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June 22, 2018

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The Lowdown Subscribe to our RSS Feed
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.

MERGE! Announces a Half-Dozen Additions to the Speaker's Roster for Their 2018 Conference in Orlando

Last weekend  I spent a couple of days at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista Hotel at Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida where the 2nd annual MERGE! conference will be held September 14-19, 2018. It gave me a chance to get a close up look at the show's impressive new venue (the debut edition was held at the Marriott World Resort in Orlando last fall). I am putting together a separate article about the hotel and Disney Springs to 

show you what to expect in September but today I want to share an update on the speaker's line up that I just got from MERGE! Co-Founder Jothan Frakes

In addition to a couple of keynoters I told you about earlier this month Jothan confirmed a half dozen more featured speakers today (you will find the full speaker's roster on the MERGE! conference website where you can also track the latest additions to the agenda as they are made). Frakes was excited to announce that Microsoft's Cole Quinn will be coming to talk. Cole manages 50,000+ domains and 8 DotBRAND TLDs for Microsoft, is the incoming president of the Brand Registry Group and is on the Board of Directors of the Domain Name Association

A well-known figure in the domain world, Kellie Peterson of Automattic was also added. Kellie manages the Registrar of WordPress and is a highly experienced veteran of the hosting, registry, and registrar industries having played key roles with Neustar, Endurance International, Name.com and other leading providers.  

Martin Kuechenthal, the CEO and co-founder of Lemarit, will be speaking too. Martin is an internationally respected expert on domain names, brands and trademarks, is a member of the Board of Directors of DENIC (.DE) and a long-standing member of the International Trademark Association (INTA).

Above (left to right): Cole Quinn, Kellie Peterson and Martin Kuechenthal.

Below (left to right): Dr. Gregg McNair, Michael Palage and David Szetela.

Another speaker (who our readers will be very familiar with) will be Dr. Gregg McNair, the PPX International Chairman who was profiled in a 2009 DNJournal Cover Story.  Gregg's list of accomplishments has grown considerably longer in the years since then and he can speak with authority on any topic related to domains, the internet and the business world at large. 

Michael Palage of Pharos Global can also be expected to draw a crowd. Michael is a member of the Board of Directors of the Blockchain Special Interest Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The industry veteran is also a former ICANN Board Member.  

The latest addition to the MERGE! lineup also includes David Szetela of FMB Media who will share a sure to be popular session on AI-powered PPC Advertising and Search. David is well-known throughout the the Search and SEO sectors.

Registration for MERGE! is open and you can find all ticket details here

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Latest Verisign Report Says Total Domain Registrations Continue to Grow Despite New gTLD Nosedive

Verisign, the administrator or the .com and .net domain registries, has released their latest quarterly Domain Name Industry Brief covering the 1st quarter of 2018. Verisign reported that 1Q-2018 closed with approximately 333.8 million domain name registrations across all top-level domains (TLDs) -  an increase of approximately 1.4 million domain name registrations (a 0.4% rise), compared to the previous quarter (4Q-2017). The number of registrations grew by approximately 3.2 million domains (a 1% increase)  year over year.

Verisign's .com and .net TLDs outperformed the overall market. They had a combined total of approximately 148.3 million domain name registrations at the end of 1Q-2018 (with approximately 133.9 million .com registrations and approximately 14.4 million .net

registrations), That represents an increase of approximately 1.9 million total .com and . net domain name registrations (a 1.3% rise), compared to the previous quarter and a combined total increase of approximately 4.6 million registrations (a 3.2% jump) year over year.

The news was considerably less rosy for new gTLDs. The number of new gTLD domain registrations at the end of 1Q-2018 were approximately 20.2 million - a loss of 5.3 million domains (representing a 20.7% decrease) over the past year. 

ccTLDs on the other hand, performed better than the overall market year over year. There were approximately 146.3 million country code domains registered at the end of  1Q-2018. That is a gain of about 3.2 million domains (a 2.2% increase) over the past 12 months. 

Verisign publishes the Domain Name Industry Brief to provide internet users throughout the world with statistical and analytical research and data on the domain name industry. The first quarter 2018 Domain Name Industry Brief, as well as previous reports, can be obtained here: Verisign.com/DNIB.

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Photos & Highlights from the Closing Days at the 2018 NamesCon Europe (Domaining Europe) Conference in Spain

After opening Thursday at the Sercotel Sorolla Palace Hotel in Valencia, Spain, the 10th anniversary edition of the Domaining Europe conference (that transitioned to its new NamesCon Europe name this week)

continued with another full business day Friday (June 8, 2018) and closed today, Saturday, June 9, with a Tour of Valencia.

We ended our Day 1 post Thursday by noting that attendees were on their way to a gala evening dinner at the Marina Beach Club in Valencia. NamesCon has since posted some photos from that event (the photos in this article are all from NamesCon's Twitter feed or Facebook posts unless noted otherwise).

Above: A scene from the NamesCon Europe Gala Dinner at the Mariana Beach Club in Valencia, Spain that closed the opening day of the show Thursday night (June 7, 2018). Left to right are Sue White, .CLUB CMO Jeff Sass, NamesCon President & CEO Soeren von Varchmin and Akram Atallah (Global Domains Division President at ICANN). 

Fenestra CEO Ashley Mackenzie opened the business sessions Friday morning (June 8) by detailing why she believes  Fenestra, built on blockchain technology, could save billions of dollars for advertisers by creating transparency and trust to advertisers' media supply chain.

Above: After Ms. Mackenzie's talk, an expert group of domain industry veterans took their places on stage for a panel discussion offering an Inside View on Dropcatching. That session, moderated by Braden Pollock, featured David Chelly (Lecturer, Paris Business School), Erik Lambrechts (Co-Founder & CEO, Catchtiger.com), Ivo van Soest (CEO & Founder, Sonexo) and Shaun Wilkinson (COO, Nidoma.com).

Below: Next up at 11am Joe Styler (Community Manager for the Aftermarket, GoDaddy) presented Aftermarket Best Practices fro Making Money. Joe shared what GoDaddy learned by operating their own portfolio of over 700,000 domains, including how best to acquire, price, list, and sell your domains based on their data and experiments over the past few years.

Above: In another Friday morning highlight Nidoma.com COO Shaun Wilkinson conducted a Charity Domain Auction to raise funds for the Hope Childen's Centre in Kenya. Attendees donated a total of 22 domains to the auction, enough to raise €4,150 to help finish building a secondary school at the Centre. If you would like to support the cause, online donations can be made here

After a coffee break, GGRG.com brokerage and consulting CEO Giuseppe Graziano took they stage with another excellent presentation - Short .com Domains: Understanding Supply and Demand of an $8B Market. GGRG publishes The Liquid Domain Market Overview, a collaboration between Escrow.com, GGRG, Intelium and ShortNames, that explains all the key metrics that drive the value of the most-traded domains in China so investors can anticipate the market and become a successful domain investor.

Above: In a session just before the Friday Lunch break, .ECO International Director Lars Steffen dissected the Global Internet Economy. Steffen noted that in our hyperconnected world, no sector of the economy is untouched by technology and only those who adapt quickly to technological change will be successful and went to detail how is Europe performing in that regard.

Below: After the lunch break, DomainMagnate.com Founder Michael Bereslavsky provided advice on How to Buy Profitable Websites. Michael covered different aspects of buying and maintaining established websites including common mistakes to avoid, how to choose, due diligence, finding good deals, planning and maintenance and more. You can view a video of Michael's full talk here.

Above: The afternoon sessions continued with this presentation on Monetization: A Key Domain Strategy for 2018, delivered by Adam Wagner (Account Manager, Team Internet AG). Adam explained how domain parking influences cash flow, affects sales negotiations and investment planning and why together they all determine investment results of a domainer.  

Below: SmartSites.com Co-Founder and CEO Alex Melen followed with The 3 B's of Developing Domains: Buy, Build, Benefit. This session provided advice on how to develop your domain to create recurring revenue while also increasing the domain value.  Melen also covered domain development, SEO, PPC, SMM and ran through a real life example of the revenue and value-creating potential of developing your domains. Photo is a screenshot from a YouTube video of Alex's talk.

Above: In a special Cultural Event before the show's final business session, a professional charcutero and ham cutter let attendees experience (and taste) the Spanish art of ham-cutting (vegetarian cuts were also available). Photo courtesy of Alex Melen.

Below: After that savory snack the final business session of NmesCon Europe/Domaiing Europe 2018 got underway - tips on Choosing the Correct Domain for your Marketing Strategy. Two of the panelists in that session were, at left, Blacknight CEO Michele Neylon and Divulga Founder Ramón Rautenstrauch.

While the business day was done - the night was still young. It started with DomainingEurope Founder Dietmar Stefitz (above) hosting a Handover Reception in which he officially passed the conference baton to NamesCon President and CEO Soeren von Varchimin. Soeren will oversee the show's ongoing operations under the new NamesCon Europe banner.

Below: After the Handover Recption the multi-talented von Varchmin (2nd from left) brought his bandmates in the Lords of Uptime - Judah Johns, Carlos Almaral and guest singer Franky Smet van Damme onstage for a very well received acoustic concert. The one-hour event also served as a fundraiser for the Children's Hope Centre. From there it was on to an all-night Disco Party for attendees! 

Above: NamesCon Europe/Domaining Europe 2018 officially closed with a leisure day today (Saturday, June 9) that included a Tour of Valencia by bus and boat, as well as a lunch that featured Spain's national dish: Paella Valenciana. Photo courtesy of the .GLOBAL Regustry.

Below: A street scene from beautiful and historic Valencia, Spain from today's Tour. 

Above: Last but not least, it has been a Domaining Europe tradition to take a Group Photo at each event, so attendees gathered under blues skies and the bright Valencia sun for this shot of the conference class of 2018

Our congratulations to conference Founder Dietmar Stefitz on what he has built over the past decade and we are wishing all the best to NamesCon as they carry the European torch forward for decades to come.

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Photos & Highlights from Opening Day at NamesCon Europe (Domaining Europe) 2018

The 10th anniversary edition of  the Domaining Europe conference got underway today in Valencia, Spain under its new NamesCon Europe banner. In a joint effort, the show founded by Dietmar Stefitz, is running under both names this

year but the conference will conclude with Stefitz handing the reigns over to NamesCon for all future events.

This 2018 edition, that is being held at the Sercotel Hotel Sorolla Palace, will run through Saturday. It started with a bang today with a busy schedule of business sessions (nine in all) that were followed by a gala dinner tonight at the Marina Beach Club. I wasn't able to make it over to Spain for this year's show but have been following it on NamesCon's Twitter feed and their Facebook posts. Unless noted otherwise, all of the photos below are from NamesCon's social media posts today. 

Above: The day began with a 9:30am Keynote speech from 
Akram Atallah, the Global Domains Division President at ICANN.

Below: At 10am, DomainMarket.com CEO and veteran domain investor Michael Mann spoke to the audience via a Skype feed. His talk centered on the standards he uses to value .com domains for resale.

Above: Next up Thursday morning (June 7) was .CLUB Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Sass who talked about the relative merits of "brandable" domains vs. keyword domains. His company's Names.club marketplace specializes in the latter category.

Below: The CEO of another new gTLD registry operator, .GLOBAL's Rolf Larsen, followed with a talk on how to value premium domains in new gTLDs.

Above: In the final morning session, Donuts Inc. Senior Broker Jebediah Burnett (right) was interviewed by moderator Braden Pollock. Donuts has logged several six-figure new gTLD domain sales and Burnett talked about how they were able to put some of those high-end sales together.

Below: After a coffee break the afternoon session got underway at 1pm with a session about the effects of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and what it means for those in the domain business. The participants were (left to right) Michele Neylon (CEO & Founder, Blacknight), Thomas Rickert (Rickert Law Firm) and moderator Kevin Murphy (DomainIncite.com). Photo courtesy of Lars Steffen.

Above: After the lunch break it was back to business with NameMotion.com CEO Antonio Villamarin providing a non-technical talk on how to apply Artificial Intelligence to high frequency domain name investments using public data, private data and investing in data science and mathematics.

Below: The next session was devoted to Domain Portfolio Valuation and featured (left to right): moderator Braden Pollock, Antonio Villamarin (Namemotion.com), Alan Shiflett (Senior Manager Aftermarket, GoDaddy), Ana Paula Vazquez (Country Manager, Sedo) and Adam Wagner (Account Manager, Team Internet).

Above: A 5:30pm Coffee Break gave attendees a chance to get a caffeine boost to carry them through the closing business session and the evening's gala dinner.

Below:  The final opening day business session was all about Domain Monetization. It featured (left to right) moderator Braden Pollock, Michael Bereslavsky (Domain Magnate), Freddy Schiwek (CEO, Zonat S.A.), Yancy Naughton (Founder, HasTraffic), Joel Ghebaly (Head of Product Management, Sedo) and James Tuplin (Director of Business Development, Bodis).

NamesCon Europe will resume Friday morning at 9:30am (local time in Valencia) with another full round of daytime business sessions and evening social events on tap. The event will conclude with a leisure day Saturday that will feature a Tour of Valencia and a paella lunch. 

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Photos & Highlights From the 2018 Global Digital Summit in Xiamen, China

One of China's  most important annual domain conferences, the 2018 Global Digital Summit, ended in Xiamen over the weekend. The two-day event that ran June 1-2 at the Swiss Hotel attracted domain experts and company leaders from around the world. Our friend George Hong, from popular domain brokerage company Guta.com, has an office in Xiamen and was kind enough to provide us with an excellent selection of photos and highlights from the big event.

GDS 2018 focused on a wide range of hot topics including domains, blockchain technology applications, new media marketing, cross-border integration and innovation of digital assets, digital media and digital ecology.

Above: A wide angle view of attendees in the main ballroom 
for the start of GDS 2018 in Xiamen, China.

Below: View of the stage from the audience during the GDS 2018 opening ceremonies.

Above: Peng Wang from Ali Cloud Domain giving a well-received presentation 
on The Development of the Global Digital Economy Industry.

Below: In another session, Jian Zhang from Baidu Cloud presents The Exploration of ABC  (covering AIBig  Data and Cloud Computing) at Baidu in the Digital Era.

Above: Cryptocurrency was another popular topic at GDS 2018. Here Linke Yang from Bitcoin China gives an informative talk on The Future Development of Blockchain.

Below: In between the business sessions, attendees enjoyed spending time in the busy Exhibit Hall.  This participant is checking out some Virtual Reality games.

Above: One thing that sets the major conferences in China apart from others is their marvelous showmanship. We often refer to conferences as "shows" - but in China they are, from an entertainment standpoint - actual SHOWS in the classic sense. Here an artist delivers a Sichuan opera face-changing performance in the Exhibit Hall.

Below: It looks like MMX.co CEO Toby Hall and .CLUB VP Michele Van Tilborg might be working up a routine of their own! 

Above: I mentioned that we owe George Hong from Guta.com the credit 
for getting these GDS 2018 photos to us. Here is George 
and the Guta.com team at their booth in the Exhibit Hall

Below: Back on stage in the main ballroom, .CLUB Founder Colin Campbell put domains in the spotlight, detailing how the wide variety of new gTLDs available today can help small and medium-sized enterprises boost their brand and growth their businesses on the web.

Above: An Experts's Forum on the latest Trends in the Global Domain Industry featured (left to right): Host Jim Wang (GoDaddy), George Hong (Guta.com), Dave Evanson (Sedo), Shifang Yuan (Yuming.com), Zhipo Zhang (Jinpai.com), Jun Yang (West.cn) and Mr. Cai (Ename.com).

Below: During this session George Hong said the investor market has returned to rationality while the end user market is developing healthily. In terms of total value of domain sales over the past 5 months, George said they have been the best 5 months of his domain brokerage career, largely due to strong demand from the blooming Blockchain industry. Hong added, "We are living in a time with all kinds of opportunities.  Be open-minded. Fully leverage our areas of expertise to invest wisely and patiently.  

During this same session, Shifang Yuan said he believed 3-letter .com domains are especially suitable for Blockchain related projects as many cryptocurrency names are three letters. Zhipo Zhang advised keeping up with the times, adding "the earlier you invest the more you will gain."  

Dave Evanson, Jun Yang and Mr. Cai all noted that the demand for domains from end users is steadily growing.

Above: Another popular panel discussion provided an Exploration of the Entrepreneurial Development of Blockchain.

Below: GoDaddy VP Bob Mountain in the audience at GDS 2018.

Above: This Forum group tackled Problems and Trends of Marketability in the Digital Age.

Above & Below: Global Digital Summit 2018 closed Saturday night with a Gala Dinner Show at the Swiss Hotel in Xiamen - the perfect way to wrap up another great event in China.

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MERGE! 2018 Conference Adds a New eCommerce Track Devoted to Subscription Box Businesses

When the annual MERGE! conference returns to Orlando, Florida this summer (September 15-18, 2018 at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista Hotel in Disney Springs, adjacent to the Magic Kingdom)  it will have an all new track that will be of interest to anyone looking to develop a subscription based ecommerce business. These increasingly popular online businesses - known as Subscription Boxes - are attracting scores of entrepreneurs who love the recurring-revenue model. We are even seeing entire conferences devoted to the sector now, including SubSummit that happens to be winding up today in Denver, Colorado.

Merge! Co-Founders Jothan Frakes
and Ray Dillman Neu (at right).

As most of you know by now, MERGE!, launched by domain industry veterans Jothan Frakes and Ray Neu last year, is a multi-faceted conferenc that covers an extraordinarily broad range of internet business topics including Domains, Digital Branding, Website Development, End User Experience, New Business Startups, IP Technology, SEO Design, Security and Hosting to Blockchain,  CryptoCurrency and more - now including Subscription Boxes. 

As a consumer it is quite possible you already use a subscription box service like Dollar Shave Club (shaving products) Birchbox (beauty products) or Coffee.Club (obviously coffee).  As an entrepreneur if you are interested in starting a similar business yourself (or need help improving one you already have), Neu told us, "This conference is for you. It will provide an opportunity to listen to world class Subscription Box speakers and

network with  Subscription Box entrepreneurs. Seminar topics will include Platform Management, Web Design, Packaging, Shipping, Customer Acquisition, Domain Names, Branding and much more. 

Neu added, "Along with the opportunity to mingle and learn from other Subscription Box Entrepreneurs we will be featuring a Keynote Speech by Subbly CEO & Founder Stefan Pretty. Subbly is a popular subscription ecommerce platform and Stefan, who hails form Scotland, is a bootstrapper that has worked closely with subscription box businesses big and small for the last four years. He has great crossover knowledge of starting a business from nothing and making it a success."

"We will be featuring other successful boxes and speakers from that industry (to be named later). It will be a base for the subscription box community to network and learn from one another. Even our other featured speaker, Norman Farrar ((AKA The Amazon Growth Guy), is a subscription box expert. .CLUB will also be involved with their subscruiton-based clubs like Norman's own Soap.club and Bill McClure's Coffee.Club," Neu noted.

Registration for the MERGE! conference is open now and a special spring price of $379 will be available through June 20. It will then rise to $499 through September 1. After that, and at the door, the regular conference rate of $879 will be in effect.

Stefan Pretty
Subbly Founder & CEO

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New .ICU Extension Became Latest New gTLD to Enter General Availability This Afternoon. 

The latest new gTLD  to hit the market, .ICU, entered General Availability this afternoon (May 29, 2018) at 2pm (U.S. Eastern Time). Domains in the new extension from Luxembourg-based ShortDot SA are now available at over 100 registrars in more than 30 countries around the world. 

Pricing varies from low standard rates upward through several premium levels. A quick spot check at a few registrars showed some attractive opening day pricing - just $1.49 for standard rate domains at Dynadot for example. The next level up (which includes a lot of one word and 3-letter domains) seemed to fall in the $15 range with Uniregistry selling  those at $13.20 ( for the most sought after keywords there were much larger jumps at all registrars we checked which has become standard operating procedure in the new gTLD world).

Kevin Kopas
.ICU Co-Founder & COO

The registry is marketing .ICU as shorthand for "I See You," describing it as a new extension designed to provide an easy, innovative, and universal alternative to traditional domains.  Other generic new gTLDs could say the same thing but ShortDot COO Kevin Kopas pointed to another attribute that he believes will help separate .ICU from the crowd, saying his TLD is offering end users a partnership beyond just the domain name. 

"We know that an online brand starts with a domain name but ends with a relentless focus on connecting more meaningfully with customers," Kopas said. "To do this the company has designed a "Pioneer Program" which provides media expertise to new and evolving businesses who are looking to create, expand, or improve their online marketing strategies. The program includes exclusive access to a digital co-working space with help from others and learning resources like a  

21-module online media program aimed at bringing businesses closer to their customers by driving strategic and consistent message delivery across online platforms."

Kopas added, "The program has already gained several participants, including TottenhamHotspur.icu, a site supported by the English Football Club. This domain markets a Football camp in Italy with FA and UEFA-qualified coaches for boys and girls ages 8-16. Pia Jensen, who manages the parent business, Italian Tours, says "we are excited to become a 'Pioneer' because it will allow us to improve our messaging and reach more kids and parents."

The management team and board of directors at .ICU is comprised of domain industry veterans Lars Jensen, Kevin Kopas, Mogens Nielsen and Michael Riedl and the registry uses CentralNic as its backend service provider.

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Global Interest in Domain Names Has Created a Conference Explosion That Will Continue for the Next 5 Months 

NamesCon held their 2nd annual NamesCon India conference Wednesday (May 23, 2018) as part of the larger Cloudfest India event held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Mumbai (Cloudfest, formerly known as World Hosting

Days, is NamesCon's parent company). The well-received one-day event kicked off what will be an extraordinarily busy string of domain conferences around the world that will stretch from now into the early fall.


Cloudfest/NamesCon CEO Soeren Von Varchmin onstage at their latest event at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Mumbai, India this week.

NamesCon has two more conferences coming up next month alone! They will run the 10th anniversary edition of the Domaining Europe conference (that has been rechristened NamesCon Europe) with show founder Dietmar Stefitz in Valencia, Spain June 7-9, then will go half way around the globe for the annual NamesCon China conference coming up June 28-29 in Shanghai.

Befitting its status as a global domain industry powerhouse, China has multiple high level conferences now, including the annual Global Domain Summit coming up next week - running June 1-2 at the Swiss Grand Hotel in Xiamen. GDS is co-organized by Ali Cloud, Baidu Cloud, Bizcn, Blockchain Planet and other well-known companies. Our friend George Hong (from popular brokerage Guta.com), who is well-known on both sides of the Pacific, will be there and will fill us in on how this year's event unfolds.

In yet another option for European show goers next month the 4th edition of the NDDCamp will be held in Paris, France June 21. Show Co-Founder David Chelly told us, "Our event has a unique atmosphere. We don't ask for any fee to the participants and the speakers are not paid, nor they can promote their business during the conferences. So, in practice people that come mostly do it for the pleasure to share knowledge and spend a nice time with their peers. This year, we are of course going to discuss about GDPR, new gTLDs, the ICANN evolution, etc. but our main focus will be the French domain name market. It has evolved 

the last 2 or 3 years and there are new ways of monetization for domainers, which involve SEO consultants and web agencies."

If you need another good reason to go Chelly added, "We've chose June 21 as the date because it's one of the best days of the year in Paris thanks to the Music Fest (Fête de la Musique) that will be going on. All day and night long, thousands of musicians play their instruments and sing in the streets, bars, concert halls and other venues."

After a brief respite in July, the conference circuit heats back up in August with the 5th annual DomainX conference in India the first one out of the gate that month. They will run August 4-5, 2018 in New Delhi. We attended this event when it was held in Bangalore in 2015 and Co-Founders Manmeet Pal Singh and Gaurav Kohli and their team put on an excellent show that has continued to grow each year, helping boost the industry in one of the world's fastest growing domain markets. 

Back on this side of the pond, the 2nd annual NameSummit conference is coming up August 6-7 at the Westin Times Square Hotel in New York City. The digital branding conference had a successful debut in Manhattan last summer and promises to be even bigger this year. One major development is the addition of Pitchfest Global to this year's agenda - and event that provides coaching, advice and the chance to pitch your new business or marketing concept to a panel of influencers and business leaders.  It will be a great opportunity to learn how to bring a business to market, select and find the right 

domain for your project, increase customer engagement, and connect with your digital audience.

The focus moves south to sunny Florida in September for the 2nd annual MERGE! Conference at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista Hotel right next to Disney World in Orlando. MERGE! moves up a month with their September 15-18, 2018 dates after debuting last October. The unique event covers domains, of course, but also many other related fields including 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. 

Norm Farrar

While MERGE! 2018 is still nearly four months away Co-Founders Ray Neu and Jothan Frakes have already lined up some top notch speakers including eCommerce expert Norm Farrar (AKA The Amazon Growth Guy) who will be one of the keynoters. 

In addition to running his own profitable ventures including AMZ.Club and prReach.com (the world's first video press release company) Farrar focuses on guiding individual sellers, brands, and manufacturers to grow their private label businesses on Amazon, so they can expand internationally, build their business assets, and optimize their net worth. Norman has worked with many big brands including Mercedes, COKE, Microsoft, Hershey, 20th Century Fox, Molson's, and Cadbury.

MERGE! will also present talks from Michael Palage of Phaoros Global, a former ICANN board member and IETF Blockchain Steering Committee Member, Martin Kuechenthal, CEO and founder of Lemarit Brand Registrar and Mike Demopolous of BoldGrid, to name just a few.

The summer/fall show calendar ends (at least as far as we know at this point) with a brand new event - Domaining Americas - scheduled to debut in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 6-7, 2018. The conference is being organized by veteran domain investor Abner Duarte, who is based in Boston but is a native of Brazil. It is great to see a show like this on the horizon that will give investors and developers in South America a place to make personal contacts and learn more about the industry.

There will obviously be a lot going on in our business all over the world in the months immediately ahead (and these are just the major events that have been brought to our attention). This industry has changed dramatically over the years - some would say for the better and some would say for the worse (with those opinions largely dependent on what sector the people commenting operate in). In any case, all of this activity in a sure sign that there is still a lot of life left in this business. If you want to make most of it I can't think of a better to do that than attend one of these events, or any of the many local and regional ones, when they reach your neck of the woods. 

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GGRG's Latest Quarterly Analysis of Liquid Domain Sales Shows Continuing Strength of Short .COMs

Domain brokerage and consultancy GGRG.com has released their latest free quarterly report (.PDF file) breaking down aftermarket sales and development of "liquid domain names" in the 1st quarter of 2018. GGRG defines liquid domains as  being very short .com domains consisting of all letters (L) or all numbers (N), as well as 3-character (C) .coms that have a  combination of letters and numbers. GGRG terms these categories "liquid" domains because they are relatively easy to sell at prevailing market rates.

GGRG's latest report, produced by Founder Giuseppe Graziano in conjunction with Escrow.com, Intelium.com and ShortNames.com, showed continuing strength in the liquid domain category, including one record breaking performance. "2-letter .com domains registered a record $6 million in Escrow.com transactions, by far the best result since the publication of the report," the report began, adding "4-letter domains kept a consistent $4.8 million in turnover, followed by another strong quarter for the 3-letter .coms at $3.5 million. 3Ns and 4Ns also posted good quarters, respectively with $2.8 million and $1.3 million in Escrow.com sales."

The report also noted, "While Escrow.com did

GGRG Founder Giuseppe Graziano

not record any 2-number .com transactions, the other categories (5Ns, 2Cs and 3Cs) posted an aggregate of almost $1 million, respectively at $225,000, $143,000 and $562,000. The total amount of sales reported by ShortNames.com was $7.7 million, with 4,108 transactions."

GGRG reported that China is continuing to grow their market share of liquid domain names. For example, in the ever popular 3-letter .com segment Chinese owners now hold 32.69% of all domains in that category - well ahead of the U.S. at 24.11% (the report also breaks down geographic market share for all of the other liquid domain categories). You will  find much more data of interest in the latest analysis and if you sign up to receive the free quarterly updates at GGRG.com they will keep you abreast of how things continue to unfold in this category going forward.

(Posted May 22, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Mugshots.com Co-Owner Sahar Sarid Arrested on Extortion and Money Laundering Charges

Throughout the 2000s Sahar Sarid was a widely-known figure in the domain industry as an investor, developer, blogger and conference speaker. So well-known that we profiled him in a 2007 Cover Story. In this decade, amid rumors of questionable business practices, Sarid has rarely appeared in domain circles. However, he is now suddenly back in the news and not in a good way. 

West Palm Beach, Florida TV station WPTV is reporting that Sarid and his partners in the Mugshots.com website have been arrested on extortion, money laundering and identity theft charges filed by the California Attorney General's Office. WPTV reports Sarid was arrested at his South Florida home and booked into the Broward County Jail Wednesday (May 16). California officials plan to extradite him to that state for prosecution.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

Sahar Sarid at the 2007 Domain 
Roundtable conference in Seattle.

issued a press release announcing charges of "extortion, money laundering, and identity theft" had been filed against four defendants who are allegedly behind the exploitative website Mugshots.com. The release said, "The website mines data from police and sheriffs' department websites to collect individuals' names, booking photos and charges, then republishes the information online without the individuals' knowledge or consent. Once subjects request that their booking photos be removed, they are routed to a secondary website called Unpublisharrest.com and charged a "de-publishing" fee to have the content removed. Mugshots.com does not remove criminal record information until a subject pays the fee. This is the case even if the subject had charges dismissed or had been arrested due to mistaken identity or law enforcement error. Those subjects who cannot pay the fee may subsequently be denied housing, employment, or other opportunities because their booking photo is readily available on the internet."

Becerra said, "This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else's humiliation. Those who can't afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others. This is exploitation, plain and simple."

According to the press release, "The defendants named in the complaint are Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan. They are the alleged owners and operators of Mugshots.com. Over a three-year period, the defendants extracted more than $64,000 in removal fees from approximately 175 individuals with billing addresses in California. Nationally, the defendants took more than $2 million in removal fees from approximately 5,703 individuals for the same period."

It is impossible to escape the irony of seeing Sarid now in need of the "service" Mugshots.com was selling.

(Posted May 18, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Internet Commerce Association Names Zak Muscovitch Their New General Counsel After His Outstanding Performance in Interim Role  

Ever since  the only General Counsel they ever had, Phil Corwin, left the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) to accept a position at Verisign six months ago, the organization that protects domain owner rights has been searching for just the right person to fill the shoes Corwin had ably worn for ten years. Turns out they didn't have to look far

When Corwin left the ICA board convinced one of the industry's top attorneys, Zak Muscovitch, to fill in on an Interim basis and help with a search for Corwin's successor. Zak, who has was already a long-time ICA supporter, did the job so well the Board, after a unanimous vote, decided there was no need to look any further if Muscovitch would agree to drop the work "interim" from his title. He did and the ICA got their man.

A letter that went out to ICA members today noted that since Muscovitch agreed to fill in last fall, "the pace of the ICA's activities has accelerated, rapid progress has been made on UDRP advocacy, and Zak has quickly built productive relationships with many of the key players in the policy arena. If that was not enough, Zak also dove into the GDPR/Whois Accreditation process and took the lead role in drafting revisions that were adopted by the

ICA General Counsel Zak Muscovitch

Business Constituency and the Intellectual Property Constituency to give domain industry players the ability to maintain access to Whois data."

ICA Executive Director Kamila Sekiewicz added, "I have heard from many of you directly confirming that you prized Zak's work, communication style and the positive impact he’s had on the ICA. Your feedback helped to confirm to me and to the ICA’s Board that Zak is the right person for the job and that we'd like him to stay on as ICA's General Counsel. We are grateful that despite the disruption taking on the ICA General Counsel role has caused to his thriving legal practice, Zak has agreed to stay on as General Counsel."

When DomainInvesting.com's Eliot Silver (an ICA member) asked Muscovitch how he managed to handle his dual responsibilities so well Zak told him, "I have had to make room for more and ever increasing ICA work by turning down and referring some cases and files, and working much longer hours. It has been a challenge no doubt, and I am still finding the right balance between my law practice and the ICA work. But as they say, "If you want something done, ask a busy person!" In any event, it is an honor and a privilege to serve the ICA and its members. I am very happy that I have made this decision and am most grateful to the ICA Board and its members for entrusting me with this important work.”

(Posted May 8, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Minds + Machines Acquires ICM Registry in Cash + Stock Deal Valued at $41 Million

Mind + Machines (MMX) - a new gTLD registry operator that administers 28 TLDs has acquired  ICM Registry LLC - another new gTLD operator with four adult related TLDs in its portfolio - .xxx, .porn, .sex and .adult. MMX (who is listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market under the symbol MMX.L) paid $10 million in cash and $31 million in newly issued stock (subject to ICANN approval) according to UK-based business news website ProactiveInvestors.co.uk. At the same time, that site reported MMX had its first profitable year in 2017, turning a $3.8 million profit on $14.3 million in total revenue. 

The MMX acquisition continues the consolidation trend we've been seeing in the new gTLD space. A press release we received

from ICM about today's deal said ICM said had attracted offers from several other new gTLD registry operators before accepting the MMX proposal. 

ICM's outgoing CEO, Stuart Lawley said, “I strongly believe ICM’s shareholders, customers and employees will be well served by this acquisition; MMX has a very dynamic management team. We received 4 offers in total for the business, some all cash and others a mixture of cash and stock. After lengthy, detailed negotiations and due diligence with the interested parties, the arrangement with MMX was clearly the best fit.”

Lawley will become the largest shareholder in MMX with a holding just over 15% and as part of the transaction, the five remaining senior managers of ICM (who will stay on with MMX) will all have meaningful stock holdings in MMX. Lawley said he is leaving to pursue blockchain based Age Verification business opportunities with his new business AVSecure.com.

MMX CEO Toby Hall

MMX CEO Toby Hall told ProactiveInvestors.co.uk, ""We are delighted to have entered this agreement. We expect the acquisition to be earnings enhancing in the current year and believe it will deliver scale, strong recurring revenues and positive working capital to the company in 2018 and future years. Further, it will strengthen the quality of our revenues, both accelerating MMX's already fast-growing renewal base and improving the geographic make-up of our sales, given ICM's revenues are primarily derived from the US and Europe. We see this transaction as a major step forward in our ambition to introduce a progressive dividend policy over the next 18 months."

Hall added, "2017 has been about proving out the business model: firmly locking-in the operational gains of 2016 to ensure a profitable base, and developing a long-term growth strategy. It cements MMX's position as a

leading registry group in the new gTLD sector as we develop into a long-term annuity based business."

(Posted May 4, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Firestorm Over France.com: Outrage Spreading After Domain Taken From Its Rightful Owner 

By now many of you have heard the news that the extremely valuable France.com domain name that Jean-Noel Frydman has owned and operated a business on since 1994 had been removed from his Web.com account without notice and turned over to the French government. For years Frydman, who was born in France but lives in the U.S. and holds dual U.S.-French citizenship, operated a thriving business promoting French travel on the domain with France's blessing.  

That changed in 2015 when France decided they wanted the domain for themselves but apparently didn't want to pay anything for it, so they started a legal battle to try to get it from

Image from Bigstock

Frydman. This, even though there are multiple legal precedents (PuertoRico.com, Barcelona.com and MyrtleBeach.com to name just a few) establishing that anyone can own domain names that match countries, states, cities and other geographic locations - they are places, not trademarks

In September 2017 a French court ruled in favor of the French government (no surprise there) and armed with that order the government asked Web.com to transfer the name to them which, even though Frydman's business, Web.com and the operator of .com domains (Verisign) are all based in the United States, not France. Nothing happened until March 12, 2018 when Web.com is alleged to have taken France.com from Frydman's account, putting him out of business overnight, and transferred it to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As you would expect, Frydman has sued the French government in Virginia (where Verisign is located making it the proper venue for disputes over .com domains to be filed). This will be a very expensive fight for Frydman that, as anyone with experience in the legal system knows, will likely drag on for a very long time. Still many major owners of geographic domains are rallying around Frydman offering to help financially and by any other legal means necessary to right this wrong. The blatant unfairness of this situation has caught the attention of media outlets around the world - and not just in the domain and business worlds - the New York Times joined the chorus today.

As more people become aware of what happened, the blowback should continue to grow exponentially. I am not an attorney but I know many of the world's best in our field who have won cases 

Jean-Noel Frydman

like this involving geodomains. Based on the decisions I've seen in U.S. courts and UDRP filings, it is a case I would expect Frydman to win but anything can happen and it is apt to be a long, frustrating battle. It is a fight all domain registrants need to stay apprised of because of the serious ramifications for us all - if it can happen to Frydman it can happen to any of us.  

(Posted May 1, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

If you've been out of the loop lately, catch up in the Lowdown Archive!

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