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The Domain World's Leading Diplomat: How Jothan Frakes Has Broken Down Barriers and Brought People Together 

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas 2013: A Pictorial Review of the Big Show at the Bellagio - See more at: http://www.dnjournal.com/cover/2013/may.htm#sthash.BXu4j45T.dpuf
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas 2013: A Pictorial Review of the Big Show at the Bellagio - See more at: http://www.dnjournal.com/cover/2013/may.htm#sthash.BXu4j45T.dpuf
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas 2013: A Pictorial Review of the Big Show at the Bellagio - See more at: http://www.dnjournal.com/cover/2013/may.htm#sthash.BXu4j45T.dpuf
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas 2013: A Pictorial Review of the Big Show at the Bellagio - See more at: http://www.dnjournal.com/cover/2013/may.htm#sthash.BXu4j45T.dpuf

By Ron Jackson

If the domain industry was the United Nations (and as a global business it does have some similarities), then Jothan Frakes would be the obvious choice for Secretary-General. There are very few people who have as much experience and as many contacts as Frakes does across all sectors of this industry. He is well-known and respected in the domain investment arena, the service provider community and in ICANN circles after years of being deeply involved in all three. 

The third leg of that stool is what makes Jothan especially well-suited to bridge the gaps between them. While domain owners and service providers know each other well and interact on a regular basis, there has always been some tension and even downright distrust between ICANN and domain investors whose objectives don't always mesh. Having spent so much time on both sides of the divide, Frakes has worked hard to create more harmony, or at least a better understanding between two communities that have often found themselves at odds.  But his efforts don't stop there. He has used his unique skill set to bring people together wherever he goes.

Jothan Frakes

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 for you.

A 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!"

Photo credit: King of Hearts
Under 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 laughed.

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." 

"My 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."

"I 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."  

"On 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. 

"My 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.  

Don Green

"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 worked hard."  

One 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 smiled.

Computers Are a Boy's Best Friend

"I 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.  

"I 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."

"I 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 crowd moving."  

"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.  

"This 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."

Former wallflower Jothan Frakes is comfortable in a any crowd. Here he chats with fellow attendees at the 2009 GeoDomain Expo in San Diego.

Now 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.

"I 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."

"There 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."

On Tour with Stevie "B"

"In 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."

"I 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 

had the 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.

"In 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 Duck")."

"The 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.

"The 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." 

That 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 door.

The Long and Winding Road to Domains

"I 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.

"I remember collecting business cards and watching the trend of the fax machine appearing in the 80s, then email in the early to mid

Jothan Frakes 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.  

"From 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.

"Working 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.

"I 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 Postel."  

"We set up a registry (I am simplifying very significant security, stability, resilience and 

other technical 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 the business."

"I 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)!"

"In 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."

"I 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!"  

"There 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."

"Prior 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 said.  

"While 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."

"With 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.  

Life After Verisign

"Afterwards, 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."  

"We 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.  

"For 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 always some 

Jothan 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."

"I 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."

"In 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."

"I 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.

New TLDs Have a Rocky Start But New Conference Helps Steady the Ship 

Frakes, an accomplished conference moderator
speaks to the crowd at the first NamesCon conference 
in Las Vegas in January 2014.

"After 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."  

"The 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," Frakes said. "I 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."  

"I 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."

"We 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," Frakes said.

"We 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."

"The 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 events."  

"We 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 theDNA.org and Internet Commerce Association, and the I2C," Frakes said.

"he 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!"

Building Bridges

The 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"?

Frakes (center) connecting with Freddy Schiwek (left) 
and Mustfa Patel (right) during a limo ride to an event at 
the 2006 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference in Las Vegas.

"I 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."  

"I 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 them."

"This 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.

"I 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."  

"I 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."

"Helping 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 heard."  

"My final comment on this is a ‘lemonade from lemons’ thing.  I am gratefully remarried, but did go through a divorce 

Frakes with 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," Frakes said.

Crossing The Front Lines in the Conference Crusades

Perhaps 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.

"I 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."

Frakes at the 2007 DomainFest Global 
conference that he helped orchestrate in Hollywood, California.

"I 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."

"I 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 conference."  

"I got a great opportunity to get to know Howard during the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 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

Tony Lentino 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."  

"I 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). "

"Oversee 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  

as downside 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.

"Later, 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."

"I 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."

"I 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.

The Birth of NamesCon and NamesCon vs. T.R.A.F.F.I.C.

"And 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 materialized."  

(Left 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.

"Richard 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 governance/policy stuff."

"We 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."

"I 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 have ended."

Frakes's fellow Co-Producer Jodi Chamberlain 
with NamesCon Founder Richard Lau 

"I 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 ICANN meeting."

"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 moderators."  

"I 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."  

"So 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."

(Left 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.

"Jodi, 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."

"I 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 participate."

"It 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."

Jothan Frakes (right) in Bangalore, India where he 
was doing contract work when contacted him about helping produce the new  NamesCon conference.

"This 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.  

"NamesCon 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."

New gTLDs - The New Battlefield?

The 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 this front.  

"I 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 noted.  

"As 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."

"Coming 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.  

"Many 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."

"I 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."

"Universal 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."

"I 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."

Frakes 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 strategies."

"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.

Jothan has plenty to keep him and wife Melissa busy at home too!

"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," Frakes laughed


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