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October 20, 2017

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Photos & Highlights from the Final 36 Hours at the Inaugural Merge! Conference in Orlando

The inaugural edition of the Merge! Conference ended Wednesday afternoon (October 18) at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Florida (you can see Saturday's opening day highlights here, the ones from day 2 Sunday here and those from day 3 Monday here). Today we will wrap things up with all of the highlights from day 4 Tuesday and the half-day that closed the program Wednesday.

As most of our readers know, the new show was launched by two conference veterans - NamesCon Co-Founder Jothan Frakes and Ray Dillman Neu, Co-Founder of THE Domain Conference. They decided it was time for the standard domain conference to expand beyond its usual boundaries by adding in depth information on related fields like digital branding, website development, end user experience, new business startups, IP technology, SEO design, security, hosting, blockchain, cryptocurrency and more, as well as networking opportunities with leaders in those fields. 

Domains remain a key part of the mix of course, but the new strategy gives attendees the information they need to do a lot more with their domains or expand their investment horizons to include other digital assets.

Due to popular demand, Tuesday (October 17) began with a previously unscheduled second round of Larry Fischer's conference game show Domain or Not a Domain? (that was first played on Sunday). This time out Braden Pollock 

Merge! Co-Founders Jothan Frakes (left)
and Ray Dillman Neu

won the 9am on-stage battle, then the audience got to play. They could remain standing as long as they kept getting each question right. Brandon Abbey (Payoneer.com) wound up being the last man standing - answering them all correctly for the win. 

At 10am it was time to get down to business. The Internet Commerce Association, the non-profit group that protects domain registrant's rights, was given a prime spot in the Main Hall to tell attendees about the association's good work and how they could become involved as members.

Above: ICA Board member Nat Cohen and Executive Director Kamila Sekiewicz were on hand to represent the Internet Commerce Association. Kamila shows the audience examples of some of the major industry companies that have supported the ICA's work on behalf of domain owners over the years. However, both she and Nat also emphasized the importance of individual memberships and the affordable cost to join this vital organization.

Below: In an adjacent room, Alex Schaefer (standing, from DeepCrawl) and Dave Davies (Beanstalk Internet Marketing) explained the intricacy and importance of Mobile Search. At the same hour in other rooms topics included Everything You Wanted to Know About BoldGrid but Were Afraid to Ask and how Technical Debt is Killing Your Software Team.

Above: Another round of business sessions began at 11am Tuesday including this one in which attorney Karen Bernstein (Bernstein IP) covered Online Promos and Contests: Cautionary Tales of FTC Crackdowns

Below: At the same time in the main hall Rob Garner (email: rgarner at gmail) was covering Marketing/SEO and Leasing Domains. In another room the topic was Harnessing Multilingual Joomla

Above: As was the case each day of Merge!, attendees could take advantage of the two-hour lunch break to get in some informal networking and visit sponsor exhibits. Here Louie Borrego and Nancy Bianchi from Above.com welcomed show moderator Braden Pollock (center) to their booth.

Below: Business resumed at 2pm Tuesday with a big announcement by the Domain Name Association.  They named a new Interim Executive Director and their choice was already onsite - Merge! Co-Founder Jothan Frakes! Left to right below are DNA Board members Joe Alagna (Afilias), Jeff Sass (.CLUB) and Jon Nevett (Donuts) with their new IED - Jothan Frakes. The DNA is a non-profit global business association that represents the interests of the domain name industry. Its members are groups, businesses, and individuals involved in the provision, support, and sale of domain names and includes many domain name registries, registrars, resellers, and registry service providers.

Above: The 2pm business sessions Tuesday included this panel discussion devoted to Innovation in the Hispanic Business Community. The experts, from left to right, were George Verdugo (Hotels.club), Alberto Jauregui (Director, Blockchain Education Network) and Alfredo Pinochet (LatinTLD President).

Below: At the same time a seminar on Paid Search was staged in another room by William Leake (Apogee Results) and Lisa Raehsler (SEO and PPC strategist). Other rooms offered Allegravita's China Boot Camp (conducted via Skype) and The Magic of Joomla's MVC - Override Everything

Above: The next round of sessions started at 3pm Tuesday, led by this one in the Main Hall where a panel discussion centered on Crypto Launch/ICO Showcasing. On the dais from left to right were Colin Pape (Founder, Presearch.io), James Drake (Co-Founder & CEO, Embermine), moderator Christa Taylor (dotTBA Inc), Marco Rinaudo (investor) and Chad Folkening (eCorp). 

Below:  At the same time a couple of doors down, a session on CMS's for Profit - E-Commerce Solutions was being conducted by Steve Burge (CEO at OS Training). In other rooms the 3pm topics included Buying & Selling Domain on NameJet and WP-CLI: Don't Fear the Command Line. Those were the final panel discussions of the day. Two special events followed in the Main Hall and no other sessions were scheduled during those so all attendees could enjoy them.

Above: Kelly Hardy, the personable Director of Business Development for the .ME Registry, is obviously happy in this shot and she had good reason to be as she was about to interview Erika Mann (Covington & Burling LLP, Senior Advisor) in the Main Hall for a 4pm Fireside Chat keynote.

Below: Erika is a former Member of the European Parliament and a world renowned expert with over 20 years of experience in policy related matters. She is a current member of the GNSO (Generic Names Supporting Organization) Council of ICANN which she joined at the end of 2016. She provided a wealth of information in the wide ranging interview and also took time to answer all questions the audience had in what was one of the week's highlights at Merge!

Above: At 4:30pm, in the final business session of the day, .CLUB CMO Jeff Sass also had the attention of all attendees - and as a consummate showman he deserved having the sole spotlight. Jeff's talk was cleverly titled Vowel Movements: How to Avoid Crappy Domain Names (and Pay for Good Ones). You would expect nothing less from the author of the book Everything I Know About Business and Marketing, I Learned from the Toxic Avenger

Below: Another shot from Jeff's session that reminds me a little of a World War II recruiting poster. Today it could be titled Uncle Sass Wants You! (to join the .CLUB). 

Above: With the business day now done it was time to enjoy The WHIR Networking Party that ran from 6-9pm Tuesday evening (October 17). Here LatinTLD Co-Founders Natalia Viera and Alfredo Pinochet, who came all the way from Chile, check out the buffet options.

Below: These ladies would stand out in any crowd. Left to right are Kamila Sekiewicz (ICA), Barbara Dillman Neu (Merge!), Tessa Holcomb (BrandIT) and Diana Jackson (DNJournal).

Above: Also enjoying the WHIR Networking Event were (L to R): Gregg Freeman (DomainCapital), Kelly Hardy (.ME) and Dave Evanson (Sedo).

Below: Another all-star group that included (L to R): Domain and real estate industry veteran Rob Grant and his wife PatAlex and her boyfriend Ray Dillman Neu (Merge! Co-Founder).

Above: Last (and probably least!) Ron Jackson (center),  flanked by his domain media pal Theo Develegas (DomainGang) at left and - fortunately - a guy who lent some class to this line up - Dallas based SEO consultant Bill Hartzer!

Below: After the WHIR event ended the party moved upstairs to the 15th floor Merge! Hospitality Suite (where it ran until way past midnight). These two guys (who came all the way from Norway!) were smart enough to get there early and claim a seat. They are my friends Truc Tran (left) and Reidar Rytter-Fjoeren. Believe it or not, though they are both from Norway, Truc and Reidar did not know each other until they met at a domain conference in Florida a few years ago!

Above: The inaugural edition of Merge! closed with a few final business sessions that ran from 10am to 1pm Wednesday (October 18).  In this one The Art of Brokering High Value Domains was covered by (left to right) moderator Bill Sweetman, Dave Evanson (Senior Broker at Sedo) and Tessa Holcomb (Managing Director, North America, for BrandIT).

Below: Another session in the Main Hall, moderated by Bill Hartzer (standing at podium), centered on Search.

Above: This panel helped bring Merge! to a successful conclusion Wednesday. The topic was Branding, Domain Hacks and Online Identity: Using ccTLDs to Create a High Impact Internet Presence and the participants were (left to right) moderator Bill Sweetman, Kathy Nielsen (Neustar), Kelly Hardy (.ME) and Joe Alagna (Afilias).

Above:...and That's a Wrap! Merge! Co-Founders Ray Dillman Neu and Jothan Frakes at the end of their inaugural show. Our congratulation to them and their entire team on an ambitious mission accomplished. It went so well they have already decided to bring it back in 2018 - most likely at the same location and time of year. Whenever it is, we certainly plan to be there. 

Below: The last Merge! attendees making their way through the fabulous lobby at the Orlando World Center Marriott at the end of the show Wednesday (October 18, 2017). Before they know it, it will be time to check back in for round two a year from now!

(Posted October 19, 2017)

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