Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Ham’

The death of domain name speculation

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

There will be a point when domain name speculation as we know it will end. In its wake will remain a number of big guys – the folks like Kevin Ham and Frank Schilling who today own multi-million dollar domain portfolios and are growing their inventory daily. These guys and those like them have the money, development resources, years of experience and flexibility to adapt and change and bend with the changes of the search market and the Internet, so they will be the survivors.

Right now, much of the money with domain name speculation is made by hosting a “parked” page on every domain in the inventory – the speculators then make money on all the traffic that goes to those pages through pay-per click (PPC) advertising. Some of that traffic is accidental, some of it because people utilized “direct navigation,” typing URLs directly into the search bar. But what happens down the road when the search engines get even smarter? What happens when Google and Yahoo are able to correct misspellings on the fly? Or when consumers get savvier and learn to not click on the ads that clutter the parked pages? What happens if Google discontinues its AdSense for domains program ?  Or if a new search engine emerges that completely changes the way that search happens?

What will the new world look like? New business models are already emerging, but most of what is “new” is based on the tried-and-true media/publishing model. Richard Rosenblatt is taking his vast network of domains and turning each of them into a Web 2.0 site with user-generated “how to” contentHam’s company, Reinvent Technology, has a mission “to transform our direct navigation business into a cutting edge media company by leveraging new technology, innovative ideas, and intellectual capital.” In 2005, venture company Highland Capital Partners bought YesDirect, a holding company with 600,000 domain names. It has since launched turned that company into NameMedia, which features a product called Direct Search that turns domain names such as www.photography.com into an online community, employing an “editorial model” to create a “compelling user experience.” They also hired Kelly Conlin, former president and CEO of IDG – a media company.

As John Andrews put it in his blog, “The next wave of the competitive Internet has arrrived, and it’s driven by the Domainers. No, not parked pages, and no, not typo squatters. Domainers as publishers.”

And in case you don’t believe him, Schilling points to this post and agrees. But instead of considering this a commentary on how the domain name industry is changing, he calls the trend the “potential/catalyst to change publishing.”

 

~ Today’s view:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1412989830/

The difficulty of finding a good domain name

Monday, September 17th, 2007

It wasn’t long ago that registering a domain name was relatively easy. In 2002, I helped found a start-up company that built a network of B2B Web sites focused on niche IT topics. At the time, we registered approximately 100 domain names with the letters “IQ” at the end – GraphicsIQ, DocumentIQ, etc. – and it was a straightforward process to buy and compile the entire network of domain names. Very rarely would I do a DNS lookup and find that one of the domains was not available.

Things have changed. I’m in the process of launching another new company, and in trying to name the different pieces (the company, my blog) it’s been difficult to find domain names to match. MSNBC has an article that provides some good background on why the current domain name market is so tough for someone who wants to register a domain name. For instance, at the end of first quarter 2007, at least 128 million domain names had been registered worldwide, a 31% increase over the previous year. The buying and selling of domain names is currently a $2 billion industry, and it’s predicted to hit $4 billion by 2010. This is a market that’s growing quickly. And it’s making a lot of people money.

In fact, the Internet domain name business has proven to be incredibly profitable. I loved this article about Kevin Ham. Especially interesting was the story of how he made a deal with the government of Cameroon to reap a profit from all the domain names that end in .cm, the country code for Cameroon. The result of his deal is that anytime someone mistypes a Web address and omits the letter o, Kevin Ham makes money. (This domain name glitch has reportedly been resolved, but I’m not so sure – I just typed in a .cm domain name using IE, it appeared that I was taken to one of the Ham sites.)

The growth of the domain name market and the ability to make significant amounts of money trading in domain names is only one factor that has made it difficult to find a domain name. But one result of the struggle is the Web 2.0 company name phenomena, where, as one blog writer put it, You’ve got to be hip, trendy, cutting-edge. In short, you’ve got to come up with a word that makes no sense to anybody, anywhere. Like Jookster, Meebo, or Squidoo.” Just take a look at the company directory on TechCrunch to see this in action. In one small section of “companies that begin with the letter s” the following companies are listed, all in a row: Scanr, scanscout, sclipo, scooplive, scoopt, Scouta.

And this brings me back around to my dilemma – trying to come up with a company name that also had a domain name that wasn’t yet registered. I got lucky – PureIncubation.com was available. And after quite a bit of deliberation, I hit upon 16thletter.com for my blog. Another stroke of luck – sixteenthletter.com was also available.

 

~  View from today’s blog post:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1398574773/