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Archived 4/10/03


Domain Name Forum Owner Wins Big Gamble

By Ron Jackson

Domain Name Forum at has reigned as the most popular industry forum since Virginia teenager Dan Gessler put it online just a year ago. Last summer Greg Ricks, owner of and, purchased the forum from Gessler. The venue continued to grow in both members and traffic (it is currently ranked among the 2,000 busiest websites by 

However, Last month, Ricks ignited a firestorm when he announced the previously free forum would become a paid membership site. With prices set at $50 for Platinum memberships and $15 for Gold, some members defected, leaving with predictions that the move would be the death of the forum. Internet history is in fact filled with the carcasses of other sites that tried to make ends meet by going to a paid subscription model. 

Despite that, Ricks was convinced that his site offered enough value to keep his key members on board despite the new tariffs. It was a risky step. If he was wrong, he could kiss the estimated $5,000 he paid for the site goodbye and watch his membership migrate to another popular forum that remains free,

The early returns are in now and it looks like Ricks bet on the winning horse. He has already signed more than 160 Platinum members and about half that many Gold members. Platinum members get several additional perks that are detailed at the site (DNF also offers a free Silver membership, but it allows browsing the forum only). In the past 30 days Ricks has completely recouped everything he paid for the forum and now has a revenue stream in place that should cover ongoing expenses, especially since his site is also popular with advertisers. 

One reason Ricks instituted the charge and a key reason why many stayed, was his introduction of the internet�s first live real-time domain name auction. He spent several thousand dollars developing a java-based auction client that has proved to be very popular in its first few outings, despite some early technical glitches that now appear to be solved. The auction is currently held every Sunday night at 8PM Eastern time in the U.S.  261 domains sold in the March 16 action with over $8,000 changing hands.

While Ricks� gamble has paid off, DomainState appears to have benefited as well. The site gained some new members that refused to pay to remain at DNF and has more users online at any given time than they did prior to DNF�s move. The current situation leaves the net with two popular domain related forums that each have their own distinct personalities.


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