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July 17, 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.

Ice.com Changes Hands for $3.5 Million in 2018's Biggest Publicly Reported Domain Sale to Date

Veteran domain brokers Brian Harbin from GritBrokerage.com and David Clements from Brannans.com have teamed up to close the biggest publicly reported domain sale thus far in 2018 - Ice.com at a cool $3.5 million. That is almost triple the amount paid for the previous YTD leader, Super.com, a name that sold for $1.2 million in March. 

Harbin represented the seller and Clements the buyer in a deal that was handled by Escrow.com and confirmed by Escrow.com General Manager Jackson Elsegood. While agreeing to allow the purchase

Image from Bigstock

price to be revealed the buyer, who reportedly has a plan in place to develop the domain, has chosen to remain anonymous for now.  

On Monday morning Harbin, Clements and Elsegood all agreed to participate in a private conference call to answer questions about the sale with the proviso that the information shared would be under embargo until 9am this morning.  

(Left to right) Brian Harbin (Grit Brokerage), David Clements (Brannans.com) and 
Jackson Elsegood (Escrow.com) were all involved in closing the $3.5 million sale of Ice.com.

Harbin told me he first met the buyer when that person bought a domain Harbin had listed for $2,500. After buying a few other domains through Harbin's Grit Brokerage in the same price range, this person wound up calling on Harbin to sell a domain for him but this one was a blockbuster - Ice.com. Harbin had done some previous deals with Clements and contacted him about this  exciting new listing. Clements happened to have an acquaintance he had met at a private event in his hometown, Atlanta, that he thought might have an interest in the domain. When Clements presented the opportunity to obtain the domain the buyer jumped on it, agreeing to the full $3.5 million asking price. Working with Escrow.com it then took them barely a week to complete the transaction which happened on July 6. 

Ice.com had previously been developed as an ecommerce platform to sell jewelry products but it became apparent to the owner that the name itself was worth more than the business. While the new owner has development plans of his own he is not ready to reveal what the domain will be used for. Whatever that may be, Clements believes the buyer now has the strongest possible foundation to build on. "For less than the cost of a single, 30-second Super Bowl ad we were able to acquire a powerful, single-word domain name with significant long-term value for our client. Major enterprises are recognizing the value and competitive advantages these premium domains deliver.”

With respect to the seller Harbin said,  “I’m enthusiastic that my client was able to fully monetize the digital asset they’d developed over 19 years – realizing significant gains over the previous sale price. I’m grateful and humbled to be part of a deal that was a win-win-win for everyone involved. And I’m honored to be a small part of the initiative to advance the domain industry by educating consumers on the value of digital assets.”

(Posted July 17, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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CentralNic Acquires KeyDrive - Essentially Doubling in Size Overnight

CentralNic, a UK-based public company that is already an important player in domain registry management and the operation of retail registrars, has just gotten considerably bigger. The company's board of directors announced today that they have agreed to a deal that will allow CentralNic to acquire the entire share capital of Luxembourg-based KeyDrive S.A. and its subsidiaries for an initial consideration of $35.8 million (a figure that includes combination of cash and CentralNic stock according to a report at ProactiveInvestors.co.uk) plus a

performance-based earn-out of up to $10.5 million. The acquisition represents a reverse takeover under the AIM rules for Companies and is conditional upon shareholder approval.

KeyDrive is a global technology business and leading domain registrar that manages nearly 6 million domain names on behalf of companies, resellers and individuals. They are the parent company of several registrars including Moniker.com and DomainDiscount24.com, as well as reseller portal RRP Proxy.

CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said, “The acquisition of KeyDrive is a milestone for the company. On completion, the enlarged group will have doubled in size and will have the technology platforms, expert staff, vision and drive to rival the industry’s traditional leaders.”

Alex Siffrin, the founder and CEO of KeyDrive will become Chief Operating Officer of the Company, and will also be a significant shareholder. Crawford said,  “I am personally excited to be welcoming Alex to CentralNic. His experience, shared values and standing within the industry will be a tremendous benefit to the group and a great addition to the management team”

(Posted July 16, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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NameSummit Postponed - 2018 NYC Show Scheduled for August Moves to New Dates in November 

The 2nd annual  edition of the NameSummit conference was scheduled to run August 6-7 at the Westin Times Square Hotel in New York City. However, organizers have now decided to move the 2018 event to November 5-6 at the same hotel in Manhattan

Jason Schaeffer, who co-founded NameSummit with Steven Kaziyev, filled me in on the change of plans. "On May 31st Steve and I hosted our first Real Estate Summit in New York that covered everything from short sale and mortgages to blockchain for Real Estate and online branding," Schaeffer began. "Much of that one day event covered branding on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to

domain names and personal branding for agents.  The coverage had a lot of crossover and connection to what our speakers are teaching at NameSummit. Given the feedback after the event, we decided that we were going to host another Real Estate Summit in the fall."

NameSummit Co-Founder Steven Kaziyev speaking in New York City May 31, 2018 at the Real Estate Summit he also co-founded. Video highlights from that event can be seen here.  

Schaffer continued, "As we were moving toward this year’s NameSummit, the resounding feedback from speakers and sponsors was that we should seriously consider doing a fall event rather than the August dates.  While we originally chose the August dates to avoid possible conflicts with other industry conferences, in the end doing an event in the summer proved to be a big challenge with everyone wanting to take time for vacation and generally slow down.   Given the obvious connections between Real Estate and Domain Names and the fact that much of our content for Real Estate Summit related to digital branding and monetizing digital assets, we started giving serious thought to combining the two shows in the fall.  We started discussions with the Westin a couple of months ago and finally this week obtained clearance to do the new event on November 5 & 6th."

"We are very excited for the Fall show as NYC gives us the opportunity to bring the best in Real Estate and Branding together so the energy should be great and the weather will be 

Jason Schaeffer
NameSummit Co-Founder

nice.  The Westin is accommodating us too with a room rate that is only $10 higher per night than our Summer rate which is pretty good for the high season in Manhattan."

 

A scene from the first Real Estate Summit in New York City May 31, 2018. This event will be incorporated unto NameSummit when NameSummit returns November 5-6, 2018.

Schaeffer also noted, "Tickets will be priced the same as before with a $299 to $699 range and we will be providing light breakfast and lunch both days along with a party on Monday night.   We’ve already spoken with some Registries and they are excited about the opportunity to connect with the real estate industry to expand the discussion on domains and new gTLDs. In the end, the combined events provide an even greater opportunity for the domain industry to educate and connect with those that are going to buy and use domain names. Our focus remains on helping increase domain name usage and helping people grow their online presence, promote their brands and properties in this changing landscape."

Schaeffer said the fall event will be covering, among other things: 

Influencer Branding

Social Media Branding

Geo-Domains and Geo Targeting

SEO and Digital Media Best Practices

How Blockchain is Expanding 
Opportunities for Real Estate Investing

New gTLDs and Domain Opportunities

Short Sales and Mortgages

Personal Branding and Coaching

Domain Brokerage and Investing Opportunities

Digital Marketing for Agents and Investors

"With the combination of Real Estate Summit and NameSummit, we can help focus the conversation and bring the real property and online property worlds together. We are looking forward to hosting our domain industry friends in New York City this fall," Schaeffer concluded.

We attended the first edition of the NameSummit conference last year in New York City. Photos and highlights from our coverage can be seen here

(Posted July 16, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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Buckley Media Group Closes $1 Million+ Deal for Sleeping.com and Snoring.com 

Buckley Media Group (BMG) has just closed a $1,004,450 sale of two closely related domain names -  Sleeping.com and Snoring.com - to US Expediters, the company that operates CPAP.com. At $502,225 each, BMG will have two new entries in the top ten of our YTD Top 100 Domain Sales Chart when the weekly update to that elite list is posted Wednesday evening. Buckley Media Group already occupies a top ten spot with their $335,000 sale of Inspection.com in February.

BMG Founder & CEO Kate Buckley noted, "Sleeping.com and Snoring.com were registered by my client, a private entity, in 1999. He decided he was ready to liquidate them to an end-user and retained my services to do so. While multiple companies across several industries (from mattresses to healthcare) expressed interest at a very high level, US Expediters ultimately won the domains in a highly competitive bidding environment. They operate CPAP.com so they clearly understand and expertly leverage premium domains, and were ready to substantially invest in these

Kate Buckley
Buckley Media Group

domain assets. I look forward to seeing the exponential impact that Sleeping.com and Snoring.com will have on their business.” 

US Expediters Founder and CEO, Johnny Goodman, stated:  “Cpap-pro.net was the first domain our company used to sell CPAP equipment. When we purchased CPAP.com, it made an immediate financial and brand impact for us. From then on, we understood the power of premium domains. We were able to purchase CPAP.com because we took the time and effort to email the seller in German when no one else did. That was a great deal for us."

Goodman added, “People search for the keyword “sleeping” roughly 12 times as often as they search for CPAP. We've often wished we could list sleep-related products on CPAP.com, but it hasn't always made sense or been on brand. We like the idea of a website that is your one stop shop for anything and everything relating to sleep. It folds nicely into our mission and the impact we want to have on the world."

Ms. Buckley said, “The bottom line to me is that Johnny understands the power of premium .COMs and how to strategically leverage them. He was the ideal acquirer for these powerhouse domains. Premium domains aren’t only lead generators but they are also brand enhancers and appreciating assets. All three lead to higher company valuations. As a business owner, finding these qualities in the same asset is incredibly rare. Johnny got this in spades."  

“I worked with both buyer and seller to negotiate terms and facilitate a smooth and elegant transaction which closed in record time—seven figures in 4 hours and 31 minutes via 

Escrow.com. A special thank you to Manuel and Jackson from Escrow.com who put in the extra time and personally called me to congratulate me on a 7-figure deal setting a 

new record for time closed. All parties were a pleasure to do business with, and I look forward to US Expediters putting these authoritative ultra-premium .COMs to their highest and best use,” Ms. Buckley concluded. 

(Posted July 16, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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Payoneer Decides to Shut Down the Domain Escrow Service They Launched Two Years Ago

For the past two years  global payments service provider Payoneer has been trying to expand its brand by becoming a major player in the domain escrow business. Despite earning positive reviews from customers who used their services, the company apparently didn't reach the financial goals they were aiming for.

Last night I received an email from Payoneer announcing they were shutting down their domain escrow service. It was signed simply Matt Watts (with no title to indicate what his role at the company is). However, a quick check at LinkedIn showed Matt listed as Payoneer's Head of Enterprise Strategy & Business Development, starting this year. Prior to 2018 he was Head of Business Development, B2B Services. 

Two other Payoneer executives, Scott Reynolds and Brandon Abbey, were the company representatives most people in the domain world were familiar with. Just this past January they did a joint presentation about Payoneer services at NamesCon in Las Vegas. After getting the shutdown news from Watts I learned that Reynolds (who had been General Manager, B2B Services) had left Payoneer in March to start his own blockchain-related company, TangoTrade. I haven't yet had a chance to connect with Brandon (who served as the highly regarded President of Escrow.com before joining Payoneer where he has been the Director of Strategic Accounts) to see what is next for him (either in a different role at Payoneer or a new one that would hopefully keep him in our industry where he has been a leader since 2004).

In January 2018 Director of Strategic Accounts Brandon Abbey (left) and the company's GM for B2B Services, Scott Reynolds, detailing Payoneer's domain escrow services in a presentation at NamesCon in Las Vegas. 

Here is the full text of Matt Watts's email announcing Payoneer's exit from the domain escrow space:

"It’s with sincere apologies that I’m sharing news that Payoneer is discontinuing our escrow business. While we have been excited and honored to service prospects and partners like yourself, after careful review of our product portfolio have decided to commit our focus to other areas of the Payoneer business. 

If we can be of help to successfully transition our relationship to other Payoneer products that might support your business, please let us know. We offer a variety of money transfer services such as mass payouts, virtual bank accounts, invoicing with credit card and bank transfer payments, and other products, and would be happy to support exploration of our services.  

We know the transition for some may not be easy, but we are here to lend guidance and flexibility where possible. Thank you for your business to this point and understanding of our situation. We’ve appreciated all you’ve done in partnership with Payoneer."

(Posted July 11, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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Did the Crypto.com Buyer Pay $12 Million? - Best WIPO Panelist Identified - .LLC Enters Landrush

On Friday  I passed along the news that Crypto.com had been sold to Monaco for an undisclosed price (but one almost universally believed to have been multiple millions of dollars). While Monaco and seller Matt Blaze have both been mum on that point, Elliot Silver at DomainInvesting.com came across a post by Cheddar.com reporter Tanaya Macheel this morning that stated the news organization had learned from an anonymous source close to the transaction that the price was $12 million. There has not yet been any public confirmation of that number from anyone involved in the sale though.

Image from Bigstock

With respect to speculation that Blaze may have gotten both cash and equity in the deal, Blaze posted on his blog over the weekend that he did not get any financial stake in Monaco as part of the deal.   

Howard Neu
NeusNews.com

In other news, domain owners who have had to defend their ownership rights in UDRP disputes have long felt the deck was stacked against them - especially in cases involving a single panelist who may have a long record of siding with complainants. in an attempt to even the playing field, many respondents pay more to get a three-person panel. On his blog at NeusNews.com, veteran domain attorney Howard Neu has been issuing semi-annual reports identifying which WIPO panelists in 3-panelist cases most often sided with the Respondent by finding there was an attempt at Reverse Domain Name Hijacking or abuse of process by the Complainant. 

Howard just released his latest report today, one that found John Swinson was the best panelist for respondents in the first half of 2018. Check out the full report for the details as well as other names of panelists who most often gave domain owners a fair shake.

Elsewhere, the new .LLC gTLD opened its landrush today with General Availability set to begin July 23, 2018. The roll out is being handled by one of the biggest domain registry operators, Afilias. A company press release noted, "With the introduction of .LLC, Limited Liability Companies will now be able to establish Internet identities which are more closely aligned with their existing identities and branding, rather than modifying their name or brand to adapt to limited choices in more crowded TLDs. .LLC registration is open to anyone; no need to wait till the paperwork is filed.  Future LLC owners can use their new domains to attract investors, develop new websites to win support or announce planned businesses and begin marketing efforts to win business and support their missions as they apply to become an LLC."

(Posted July 9, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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Never Say Never! Crypto.com Owner Decides to Sell After All - Multi-Million $ Domain Goes to Monaco

Never say never! Less than 3 months ago we told you about how Crypto.com owner Matt Blaze had gotten so tired of getting unsolicited offers for his extraordinarily valuable domain he declared the name was not for sale at any price and people should just stop trying to change his mind. Blaze, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, had also made it clear that he was especially not interested in seeing anyone use the name for cryptocurrency purposes, having once stated, "many cryptocurrencies are scams, and I strongly advise against their use as investment vehicles."

What a difference 90 days - and a presumably gargantuan payday - can make. TechCrunch reported today that Monaco, a company that plans to issue a crypto Visa Card, had acquired Crypto.com from Blaze for an undisclosed price. With the purchase of Crypto.com Monaco is also rebranding itself as

Former Crypto.com Owner Matt Blaze
(Photo from Twitter)

MCO to match the name of the cryptocurrency it issues. News of the transaction triggered rampant speculation as to what the selling price was with the most common guess appearing to fall in the $5-$10 million range. Others, pointing to Blaze's reluctance to sell, think it took more than that to get the deal done.

Image from Bigstock

Blaze has not commented on the transaction and Monaco CEO Kris Marszalek would only tell TechCrunch "If it was only about money he’d have sold it a long time ago," suggesting Blaze decided that Monaco was the right home for the name he has owned since registering it in 1993. Some believe that statement may also indicate that Blaze had gotten some equity as well as cash in the deal. 

Whatever the financial arrangements were it appears Monaco can easily afford the acquisition.  TechCrunch reported, "Monaco’s ICO finished in June 2017 with the company  

raising what was then worth $25 million in crypto. Fast forward to today and Marszalek said the firm has close to $200 million on its balance sheet thanks to a surge in the valuation of cryptocurrencies."

(Posted July 6, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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Photos & Highlights from the 2018 NamesCon China Conference in Shanghai

The  2018 NamesCon China conference was held in Shanghai in conjunction with its sister Cloudfest China conference June 27-29 at the Yuluxe Sheshan (a Tribute Portfolio Hotel). The event began with Digicert's Welcome Party Wednesday evening and was followed by two full days of business Thursday and Friday. Our friend, veteran international domain broker

George Hong was on hand for the show that his company, Guta.com, helped sponsor and George was kind enough to send us some photos and highlights from the event so we could share them with you.

Above & in the 3 photos below: Scenes from the 2018 Coudfest/NamesCon China 
Welcome Party
hosted by Digicert Wednesday evening, June 27 in Shanghai.

Above: The next two days, Thursday and Friday, June 28 & 29, gave attendees a chance to benefit from a wide variety of presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities

At left: Peng Wang from Ali Cloud Domain got things started Thursday morning with a report on domain name industry development

Below: In another popular session Thursday Jian Zhang from Baidu Cloud presented an Exploration of ABC (AI, BigData and Cloud Computing in the Digital Era at Baidu.

Above: The wide ranging panel discussions at NamesCon China 2018 included this one moderated by Jun Yang of West.cn (at far left) that covered the current state of New gTLDs. China has become the best market for some of the new extensions that have been licensed to operate there.

Below: The final panel discussion Thursday focused on how to make Successful Domain Transactions. It featured (left to right): Host Yue Feng from Newg.tv, George Hong (Guta.com), Peibi Wang, Giuseppe Graziano (GGRG.com), Xiaochun Deng (YuMing.com) and Jim Wang (Goddady). 

During this one-hour discussion the panelists covered end user domain sales, the type of names end users are buying, the potential impact of New GLTDs on the domain industry if ICANN opens another round of new GLTD applications, the difference in how mainstream domaining is viewed by participants in China and the West and the future value and sales cycle of domain names.

There were many more business sessions throughout the day as well as a global online domain auction on Friday. 

At right & below: In between seminars and during afternoon tea breaks, attendees visited the Exhibition Hall to get information from service providers like domain  brokerage Guta.com (at right) or enjoy some game and entertainment provided by companies like the .CLUB registry.

Above: The purple men from .XYZ were also a big draw in the Exhibition Hall where they took on TrustAsia in some Superhero cosplay.

At left: After a busy day of conference activities, attendees re-fueled Thursday evening at a VIP Dinner Party hosted by Cloudfest China and NamesCon China.

June wound up being a busy month for NamesCon as the China show came less than three weeks after their first NamesCon Europe conference in Valencia, Spain. Events like these have made it possible for domain 

industry participants to build business relationships and personal friendships around the globe. That is something that I've always believed makes this one of the best of all worlds for Internet entrepreneurs.

(Posted July 3, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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Update on How Gary Millin's World Accelerator Continues to Develop Some of the Web's Best .Com Domain Names

It was interesting to see a familiar name pop in a Forbes.com article yesterday (June 28, 2018) by Serenity Gibbons titled Your Business's Domain Matters: How To Make The Right Choice. The story featured an interview with Gary Millin, the CEO and Founder of World Accelerator, a company that owns and develops some of the best .com domains on the Internet. They do that in a unique way - rather than selling names they invest capital and mentorship in creative and industrious entrepreneurs who become partners in turning great category defining domains into thriving businesses.  

If you have been in this industry any length of time you know people can take "liberties" with the definition "great" when it comes to domain names but I've never seen anyone argue the point with domains in the WA portfolio or those serving as the foundation for fully developed businesses operated by companies WA partnered with. Doctor.com, Lawyer.com, Revenue.com, Mail.com, USA.com, London.com, Paris.com and India.com are just a few examples. 

If you haven't seen the list before you are no doubt floored that any one entity accumulated so many great domains, just as I was back in 

Gary Millin
CEO/Founder, World Accelerator

2012 when I wrote an article about Gary Millin and World Accelerator's business model (that was followed by an update on their operations the next year). Since several years have passed since then it was a pleasure to read Gary's latest comments in Forbes and to get back in touch with him myself today.

Millin has now spent well over a decade bringing together talented teams, big vision and top branded domains. Gary gave me updates on some of the many projects he started and continues to be involved with:

Mail.com: Gary Millin founded Mail.com with Gerry Gorman and took Mail.com public on the NASDAQ in 1999.  Mail.com now offers free personalized web based email at great domain names to over 20 million users globally.  

Doctor.com: Millin is Chairman of Doctor.com,  co-founded the company in 2012 and launched it  in 2013. Doctor.com is a market leader helping thousands of practices of all sizes and hospitals build their digital presence and improve patient experience with services like the first universal online scheduling platform.

Graphic from WorldAccelerator.com

Lawyer.com: Finding a lawyer can be stressful so Lawyer.com was built to offer users an advanced proprietary lawyer matching service that makes it easy to quickly and efficiently find and hire a qualified local lawyer. The Lawyer.com team, led by CEO Gerry Gorman, continues to work with World Accelerator and has recently expanded its offering with high value business services for lawyers.  

Scientist.com: Scientist.com started working with World Accelerator and Gary Millin in 2016 when they rebranded from Assay Depot to Scientist.com.  Now they run a dynamic

marketplace to more efficiently connect companies with the right Scientist for a project, something that was formerly a cumbersome task. 

India.com:  India.com was formerly part of World Accelerator and now is one of the largest news and portal hubs for India, covering categories including entertainment, news and sports with a global reach that was accelerated by getting the ultimate geodomain for that booming nation.

In the Forbes article Millin details why a great domain and the right partners makes success stories like these much more likely to happen. While we often talk about how much things have changed in the domain world, that is something that is a constant you can still count on.

(Posted June 29, 2018) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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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 Society. 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

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

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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.

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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:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2018/dailyposts/20180508.htm

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:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2018/dailyposts/20180504.htm

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:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2018/dailyposts/20180501.htm


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