|| There would be a
brand spanking new venue
across Lake Washington from Seattle at the Bellevue
Westin Hotel, providing fine food and drink and top notch
accommodations and, of course, the popular CEO Roundtable
would return with a fresh look at today’s domain industry (one
that statistics indicate is twice as big as the business
last year’s all-star panel dissected). That
impressive package attracted registrants like bees to honey. 312
of them arrived from around the world (30% of them from outside
the U.S.), nearly doubling the number that turned out last year.
Of course that meant twice as many people would witness anything
that went wrong and when you try to put that many balls in the air
at once, odds are you’re going to drop a few. If you call or
drop by Name Intelligence headquarters today, be sure to say hello
to the new world juggling champions. In a performance that would
have made Cirque du Soleil proud, the show ran without a hitch,
drawing universal praise from the attendees we talked to.
There was one big problem…but the problem would be mine. This
show has a multi-track format, which means multiple events are
often going on at the same time. That left me to ponder how was I
going to cover enough of the conference to convey the Roundtable
experience to you. For those frequent occasions when four
hour-long seminars on different topics were scheduled at once, I
briefly considered spending 15 minutes in each, but decided that
missing 75% of every seminar would produce coverage that was about
as appealing as a rental car with three wheels missing.
best way to put you inside the show, would be to describe things from
a registrant’s perspective. So we’ll run the course the way
it and I’ll show you the kinds of decisions they had to make
when they came to intersections where they could go in any of
several different directions.
got underway bright and early Wednesday morning when registration
opened at 7:15am, followed by the 7:30 start of a breakfast hour
in the main ballroom. Everyone stayed together there for the first
main event, ICANN CEO and President Paul Twomey’s opening
keynote address at 8:30.
Just before Twomey took the podium,
Rossow of eForceMedia.com
gave a brief talk about his company’s new
lead generation program, a service that Rossow said could produce
more revenue for domain owners by allowing them to share in
revenue from actual sales generated by their traffic.
ICANN CEO & President
it was Mr. Twomey’s turn and he gave the audience a thorough
understanding of what ICANN’s mandate allowed them do as well
what it precluded them from doing. While many would like them to
take action against spam, inappropriate content on the web and
consumer issues, to name just a few, those things are outside
ICANN is responsible for coordinating the
management of the technical elements of the Domain Name System
ensure universal resolvability so that all users of the Internet
can find all valid addresses. It does this by overseeing the
distribution of unique technical identifiers used in the
Internet's operations, and delegation of Top Level Domain names
(such as .com, .info, etc.). ICANN also oversees the more than 660
accredited domain registrars that exist today.
is also responsible for UDRP, the Uniform Dispute Resolution
Policy that Twomey said has been used to settle more than 5,000
trademark related domain disputes quickly and inexpensively
(compared to what it would cost to settle such issues through the
court system). Twomey pointed to UDRP as one the most successful
policies ICANN has implemented.
touched on the introduction of new TLDs, noting that there were
opposing market forces with some of the opinion that no new
extensions are necessary, while others want to see many more as
they view them as important ways to identify the purpose of a
website. Twomey said ICANN’s role was to strike the best balance
possible. He also noted that ICANN leaves ccTLD (country code)
issues to country administrators, concentrating on generic and
the many other topics Twomey discussed was the emergence of
International Domain Names (IDNs) that will allow internet users
around the world to surf the web in their native languages. Twomey
said a stable implementation of IDNs is a high ICANN priority and
that significant staff resources are being allocated to it.
Mr. Twomey’s speech, we came to the first of those intersections
we talked about earlier. The crowd went off in four different
directions with each registrant able to choose from among seminars
that included a DNS technical workshop, a session on managing a
large portfolio of domains, one for corporate domain managers and
still another devoted to the Wall Street perspective on acquiring
organizers feel that offering this kind of variety allows each
registrant to tailor their show experience to meet their needs.
Their analysis of the attendee demographics showed that most fell
in one of four categories; Domain Entrepreneurs (primarily
portfolio holders), Industry Insiders (like registrars and
resellers), Intellectual Property experts and Search Engine
specialists. The seminar schedule was designed to serve people
from all of those areas at once.
DNJournal is primarily focused on domain name investment,
monetization, I narrowed my choices for the opening seminar down
to two; one on large portfolio management and the other on the Wall Street view of
portfolio acquisition. A coin toss sent me to the Lake Coeur
d'Alene room to hear Richard Lau (DomainManager.com), Bob Martin
(Internet REIT), attorney Paul Keating (Renova Ltd) and
Pitts (Moniker.com) dispense advice on managing a large domain
portfolio (photo above is from that session).
a brief coffee break, another tough choice loomed at 11am when I
had to choose from seminars on the .eu rollout, industry
predictions for 2006, monetizing traffic or an intellectual
property workshop. Those attractive options were enough to make me revert to
my original seminar hopping strategy, but I decided to stay the
course and make a hard choice. Traffic monetization is at the
heart of today’s domain business so I took door number three.
from Traffic Monetization seminar
wound up being a popular choice with many people as the session
drew a standing room only crowd. The all-star nine-member panel
had a lot to do that with that.
Eytan Elbaz (left) fields a question during
monetization seminar as Dan Warner (Fabulous.com) and
moderator Jothan Frakes look on.
table on the left side of the dais featured Brian Benko
(NoParking.com), Eric Harrington (Moniker.com),
Ron Sheridan (DomainSponsor.com), Howard Hoffman
(PPCIncome.com) and Robert Hoult (InterSearch
Group). The table on the right had Ulrich Priesner
(Sedo.com), Steven Rossow (eForce Media), Eytan
Elbaz (Google.com) and Dan Warner (Fabulous.com).
This was like a baseball fan getting to see the 1927
good part of this seminar was devoted to whether domain
parking or development would yield the most revenue. The
consensus seemed to be both, depending on the specific
domain. Some may do better simply parked with a good PPC
provider, while others would benefit greatly from rolling
up your sleeves (or hiring a developer to roll up their
sleeves) and putting a full blown commerce site online.
regrouped in the main ballroom for lunch then settled in for a
keynote address on The Domain Marketplace, delivered by
Chief Strategy Officer Matt Bentley.
| Bentley did an exhaustive
analysis of more than 25,000 domain sales from the past 2 ˝ years
to estimate the size of the market, what kinds of domains are
doing especially well and what trends are developing. That data
showed a substantial run up in domain values. As just one example,
reported sales of one-word .coms domains averaged $48,997 each.
those with stars in their eyes after seeing big domain sales week
in and week out, Bentley noted that success requires very
intelligent name selection and HARD WORK. He pointed out that
today’s newcomers are a bit late to the game and now face
competitors who are very well financed with cutting edge
technology on their side. He suggested the best way to overcome that
is to focus on new areas and niches in which you have special
expertise. He also advised diversification, mixing keyword
(traffic) domains with some brandables and new extensions.
Chief Strategy Officer, Sedo.com
up was a new special event, a power networking session that ran
for nearly two hours. Registrants were given numbered tickets that
directed them to one of dozens of 8-person tables around the
ballroom. Once at their table, everyone introduced themselves,
then paired off for one-on-one discussions (again determined by
numbers on the tickets). Once the time for that round ran out,
everyone rotated to another table, with three stops made during
the course of the event.
from Power Networking session
only problem I saw was that people were so engaged in
conversations that a din was created that prevented moderator
Jothan Frakes from being heard when he cued people to move on to
another discussion or table. As a result the ticketed itinerary
often went unfinished but there was still great value in the
contacts that were made and it was a very satisfactory session
that could become a great one at future conferences with just a
little bit of tweaking.
day continued with two late afternoon seminar sessions. At 3:45 I
again faced four excellent options but had to choose the IDN
Update as I felt this was an area I needed to learn more about as
it seems destined to have a
major impact on the internet and our business in the years ahead.
The panelists for this breakout included Hirofumi Hotta (Japan
Registry Service), Ram Mohan (Afilias), Tina Dam (ICANN) and
Michael Suignard (Microsoft).
Mohan said the biggest problem for IDNs is “too many choices and
too little comprehension.” While there are many issues
still to be resolved, Mohan noted that it is only common sense that
people will want to surf the web in their own languages.
to Mr. Mohan’s presentation, some of the hurdles that still have to
be cleared are whether someone who owns an ascii.ascii or an
idn.ascii domain would get prior rights to an ascii.idn or idn.idn
name. What kinds of dispute resolution policies will be required?
Do packages of names have to be created or should the same name in
different scripts be allowed to go to different places?
also noted that IDN solutions do not work the same way for gTLDs
and ccTLDs and that ccTLDs may have a tougher task ahead of them.
He added that country-based complexity combined with legal and
political issues are going to make life interesting. He used India
as a case in point, noting that the country has 18 official
languages, schools teach in 58 languages and newspapers print in
71 languages! Mohan went on to detail possible solutions to some
of the outstanding issues and said the benefits of IDN
implementation will outweigh the work needed to get it done.
Tina Dam and Microsoft's Michael Suignard
at IDN Update seminar
Suignard has been closely involved with the development of
Microsoft’s upcoming IDN-enabled Internet Explorer 7 browser
(currently in beta and scheduled for final release in the second
half of the year). He discussed the technical issues that have
been solved and those that are still being worked on so that IDNs
will work seamlessly around the globe. Like all of the panelists,
he believes IDNs are here to stay.
final session offered a pair of seminars on legal issues,
one on the art of sales negotiations and another on ccTLDs. I’ll
have to buy the conference DVD so I can pick up on those much
needed negotiating tips, but I just had to be at the ccTLD
seminar. Hearing about the public rollout of .us in 2002 is what
brought me into the domain business in the first place and with
the constantly increasing emphasis on localization on the web I
have always been a big believer in country codes in general.
session featured eight expert panelists including Roland
Laplante of registry services provider Afilias.com. In addition to
running .info and providing back end services for .org, Afilias
provides the technical under pinnings for 9 ccTLDs. LaPlante noted
that ccTLDs have advantages for both investors and registrars. For
investors he cited revenue diversification (less dependence on
.com), high growth rates (especially in India and China) and
intellectual property protection. Registrars benefit from higher
profitability (ccTLDs usually cost more than gTLDs) and from being
seen by their customers as a one stop shop.
at Roundtable don’t end when the sun starts going down. At 6:15,
Roger Collins (Afternic.com), Eric Harrington (Moniker.com) and
Tim Schumacher (Sedo.com) hosted a social mixer that included
information on buying and selling domains.
Afilias VP & Chief Marketing Officer
.mobi extension (a TLD for mobile devices that many
speakers predicted will have great success) held a well-received reception in the main ballroom at 6:30 and
DomainSponsor.com chartered a luxury bus to take a group of
domainers to a Seattle Mariners-Texas Rangers baseball game at
went with the latter group and am still trying to figure out how
DomainSponsor’s Ron Sheridan managed to script such a great evening.
Sheridan is a big baseball fan but even he would have had
a hard time dreaming up the outcome on this particular
home team was trailing 6-1 in the 7th inning and most of
the crowd had already headed for home. They missed a great
comeback as Seattle rallied to tie it 6-all, then won
the game in the bottom of the 9th on a 3-run homer by Carl
Everett. Hanging out at the ballpark with good friends and seeing
such a dramatic finish made for a truly memorable event.
took us out to the ballgame.
to Page 2 - Day Two at Domain Roundtable