April 03, 2015    

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Improving on Perfection: T.RA.F.F.I.C. East 2005 Wows Attendees With World Class Domain Conference

By Ron Jackson

A couple of weeks before the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2005 Conference opened in Delray Beach, Florida, I told show co-founder Rick Schwartz that the biggest problem I thought he faced would be meeting (let alone exceeding) the high expectations set by the debut show a year ago. The 125 domainers who were at that event gave it unanimous praise. Attendance swelled to more than 300 for the encore performance October 18-22, creating logistical challenges as well as concerns about whether the show could retain the intimacy and opportunities for one on one contacts with industry leaders that made it such a hit to begin with. 










         Capacity Crowd at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2005

The verdict is now in. Schwartz and fellow co-founder Howard Neu delivered an experience that topped 2004 in any metric you might care to apply and, as was the case last year, it seems certain you will not find a single attendee who wasn�t thrilled to have been part of it. Now I have a problem. Superlatives quickly lose their meaning if they are overused. How do I describe an event that surpassed one already regarded as a model of perfection?  

I�m not at all sure it�s possible, so I think the best way to approach our show wrap up is to roll back the clock and invite you to follow me to the conference to see for yourself. You�ll be eavesdropping on some of my conversations and meeting many of the people I had the good fortune to speak with. 









              Howard Neu (left) and Rick Schwartz
                      T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founders










Manning the registration table (left to right):
Barbara & Howard Neu, 
Rick Schwartz and fiance Alina Rusu

Lets start on Tuesday, Oct. 18. I am still at my home in Tampa (a five hour drive from Delray Beach) when exhibitors start setting up their trade show booths at 10am. I tell myself I�ll be on the road within an hour, but when Noon rolls around, I am still trying to clear the decks while onsite registration is opening at the Marriott in Delray Beach.  

Finally, a little after 1pm I fire up the Ferrari (actually I just have a Ferrari key ring � in reality I�m driving my daughter�s Hyundai Elantra, left behind when she went away to college last month - but one can always dream, especially when headed to an event populated with more than a few multi-millionaires). I am now hoping I can get there before the 5pm cocktail party welcoming attendees ends.


A little after 6:30pm, I arrive at the hotel, register and (dressed in sandals, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt for the drive over) hope to slip through the lobby unnoticed so I can get to my room and change into cocktail attire. I should have known better. Just a few steps from the registration desk, Howard Neu�s incredibly energetic wife, Barbara, pops up from behind a pillar and snaps a picture. I am certain Barbara is a triplet. While it took me several days to locate some of the people I was looking for in the crowd, Barbara seemed to be everywhere at once, helping at the registration table, greeting people in the dining rooms and answering questions in the lobby. Alina Rusu was equally active and their efforts went a long way to making the Marriott feel like home for the five days we were all there.

Ron Jackson

Getting to Know You Cocktail Party
Tuesday, Oct. 18

After a quick change of clothes I walked into a packed cocktail party still buzzing with electricity more than two hours after it had started. I spotted many familiar faces in the crowd and spent some time chatting with Howard Hoffman (PPCIncome.com), Monte Cahn (Moniker.com), Marcia Lynn Walker and her husband Warren (MyrtleBeachInc.com) and several others. 

I also hooked up with Afternic.com�s power trio; Roger Collins, Michael Collins and Bill Kerr and headed out for a prearranged dinner at a local restaurant. They filled me in on some interesting new developments with their parking program and this conversation foreshadowed something I experienced repeatedly throughout the week. Almost every company in the domain business has rolled out or is about to roll out something new that will help take the industry and income for domain owners to a new level. You�ll see more examples of that as we continue through the week. 


Michael Collins answers questions at Afternic.com booth in exhibit area. 

When we got back to the Marriott I saw much of the crowd had broken up into smaller groups for conversations that in many cases continued into the wee hours of the night. I went back to my room to get organized for the first full day of business Wednesday and after four hours of sleep headed back downstairs for a breakfast sponsored by Google.com and a quick stroll through the exhibit area before the show officially opened at 9:15 with comments from Schwartz and Neu. 

Brian Benko (left) and Brian Null

Now it was time to start digging into the meat and potatoes. In the first session, Success Stories of Attendees, panelists Brian Benko (FindADentist.com), Brian Null (GolfCourses.com), Ari Goldberger (ESQWire.com) and Robert Hoult (Walnut-Ventures.com) shared details of how domains changed their financial fortunes and their lives. Null, who took a second mortgage on his house to buy GolfCourses.com, is seeing his gamble pay off in a big way and we will be telling his story in depth in an upcoming DNJournal Cover Story. 

Hoult�s company was involved in the recent purchase of a portfolio of tax-related domains (including IRS.com) from Dotcom Corp. for $11.15 million in cash and stock. Hoult revealed that the purchase price amounted to 5.5 times the annual earnings the portfolio has been earning. 

The second seminar was put on by DomainSponsor.com and featured their General Manager Ryan Berryman and Director of Product Management Sumant Sridharan. Sridharan said advertisers are demanding greater accountability for their advertising money and proof that they are getting a good return for their investment. On the other hand they will pay top dollar for pure performance which has led to the company�s recent emphasis on high quality traffic that they can show will convert to sales. 


Ryan Berryman (left) and Sumant Sridharan

What defines �high quality� traffic? Sridharan said it boils down to what traffic has the highest likelihood of producing a sale (even if that sale occurs offline). None of the companies want to disclose the proprietary methods they use to categorize traffic but Sridharan said he thinks DomainSponsor�s methodology gives them better visibility into traffic quality than many other companies.

Berryman said domain owners are now being recognized as a key traffic channel for major advertisers and have a bright future and bigger payouts ahead. He also said some major changes are coming to DomainSponsor landing pages that will include graphics, eCommerce product sales opportunities and possibly even content relevant to the domain name. In another interesting comment, Berryman said he expected all major TLD's to eventually become successful and that he is already seeing rapidly improving performance from country codes like .de, .co.uk and .ca, with Mexico and Asia also growing in importance.

After a two hour break for a luncheon hosted by Skenzo.com (a Directi company), it was time for the main event - the keynote address from Andrew Miller and Mike Zapolin of InternetRealEstate.com (the subjects of our September Cover Story). Miller and Zapolin delivered a fascinating account of their domain experiences which have included the acquisition and sale of such gems as Beer.com, Diamond.com, CreditCards.com and Shop.com. As just one example, they acquired Beer.com for $80,000 and left the original owner with a 20% stake in the domain. Just months later they sold the domain to Interbrew for $7 million! Zapolin observed that it was "crazy" that individuals sitting in that seminar owned priceless category defining generic domain names rather than the Fortune 500 companies you would expect to own such properties.  

Keynote speakers Mike Zapolin (left) and Andrew Miller

Miller and Zapolin detailed the various stages (and the time frame of each) that they take a domain through from acquisition to the end result � a fully developed business with strong cash flow. It is clear their methods have had a major impact on others in this space. I spoke with representatives from many other well funded groups who are planning to follow a similar blueprint. The emphasis is rapidly moving from passive monetization to active development of prime properties. Fabulous.com COO Dan Warner mentioned to me that a year or two from now we will not be talking about selling domains, we will be talking about selling businesses.

Mike Zapolin at the podium Wednesday Oct. 19

As successful as Miller and Zapolin have been they said their company is still "experimenting" to find the perfect formula. They counseled owners of good domains to have patience because they believe values have just begun to rise. 

In the final seminar of the day representatives from six companies that offer PPC (pay per click) services took part in a very active panel discussion on the present and future prospects for pay per click domain monetization. Those on the dais included Google's Eytan Elbaz and Josh Meyers of Yahoo! Search Marketing as well as Matthew Bentley (Sedo.com), Dan Warner (Fabulous.com), Ryan Berryman (DomainSponsor.com) and Ammar Kubba (TrafficZ.com)

Click fraud continues to be a problem in the PPC field and one that has to be solved to keep advertisers in the space. Warner noted that his company had actually hired a few fraudsters to learn their tricks and used that information to help combat the problem. 

PPC Panel (left to right): Ryan Berryman, Josh Meyers, Ammar Kubba, 
Eytan Elbaz, Matthew Bentley and Dan Warner

There was also a lot discussion about the future look and content on landing pages. While Warner�s company will let you design pages in a variety of ways he said their research shows click through rates drop dramatically as you move away from very basic page layouts. TrafficZ�s Kubba said the slick new pages his company recently introduced lead him to believe otherwise, indicating they have seen a large increase in click through rate as a result of the improvements they have made.

When taking questions from the audience the Google and Yahoo representatives both kept their cards close to the vest as they view much of how their systems work internally to be proprietary information that they can�t risk exposing to competitors.

Eytan Elbaz of Google.com  (above) 
and Josh Meyers of Yahoo.com (right). 


Warner and Sedo.com CEO Matt Bentley both noted that while pay per click has dominated the discussion about traffic monetization in the past year, sales are returning to the forefront as what may be the best way to get the highest return on your investment. They cited cases of buyers paying 50-100 times annual revenues and told owners that when presented with those kinds of opportunities they might be smarter to sell rather than continue to collect �rent� in the form of PPC revenues.
When the seminar ended and others headed off to a cocktail party sponsored by Pool.com, I stayed behind to put together photos and a few comments for the opening day coverage we posted Wednesday night. Doing that required me to also skip the dinner sponsored by TrafficZ.com (about which I heard a lot of positive buzz the next day). 

Though I had originally planned to post same day photos and highlights every evening I decided on the spot to drop that idea as it would clearly cause me to miss events that should be covered and included in our end of show wrap up. Missing the evening events also meant missing one on one conversations that often lead to some of our best articles on individual entrepreneurs. 

TrafficZ.com booth in exhibit area

As it was, I got Wednesday�s highlights online at the last possible minute before having to rush off on a 90-minute round trip to the Ft. Lauderdale airport to pick up my wife who had decided to fly in a couple of days after me so she wouldn�t miss a full week of work. That scheduling conflict caused me to miss a �can�t miss� event; DomainSponsor�s famous official show party!  I weighed the options: party or marriage (which would have been endangered if I left my wife stranded at the airport). That�s what you call a no-win situation! I finally decided I would eventually get to go to another DomainSponsor party but another marriage (especially to such a good woman) wasn�t in the cards, so I dutifully headed off to Ft. Lauderdale!

When we got back to Delray Beach close to midnight, I had to stay up for a few hours to prepare for a seminar I was to give Thursday afternoon. It was another night with four hours of sleep. I once worked for a TV News Director who loved getting people out of bed by giving them early assignments. He would growl, "No one ever made a living lying on their back!" He apparently never heard of the "oldest profession" but even though his analogies were poor, I know he would have been proud of everyone at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East where sleep was a low priority item.

Thursday began with another sumptuous breakfast sponsored by Afternic.com, another stop at the exhibit hall to learn more about what some of the companies on hand had in store, then on to the day�s opening seminar, a wide ranging panel discussion called Domains Behind the Scenes that featured Roger Collins (Afternic.com), Xavier Buck (EuroDNS.com), attorney Paul Keating (Renova Ltd. Of Barcelona, Spain), Monte Cahn (Moniker.com) and Sigmundo Solares (DirectNic.com).

Xavier Buck (left), Roger Collins (center) and Sigmundo Solares (right)


This session included tips on domain security and specific steps to take if you have a domain hijacked. Keating, Solares and moderator Howard Neu (all of whom are attorneys) covered how current laws impact how domain theft has to be handled. Collins and Cahn detailed escrow issues that have to be considered to insure you have a safe transaction.

On another topic, Buck detailed the explosive growth of ccTLDs (country code extensions). More than 23 million are currently registered and he said within a year the number will soar past 40 million. Buck noted that ccTLDs now have a higher growth rate than global TLDs. He also predicted strong success for the .eu (covering all of Europe) extension that will be introduced in December. Buck noted that the population in Europe is over 450 million (more than 50% higher than that of the United States). With more than 2 dozen ccTLDs in the region and 21 different languages, he thinks being able to cover those disparate elements with one domain will have widespread appeal.


Dan Warner
COO, Fabulous.com

The second session Thursday was an exclusive seminar staged by Fabulous.com COO Dan Warner. As one of the most respected executives in the industry, when Warner speaks, people want to listen and there were few empty seats during his talk. Fabulous.com has the largest .com portfolio in the world with close to 500,000 domains in that extension. 

Fabulous.com has done extensive research on the behavior of web surfers, the origins and nature of traffic. Warner estimates that direct navigation (type-in traffic) comprises 10-20% of all traffic on the Internet. He delivered a fascinating presentation that the company is making available on the web for those who were not at Traffic. Since it is all there in a complete Powerpoint file we will have you check that out rather than skim through the highlights in this article.


Fabulous.com also sponsored the Thursday luncheon where three special awards were presented by the World Association of Domain Name Developers (WADND) to registrars that have been especially diligent and cooperative in working with registrants to help them prevent hijacking and recover stolen domains. The winners were Moniker.com (CEO Monte Cahn accepts their award from Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu in photo at right), DirectNic.com (CEO Sig Solares accepts in photo below left) and Fabulous.com (COO Dan Warner accepts in photo below right). The WADND is also awarding seals that registrars meeting high level standards in security and customer service will be able to display on their websites. 



After lunch (where we met and greatly enjoyed a conversation with one of Sedo�s three founders, Tim Schumacher) I presented a 90-minute DNJournal.com seminar that covered three topics: Domain Sales Trends, .Com Vs. The Competition and Improving the Domain Industry�s Image. With respect to the first two subjects, I talked about a market that is not only seeing rising prices but a broadening interest in many TLDs, especially major country codes. 

While .com clearly remains the dominant extension and the �luxury� brand on the web, a market is developing at mid and low price points for other extensions. For example, Germany�s .de and Great Britain�s .co.uk continue to strengthen at mid level prices while .us, .info and .biz give smaller businesses an opportunity to acquire excellent keywords at a price that will suit their limited budgets. I discussed the tradeoffs made when selecting alternate extensions. As with any other class of goods and services, you get what you pay for in domains. However having something for everyone is healthy for any business, including ours. 


The  topic of improving the industry�s image centered on dispelling old stereotypes of domain owners as cyber squatters who hold trademarked terms for ransom. Many in the public believe all domains are bought for a registration fee and any sales price above that amounts to extortion. They have no idea that today�s domain investors commit tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to their purchases and take risks as great as entrepreneurs/investors in any other field. Today they serve an integral role in Internet advertising and are entitled to whatever rewards they may garner from putting their capital at risk.
To attack the problem I talked about  successful public relations campaigns, such as one funded earlier this year by Sedo.com and others currently being undertaken by other leading companies in our channel. It may be a long road but we will get there and it is imperative that we do so that domain owners are not discriminated against in business and regulatory/legal venues (including ICANN, arbitration panels and civil courts) where they deserve a fair shake. 

The business day ended with a final 4-man panel discussion on the Future Direction of Domains, Traffic and Values that featured Mark Ostrofsky, Bob Martin and Stuart Rabin of iReit.com and Monte Cahn, CEO of Moniker.com. Ostrofsky is well-known as the seller of Business.com (for $7.5 million in cash and stock), a transaction that is often cited as the highest reported sale ever for a domain name (a name he had acquired for $150,000 in 1995). His group remains extremely active in the market, buying both individual marquee domains and entire portfolios. 

They shared their views on how to prosper in today�s market and where they think the market is headed. They also echoed the optimism prevalent among all who attended that the best, by far, is yet to come. iReit continues to back up their beliefs with their wallets and wound up spending over $300,000 at Delray Beach (more on that a bit later). 

Mark Ostrofsky (left), Bob Martin (center) and Stuart Rabin (right) from iReit.com


Yahoo! sponsored a cocktail party/buffet dinner Thursday night. My wife and I missed the entire cocktail portion of the event even though we were just 30 feet from the ballroom door when the affair got underway. First I stopped in the lobby to talk for awhile with Andrew Miller and Mike Zapolin, then moved about 5 feet in the direction of the party before bumping into Business 2.0 Editor-at-Large Paul Sloan who was in Delray Beach working on a major story about the domain industry that will be out before year end. We talked for another 15-20 minutes. This happened twice more with equally interesting individuals and by the time we hit the entrance to the party, the cocktail hour was over! It is a perfect illustration of the endless networking opportunities at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 


Photo courtesy of MyrtleBeachInc.com


We did make dinner though and it was another great one (the staff at this Marriott is top notch, serving up consistently superb food and service at every event). I mentioned earlier how great stories came from casual conversations during the social events. At this dinner, Californian Grant Keiser�s account of how he and his wife got into the domain business was one of the best human interest stories I�ve ever heard. I will tell it in detail in the not too distant future. 

The very short version is that at a time when they were in a bad financial situation, Grant�s wife rescued a cat that was being mauled by two coyotes that had wandered into their back yard. Seeking care for the cat caused them to stumble upon the domain business. They took the little money they had left to start buying names in the 1990�s (encouraged by  Rick Schwartz to do so). They prospered in this field and today that cat has a bedroom of his own in their Los Angeles home!

I also had a long talk with Sedo.com CEO Matt Bentley over that dinner. Matt is one of the great young executives in this business (he is a Stanford graduate with a Master's degree in international business from the Euromed-Marseille Graduate School of Business in France). Though we had met at Traffic last year and have been in touch every week since then, this second face to face meeting allowed us to learn much more about each other and strengthen what had already been a good relationship. 

Prior to Traffic a question I asked Rick Schwartz was why someone who had been at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West in May (in Las Vegas) would need to come to another T.R.A.F.F.I.C. event in Florida a few months later. One of the reasons he gave was the opportunity to build on relationships that began with an earlier  meeting. I see what he means now and can tell you that the follow up meetings are often far more rewarding than the initial introduction to like minded people in your business.

Matthew Bentley
CEO, Sedo.com

After dinner, before heading out to a late dessert party thrown by iReit.com at Boston�s (a popular beachfront restaurant across the street from the Marriott), I set up my notebook in the main hall leading off the lobby to check my email (the Wi-fi signal in my room was too weak to connect to the Internet). My wife went back to our room to change and I told her I would be there in 15 minutes. An hour and 15 minutes later I still had not checked the first email! I fell into another series of interesting conversations with William Mushkin (CEO of Name.com and DomainSite.com), Adam Strong, Ryan Mendez (Arbor Advisors) and several others. I finally checked the mail then rushed back to my room where I was expecting a serious dressing down from my wife (though she has come to expect this sort of thing). Luckily she had fallen asleep! I threw a towel over the clock so she couldn�t see how late I was, got her up and we walked over to Boston�s for the party.
I ran into more new and old friends there, including Sid Parfait (Dropwatch.com) who recently had to move his family to Houston after Hurricane Katrina virtually destroyed his hometown of Slidell, Louisiana. Mark Ostrofsky (who is based in Houston) helped Sid find a new home and relocate (typical of many domainers I know who are always willing to lend a helping hand to others in our tightly knit community whether it be in their business or personal lives). 

During this party I was sitting with Monte Cahn when he spotted Ostrofsky talking to a couple of people about 30 feet away  and playfully tossed an ice cube at him. Amazingly the cube landed in the pocket of Ostrofsky�s Hawaiian shirt. Cahn when to the University of Kentucky which is legendary for their basketball teams. Talk about being able to hit from anywhere on the court! 

Thursday night party at Boston's Upper Deck
Photo courtesy of MyrtleBeachInc.com


We made it back to the hotel late again and I logged what was now the customary four hours of sleep before getting up for the closing business day Friday. Steve Sturgeon & Associates sponsored breakfast then Paul Stahura of Enom.com and Kjel Holmberg of SnapNames.com kicked off the seminars with a session on The Drop Game. Pool.com President Taryn Naidu was also scheduled to take part, but his company (and several others) ordered their employees to leave Delray Beach early Friday as news came that Hurricane Wilma was bearing down on the southern portion of the Florida peninsula. 

Stahura and Holmberg covered all aspects of the drop catching business and fielded a number of questions from the audience. In response to one, Stahura said that new extension drop catching services would eventually return to his company�s Club Drop. They had nominally added .info and .biz drop catching early this year, then quietly removed those extensions a few months later because the infrastructure for catching those domains had not been fully implemented. 

Paul Stuhura
CEO, Enom.com


Kjel Holmberg


That session was followed by an exclusive Sedo.com seminar that included tips and tricks on marketing your domain names from Director of Brokerage Christian Kalled. I also took part in the session, offering information on free tools you can use to identify domains that are most likely to sell (my segment was based on our April 2005 Cover Story Tools of the Trade). CEO Matthew Bentley wrapped things up with a detailed look at the company�s new SedoPro parking service. His presentation is also available online and I will direct you there as it is so revealing about the direction PPC services are heading. Sedo also handed out some free gifts to attendees including free flash drives and T Shirts.


Friday�s lunch was hosted by Casale Media and featured a business meeting of the WADND (see the organization�s website for its mission statement) . Everyone who registered at Traffic was given a free membership to WADND and was eligible to vote for a new 9-person board of directors. Nominations were taken from the floor with the attendees then filling out ballots to choose the board. Those elected for 2005-2006 were Rick Schwartz, Howard Neu, Ron Sheridan, Mark Ostrofsky, Monte Cahn, Jeff Reynolds, Brian Null, Marcia Lynn Walker and Ron Jackson. In its first meeting later in the day, the Board elected Rick Schwartz President, Monte Cahn and Jeff Reynolds as Vice Presidents and Howard Neu as Secretary-Treasurer. The four officers and Ron Jackson were elected to the board�s Executive Committee. 

Photo courtesy MyrtleBeachInc.com


After several days of serious business mixed with social events, the afternoon session featured a delightful change of pace � the first offline live auction of domain names, sponsored by Moniker.com. In a master stroke, Moniker brought in professional auctioneer Joe Langbaum to run the sale. Langbaum, who could easily earn a living as a standup comedian, is the man who auctioned off Al Capone�s house and Jackie Gleason�s home among others. 

Though it was his first time selling domain names, Langbaum extracted well over $400,000 in winning bids from the audience. He deftly discouraged low bids with wisecracks. In response to the first $10 bid Langbaum loudly declared, �Thank you Mr. Rockefeller!� When someone tried to avoid scorn by opening another auction with a $100 bid, Langbaum deadpanned, �Thank you, you gotta have it back by Thursday though.� Even $500 bids weren�t safe. To one of those, Langbaum said, �Congratulations, you�re only $29,500 off the money!� 

Monte Cahn looks on as Auctioneer Joe Langbaum plays the crowd

Grant Keiser chalks up auction win

Langbaum also viewed some of the names up for sale with amusement. When he got a $2,000 bid for FreePorn.us, Langbaum said �Thank you Rabbi.�

With Langbaum keeping the audience in stitches, inhibitions fell away and the money started flowing. Grant Keiser made the first buy, getting BackyardFountains.com for $1,000 and things quickly escalated from there. 

Mark Ostrofsky�s group spent over $300,000 alone, taking Consulting.com for $180,000 and Bachelor.com (in a three name group with Bachelor.net and Bachelor.org) for $125,000

The list below shows the larger winning bids (these will appear on our sales charts once transfers have been completed).


Domain High Bid
Consulting.com $180,000
Bachelor.com (+ the .net & .org) $125,000
SoapOperas.com $55,000
LMT.com $11,000
CharterTrips.com $10,500
TopStocks.com $8,000
CreditHistoryCheck.com $6,500
CarsTrader.com $6,000
FRW.com $6,000
FantasyPlayers.com $5,500
ElegantStyle.com $4,500
OfficeWork.com $4,500
VideoGuides.com $4,000
LimogeBox.com $1,700
After the auction, the educational end of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2005 came to an end with a final seminar on financing domains, banking relationships and tax treatment of domains. The panel featured Paul Keating, Washington D.C. attorney Steve Sturgeon, Monte Cahn and Alan Chesler, Co-Founder of Ehrenberg Chesler, a firm specializing in capital formation, mergers and acquisitions and private placements. 

Keating did a very good job of making a complicated subject (tax treatment of domains) understandable. Chesler�s advice on building banking relationships was also very helpful. Cahn, who has used creative financing to get many important domain deals done at Moniker.com discussed a variety of interesting acquisition strategies and Sturgeon talked about the elements that will have to be in place before banks start accepting domains as collateral (especially accounting and appraisal standards). 


Paul Keating
Renova Ltd., Barcelona, Spain

Steve Sturgeon
Sturgeon & Associates


Alan Chesler
Ehrenberg Chesler


When that session ended, most headed for the EuroDNS.com cocktail party, while I went to the WADND board meeting (leading to my third missed cocktail party in a row and a mid-meeting phone call from my wife who, how shall I say this...expressed some mild displeasure at my repeated tardiness). 

We did however make it to the big final blowout, the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Awards dinner, a lavish affair thrown by DomainSponsor.com, where filet mignon and lobster graced every plate. I sat with Rick Schwartz and his fianc�e Alina Rusu and Mr. and Mrs. Neu (one of the few times I actually saw Barbara Neu sitting down and relaxing rather than attending to someone else�s needs). Howard (who did another masterful job moderating the various seminars) and I shared stories about our days in Florida TV (he was a talk show host in Miami) and bit parts that we each had in various movies that were filmed in the state. Then the lights went down and the real stars of this show took the stage � the 2005 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Award winners.

The �We Get It� Award went to DomainSponsor.com and was accepted by their Director of Business Development Ron Sheridan (seen in left photo below with Howard Neu). The award recognizes a company that demonstrates a special understanding of the domain space and its importance to the future of Internet commerce. The �Sponsor of the Year� Award went to Fabulous.com and was accepted by COO Dan Warner (seen in right photo below with Rick Schwartz).



The �Best Overall Solution� Award went to Google.com with Eytan Elbaz accepting the award (in left photo below with Howard Neu). DNJournal.com was also presented a special award for expanding public awareness of domain names (Editor/Publisher Ron Jackson accepts the award from Rick Schwartz in right photo below).



Finally, the coveted �Domainer of the Year� Award went to Frank Schilling who unfortunately had to leave the conference early to check on his home in the Cayman Islands which were sideswiped by Hurricane Wilma. Vern Jurovich of Name Administration.com accepted the award on behalf of Schilling. 


Participants in the "Domainer of the Year" Award presentation (from left to right):
Howard Neu, Vern Jurovich (who accepted on behalf of winner Frank Schilling), 
Rick Schwartz and John Berryhill.


I had gone to the show with a list of names of people that I did not want to miss meeting before the week ended, several of them domain pioneers whose names I had seen since entering the business but had never met. Going into Friday night I had found everyone on my list except Canada�s Garry Chernoff. Rick Schwartz took me to his table during dinner and introduced us. Garry, like everyone else I met, was a real pleasure to talk to and modest about his own success. He attributed it all to luck (though I believe we generally make our own luck).

After the dinner, many people, knowing this was the last major event, hung around and talked for a long time as the Marriott crew tried to clean up around them. I stayed over to chat with some  people I had missed or been able to spend very little time with earlier in the week. Shepherd was there (just one name, like Madonna and Cher, but in domain circles he is bigger than they are!) as was Vern Jurovich, Steven Sacks and many others I greatly respect. It was a perfect way to cap the week.  

I was back in my room by 11pm, watched a little TV news to see where Hurricane Wilma was at, then went to bed, thinking I would finally get 8 hours of sleep. Wrong. I woke up at 3:30am and started thinking about the events of the week I had just been through and how rewarding on every level it had been. As my mind raced, I never went back to sleep.


Shepherd (left) and Vern Jurovich

I�ve never had an experience to compare it too � spending so much time among such a large group of universally brilliant people  - people who have kept their feet firmly on the ground despite their obvious talents and unbridled success. I believe the opportunity we had in Delray Beach was like having a chance to go back in time and hang out in one place with people like Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft founders), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders) and David Filo and Jerry Yang (Yahoo! founders) in the early days before they became household names among Internet aficionados.

It wouldn�t surprise me to one day see someone who was at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2005 give the domain channel our own star (or stars) of that magnitude. I certainly left Delray Beach with the feeling that nothing is impossible and that the opportunities laid out before us are truly endless.

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Post Script: We would like to take this opportunity to extend our best wishes for a lifetime of good health and great happiness to Rick Schwartz and Alina Rusu who will be married on November 5, 2005.


Photo Courtesy of MyrtleBeachInc.com


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Editor�s Note: For those who would like to comment on this story, we invite you to make use of our Letters to the Editor feature (write to [email protected]).

All previous Cover Stories are available in our Archive


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