars in domain names sell every week, and more domains sell now than did back in the “.com era” since that was referring to early Internet startups…not domains as an asset class.

The article continues by complaining that it’s impossible to get a new domain extension. This is just bizarrely misinformed since ICANN has approved over 1,000 new domain extensions, some of which are still hitting the market, like .DEV which launched last month.

It gets weirder.

The article goes on to talk about how payments aren’t native with the current domain name extensions…huh? Then soon jumps to how “blockchain domains” are going to fix everything. The first point he makes is that, poof, new domain extensions will be easier than ever to get…why?

“New blockchain domain services can just launch on a public blockchain, no ICANN approval necessary.” (Source – InvestInBlockchain.com)

Sounds simple right…err, no? Yeah, it’s not, and the author even realizes this and wrote a “now of course” paragraph below about how it’s actually probably super complex and you really can’t “just launch on a public blockchain”

“Now of course, there are many challenges with this, but getting approval from a regulator that may take years isn’t one of them. Instead you need to worry about deploying smart contracts correctly, getting apps to support your new extension, and of course getting users to buy and use the domains.” (Source – InvestInBlockchain.com)

The punchline here is .ETH domains and some stats about how they have done, which is impressive in its own right but still just a tiny sliver of the domain market. There also hasn’t been a massive proliferation of “blockchain domains” nor does this seem to be something that’s really actively being pursued by many companies…except for people like the company the author runs…who are launching blockchain domains.

And that’s when it hit me. This was just a marketing article promoting what the company is doing and positioning the market they’re trying to create as some rocket ship about to overtake the domain name industry…I’m not buying it and this is honestly one of the most poorly-researched, and just plain bizarre articles I’ve read about domain names in a long time.

That being said, I understand the concepts behind blockchain domains, heck I’ll even admit I think they could gain popularity as blockchain becomes more widely used. But to claim that the domain industry has become stagnant and blockchain domains are growing like crazy just isn’t true.

Where’s that facepalm emoji when you need it, ah – here it is:

facepalm

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lessons-learned-startup-names

Tyler O’Briant, the co-founder of Kowalla wrote a great article about lessons learned from generating 182 bad startup names. The reality is, for any startup, coming up with a name is hard, and given that just about every name you can come up with is likely already taken, it’s probably harder than it has ever been.

While I don’t completely agree with Tyler’s entire article (sorry Tyler, you’re awesome and I like 98% of what you said!) there were some really solid words of wisdom that I think many founders can relate to.

Alec started working a demo he called “Actualizeur” earlier in the year. The name worked on a conceptual level. We wanted to build a place for people to actualize the projects in a community of like-minded builders. But it had it’s faults too. Mainly, I haven’t found anyone but Alec who could spell it correctly.

Actualiezer… Actualizr… Actualizer… Actualizur?

We launched into the process of finding a new name. We hoped to find another name-product match like we had with Actualizeur, but with a lower vowel-to-consonant ratio. (Source – ProductHunt)
The issue Tyler highlights here is a big one, and one that I think many people learn the hard way. When your name is a word that people might be able to guess how to spell…but you’ve spelled it in some weird way that only makes sense to you…that’s not a winning name.

The first startup I worked for (back when I was 15…yeah I’ve been in the startup world for a LONG time) was called Xaos Tools. Everyone I told our name to assumed it was spelled Chaos Tools…so literally, every single time I said our name, I would have to say, “Chaos Tools” but with an “X” to which I’d usually get a lot of confused looks and then I’d have to spell it out.

[ INSERT FACEPALM HERE ]

Another issue that Tyler highlights a really good idea that I think can help founders as they’re trying to land on a name:

Look to the fallen. CBInsights has been compiling postmortems of various failed startups since 2014. These post mortems are interesting reads, and while naming your startup they’ll help give you some insight into naming trends over the years. Kowalla’s name was actually inspired by Gowalla, a former Austin-based startup mentioned in this list. (Source – ProductHunt)
I highly recommend startups that are trying to figure out a good name read this article, it’s a good one. That being said, I did mention earlier above that I don’t agree with everything in the article. It’s really the end. Tyler ends by saying, “Then, buy the domain and build something great.”

This last sentence could be turned into an entire book. “Buying the domain,” is often a lot easier said than done. I wrote about this topic on Medium in a post titled, What Every Startup Founder Should Know About Buying Domain Names. Domain brokers like Media Options have also covered this topic in great detail. In short – it really isn’t as simple as coming up with a name and then just buying the domain.

Coming up with the name is freaking hard, so is buying the domain, it’s all hard, but as a startup founder hard is just par for the course. Thanks to Tyler for putting this article together, I really like it and it hit a lot of really good points that I think founders will enjoy now and for years to come.

What did you think of the article? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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As many of you know, I’m not a domain broker. In the past I have brokered a domain name here and there but for the most part I just buy and sell my own domains. Still, every once and a while I get connected up with someone that has a domain that is just so darn awesome that I can’t help myself. I don’t have a lot of additional bandwidth so when I do broker a domain, it’s just one domain, usually for the entire year.

This week a domain name crossed my path that is too good not to take on, so I’ve decided that in 2019 I will broker one, and only one domain name. At this point you’re probably wondering, okay, get to the point Morgan, what’s the name!?!?

chill

While the owner is in no rush to sell I am starting to field offers, this is a monster name and I am really looking forward to finding a company with a big enough idea and market to do it justice. There are many examples of companies that have acquired a one-word .COM and seen it as a massive game-changer for their business. Zoom recently acquired Zoom.com, and the story of the Candy.com sale at $3M is a great one, this turned out to be a small investment for the return it provided for the new owners.

If you are interested in this domain name or know someone who is please feel free to contact me directly. If you’ve been interested in me brokering a domain name, you’ll have to wait until 2020, 2019 is going to be a Chill year for me.

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If you happened to catch today’s Domain Sherpa show, a bit of news was broken that I think a lot of Domainers are going to be pretty happy about. Efty just announced that they are going to be adding support for large portfolios soon. A large portfolio in this case means Domainers who have 5,000+ domains.

I’ve talked quite a bit about Efty in the past but in case you need a little refresher, Efty is one of the top platforms in the Domain Investing world for managing, marketing, and selling your domains. They did a UX update a little bit ago that IMHO really took the platform to the next level. I often explain to people that Efty is like a “dashboard for your domains” – you can view lots of important details like how much you paid for a name, when it expires, name servers, etc. Here’s an example of the main dashboard:

efty-dashboard

On top of all this, Efty has a great library of landing pages that are easy to customize so you can get custom for sale landers on your domain names. Here’s an example of one of them:efty-lander

Efty also lets you build your own custom marketplaces so if you’ve ever wanted a site with all your domains on it, Efty can make that happen. I think this feature is going to be particularly interesting for large portfolio owners who will essentially be able to open full scale domain marketplaces given their portfolio size!

So if you have over 5,000+ domains and have been itching to use Efty, it sounds like the wait might be over very soon. I know that there is certainly quite a bit of additional complexity when it comes to supporting this on the backend so hats off to the Efty team for making this move.

I’ll make sure to update everyone once this goes live so stay-tuned!

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eSports Saturday: Countdown to GDC 2019

It’s official, GDC is now less than two weeks away which means that pretty soon game developers from around the world will descend on San Francisco for what I personally think might just be my favorite conference on the planet. There is so much to do at GDC that I’ve compared it with the Louvre in the past, in short – there’s no way you can do everything so you have to pick and choose wisely.

One of my favorite things to do at GDC is to head over to the Indie Game section and check out all the incredible new Indie Games hitting the market. What I really like about this whole experience is that you’re playing a game while the creator watches. It’s a great opportunity for a game developer to see how a new user experiences their game, what works, what doesn’t and for me as a gamer…it’s awesome to play a game and have the developer right by my side.

Here’s a few pictures I took at the Indie Game section at GDC last year:

gdc-indie-games

gdc-2018-indie-games

no-heroes-here-gdc-2018

Last year my favorite Indie Game was No Heroes Here and it looks like I’m not alone as the game has been kicking ass and taking names on Steam as well and was ported to Nintendo and PS4, yowza!

Of courses there’s a whole other side to the convention center and that’s where you’ll find all the big companies like Unreal, Epic Games, Oculus, and really just about any major gaming studio you can think of. Last year Fornite wasn’t even close to the level of popularity of where it is today so it will be interesting to see how the focus shifts this year, I’m expecting Fornite and APEX to be head-to-head fighting for attention at GDC 2019.

Here’s a few shots of the amazing booths the big studios put together last year:

unreal-booth-gdc-2018

oculus-booth-gdc-2018

The big booths typically do fun things like give out beer, food, and swag, and of course you get to play their hit games, often while sitting on a comfy couch.

But wait there’s more, a lot more. I haven’t even covered the talks, of which there are a TON of and honestly, you’ll be struggling to pick between talks since so many good ones happen at the same time. Here’s a few of the talks that caught my eye this year:

ANIMATION BOOTCAMP: ‘GOD OF WAR’: BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO A HARDENED SPARTAN

BUILDING BUY-IN: CREATING DESIGN TOOLS FOR BETTER PLAYER EXPERIENCES AT EA

STORYTELLING FUNDAMENTALS IN A DAY

BOARD GAME DESIGN DAY: “KING ME”: A DEFENSE OF KING-MAKING IN BOARD GAME DESIGN

EVOLVING MIXED REALITY: DESIGNING ON THE REAL WORLD

Stay-tuned – I’ll be sharing more pre-GDC coverage here on my blog and then I’ll be there sharing some exciting updates live from the show!

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