With a background and skill
set that have made him the ultimate domain diplomat,
Frakes was one of the first people that Richard Lau
called on to help him produce the new NamesCon
conference that debuted in Las Vegas last
January. Lau wanted the show to cross all
of the usual boundaries, bringing people from ICANN,
registries, registrars and domain investors together
face to face and he knew Frakes was the person best
equipped to help him do that. It also didn't hurt that
Frakes's exceptionally rich resume included a stint as
the original director of the Domain Roundtable
conference when it began in Seattle. He has also
played important roles in both the Domainfest
and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences, again showing
an ability to cross borders between rivals that
would be closed to most others.
Because he has been around
the business for so long and worked in so many parts
of it, many of you - probably the majority of you -
already know him. But for those who don't - and for
those who don't know his full story and
how he developed into "a person who can
deal with people in a sensitive and
effective way" (that phrase being the
dictionary definition of a diplomat) - this story is
Rose By Any Other Name
While me may define him as a
diplomat, Frakes prefers a different term. "I am
going to out myself in the first sentence as being
proudly a nerd," Frakes
proclaimed. "I would say I am a nerd about
names, and have a real passion for our
great industry of domain names. In fact, my family of
origin story starts off with naming. My first
name is an original mash-up name, sourced by two cool
artist hippies in Santa Cruz, California who
each felt strong vibes for two different names, Joshua
and Ethan. They decided to mash the two names
together and here I am!"
Creative Commons attribution
"It has served me well
– my name is close to Jonathan, so I get called
Jonathan a lot. If I have to correct someone more than
3 times about how to pronounce it, I know it will be a
superficial relationship and I may as well be serving
the person coffee. Kind of a good litmus test,"
Frakes grew up in northern
California's Silicon Valley, mostly on the East Bay
side of San Francisco in a city called Fremont.
"My brother and my father still live in my home
town of Fremont, and I had the opportunity to grow up
in a really cool and eclectic place called Niles,"
Frakes noted. "My brother Page, who some
from the industry have met at conferences, does
special effects for movies like The Matrix,
Starship Troopers, Cloverfield
and loads more, but more recently Pacific Rim
and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
He is part of an improvisational comedy group called
“The Senseless Bureau” that performs in
Oakland and Berkeley."
father was a teacher and retired from that work but is
still an artist and he also
dedicates a lot of
his time to the church and feeding the homeless,
and he is the president of the East Bay St.
Vincent De Paul."
have to really thank my grandparents for pearls
of wisdom that I have in my utility belt. They’re
not still with us in body, but I carry the fond
memories of them into everything I do."
my mother’s side, her belly-button father was a
pilot lost over Normandy in WWII. Her mother
re-married within a few years, and Don
Green, the only grandfather I knew, was prolific
beyond words and always inspired me to be more, to
do more, and to always strive for more. Mamie
and my biological grandfather were both Scottish,
Don’s last name was Green, and there was a deep
Irish pride throughout our family," Frakes said.
father’s father passed away when my dad was young.
Dad’s mother was a strong single mom who raised 7
kids in a small town in Kansas. She had a saying
that I keep in mind that keeps me grounded and
pragmatic, “Wish in one hand, and piss in the other,
and see which fills up first.”
"We struggled a lot growing up – my
parents were not wealthy, and they divorced when I was
13 and I think nobody really high-fives folks over how
awesome that impact is on everyone in the family when
contrasting it against how things look like they
should be on TV," Frakes observed.
"I had hobbies, like computer games and
collecting comic books and I figured out at an early
age that I could afford these hobbies better if I
had money – and I entered the workforce in the
service industry like most people. I leave off
my pizza flipping, grocery clerking, and lawn mowing
from my Linked
In profile, but I earned my keep and
of these early jobs paid off by helping Frakes develop
a trait he is know for today. "I worked as a
courtesy clerk in a neighborhood grocery store in my
home town that was owned and operated by a Chinese
family from Hong Kong," he recalled. "I
learned a lot culturally from them, and also I honed listening
skills without realizing it. I am certain
that this opportunity helped me to listen more closely
to people and work with them to understand what they
are saying. My wife might disagree," Frakes
Are a Boy's Best Friend
grew up with some cool people, in very blue collar
circumstances, and I learned a lot from my humble
beginnings," Frakes said. "I also have
experienced life with something which in recent years
has been labeled as Asperger’s
Syndrome, which is a social disconnection
on the Autism spectrum. I have a propensity for
order (though you’d never know if you saw my home
office which looks like a borderline hoarder show
special), so I have always understood numbers and computers
better than people," Frakes said.
got into computers in the early to mid 70’s – my
mother was getting a masters degree and she is the
type to really invest herself into doing things with
the kids, so when she found I had an interest in
computers, she’d take me to Lawrence Livermore
Lab or to the computer lab at one of the local
colleges, where I’d play chess, wumpus, or tic tac
toe against the room sized computers, sitting at a
terminal where there was not a screen, but rather a
printer outputting what you typed and the computer
response," Frakes recalled. "This type of order
made great sense to me. People not so much.
So I set out to work on being more social and
understand people more."
started DJ-ing – mostly friends parties in
high school and college, but later in clubs and raves.
That gets you out of your shell – to get a
"Through the 70s and into the 80s I would work
with Atari, Apple, Commodore, and IBM home computers,
and was always involved in the (nerd alert) computer
club from grades 5 onward until I graduated high
school. I was in the gifted program through most of my
school years, although I enjoyed the years I was not
even more. I did learn that who you surround
yourself with certainly plays a significant role
in how you are perceived and how and what you
achieve," Frakes noted.
"By the end of my sophomore year in high school,
I was doing great but didn’t really know a lot of
people or have a lot of friends, so my self-goal was
to emerge from my cocoon and get to know people
better. People were confusing in contrast to
computers … but once I threw out expectations of
order and precision with people, I found that I was
able to mingle with everyone, would utilize something I called no matter what social
clique they were part of.
My secret weapon was
that I ‘God’s
Balance’. I think we’re meant to
listen more than talk, because we have two ears
and only one mouth. Once I would listen to
people, honestly, authentically listen to them and
hear them, no matter who they are, I could learn about
who they are and what they want and how they do what
they do. I also learned that you don’t fake
this or do it in distracted half-measures. You either do
it for real or don’t bother," Frakes said.
allowed me to participate in and enjoy different
relationship styles with different groups – and
I had simply been convincing myself that I would not
be able to do this. I learned to understand that
inner critic, the self that talks one out of trying
and doing and getting beyond what is comfortable and
familiar. I think to some extent, we all
have that inner critic or naysayer that we struggle
past. I’d love to say I tackled mine, but
learning about it and recognizing when the artificial
limits are below what one can actually achieve –
this helps someone in their lifetime struggle to
manage that factor."
wallflower Jothan Frakes is comfortable in
a any crowd. Here he chats with fellow
attendees at the 2009 GeoDomain Expo in San
armed with both computer skills and better people
skills Frakes, while still in teens, landed a job
with ComputerLand, a large national chain at
the time, where he became an assistant manager. A position
with a Taiwanese PC and Macintosh peripheral company
called Everex followed before he finally
headed off to Chico, California for college.
was there only a short while," Frakes said.
"I had always put a personal touch into
the relationships with customers, and tried to make
for a white glove valet type of experience – so I
had built up a large portfolio of repeat customers at
ComputerLand. One of which was a flooring company that
I helped establish automation software and contracting
databases for. They tracked me down to hire me
due to the automation and personnel efficiency that
I’d delivered from a few projects and trainings that
I had done for them, so I left college for work and
haven’t looked back."
was a massive seller’s market and housing boom at
the time (this is circa 1986-89), and there was a
lot of growth in the housing market, and the
technology field at that time had been thriving also.
I had network engineering certifications, and could
connect different servers and workstations at private
companies, so there would be lots of business. I
could settle down, and make a decent run of it…and then
it got really interesting."
Tour with Stevie "B"
1989 I got a call from a friend of mine that I had
known since kindergarten while I was working at the
flooring company, and he had been touring with a top
40 artist named Stevie “B” (Stevie B had a
number of dance club hits, but one of his more lasting
and memorable tracks was a ballad called Because
I Love You ‘The Postman Song’) and wanted
to get off the road and into the studio to make
albums. So he wanted me to move to South
Florida and take his spot on the road."
stopped and thought to myself, this is a great way
to get way outside of my comfort zone, and leave
the Bay Area to see other parts of the states. I
gracefully gave notice and got myself to Florida, and
jumped in to the studio and tour rehearsals that were
commencing. The tour kicked off and we did 2-3 months
of solid traveling, mostly by bus, and I
chance to see amazing places and really get to see the
US and a few other countries in the process.
Tour bus life is an experience, one I am grateful for,
but also grateful that it was seasonal. We would
record in the studio when off tour, and I got to know
the Davie and Westin area and Miami and
Fort Lauderdale," Frakes said.
1990 we all moved to Los Angeles from Florida,
and we operated the next year’s tour from there.
When you’re in the ‘entourage’ there’s a lot
to do in the white space of a job description… and
idling isn’t something that keeps people
around. Using my experience with computers we
automated the settlements and tour accounting, and we
were using modems to communicate the results. We
began recording the next album, and we would rehearse
in the artist’s home, across the street from where Rick
Dees lived (Dees was a famous L.A. disc
jockey, who also had a hit novelty record with "Disco
tour started, and artists like C&C Music
Factory, The Cover Girls, Sweet
Sensation, MC Hammer and Ice Cube.
Even Milli Vanilli, Vanilla Ice, and I
could go on but won’t. I attended BMI / ASCAP
functions, would get invited to star’s homes, the
whole spiel. Probably one of the stories which
is my favorite was meeting Arthur
Baker over a chili-dog lunch, and the many
sushi dinners that Stevie B would treat the entourage
to. Stevie was always very good to everyone, and
even though he had fame, he kept himself fairly humble
with his circle," Frakes said.
business of music was a great experience – I think
that it always has to do with who you surround
yourself with – and I was blessed to be around some
great people. It helped further pull me out of my
shell. Ultimately, the reality crept in where I
noticed that mapping the continuity and pace of
paychecks in music to the real world can be a big
challenge. So, I left the music business in 1991 and
left Toluca Lake to return to Silicon Valley and the
technology industry. I have been in the technology
field ever since."
would turn out to be the music world's loss and our
gain, though there would be some other steps along the
way before Frakes arrived at the domain industry's
Long and Winding Road to Domains
had done work with modems and communications a lot,
and building the resume back up after music life
netted me doing some technology technical support for
a number of years. We would refer people to
downloading the latest driver for their devices from
our Bulletin Board up until 1992 when we
started to introduce FTP service, and we began
doing email technical support. I was brought to
the Comdex and other conferences to help out
with technical questions that might arise from
walk-ups. I absolutely loved the conference
energy and activity – the chance to meet a
hundred, a thousand, maybe more people that were
interested in talking tech – and get paid for it.
Wow!," Frakes remembered fondly.
remember collecting business cards and watching the
trend of the fax machine appearing in the 80s, then
email in the early to mid
speed networking at the 2008 T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
East conference in Orlando, Florida.
90s, then website
addresses. This was going to be big.
I remember configuring DNS to ‘speed dial’ IP
addresses, and getting a Netcom account and visiting
gopher or ftp sites in 1991. I remember my first
Linux install in 1992-3. I knew that if I moved from
my ISP that I would lose my email address if
they’d not forward it to my new one, and I decided
that I wanted to not be beholden to anyone but myself.
In 1994 I registered Jothan.com. In 1995 they
added it to Network Solutions. All
through my tech-support years I also moonlit doing
internet research," Frakes noted.
1994-95 I worked with Apple Computer on a
project called eWorld, in Cupertino, but I was
a huge Nirvana fan and was going to change the
world if internet and music converged… so I decided
to move to Seattle. When I arrived in Seattle,
I found a job with the people who were operating the Seattle
Mariners, Atlanta Braves and New York
Yankees websites, along with some other clients. I
worked with them on some of the largest, highest
traffic websites, and the playoffs had all these teams
involved that year. For readers in the Santa
Cruz mountains or Los Gatos area, I helped the Mountain
Network News obtain MNN.net around this
time." Frakes noted.
with another company, I helped co-invent and patent a
live customer service platform technology which Oracle
now owns and operates called Instant Service.
I later went on to work with some of the largest
networking consulting firms in the Seattle area, whose
founders established InterNap and Switch and
Data. I was in charge of DNS for Seattle
Online and thousands of their customers as well as
the oversight of email forwarding queues and writing
custom forwarding handlers for a major ISP. At the
same time, with stories about Business.com
and Alta-Vista.com selling for large numbers,
the domain name business seemed ripe with
opportunities," Frakes said.
have always been very technical, and had been working
with domain names and DNS in a technical capacity for
about 5 years at this point, but around October
of 1997, one of my friends (and people I’d had the
privilege and opportunity to work with as a client)
hired me as employee #1 for his new tech
startup. He had been contacted by a friend and
partnered up on operating the registry for the Cocos
(Keeling) Islands, .CC, which he had been
hand-delegated by Jon
set up a registry (I am simplifying very significant
security, stability, resilience and
efforts) and began taking registrations. I met Jim
Trevino and Bart Mackay of .VEGAS
working together at .CC – they joined as we started
hitting incredible registration numbers and growing
met Paul Stahura (at Donuts now, but eNOM
at the time), Paul Goldstone (CO.COM/DomainIt),
Mark Jeftovic (EasyDNS), Colin
Campbell (.CLUB – but at the time Tucows/Hostopia
and Blue Genesis), and many of the early
registrars through the .CC reseller program.
This was before there were really registrars as ICANN
hadn’t really blorphed onto the scene yet (didn’t
have a word to describe how its composition of initial
board formed and began momentum towards what it is
now, so I mashed blew and morphed together)!"
late 1998, this odd thing called ICANN emerged from
the ether, and worked to split off the registry of .COM
into multiple registrars. We set up as a
reseller under eNOM in 1999 and selling .COM, .NET,
and .ORG domain names alongside .CC. We would have to
pre-pay and keep funds active in that reseller account
at eNOM, or our registration system would break."
still recall a day where we had one customer come
through and register 1,000 .COM domain names.
We were selling at $12/year which was crazy low at the
time, but I remember seeing these registrations of
what looked like dictionary words, and saying out loud
to a co-worker, “see what this asshole is doing
right there? That’s $12,000 flying past
us, what a $(#*ing idiot!” As it turns
out, when you point one finger away from yourself,
three are pointed at yourself, "Frakes
laughed!. " I don’t doubt that the registrant
of those names could have covered those renewals and
any and all costs since by selling one or two of those
names off. The asshole was the guy in the mirror!"
are always facepalm memories about opportunities.
I had the chance to get in big in Bitcoin at $.70
each a few years ago, and skipped. Anyway I
digress, we did incredible things with .CC, and filed
numerous patents for the inventions we came up with.
We grew that company into a large registry operation,
which was ultimately purchased by VeriSign in
2001, just after .TV."
to the acquisition, I had attended a lot of the ICANN
meetings, but once part of VeriSign, the focus was
very tactical on bringing the .CC and .TV platforms
into the NameStore registry platform. I
was also deep into the engineering work there, so I
had to take a hiatus from ICANN meetings," Frakes
I was at VeriSign, I met Pat Kane at this time,
who was a fantastic leader, and an EDS alumni who
passed along many positive management practices that I
still hold true to even today. I worked with Chris
Sheridan (now with eNom) as well, and he is a
really vibrant and inspirational person. He came
up with a slogan that I tease him about, “The two
N’s in ICANN stand for Non-stop Networking”.
While true, I always had thought that a conference
that had less of the policy/governance matters
happening would be a large catalyst for business and
opportunity dialog. Later in my career I acted
on it, but I’ll get to that."
most acquisitions, the roll up is about leveraging
existing systems and eliminating costs, so the
VeriSign work had a horizon to it. I was in a
position to transition my and my teams’
responsibilities to an offshore service provider.
Typically this is something that crushes one’s will,
but I made a choice to do it with my all and really
make certain it was a quality transition. I stayed
with VeriSign until 2004, overseeing those engineering
teams in that transition.
I went to work with Name Intelligence and
worked with Domain Tools. I also made my return
to the ICANN circus at the Capetown meeting
in South Africa in 2004 where I found the
meeting had changed and evolved quite a bit. At
this event, I met Paul Twomey, who was the CEO
of ICANN. The Luxembourg ICANN meeting was a
place that I saw the phrase, “There are no
strangers, only friends you’ve not yet met”,
written on the wall of a restaurant. I found
this true and have always used it as a mantra."
did some remarkable things around name suggestion
and WhoIs that are still in operation at Name
Intelligence, but most importantly I ended up
co-founding the Domain Roundtable Conference.
I had met Vint
Cerf through ICANN in Mar Del Plata,
Argentina – he helped co-invent TCP so he’s
often referred to as the father of the Internet.
Vint is a really down to earth person, and very
likeable. It was through the second
Domain Roundtable that I have the
distinction (and honor) of him calling me an asshole,
validating my suspicion of being one from earlier in
this article!" Frakes laughed.
context, this was in more of a witty banter style, and
not in a disrespectful way. It must happen frequently,
but as his interview wound down and he was on his way,
I was explaining to the audience about his
contributions and being referenced as ‘Father of
the Internet’ being a title he shares with Al
Gore. He grabbed the mic and said, ‘It is
Frakes getting a new nickname from Vint
Cerf at the 2006 Domain Roundtable conference
in Bellvue, Washington.
asshole, that would be you, Jothan,
who makes that joke!”, and then he went on to
explain the many varied contributions to the
interconnection of networks between supercomputing
centers that a Senator Gore had helped champion and
budget. All good fun."
later met Ron Sheridan at this time, as well as
Richard Lau, Ron Jackson, Andrew
Allemann, Patrick Carleton, and I ran that
conference for a couple of years, and then went to Oversee.net
to start DomainFest in 2006."
2007, the last Los Angeles ICANN meeting, I saw Vint
Cerf again – this was his send-off as he concluded
his term of service as chair of the board. It
was an almost surreal discussion because he had in his
hand a Macbook, and was just on cloud 9 about
being able to wirelessly video conference with his son
in LA and his wife at home, who was broadcasting video
of some work being done in their house for him to see.
“Back when we started, we were glad if it
worked. This is beyond our wildest
imagination!”, he said."
think about that often, how a technology and
innovation once given over to the world can bring you
things like that type of leap in the span of just a
few decades. If our innovation with space were
at that pace, we’d have stations and perhaps cities
on the Moon or even Mars by now. DomainFest Global
went on to become a big hit. I met John
Travolta at the second one, and I sat next to Rick
Springfield on my flight back from the first one.
He actually knew a lot about domain names and was
really interested in seeing a .music and some
others," Frakes recalled.
TLDs Have a Rocky Start But New Conference Helps
Steady the Ship
an accomplished conference moderator,
speaks to the crowd at the first NamesCon conference
in Las Vegas in January 2014.
leaving Oversee I helped to found Minds+Machines
as their COO in 2009. The constantly shifting
dates of the new TLD launch caused most
applicants to really hibernate to restrict cash
expenditures, so I moved on and did consulting for a
number of ccTLDs, helped launch .NXT as a
conference, and was a primary conference track
moderator for another called NewDomains.org in Munich
while I worked with a consultancy called Sedari
for a brief portion of 2011."
great thing about our industry is that there is a
lot of opportunity, but the delays in the newTLD
program really starved the oxygen in the air
for a solid block of years – and applicants were not
spending money because they had no certainty about
when they could apply. The delays went beyond
the level of absurd into the surreal, and I spent
an exorbitantly long period of time. At the
point I had given up hope on the program, and
possibly ICANN itself, I got contacted to provide
subject matter expertise for one of the large firms
that were slated to evaluate new TLD applications,"
saw about 900+ of
the full applications in almost
every variation. That’s about all I can say
about it, other than to say that it was a privilege to
work with some of the most professional and smart
people that were involved at the firm that contracted
me, and ICANN’s new leadership has really transformed
their organization in the past 18-24 months."
helped out again at the Munich TLD Conference called
NewDomains.org, after all evaluation was finalized and
results published and then during the winter break of
2014 I helped start a conference called NamesCon
(Editor's note: an event
that had a strong new gTLD focus). Now that I am no
longer with the consulting firm, I am currently
fully focused on NamesCon and making the 2015
conference an absolute success."
are going to do sessions that are new and fresh, and
we’ve tightened the span of time between the
conclusion of the Consumer Electronics Show and
the start of NamesCon, including ‘on-ramp’ and
‘newcomer’ content on January 11 to help the
fraction of 160,000+ CES attendees that will join us
get up to speed faster for the balance of the week of
amazing content and networking opportunities,"
are delighted to have Jennifer Wolfe and Duane
Forrester coming back to keynote. Jennifer
is now really the go-to person for brands that
are seeking to do something with their TLD now that
they have it. Duane has let on to me that there
is a lot more to discuss about domain names and search
since his 2014 presentation."
moderators from last year are being invited back, and
there will be some new faces as well. Content
is the focus at the moment. We are working with
the people at TLD
Registry, who have a new Chinese Domaining
toolkit. We will have stories from successful
developers, and content that is attractive to people
beyond the usual faces that we see at the domain
are working to get sessions from start-ups, to search
to brand use of TLDs. We have a lot of VC/Angel
and Private Equity people coming to the event, as
there is a big eye to the industry with recent IPOs
and the growing number of publicly traded companies in
our industry. We are doing contests and panels,
and are getting a bit more technical and advanced in
some of the sessions like DNS / DNSSEC, and talking
about new and growing frontiers in new technology and
how that impacts or uses domain names. We also
have sessions around the industry associations like
Commerce Association, and the I2C,"
URL for the conference is http://namescon.vegas
– and there’s going to be new content releases
over the coming weeks and months that merit frequent
visits, like audio content from the 2014 show, session
and keynote announcements, and more!"
success of the first NamesCon conference again
illustrated how Frakes's exceptionally varied
background in the industry and understanding of
how each segment works - as well as what people within
each segment think about people in the others - has
made him a unique "go-between" who has been
able to foster better relationships and understanding
between, people, companies and organizations in every
corner of the business. But, it takes more than
experience alone to be effective in that kind of
diplomatic capacity. It takes a special kind of
personality to mediate disagreements and retain
the respect of all of the parties involved, something
Frakes has been able to do throughout his career. We
asked Frakes about what it takes to be such an
effective "bridge builder"?
(center) connecting with Freddy Schiwek
and Mustfa Patel (right) during a limo ride
to an event at
the 2006 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference in
am a connector. I absolutely like to
learn and grow at all times," Frakes said, "I
think everyone does, in whatever sense of the word.
The DNS and Domain Name Industry – all facets
of it, are experiencing growth and friction –
and there is always something new to learn about how
they are used. Bridging is all about understanding
people’s wants, needs and desires.
Understanding them and helping people achieve their
goals in a way that aligns with another person’s –
a common interest – is the way to form bridges."
have been to a lot of ICANN meetings. They can
be absolutely intimidating to attend for
newcomers (although they have been doing a fantastic
job of improving on that in recent years). It
often takes someone 3-4 meetings to get acclimated to
understanding what to be participating in and what is
most important and relevant to them or their needs. I
stop and take the time to meet new people and
try to get to know them and figure out how to best
introduce them to the people they need to meet with,
or just sit with them to go through the conference
agenda and help them understand which of the many days
and sessions are going to be the most important to
simple act of courtesy is something that I don’t
expect anything in return for, and yet it often comes
back to me. And I meet really interesting people
in the process who do amazing things from all over the
world this way. The two-ears, one mouth thing,
helps too. Different people with
different roles or responsibilities are going to have
their own focuses and needs and wants. Part of the
best way to grow is to grow others and they lift
you," Frakes said.
also have an incredible ‘get rich slow’
scheme happening in the domain name industry. I
don’t pounce on the quick dollar – I focus on the long
term relationships and growing and building trust.
I work hard to keep a good sense of ethics about me.
Folks have learned over the course of 15+ years that I
will listen to what they are trying to accomplish, and
that I will make recommendations that help them
achieve what they are after and that the
recommendations are not self-serving, or that I am
authentic about it being self-serving if it is."
spend a lot of time listening to the challenges that
Brand managers and corporations experience regarding
the domain name industry. I also listen to Domain Name
Investors and Website Developers, people in internet
governance, registries, registrars, service providers.
As strange as you might think it, there is a
lot more common ground than one might initially expect,
if you really are listening."
people solve problems helps grow trust. And
trust helps people solve problems. If you’re
doing it right, you’re building both ends at the
same time. I aspire to be doing that. I believe
in taking time to hear out the minority opinion.
Even when it hurts. Sometimes people just need to be
final comment on this is a ‘lemonade from lemons’
thing. I am gratefully remarried, but did go
through a divorce
German domain investor Markus Schnermann at
the 2008 T.R.A.F.F.I.C Down Under
conference in Australia.
myself. I don’t encourage
people to go through this process, but I did take away
some positive things from the learning experience.
One of them was that there are few or no situations
where you have more than one perspective on something
where everyone loves the outcome. The real win
is not everyone coming away smiling. It is where
there is some balance to the level of
dissatisfaction in outcomes that there is a real win,"
The Front Lines in the Conference Crusades
the best example of Jothan's ability to move easily
between potential rivals has been in the
competitive domain conference space. As we've
noted, he co-produces the NamesCon conference that
(though it has a much different focus) competes to
some degree with the pioneering T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
conference, yet Frakes also had a featured role
on stage at this
year's T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference in Las Vegas
(where NamesCon was held in January and will be held
again in January 2015). Frakes made the cross
pollination work to the benefit of both parties,
making everyone happy in the process.
know this sounds corny, but I am really passionate
about the domain name industry. I think that
comes through in the conferences and why I keep
at it," Frakes said. "I recall the first
time we spoke was when the Domain Roundtable launched
in May of 2005. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. was held in Las Vegas
for the first time that year, and there was some friction
over the two shows having competing dates."
at the 2007 DomainFest Global
conference that he helped orchestrate in Hollywood,
helped found the Domain Roundtable and
Executive Produced it in the first two years before
leaving Name Intelligence. We were a very small
team, but we knew if we put something together that
was attractive to attendees that we would have a
success. We rolled up our sleeves and got things
done, but consensus was a lot simpler in a small team."
went on to Oversee.net where I then launched DomainFest
in Barcelona and did about 10 shows, including the
global events in Hollywood and Santa Monica.
As part of a larger team and being satellite to the
marketing group, my role in DomainFest was fairly
marginalized by others, but I was glad to have a part
in the conference, and didn’t mind others having the
spotlight. One upside to Oversee was that I had the
opportunity to get to know T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founders Rick
Schwartz and Howard Neu without being at
Name Intelligence with that competing
got a great opportunity to get to know Howard during
Down Under conference in Australia.
He and I really get along and have similar thinking
processes. And obviously a shared interest in
throwing incredible conferences. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down
Under was also very memorable, as I connected up with
of Instra and Michael Gilmour
of Park Logic, each who had private planes,
and a group of us did a tandem trip across to Melbourne
from Gold Coast, stopping at small private
airports in towns like Port Macquarie, Mudgee,
and Parks on our way, making a weekend of
it. Parks was remarkable and reknowned for
being the place with the dish that received the
messages from the moon landing."
did a lot of international speaking or coordination at
Oversee. I led a few workshops at ICANN meetings
on the domain industry at the Marrakech and Sao
Paolo ICANN meetings, and we did a conference in
partnership with EuroDNS just prior to the Paris
ICANN meeting. I also participated in DomainPulse
which is a conference put on by .DE (Denic), .AT
(Austria) and .CH/.LI (Switzerland). "
was a great place to work during its peak, and I had
the privilege to work with people like Sevan
Derderian, Joe Higgins, Sam Aidun, Jim
Grace, Sam Tseng, and of course Ron
Sheridan and Monte Cahn. As far
on Oversee goes, I received a ‘forced alumni’
status in reward for all my efforts towards content
and sponsorships that had gone into the DomainFest
Global a week before the 2009
show. On the positive side, I did
receive a free pass for that show. That’s how
management rolled at the time," Frakes smiled.
I helped a friend named
Kieren McCarthy with launching the first couple of
.NXT conferences for new gTLDs in San Francisco,
moderating and content and what not. The delays
in the new TLD program really decimated that
conference, unfortunately, as he had to cancel a
couple of the later events that I had not been
involved in. Tough to recover from canceling
dates like that."
also helped out with an event in Munich called
NewDomains.org, moderating about 50% of the
sessions each of the shows. Markus
Eggensperger, Sebastian Ritze, Alex
and Florian all did an exceptional conference
around the new TLDs."
have aided with contents and conferences on every
continent but Antarctica, with workshops in the
Middle East and Africa, to Sessions in Asia, Europe,
North and South America, and in Australia. No
matter where, I see bright and enthusiastic people who
have discovered the world of domain names and what
they can do," Frakes said.
Birth of NamesCon and NamesCon vs.
then there is NamesCon," Frakes said. "Richard
Lau reached out to me to talk about the Domain
Roundtable conferences I had done in 2005 and 2006,
and how the vibe and the energy of the sessions was
good. I have had the privilege of getting to
know Richard through the years, and he’s always been
clear and decisive and he supports the people around
him by empowering them. He was concerned about
the magnificent silence from Oversee on
DomainFest dates being announced – because it was
getting well past the time anyone hoping to sponsor or
even potentially attend could reasonably accomplish it
even if announced. And then it never
to right) Joe Alagna, Jothan Frakes,
Richard Lau and Yancy Naughton after Alagna,
Frakes and Naughton allowed their heads to be
shaved in a fundraising effort for the Water
School held at the inaugural NamesCon
conference in Las Vegas, January 2014.
has a role with the Water
School charity, and had counted on doing a
fundraiser at the DomainFest. He had a plan
B which was a gathering of domainers and industry
folks that had been growing each year and gradually
taking over the pool at different hotels during the
Afiliate Summit in Las Vegas. ICANN is a
free event, which attracts thousands of
attendees – we had to charge something but
wanted it low and subsidized by sponsors. The
value proposition would be that it would be the same
people and business dialog that could be had at an
ICANN meeting, minus the distraction of the
discussed doing something but I insisted that we do so
in a manner that would cause no disruption to the
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference, and Richard had been in
touch with Rick about involvement, and there was some
agreement about proceeding. I appreciated that Richard
had gone out of his way to that extent. I doubt
very highly that Elon Musk had discussions with
the other auto manufacturers prior to launching Tesla,
so this seemed like a respectful gesture."
had been working on a long term contract back and
forth to Bangalore, India frequently over the
past 2-2.5 years on a project that had been scheduled
to have ended just before the Buenos Aires
ICANN meeting, and was looking for a way to come
back into the industry after a couple of years in
zero contact with others. NamesCon timing was good, as
it was to occur after my contract was scheduled to
fellow Co-Producer Jodi Chamberlain
with NamesCon Founder Richard Lau
heard that Jodi Chamberlain was involved as
well, and she and I have talked around the edges of
doing some work together. It was going to be a dream
team. So we did it. I got a chance to
meet and work with James Morfopoulos and we
approached people respectfully in Buenos Aires at the
conference efforts began about 3 months before the
NamesCon happened. We planned for 400
expecting 250 and ended up with 600. The
folks at .VEGAS arranged for Mayor Carolyn Goodman to
speak, and then Duane Forrester from Bing,
and we even had a surprise keynote from Matt
Mullenweg of WordPress! We had over
100 speakers across 30 panels, and amazing
blame a perfect storm of different factors for the
conference being such a hit, but I suspect that price
and timing were major elements. The new
TLD program had domains
releasing within days,
weeks or a month of the conference. DomainFest
never materialized. Affiliate Summit overlapped.
The conference was a low cost to attend and the hotel
was extremely budget friendly. Richard,
Jodi and I have all really done right by so many
people in the business that it could have also been karma.
Whatever one would attribute the success to, it
worked. In reality it was the attendees, really,
who made it great. The inaugural NamesCon was a
fantastic success beyond our dreams."
now fast forward to the Las Vegas T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2014.
I think T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is the absolute cornerstone
of our industry. It truly is. People have
energy about Rick and his opinions, because he asks
inconvenient but necessary questions. I
have found that he’s often right about things when
you roll the calendar forward, so I have found to
enjoy his energy and learn from the wisdom in it.
Howard Neu and his wife Barbara are two very
wonderful people who have done so much for the domain
name Industry from the perspective of the platinum
tier of domain name developers clear through to people
who are just joining the industry now. Howard
operates a smooth sail, and Barbara is the heart
of the conference."
to right) T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founders Rick Schwartz
and Howard Neu with Jothan Frakes, Barbara
Neu and Ray Neu at dinner the night before
the 2014 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference got
underway last May in Las Vegas.
Richard, and I are all in alignment on our respect for
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. In fact, NamesCon sponsored the
Las Vegas T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and Jodi and James were
there. I attended in an individual capacity, as
I happen to be a reasonably large portfolio holder."
mentioned that a friend of mine pulled me into .CC
back in 1997 earlier. In that business, I had
the privilege of working with the founders of DotVegas
Inc, and they’re very close friends of mine. The
timing of their launch was perfect for the
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference, and they wanted to do
something special and respectful, because this is the 10
year anniversary year for T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
Seeing as how this was T.R.A.F.F.I.C. in VEGAS, and they
are .VEGAS, it made immense sense for them to
took a lot of effort and work behind the scenes to
make things happen, but Oscar
Goodman was gracious enough to do a book
signing, and the Dot Vegas team and I scoured the
local area to acquire copies of Oscar’s book for the
attendees. I think it was an incredible value
for the attendees, and people who didn’t attend
missed out on some incredible networking opportunities
with the people who came."
Frakes (right) in Bangalore, India
was doing contract work when contacted him about helping
produce the new NamesCon conference.
will seem random, but it is not… I spent a
good portion of 2012-2013 in Bangalore, India. I met
exceptional people who have an entirely different
way of living than those of us in the US – yet I
got along with people very well. I was told that
my way was welcome. It was cryptic, but I took
it to be about how I approach things. I believe that the
rear view mirror is something that it is counter-productive
to dwell on unless you’re using it in building for
the future – and that better things in the future
come from constructive efforts now.
If you can
spend 1 hour doing something destructive and 1 hour
doing something constructive, and both net you the
same result, spend the hour constructively. So,
while we got off to a rocky start back in 2005 with
the Roundtable / T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West schedule
conflicts, in the time since, I treat them with
respect, integrity, and honesty and they do the same.
We all get along famously. Rick is AWESOME, and the
entire Neu family make the show an absolutely
wonderful event for the attendees," Frakes said.
is really focused on the domain name industry – and
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is about the platinum tier of success,
profit, and character within the domain name industry.
Using a food analogy, If NamesCon were a popular
comfort-food restaurant, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is that
special restaurant you take your spouse on special
occasions and end up sitting with A-list celebrities
and star athletes. They are very distinct but
complimentary events – both very valuable to
this great industry of ours. I strongly recommend both
NamesCon and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences, and trying
some of the international conferences."
gTLDs - The New Battlefield?
new gTLDs have been a bigger and even more divisive
battlefield with strongly held, often opposing,
beliefs on all sides. Frakes has been following that
program from the start. Here is his take on the new
extensions and how people can be brought together on
think if you look at any industry that has experienced
the evolution from a limited number of incumbent
players such as the airlines industry, or if you look
at media like radio, television, magazines, etc where
stratification and competition are introduced, there
is friction over the change, and people that benefit
and lose on each side of the equation," Frakes
things got closer and closer to the TLDs getting added
to the root, there was growing polarization of
camps. Many brands and their lobbyists did incredible
jobs of delaying and hobbling the new TLDs as well,
getting people to pole vault over rat turds by making
wild assertions about how the costs would be in the
billions for trademark infringement and legal fees.
In fact, there ended up being few if any actual issues
once the program got underway. Kudos on the
lobbying, but they’ve jaded the decision makers and
likely lost the long game on future asks now that the
numbers are in."
into the current state of affairs, now that there are
a good maybe 1/3 of the domains live in the root zone,
the actual registration volume is higher than I had
(conservatively) anticipated, and I think we are still
too early to look at the registration volume as any
indication of where the domain names are headed. It
wasn’t until Facebook hit 3-4 years of solid
operation that there was any indication of the
velocity/trajectory of their platform. Twitter
is roughly the same. This is an evolutionary
shift in the internet," Frakes opined.
people, because of the pace of adoption and awareness,
will take a gradual path towards the adoption of new
domain extensions, and .COM values will remain at
their current levels or even grow. The indications of
how the new TLDs have invigorated the .COM aftermarket
have really reduced a lot of the fear-based
initial concerns that long-held portfolio owners might
have been experiencing."
reckon I am talking a lot about ‘emotional
infrastructure’ as opposed to technical or financial
infrastructure. Mindshare and adoption of
the new TLDs is the next frontier to conquer. Universal
Acceptance is another key area. I suppose
that those who fought new TLDs with their every breath
are now making it through the stages of grieving and
coming to acceptance, but that is different."
Acceptance is how the new TLDs actually work in the
wild. In software, interoperability, search,
browsers, etc. When .info, .museum
and .travel were introduced in the early 2000s
there were all kinds of software and systems that had
to get re-visited."
don’t see developers and the development community
deeply engaged in the ICANN process. I should be
more clear about that, I don’t see people outside
the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) in
the development community deeply engaged in the ICANN
process. And conversely, while I see ICANN puts
time and energy into the IETF, such as sponsoring the
London IETF, the participation in the larger world of
developers and developer conferences is sparse and
minimal. ICANN is really putting a good team of
people in to Universal Acceptance, and there are
groups like The
Domain Name Association who have technical
committees that are working to improve user
experiences with new TLDs."
in the Future and Jothan's Life Offline
Frakes has built an very extensive resume over the
years but he still has a long business career ahead of
him. Though none of us knows what the future holds he
is pretty sure when his lies.
"I will probably always be in the domain
name industry," Frakes said. "I think there
are a lot of the companies that applied for new TLDs
that will be trying to figure out what to do. NamesCon
is certainly designed to elevate their game, but I
hold some ideas and strategies that will help people
with crushing it the long and short game with winning
"Some smart company will
snap me up, no doubt. Otherwise, gratefully, the
NamesCon conference and other consulting will
continue. ICANN’s next round of new TLDs could
come within either 24 months on the optimistic side or
7-8 years on the pessimistic side of the prediction
range, but when it does, I think that we will see a
larger population of applicants (gated, of course,
by price and process). I think that the current
and the future
applications and operational TLDs will
be a place of great growth, and this is likely where
you will see me."
"Family is of course, first.
I have an amazing wife, Melissa, and four
sons. My youngest are twins who are on the
autism spectrum, and this means extra investment of
time and energy in the home life. They are
extremely smart for their ages, so they keep me
challenged," Frakes said.
has plenty to keep him and wife Melissa busy at home
"I teach computers to
children, and have for a long time. There is so
little known about autism
– it is an ongoing learning curve. Melissa
participates as the co-president of the special (we
like to say extraordinary) needs parent/teacher
association so we meet so many inspiring parents."
"I am involved in an
anonymous program that I refer to as ‘Friends of
Lois’ (folks who are in it will know what I am
referring to), and I spend time in group discussions
there listening to people in a variety of families and
situations. I try to lend hope and a friendly
ear or anecdote to aid people through the rough
patches that life brings to us from time to time."
"I am a bedroom DJ,
having the music bug from my time DJ-ing clubs and
touring back in the day. My oldest son is a
musician when not keeping his grades up, so we enjoy
music writing and producing."
"I spend a little time on
investing in domains, and a lot of time on investing
my attention to the kids. Any parents can tell
you, this is the best investment. We have a lot
of Legos in the house, a lot of conference
T-Shirts and a lot of patience,"