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April 03, 2015

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Page 2

T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s Winning Streak Continues With Hot Show in Las Vegas  

The DomainSponsor party rolled on until 3am, which led to a precipitous decline in attendance at breakfast Thursday morning!  Since most of the second day’s speakers had been at the party, we also wondered if they would make it to their seminars on time and to their credit, all came through with flying colors! 

The toughest assignment went to the guys who had to get up first! That was Roland LaPlante (VP & Chief Marketing Officer for Afilias, the .info registry), Bill Mushkin (CEO, Name.com), Freddy Schiwek (EuroDNS.com) and Adam Dicker (owner of DNForum.com and High Impact Sites). They constituted the perfect line up for the seminar’s theme, "Other Extensions and ccTLDs". 

Adam Dicker at the podium during 
opening seminar Thursday (May 4)

One of the slides in LaPlante’s presentation asked the question, “Why consider non .coms?” 
His answers included these points:

  • Domains are in a period of unprecedented expansion and the “suburbs” are beginning to take off.

  • The .Com market is extremely competitive; names are expensive and hard to get, available .com names are longer and more complex.

  • Other domains are emerging with less competition; lower cost of entry, “good” names still available— including some of the same names that have value in .com.

  • Non .coms can add value to your best .coms by giving you more control of the brand.

  • Follow a classic portfolio principle: diversify!

  • .Info is a good emerging domain to try! (Somehow we knew Roland would feel that way - Afilias runs the .info registry :-)

Mushkin sees ccTLDs growing in importance because by nature they are perfect for local search, something that virtually everyone agrees will be a primary use of the web in the years ahead. He also likes the branding potential of certain country codes, noting that he has Who.is (Iceland ccTLD). Mushkin also likes .info because it tells the visitor what to expect from a site. 

Schiwek highlighted the spectacular growth in registration of European ccTLDs and the explosive rollout of the .eu extension that saw more than 1 million registrations on the opening day! Schiwek also expects the upcoming .mobi extension for mobile devices to be very successful. .Mobi has some very deep pocketed backers including Google, Microsoft and major mobile phone providers. 

Dicker, who runs the web’s oldest and busiest domain forum at DNForum.com, has become a big fan of International Domain Names (IDNs) and has registered thousands of them. He made a persuasive case for why IDN’s may represent one of the best investment opportunities currently available in domains.    

Bill Mushkin (CEO, Name.com)

Jordan Rohan
Managing Director, RBC Capital Markets

The second session Thursday was a star-studded financial seminar featuring Bob Martin (CEO, iREIT.com), Jordan Rohan (Managing Director, RBC Capital Markets), Robert Hoult (VP, Walnut Ventures), Lou Doctor (Arbor Advisors) and Dan Levitan (Managing Partner, Maveron).  

Rohan noted that he is a big fan of direct navigation but he believes the current high multiples being paid are temporary. He thinks domain owners should strive for differentiation through development and partner with someone if you can’t handle development yourself. He also advised looking for other ways to diversify. He added that technology changes, even as soon as the release of Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system early next year, could have a negative impact on type-ins.

Doctor also thinks the highest multiples are possibly being paid right now. Looking beyond PPC he thinks lead generation and ecommerce will be more lucrative. Doctor and Hoult also joined Rohan on the pro-development bandwagon. 

Dan Levitan
Managing Partner, Maveron

Levitan who has been involved in 40 major investments worth more than $600 million (including the Starbucks IPO) congratulated everyone in the room, saying “buying domain names in the 1990’s was a damn smart thing to do!” However, Levitan also said he sees some frothiness in the market rivaling the late 90’s. He thinks values are at the high end now. Only time will tell if he is right. 

Bob Martin said his company has acquired over 400,000 domains since 2004 but he believes iREIT's best deals were in the people they drew from the domain community to become members of the company's management and operations team. Martin said there is tremendous room for growth in this business but to take advantage of it, iREIT needed to get the best possible people into their organization. 

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. organizers added another networking wrinkle for the lunch sponsored by SmartName.com Thursday. Each table had a sign on it designating a particular category of traffic (for example, financial, real estate, travel, etc) so that people could sit with and meet others involved in their sector. Attendees were encouraged to sit with people they did not already know. 

I had the honor of conducting the final seminar session after lunch. I had originally planned to talk about domain sales trends, but changed my mind at the last minute after a Washington Post article on the domain business was released that grossly misrepresented comments I had made to the reporter. 

I decided it was more important to talk about the flood of coverage the industry is now getting, the quality of that coverage and potential problems that companies and individuals needed to be aware of when dealing with the press. I have already detailed this incident in our May newsletter so if interested I will direct you to that link rather than repeat myself to regular readers in this article. 

The rest of the afternoon Thursday was devoted to that historic live auction that saw the gavel drop on over $2 million worth of domains. As I noted earlier, Sex.net went for $450,000, CD.com commanded $275,000 and POS.com pulled $250,000. You can see a complete list of all of the high bids here

Ron Jackson (DNJournal.com) grabs a 
sip of "Google" water before speaking about media coverage of the domain business.

There were a few operational hiccups during the event but from my front row seat it was a very exciting auction that served as a great test lab for what will be a centerpiece of future T.R.A.F.F.I.C. shows. My wife was with me and told me at the beginning of the auction that she planned to leave after the first 15 minutes to take care of some other business. She wound up staying the entire three hours because she found it to be too much fun to break away. 

Scene from historic live domain auction May 4

Moniker.com handled the event and their staff put in an enormous amount of work to pull it off. They deserve a lot of credit for that and with what they learned from this event the next auction at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East conference in Florida next October should make this one pale in comparison despite its success.   

Auctioneer John Berry directs the action 
while Moniker.com CEO Monte Cahn looks on.

The official Thursday schedule closed with another delightful cocktail hour hosted by Casale Media. However a big “unofficial” event drew a large crowd to iREIT’s private party in the Renaissance Suite at the top of the Venetian Tower. It was a great group of people to spend the evening with and the party ran well past the scheduled 10pm closing hour. 

The conference concluded Friday, a day that opened with another great breakfast followed by a board meeting of the World Association of Domain Name Developers (the organization headed by Schwartz and Neu that stages the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences and supports other activities aimed at moving the industry forward). The meeting was open to any registrant that wanted to attend and the main topic of discussion was the location for future conferences. 

The current plan calls for holding the next show, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2006, at the plush new Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida October 24-28. In 2007, a return to Las Vegas is penciled in for March, followed by the first international show in London in July, then a New York City show in October. Florida would return to the rotation in February of 2008. That schedule is subject to change and there was considerable sentiment expressed for finding a way to move the New York show up to help educate Madison Avenue to the unlimited potential represented by quality domain names.   

The Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida
Site for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East in October

After the meeting, the final conference event, strictly for fun, was the 2nd Annual T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West Poker Tournament. Our congratulations to Bob Deemer who walked away with all of the chips!    

That brought the curtain down on another great event and golden opportunity to meet face to face with the people who have turned the domain business into one of the hottest sectors of the Internet economy. We join with the other attendees in expressing appreciation for the work put in by Rick and Alina Schwartz and Howard and Barbara Neu to make it happen, as well as to the corporate sponsors that wrote the checks that made it possible. You’ve all contributed to changing the domain landscape in a way that no one could have dreamed of just 18 months ago.

Alina & Rick Schwartz

Howard & Barbara Neu

For more photos from T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West 2006, click the link below to continue on to our conference Photo Gallery.

Continue to Page 3 - The 2006 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West Photo Gallery!

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