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November 13, 2017

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The Lowdown
October 2017 Archive
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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

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

Registrar Consolidation Continues as DirectNic Announces Acquisition of Fabulous.com 

There is strength in numbers, especially in the domain registration business where tight profit margins and stiff competition require companies to strive for the highest possible number of domains under management. That has brought continual consolidation in the space with the latest marriage bringing together two registrars that has been long-time favorites among domain investors - DirectNic and Fabulous.com. Today DirectNic reported signing a definitive agreement to acquire Fabulous.com from Australia's Dark Blue Sea 

Pty in a transaction that is expected to close by this evening. DirectNic will continue to operate the two well-known brands under their current names.

Above: Rob Alfonso

Below: Mike Robertson

DirectNic Chief Operations Officer Rob Alfonso said, “For years, Fabulous and Directnic have been two leading domain registrars each with their own market focus, one serving businesses and the other serving domain investors. This acquisition provides a very complementary fit for each business. The acquisition keeps Fabulous customers well valued, well served and creates tremendous opportunities for each business through efficiency and scale.”

One of the most interesting aspects of this deal is that it re-unites DirectNic's current Director of Business Development, Mike Robertson, with the company he started his domain industry career with. Robertson said, "I look forward to being part of the Fabulous.com team again. I dedicated close to 9 years growing the Fabulous brand, a brand I still love and am excited to develop further. We have some great things planned for the future. Most of all we are committed to providing our clients with the best service and tools, to ensure the success of their domain name business.” Robertson, a native Australian, has been based at DirectNic's Tampa, Florida office and will continue to work from there. 

While DirectNic is most widely known for their consumer registrar operation they provide other Internet services as well, including AdsSquared (a provider of domain parking and monetization services) and Dotology (an ICANN accredited registrar that provides reasonably priced personalized service for small businesses and other organizations).  More information on all of the company's offerings can be found on its corporate website at DNC.io.

(Posted October 31, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

DomainSherpa Lives Again! MediaOptions to Resume Production After Buying Site from Michael Cyger 

We haven't seen the last new content at DomainSherpa.com after all! Less than two months ago site Founder Michael Cyger announced he was retiring the popular video-centric  industry resource after six years and 404 video productions. Those were to remain available online but nothing new would be added to the library as Michael moved on to other business interests. That was before Andrew Rosener's well-known domain name brokerage, MediaOptions, stepped in and acquired all assets and intellectual property of the pioneering educational domain media platform from Cyger and his company, WebX.0 Media, in a deal revealed today.

Rosener, who was frequently featured on DomainSherpa, said “The acquisition of DomainSherpa was a natural fit for us. As a frequent contributor on DomainSherpa, I was sad to see it cease operations with Michael Cyger’s retirement from domain publishing. Not only was the platform a lifeline for newcomers and industry stalwarts alike, but it's been a lot of fun too! I learned something new on every show. I’ve heard from many other members of the domain community and there is a real call for the continuity of this industry asset."

Andrew Rosener
(MediaOptions.com Founder)
New Owner of DomainSherpa.com

"DomainSherpa filled a void," Rosener noted. "It added a layer of depth to the domain community, a new approach that hadn’t previously been taken in our industry. In fact, some might say that DomainSherpa helped bridge the gap between the industry and outsiders, be that end users or newcomers, looking to understand and participate in the domain name aftermarket or just better understand the value of a premium domain name for their own business. It brought people together toward a common goal: to improve each of our own businesses and help the industry work toward best practices, which in turn elevates all of us.”

Rosener continued, “In the coming months we plan to kick DomainSherpa back into gear and begin publishing again. Right now our target is to publish our first show in January 2018. Our plan at this stage is to bring back the popular DomainSherpa Review segment first, which is published twice a month. In time we will be adding several new and exciting shows to DomainSherpa, increasing the breadth of content with a focus on actionable information and analysis. We hope to leverage our relationships from within the domain industry and beyond to bring the top experts from domain names and digital media to share insights on best practices and their own successes and failures."

Michael Cyger
DomainSherpa.com Founder

"Michael Cyger did an incredible job and we have big shoes to fill," Rosener acknowledged. "We hope to maintain as many of the current partnerships associated with DomainSherpa as possible and build new relationships with other industry partners. We welcome anyone interested in being associated with the DomainSherpa platform to contact us over the coming weeks as we work toward our re-launch.”

MediaOptions believes the acquisition of DomainSherpa will provide a valuable platform with which to connect not only to the domain community, but also the end user. Educating marketing executives and C-suite executives on the importance and value of domain names is a critical step in the advancement of the domain industry. It is also a way to help guide the conversation as the industry grows and changes with the rapid technology advancements taking place today, like new gTLDs and Blockchain technologies.

Michael Cyger said, "Andrew Rosener was consistently cited by our audience as a favorite interviewee and guest on DomainSherpa because of his expertise, drive and innovation, so I was thrilled that he and the MediaOptions team would take over the tradition of education and continue to grow the industry. With their connections to investors, entrepreneurs and business owners, I have no doubt that the MediaOptions team will continue and build upon DomainSherpa’s tradition of excellence, and I'm excited to see the new shows they produce."

Cyger, who founded and publishes iSixSigma.com, the leading publication for quality and operational excellence in business, was an industry outsider when he introduced DomainSherpa in 2011. The audience was invited to follow him on his journey from “newbie” to “expert,” to learn best practices of every aspect of domain names from industry leaders and experts. During Cyger’s five years of publishing DomainSherpa, he and the platform won multiple industry awards including the coveted TRAFFIC Conference’s Domain Hall of Fame and Best Domain Blog. DNAcademy.com, an online accelerated learning course for domain name investors and an offshoot of DomainSherpa, will remain with Cyger and Web X.0 Media.

MediaOptions (who just launched a revamped website) is a leading domain name broker, specializing in high value domain sales and acquisitions. Since its inception in 2008, MediaOptions has been highly focused on the end user, both in their approach to high value domain sales as well as mission critical and sensitive domain acquisitions.

MediaOptions is responsible for and has participated in the sale of some of the world’s largest and most important domain sales, including the recent acquisition of X.com by Elon Musk. Headquartered in Panama City, Panama, MediaOptions has received multiple industry awards including Domain Broker of the Year, Escrow.com’s Master of Domains and Domain Hall of Fame.

(Posted October 30, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Escrow.com Promises No Chargebacks Ever for Users of New API Announced Today

In another shot across PayPal's bow,  
Escrow.com today announced that the Escrow.com Platform API is now available in public beta. The company said, "This means that there are no chargebacks, ever." With the release of the API websites, marketplaces, classifieds sites, shopping carts, and mobile apps can incorporate the transaction security Escrow.com provides directly into their offerings. That allows buyers to inspect goods or services before accepting them, protecting the buyer and, at the same time, protects sellers from the chargeback risk that makes many leery of using PayPal.

The Escrow.com announcement added, "With no minimum fee and priced as low as 0.89%, the Escrow.com Platform API is cheaper than credit cards and many other online payment methods. Built by developers, for developers, any business can integrate the safety and security of escrow payments to their platform as simple as common payment methods such as Stripe or Paypal."

Escrow.com CEO Matt Barrie noted,  

Escrow.com CEO Matt Barrie

"Escrow.comhas spent the last 18 years as the world’s #1 safe and secure option for people looking to buy or sell anything online. Now that same power is available in an easy to use API that can be simply integrated into any business, app or service. We’re excited to see what you come up with!” 

For more information about the Escrow.com Platform API including reference documentation, visit https://www.escrow.com/api

(Posted October 25, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Sharjil Saleem Closes Multi-Million Dollar Deal for ETH.com in One of Year's Three Biggest Sales

Fall is here but big domain sales appear to be on the rise. Just two weeks after we reported Larry Fischer's $1.2 million sale of MyWorld.com, we've learned that another leading broker, Sharjil Saleem, has closed a blockbuster $2 million sale of ETH.com with Payoneer handling the escrow arrangements. That deal gives Sharjil three of the 12 biggest sales reported so far this year (the ETH.com sale will be added to our YTD Top 100 Chart when our next weekly sales column comes out Wednesday evening). 

Only the $2.89 million sale of Fly.com in May was bigger. ETH.com matched the $2 million paid for the third member of the chart topping trio - Freedom.com - also in May. Sharjil previously worked with RightOfTheDot.com to complete a $660,000 sale of SW.com that we reported in May and also brokered the $406,000 sale of Asset.com in March.

Sharjil Saleem

Both the buyer and seller wish to remain private in the ETH.com sale and, as of this writing, the domain is not resolving. However, given the rapidly growing popularity of Ethereum cryptocurrency, I don't think anyone would be surprised if the domain ends up being used for an Ethererum related site as ETH is the abbreviation for the new cryptocurrency known as "ether".

(Posted October 23, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted October 19, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Photos & Highlights from Day 3 Monday at the Merge! Conference in Orlando

The debut edition of the Merge! Conference continued Monday (October 16) at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Florida (you will find Saturday's opening day highlights here and highlights from day 2 Sunday here). 

The new conference launched by NamesCon Co-Founder Jothan Frakes and Ray Dillman Neu, Co-Founder of THE Domain Conference, combines leaders from the domain world with those from related fields including Digital Branding, Website Development, End User Experience, New Business Startups, IP Technology, SEO Design, Security, Hosting, Blockchain, CryptoCurrency and more.

Above: Monday began with an enthralling keynote Fireside Chat in which Jothan Frakes interviewed world renowned TV, radio and Internet producer/entrepreneur David Sams (left), whose resume includes helping launch the original Oprah Winfrey Show. We covered David's career in depth in a September 2011 Cover Story). In a related note, this afternoon (Tuesday, Oct. 17) the Domain Name Association named Jothan as their Interim Executive Director. Our congratulations to him on that appointment.

Below: A round of multiple business sessions followed at 10am Monday including this Domain Market 101 presentation from NameJet executives (left to right) Scott Pruitt, Greg Davis and Jonathan Tenenbaum.

Above: Another 10am session was The CMS Showdown, a part of the CMS Summit (one of several conferences held simultaneously under the Merge! umbrella). That session was led by Jason Nickerson (standing at the podium). Other sessions held at that hour covered The Contractual Nature of the Domain Name System and New TLDs: Purported and Specific Examples

Below: The next round of sessions that started at 11am included Digital Branding Strategies That Work featuring BrandIT Chief Strategy Officer Jochen Kieler (left) with Bill Sweetman (NameNinja) moderating. In nearby meeting rooms other attendees could sit in on WordPress with Kat Christofer or the first of two of the day's two sessions about Domain Name Disputes.

Above: The Merge! schedule includes a daily two-hour lunch break giving attendees ample time to get something to eat and still have time to visit exhibits and do some informal networking. At most major domain conferences .CLUB has a big presence in the Exhibit Hall and Merge! has been no exception. Above (left to right) are .CLUB Co-Founder and CEO Colin Campbell, CMO Jeffrey Sass and three visitors to their booth - Christa Taylor (dotTBA Inc.), Jay Westerdal (.Feedback) and Joe Alagna (Afilias).

Below: Brother and sister domain investing team Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz (ExcellentDomains.ca) and Marty Kaulins at the BoldGrid booth.

Above: Sponsors - the people who make all conferences possible - could also be found at tables lining the hallway outside the Merge! meeting rooms. Escrow service provider Payoneer.com could be found there. Here industry veteran Brian Gilbert (NameTime.com) visits with Payoneer Director of Strategic Accounts Brandon Abbey (right). Gilbert recently incorporated Payoneer's secure payment platform into his company's offerings.

Below: After the lunch break business sessions resumed at 2pm including this one on Appraisal and Valuation of Intangible Assets (Domains, IP, Brands). The expert panelists included (left to right) Tessa Holcomb (BrandIT), Ryan Colby (Token Fest LLC), Dmitriy Chemlin and Larry Fischer (GetYoutDomain.com).

Above: Also at 2pm, attorneys Paul McGrady (Partner, Winston & Strawn LLP) and Mike Rodenbaugh (Rodenbaugh Law) held their second session of the day on Domain Disputes. Paul is seated directly below the Merge! video screen and Mike is in the next seat to the right. These sessions were part of the McGrady Domain Academy track at Merge!. Additional 2pm business sessions included Global Diversity and Inclusion and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Joomla!

Below: I was in an annual meeting for Internet Commerce Association members at 3pm so only had a chance to slip out for a few minutes to catch one session during that hour - one that was led by fellow ICA member George Hong (Guta.com) who provided advice on Engaging With the Chinese Buyer and Market. Other 3pm sessions covered Social Media, Conversion Rate Optimization 101 and BYOD (Bring Your Own Domain) - with the latter session devoted to domain development tools.

Above: A highlight of the Monday afternoon agenda was .CLUB CO-Founder and CEO Colin Campbell's 4pm keynote speech. Colin is a serial entrepreneur who has had some phenomenal successes as well as a painful flameout. He candidly discusses both in a way that every entrepreneur can learn a lot from and be encouraged by (in fact he is writing a book about it). Colin has a fascinating life story that you can ready in our September 2016 Cover Story).

Below: The day's final round of business sessions started at 5pm and included Homepage Thowdown in which Justin Davis (standing, from Madera Labs) offered valuable critiques of attendee's websites.

Above: Also at 5, Crypto innovation: Meet Embermine was held in the main hall. Embermine Co-Founder and CEO James Drake (at far left) and his team (all standing) talked about Blockchain and how to engage in the vast opportunities there. Meanwhile, in other meeting rooms topics included Keeping Your Startup in Tune, Every Project is a Story and UX Innovation: Frogan's Addresses with Philippe Collin.

Below: When the business day was done attendees headed out for dinner. Diana Jackson and Barbara Neu (right), along with their husbands, tried out the High Velocity Sports Bar located within the conference hotel - the Orlando World Center Marriott - and were met with an astonishingly large platter of nachos (along with plates of sliders and giant pretzels). We dubbed Monday National Blow Your Diet Day to commemorate the occasion!

Above: After dinner many Merge! attendees got back together in the show's spacious Hospitality Suite at the Marriott. Eddie Sixto, standing at front center, greets Gregg McNair and Nat Cohen (who are better seen in the shot below).

Above: These guests in the Merge! hospitality suite came from around the world. Left to right are Marco Rinaudo, Craig Pratka, Reidar Rytter-Fjoeren, Victor Pitts and Alexander Schubert.

Below: I always enjoying seeing my long time friend Rob Grant (left) who holds one of the world's best portfolios of .com real estate domains. Rob also has a great life story that we told in our April 2008 Cover Story).

Above: Seeing these gentlemen is always a pleasure as well. Left to right are attorney Stevan Lieberman, Sedo CEO Tobias Flaitz, Hotels.club Founder George Verdugo and BrandIT Chief Strategy Officer Jochen Kieler

As I write this we are midway through Tuesday's day 4 at Merge! The conference concludes with a half day tomorrow (Wednesday, October 18). We will be making the short trip back home to Tampa right after the show closes so I will put the Tuesday and Wednesday photos and highlights together in a final column when I get back and post those for you on Thursday (October 19).

(Posted October 17, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Photos & Highlights from Day 2 Sunday at the Inaugural Merge! Conference in Orlando

The inaugural edition of the Merge! conference continued Sunday (October 15, 2017) at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Florida with a full slate of business sessions and social activities that stretched from 10 am until well past midnight. 

In addition to covering domain names, the unique event also brings together experts (and those wanting to learn from them) from many related fields included Digital Branding, Website Development, End User Experience, New Business Startups, IP Technology, SEO Design, Security, Hosting, Blockchain, CryptoCurrency and more.

Above & below: The Sunday sessions began with a keynote presentation from Founder & CEO Jen Wolfe of Dot Brand 360. Jen is an entrepreneur, author, digital leader, branding expert and global IP strategist who has written a series of highly acclaimed books including Digital in the Boardroom, Brand Rewired and Domain Names Rewired.

Above & below: Larry Fischer (standing, from GetYourDomain.com) revived his popular conference game show -  Domain or Not a Domain? at Merge! Sunday. The contestants were (seated left to right) Ron Jackson (DNJournal.com), Dave Evanson (Sedo), Donny Simonton (Voodoo.com) and George Verdugo (Hotels.club). Larry would toss out a series of "domain names" and the competitors had to decide if the names had actually been registered or not. The person who guessed right most often won. I honestly thought I would get smoked by these guys as they are among the smartest in the business but I somehow scored an upset win. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile!

Above: The morning business sessions continued at 11am when Ken Hansen (BlockchainRoadShow.com) drew a big crowd to his session detailing the basics of the red hot new technology in Blockchain 101

Below: At the same time website developers were given a golden opportunity to learn the ins and out of WordPress from one of the leading experts in the field - Brett Napoli of AmbitionInsight.com (at top left).

Above: In another meeting room the value, benefits and market values for ccTLDs were discussed in a session that featured (left to right) moderator Joe Alagna (Afilias), Jochen Kieler (BrandIT.com), Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz (ExcellentDomains.ca) and Alfredo Pinochet (DotLatin). In other 11am sessions, Paul McGrady covered The Legal Nature and Uses of Domain Names and Djamil Legato spoke on Gantry 5 - a cross-platform theme framework for all skill levels.

Below: A two-hour lunch break followed the morning sessions and gave attendees time to visit the booths in the Exhibit Hall. One of the most popular ones was set up by Domain Token, again demonstrating the increasing popularity of crypto currencies.

Above: Right after the lunch break, in one of the day's highlights, ICANN Board Member Chris Disspain (who flew in from Australia) was featured in a wide ranging Fireside Chat with moderator Braden Pollock. For 16 years (2000-2016) Chris was the CEO of the .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA), the independent governing body/manager of the Australian Internet domain name space. Sergei Gritsenko followed Mr. Disspain to the stage to give a brief introduction to apartment rental powerhouse Rentberry.

Below: The next round of business sessions started at 3pm including on Ownership Protection and Domain Name Security that featured Theo Develegas (at left, from Acro.net) and Bill Sweetman (Name Ninja). In adjacent rooms others topics being tackled included Organic SEO and Grav CMS.

Above: Also at 3pm, Ken Hansen (at right) returned to the stage to moderate a session called Business With Blockchain: Meet Innovators that featured crypto currency experts Bennett Collen, CEO at Cognate (left) and James Drake (CEO & Co-Founder of Embermine).

Below: At 4pm, insight into promoting your brand on Facebook was provided by Mary Davies (Beanstalk) and David Szetela (FMB Media).

The Registry Premium Domains business got its turn in the spotlight in another 4pm session that featured five experts panelists. On the right side of the dais (above) Moderator Braden Pollock (standing) listens to information provided by Victor Pitts (MMX.co) and Kathy Nielsen (Neustar). On the left side of the stage (below), left to right, Jay Westerdal (CEO, Feedback), Joe Alagna (Director of Business Development at Afilias) and Christa Taylor (CEO at DotTBA Inc.) weighed in as well. 

Above: In yet another session in the 4pm hour, leading industry attorneys offered advice on UDRP and Disputes. The panelists included (left to right) Gerald M. Levine, Esq, moderator Howard Neu and Stevan Lieberman (Greenberg & Lieberman). 

Below: The business day closed with a Speed Networking session in the main hall (as well as a session on Drupal 8 in another meeting room).

Above: With the Sunday business day now done attendees were free to spend a night on the town. This group stayed nearby for a dinner hosted by Hotels.club and the .CLUB Registry at the Hawk's Landing restaurant that is part of the Orlando World Center Marriott complex. Hotels.club founder George Verdugo is at the head of the table at top right and .CLUB Co-Founder and CEO Colin Campbell is the 2nd person to the right of George. 

Below: Some of the guests who made the Hotels.club/.CLUB Registry dinner such a pleasure to be part of. Left to right, K.W. Boswell, Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz, Anna M. Bastian and Barbara Neu.

As I write this day three of business is winding down with the night still ahead. I'll have all of the Monday photos and highlights for you in my next post from Orlando.

(Posted October 16, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Photos & Highlights from Saturday's Opening Day at the New Merge! Conference in Orlando, Florida

The first Merge! conference got underway Saturday morning (October 14, 2017) at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Florida. The new event, created by NamesCon Co-Founder Jothan Frakes and the Co-Founder of THE Domain Conference, Ray Dillman Neu, is a major step beyond standard domain conferences as it covers - in addition to domains -  related fields included Digital Branding, Website Development, End User Experience, New Business Startups, IP Technology, SEO Design, Security, Hosting, Blockchain, CryptoCurrency and more.

The event actually got off to an informal start Friday evening as some of the first attendees 

to arrive in Orlando got checked in early and started connecting with industry friends in the lobby or over dinner Friday evening.

Above: Some early birds who got together for dinner Friday night (October 13) at the Orlando World Center Marriott on the eve of the Merge! 2017 debut Saturday morning. Left to right are Howard Neu, Merge Co-Founder Ray Dillman Neu, Alex, Ron Jackson, Larry Fischer, Barbara Neu and Diana Jackson.

Below: Saturday morning came with a good omen, a gorgeous rainbow in front of the Orlando World Center Marriott shortly before the debut edition of the Merge! conference got underway.

Above: Merge! Co-Founders Jothan Frakes (left) and Ray Dillman Neu just before opening their new show in Orlando Saturday morning (October 14). 

Below: Barbara Dillman Neu (left) and Melissa Frakes ready to start registering attendees for Merge!

Above: Attendees begin arriving for the start of the Merge! conference Saturday morning. By Monday morning organizers expect to see more than 300 guests that registered for the event. 

Below: The opening day schedule was designed to emphasize informal networking opportunities and deep dives into specific topics. To facilitate that "topic tables" were set up in multiple meeting rooms so attendees could pick those of special interest to them. Here Merge! Co-Founder Jothan Frakes welcomes a group at one table.

Above: Cate Colgan conducting a topic table session on cryptocurrency Saturday morning.

Below: A two-hour lunch break is built into each day at Merge!, allowing attendees time to enjoy the fabulous Orlando World Center Marriott which, with 2,004 rooms, is the biggest Marriott in the world. Forbes Magazine also names this Marriott's pool complex among the 20 Coolest Hotel Pools in the world. Having spent a couple of hours there Saturday we would have to agree!

Above: One of the things that make te OWC Marriott's pool complex so cool are the many activities they have going on for guests. A wildlife ranger came by with snakes, a tarantula and a baby alligator for those curious and brave enough to get an up close and personal look at them. Diana Jackson passed on the spiders and snakes but enjoyed come bonding time with this alligator! 

Below: After lunch the topic table sessions continued but some presentations were also added to the mixing including a very interesting one from LatinTLD President and Co-Founder Alfredo Pinochet (right) and Co-Founder Natalia Viera about  Latin American domain market opportunities. LatinTLD is based in Santiago, Chile. The most popular Latin ccTLDs are currently Brazil's .br (3.9 million domains), Colombia's .co (2.3 million). All together nearly 9 million domains are registered in Latin American countries with most enjoying very rapid growth.

Above: In another of the afternoon presentations that covered various fields, Aurasma's Robbie Adair (standing) provided an Introduction to Augmented Reality with Aurasma.

Below: After the business day most attendees went off to dinner in various locations before re-connecting later Saturday night in Merge's 15th floor Hospitality Suite at the Orlando World Center Marriott. This group took advantage of the beautiful fall night to gather on the balcony for a birds eye view of the surrounding area including nearby Disney World. They also enjoyed the free coffee provided by Coffee.Club. Seated are Dr. Gregg McNair and Jay Westerdal and standing (also left to right) are Marco Rinaudo, Diana Jackson, Rob Grant, Pat Grant, Stevan Lieberman, Larry Fischer and Dave Evanson

As I write this Sunday's day two of Merge! is now underway. I will have all of the day's photos and highlights for you in my next post from Orlando.

(Posted October 15, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Photos & Highlights from NamesCon China 2017 in Shanghai - NamesCon's 1st Event on the Chinese Mainland

NamesCon completed its first conference on the Chinese mainland today with a very well-received show that brought over 200 attendees together at Hyatt's Andaz Xintiandi Hotel in Shanghai. Guta.com Founder & CEO George Hong was among those on hand for NamesCon China 2017 and George was kind enough to provide me with photos and highlights from the landmark event. 

The conference got underway at 10am local time with welcoming comments from Soeren Von Varchmin, President of NamesCon and its parent conpany, WorldHostingDays.

Above: NamesCon/WorldHostingDays President Soeren von Varchmin (right) with moderator/attorney Derek Newman at NamesCon China 2017 today in Shanghai.

Below: Part of the audience on hand for NamesCon's 1st event on the Chinese mainland. (All photos in this article courtesy of Guta.com).

Above: After Feng Guo presented a China Domain Industry & Government Regulation Overview GGRG.com Founder Giuseppe Graziano took the stage to talk about Liquid Domains: Understanding Supply and Demand of an $8 Billion Market

Below: Xianglong Hui was up next with a report on Chinese TLDs, followed by Guta.com Founder George Hong (seen here) telling the audience Why I am Passionate about Domaining. As a seasoned premium domain investor and broker, George Hong shared tips based on his personal experience. He explained the value of domain names as both assets for investors and foundations for and end user enterprises. He also provided an update on 2017 industry trends and shared insight on what he saw as the biggest challenges & opportunities for domain investors. Hongzhe Lv followed George on stage, concluding the morning session with a Domain Industry Forecast in an age of loE. 

Above & Below: The 90-minute lunch break also gave attendees an opportunity to spend some extra time in the NamesCon China Exhibit Hall.

Above: At 1:30pm attendees were back in their seats ready to begin a full slate of afternoon business sessions that began with Yang Qu providing an Introduction on China Domain Registration Authority.

Below: A 2pm panel discussion then covered the latest Domain Trends in China. The experts on stage for that session (hosted by Bin Zhu) included Xianglong Hui, Guangfeng Li, Yunsheng Jing and Jun Yang. They were followed by a session on Blockchain conducted by Mano Samy.        

Above: At 3:20pm the ever popular question What is My Domain Worth? was explored in an hour-long panel discussion that featured George Hong, Captain, Jiqing Xu, Junhua Lu, Paul Nicks (GoDaddy) and Christian Voss (Sedo). The session was moderated by Derek Newman (standing). Derek, a veteran domain attorney, then closed the show by bringing Soeren von Varchmin back onstage to help him explain the ins and out of issues including Cybersquatting, Lawsuits and Acquiring Domain Trademark Rights.

Below: The day was filled with a wide range of valuable information and priceless networking opportunities that sent attendees home happy - and eagerly waiting NamesCon's return to China - a country whose rapidly growing domain industry has made the nation an indispensable player on the world stage. 

(Posted October 12, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

It's Showtime! Attendees from Around the World are Heading to Orlando for the New Merge! Conference That Opens Saturday

Six months have passed since I first told you about the new Merge! conference coming to Orlando and it is finally showtime! The big event created by NamesCon Co-Founder Jothan Frakes and the Co-Founder of THE Domain Conference, Ray Dillman Neu, opens Saturday (October 14) at the massive Marriott Orlando World Center Resort where in will continue through Wednesday, October 18. 

Jothan and Ray are bringing in over 60 speakers from around the world to headline an ambitious agenda jammed with 45 business sessions covering everything from Domains, Digital Branding, Website Development, End User Experience, New Business Startups, IP Technology, SEO Design, Security and Hosting to Blockchain,  CryptoCurrency and more. 

Over the past few months I've written about several of the featured speakers and marquee sessions in store for attendees but there is another star of the show that should not be overlooked - the fabulous venue where it will all take place. The Orlando World Center resort is the largest Marriott in the world and its many features include a stunning pool complex that Forbes Magazine says is among the World's 20 Coolest Hotel Pools


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

Above: An exterior view of the Marriott Orlando World Center resort 
where the first Merge! conference will run October 14-18, 2017.

Below: The Marriott Orlando World Center pool complex that 
Forbes Magazine
declared to be one of the World's 20 Coolest Hotel Pools.

Above: The water theme at the Marriott Orlando World Center resort even extends inside 
where aqua colors and undulating patterns grace the hotel's Grand Ballroom.

Though our location in Tampa is not far from Orlando, this will be my first visit to the Orlando World Center. Even though I've been to dozens of industry conferences over the past 15 years, the opportunity to witness the birth of an important new event, re-unite with friends from around the world and make new ones in a world class setting like this is one I would not want to miss. If you will be in Orlando I will look forward to seeing you there - and if you haven't made plans to go it's still not too late to register!

(Posted October 11, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

VPS Web Hosting

Trellian Expands Its .AU Drop Catching Business with Acquisition of DomainShield.com.au

Trellian, the parent company of popular domain monetization, portfolio management and sales platform Above.com, has just added more horsepower to their .AU (Australian ccTLD) domain drop catching business by acquiring one of the most successful firms in that field - DomainShield.com.au. Only a handful  of auDA accredited registrars are authorized to drop catch so this acquisition, combined with Trellian's acquisition of Drop.com.au (another popular drop catch platform and registrar) last February, puts Trellian in an especially favorable spot for catching high quality expiring .au domain names. 

The two drop catching operations will gradually be consolidated under the Drop.com.au brand, taking the best parts from each platform, plus many other functions from the existing Above.com Domain Portfolio Manager and Marketplace.

Trellian CEO David Warmuz

Trellian CEO David Warmuz said, "After our Drop.com.au acquisition we quickly realized that there was one key component missing: .au drop catch know how. We could learn and fine tune, but this would take months or years. Or we could partner with someone that obviously has the missing piece. So having someone like Anthony Peake (DomainShield.com.au CEO) on board just made sense. I am eager to see what the future holds and I look forward to working with Anthony on reviving the Drop.com.au drop catch platform."

Peake is already very familiar with Drop.com.au, having helped build it when he worked for its previous ownerd, DarkBlueSea. Peake said, "I am excited to be joining the team at Trellian and making the best drop catcher for .au domain names. Having Trellian's resources behind me will be a huge help and I am especially thrilled to be working on Drop.com.au again. I love the brand and I still consider Drop.com.au as my baby."

(Posted Oct. 10, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

Escrow.com Lowers Minimum Fee to $10 to Provide Buyers and Sellers a Better Option Than PayPal

Escrow.com, a service that the vast majority of domain buyers and sellers have used at one time or another to secure their transactions, has made a major change in their fee structure. The  company has dropped its minimum fee from $25 to $10 to target the high volume of transactions that take place in the $300-$700 range. At that level many have opted to use PayPal even though doing so could result in them losing their domain, money or both through a chargeback. 

At $10 Escrow.com now costs about the same as PayPal but offers a much better value proposition with its promise of a secure, successful transaction for both sides. The Escrow.com announcement noted, "Unlike credit cards or PayPal, Escrow.com does not allow chargebacks against sellers, and keeps buyers safe by guaranteeing that their funds will only be disbursed when they are 100% satisfied with the goods or services they have received."

Escrow.com General Manager Jackson Elsegood added, "Escrow.com is the safest and most cost effective way to buy or sell anything online. Over 1 million users have transacted 

Jackson Elsegood
General Manager

safely and easily using our online escrow platform to trade everything from motor vehicles to design services.” 

(Posted October 5, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:

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