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The State of the Industry 2017: 17 Experts Dissect 2016 and Forecast What's Coming in the New Year

By Ron Jackson

Welcome to DNJournal's 13th annual State of the Industry Cover Story! As we do every January, we assembled a panel of leading experts from throughout the domain world to get their take on how the industry fared over the past year and its prospects for the new year ahead. 

At this time last year we were in the midst of of a phenomenal boom fueled by exuberant buyers based in China, however as the year wore on aftermarket prices came back to earth and settled in closer to historical norms.

Meanwhile, the new gTLDs put another year under their young belts but the jury remains out on their long term prospects. The debate on that topic continues to rage with true believers on one side who see success as inevitable and unmoved skeptics on the other, claiming the new TLD train has already gone off the rails. 

Image from Bigstock

You'll hear opinions on both sides of that question and several other timely topics from our distinguished panel of 17 experts. We called on investors, developers, brokers, consultants, corporate leaders and attorneys in an effort to cover the industry's many bases. As always, we mixed  past contributors with new ones to keep things fresh. So, let's get started by introducing this year's panelists (and thanking them in advance for taking taking time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts us).


Our 2017 Panel of Experts













Row 1: (L to R): Mike Mann (DomainMarket.com), Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz (ExcellentDomains.ca), Braden Pollock (LegalBrandMarketing.com), Gregg McNair (PTL Group).

Row 2: (L to R): George Hong (Guta.com), Giuseppe Graziano (GGRG.com), Tessa Holcomb (Igloo.com), Alan Dunn (NameCorp). 

Row 3: (L to R): Kate Buckley (Buckley Media Group), Monte Cahn (RightOfTheDot.com), Paul Stahura (Donuts Inc.), Jothan Frakes (NamesCon).

Row 4: Bill Sweetman (NameNinja), Scott Reynolds (Payoneer.com), Stevan Lieberman (Greenberg & Lieberman), Zak Muscovitch (DNAttorney.com).

Row 5: Phil Corwin (Legal Counsel, Internet Commerce Association).

Domain Investors


Mike Mann
Domain Investor, Entrepreneur (MikeMann.com), Founder at DomainMarket.com

We'll start with commentary from domain investors who make their money through buying, selling, monetizing or developing domains. One of the most well-known and outspoken people in that field is Mike Mann, the original founder of BuyDomains.com who now operates the DomainMarket.com sales platform. Mike has also been involved in some of the biggest domain acquisitions and sales of all time and he has been the subject of two DNJournal Cover Stories - the first in our first year of operation back in 2003 and the second in 2007. Mann has made his fortune with .com domains and has been one of the biggest critics of the hundreds of new gTLD challengers that have launched over the past couple of years. 

Mike Mann
Founder, DomainMarket.com

"Google “Mike Mann gTLDs” to see my old predictions and if I hit the nail on the head so far!," Mann began. "The utter failure of the gTLD fad has been punctuated by the .blog launch, which had almost no consumer interest, even though it’s one of the best, comparable to the other best, .web .app .store – but I don’t see anyone using those so far either, or any of the thousand+ others, except scammers and spammers and long shot speculators."

"All Fortune 500 companies still prefer .Com; plus America’s other top executives and best marketers, and will never have a good cause to change, so won’t," Mann opined. "There are seemingly endless .Coms for sale on the secondary market for fair prices. Plus longer or more creative .Com can still be registered super cheap, that are better brands than almost any gTLDs, and less expensive."

".Com also has consistent registration pricing and history and companies and people and customer service and routing and brand recognition and branding value and a history of secondary market sites, apps and players."

"Other businesspeople around the world in random gTLD domains or country domains who want a professional international presence online will “fly to quality” and “risk aversion”, and will want to be led to the “safest assets”....i.e., we will see an even greater flight to quality .Com with further acceleration of their professionally appraised values, and sales prices! (just the ones that really have true value today)."

"Any site or email address that really launches with a new gTLD domain or country code domain without owning the .Com will confuse the general public users and add more value for the owner of the corresponding .Com," Mann continued. "So CoolDomain.com owner becomes worth more if somebody mistakenly buys CoolDomain.sucks and builds a web presence."

"When the smartest people in the room at Google offices tried to convince me .soy was going to be the next big thing a few years back (ostensibly millions of Latinos would have to have it) I knew everyone was going to be hosed on gTLDs across the board. Of course they didn’t hear me, and don’t hear me currently, but what’s new," Mann said.

Mike Mann (center) with Thought Convergence CEO Ammar Kubba (left) and DivyankTurakhia (who sold his company, Media.net, for $900 million late last year) at a party Mann hosted at his suburban Washington, D.C. home during the 2009 Domain Roundtable conference. (Photo courtesy of Richard Meyer)

Asked about the keys for success in 2017 Mann said, "Getting better information and appraisals out there. Better leadership, best practices, web sites, and web apps at "co-opetitioning" companies." 

"The gTLD “industry” will radically transform and consolidate and delete assets; and change their investor perspective and press narratives.  We won’t see or hear from some of the pissed off investors and snake oil salesmen any longer. .Com will still be king and increasingly treasured. The Industry overall will consolidate. New players and apps and capital will compete to do so."  

In closing Mann added. "Please see these cool sites for great free info to guide you forward www.MakeMillions.com, www.MikeMann.com , www.DomainMarket.com and www.AppliedEvolution.com. Check me out on social media and Google if you dare. If you can handle the truth. It’s not always pretty but it usually pays!"


Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz
Founder, ExcellentDomains.ca

Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz is a veteran domain investor based in Canada who was profiled in our September 2015 Cover Story. Ilze also started out as a new gTLD skeptic as well but her position has been gradually changing on that front. 

Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz

"You don’t need a crystal ball to see that the new gTLDs have made an impact on our industry and will continue to do so in 2017," Ilze said. "Anyone who knows me knows that I was never a fan of the new extensions. I feel ICANN has fragmented and diluted the market, without lending any significant marketing support. However, there seems to be a strong upward trend with the new gTLDs, but how long it will last cannot be predicted. There were 16 million new registrations in 2016.  How much is invested speculation by Domainers and how much is real demand by End-users? How much do heavy discounts skew the numbers?"

"The lack of promotion by ICANN could slow down the growth of these new extensions. If new registrations level out, or trend downward, all players will need to re-evaluate how long they will stay in the game. For Investors, renewals are expensive, and in my opinion, the Aftermarket is not really there to justify the risk. Speaking from the perspective of an Investor, if I were to take any risks on these new extensions, I would pick the most generic extension to flip, and I would make sure is was very, very short. In 2016 short, numeric domains continued to sell well and I expect that trend to continue in 2017."

"The good news is that I am seeing many new faces at the Domain Industry events. Breaking into the domain investment business takes cash, risk, and a sense of what the needs are of the general public, as well as other Investors. I am hoping that these new members of the domain community do not throw all their investment into one extension," Ilze said.

"I am still not seeing the general public embracing the new gTLDs except for perhaps country codes, and Geos. I have personally seen the prices paid for my Canadian country code, .ca, drop slightly since the introduction of the new gTLDs. I cannot be sure that the new extensions are the reason, (could be the economic climate, along with the terrible valuation of the Canadian dollar). The amount of sales inquires is still the same, but the new extensions give more options for the man on the street who wants to set up a website. First time buyers do not have to rely on a .com or dot “anything” if they can choose from hundreds and hundreds of new extensions for the cost of a registration fee. Hopefully, these new end-users are using the Radio Test, as well as taking in several other factors before purchasing a yet unproven extension."

"Although I still feel that .com is still King, overall, worldwide, and will continue to grow even stronger, these new extensions are having some impact. Although inquires for potential sales have continued to be strong, it is the pricing that suffers for Investors when there are too many choices.  I see Sellers are dropping prices more and more instead of sitting on a high priced domain. All gTLDs are not the same so I believe the niche domains will suffer in the long run, while extensions while .club and .vip will grow. With the Chinese in the mix, there could be some opportunity here. China was the strongest player in 2015 but there was a tapering off in 2016. With the continued devaluation of the Yuan, I predict that Chinese investors will turn to the new affordable extensions for investment. It is reported that China’s government has approved official licenses from “MIT”, the domain regulator in China. The lucky extensions are: .xyz .club .vip I predict that there will be many more extensions being approved for the Chinese market. More choice means more investment."

"I foresee that 2017 will have the larger players like GoDaddy and Sedo spending more time and money promoting the new gTLDs, which has sorely been lacking since their launch in 2014. What I have noticed is the on-going dominance in the Domain Investor market by GoDaddy. 2016 started with speculation about how much GoDaddy paid for Mike Berken’s portfolio. Reports started out estimated as high as $35 million! GoDaddy continued to show its aggressiveness in the domain market by also acquiring NamesCon, the premier domain show in Las Vegas. It will be interesting to see how they use the show as a domain selling platform in 2017. I expect a lot more new ccTLD sponsors as well as a larger, more diverse domain auction platform including lots of the new gTLDs."

Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz receiving the Women in Domaining Award from TRAFFIC Co-Founder Howard Neu at the 2014 TRAFFIC East conference in Miami Beach.

"2016 also turned out to be a banner year for disputes. I am personally interested in the UDRP/CDRP process so I tend to enjoy reading the Complaints and results. According to WIPO, over 3,000 cases were settled, a 10% increase from 2015. There is a full 23% increase in domain disputes as one dispute can involve multiple domains. Although the .com continues to be the most popular extension, the following extensions were also part of a dispute: .cloud, .club, .date, .lol, .online, .shop, .site, .space, .store, .top, .vip, .website and .xyz. It would not be surprising to see 2017 surpass the stats of 2016 (and these stats do not include all the Trademark disputes handled by other entities, such as Arbitration). With more extensions, comes more Trademark Infringement. Some of the contributors of these disputes are overzealous Domainers hoping to hit the Lottery. The only thing they will get is a Cease and Desist demand letter threatening a lawsuit," Ilze cautioned.

"In conclusion, I still see .com being the most sought after domain, but I see the new extensions are here to stay. Maybe not all of them, but the ones that make sense...or not. (Case in point, .xyz) This industry changes so quickly and is so interesting, filled with so many friends, and so many opportunities, that it is my pleasure to be a part of it!"

Braden Pollock
Owner, LegalBrandMarketing.com

Braden Pollock (who was profiled in the November 2011 DNJournal Cover Story) has found success both as an investor in premium domains and as a developer who has turned some of those assets into popular websites. He is also frequently called upon to serve as a moderator at domain conferences staged around the world. 

Braden Pollock
Owner, Legal Brand Marketing LLC

"A significant trend in 2016 was GoDaddy's continued acquisition spree," Pollock said. "The biggest being Host Europe Group (itself, a roll-up of companies), furthering their immense grip as the world's largest domain registrar as well as becoming a massive hosting provider. They have acquired other hosting companies, Word Press solution providers, VOIP companies, and much more. They're even in the conference business now, owning World Hosting Days and NamesCon. The on-going roll-up of domain marketplaces and private domain portfolios hits closest to home. It's virtually impossible to know how far GoDaddy's tentacles reach now. I would expect the acquisitions to continue. I've been saying this for a while; a big player is going to start rolling up the registries. I would not be surprised when GoDaddy starts buying up this space. They have deep enough pockets - and it would make perfect sense to acquire Uniregistry, Donuts, Afilias or M+M, etc. If you sell lots of widgets, it only makes sense to start manufacturing them too."

"Another trend this past year would be the increase in sales prices of one and two word .coms. Historically these names have always 

been a solid investment but this year we've seen a spike in sale prices. While premium nets/orgs softened over the preceding couple of years they began to rebound this past year."

Looking forward Pollock said, "I expect (and hope for) some breakout .brand and gTLD ad campaigns in 2017. Every year for the last few years we've predicted the same thing. Public awareness and adoption may be coming slowly but it's definitely coming."

"We'll continue to see one and two character domains selling well in the aftermarket, particularly across non .com TLDs. Expect to see high value .net, .org and gTLD sales in this category - probably into the Chinese market."

"As parking revenue declines, there may be further consolidation of parking companies. Additionally, parking providers will more aggressively employ alternative solutions such as zero-click and dynamic, interactive advertising powered by predictive behavioral analytics (that is, once they get out of their Google contracts). There will also be a move toward consolidated advertising platforms such as City Brand Media for geo domains and what Legal Brand Marketing does for lead generation."


Dr. Gregg McNair
Chairman & Founder, Premium Traffic Ltd. Group

Dr. Gregg McNair (who we profiled in our October 2009 Cover Story) has been far more than a domain investor. He has also been a major investor in several companies both in and outside of this industry, especially in the domain monetization field. While he wears many hats he is now most closely associated with the Premium Traffic Ltd. Group that he founded and serves as Chairman. 

Dr. Gregg McNair
Founder & Chairman
Premium Traffic Group Ltd.

"2016 was indeed a great year for those investors and organizations with a focus on new and emerging monetization opportunities," McNair said. "Our group successfully launched Premium Traffic Limited at DomainFest Hong Kong, during September, a move that combined all our different platforms into a single business."

"Since then we have made a couple of major acquisitions to broaden further the monetization options for traffic owners. If your PPC revenue is static or still in decline you are obviously missing out!"

"The continued consolidation of industry sectors and the scramble among gTLD registries for attention has resulted in a noisy distraction from which we believe only a few will emerge with anything like a rosy future," McNair predicted.

Regarding 2017, McNair said, "As more and more traffic moves away from established monetization modes I believe that we will continue to see Google and other search partners derive traffic and value in other related modes. The advertiser is King and knows generally what converts best and will pay accordingly. Therefore the convergence and combination of the domain, agency and brand

sector will accelerate in a battle of survival. Of course the early movers carry the advantage and should maintain their edge over the followers."

"With respect to gTLDs I expect to see more floundering registries to exit and the aggregators like Donuts and Uniregistry to pick them up. However apart from a select number of registries it appears to me that many moons will pass before anyone makes a dime from gTLDs."

"We look forward to another amazing year and wish all our supporters and industry players, large and small, good health wealth and happiness in 2017."


George Hong
President & CEO, Guta.com

Moving on to the brokerage sector, George Hong, a native of China with a home in the U.S., is intimately familiar with key buyers and investors on both sides of the Pacific, something that has put his company, Guta.com, in a very strong position over the past couple of years. While the tidal wave of Chinese buying had receded Hong believes the country will remain a critically important player on the global domain stage.

George Hong
President & CEO 

"2016 was all about Godaddy and China," Hong said. "GoDaddy continued their domain name portfolios buying spree: the two most significant ones are from DotComAgency.com and Elite Domains. By buying portfolios as a whole and selling individual names to investors, Godaddy not only pumped a great amount of cash into the domain aftermarket, but also stimulated trading activities."


"Other than spending money buying domain names, GoDaddy also spent a significant amount of money elsewhere. The biggest news would be the acquisition of Host Europe Group (HEG) which stands for a big step of GoDaddy into European market. Besides, they spent a fortune advertising on major Sports events (NFL, NBA, NASCAR, WWE, Poker and Ping Pong). Thanks to Godaddy, many Chinese TV viewers firstly saw domain name commercials on nationally televised NBA or Ping Pong games. GoDaddy’s advertisement campaigns help bringing awareness to the general public about Godaddy and domain names. These are the main reasons that we think Godaddy is the domain company of year for 2016 (as noted in an article we published)."

"After a phenomenal domain sales surging in late 2015 and early 2016, Chinese domain market slowed down later in  2016 though Chinese buyers were still actively buying and selling. China was still the number one country globally for domains purchasing. For example, when Godaddy sold some domains from the DotComAgency.com and EliteDomains portfolios people tracked WhoIs changes  and reported that most of the high value domains (such as 2 letter .com domains) were bought by Chinese buyers. Guta.com was proud to broker sales of some domains that include two letter .com, 3 number .com and 4 number .com."

"The Chinese domain industry rapidly changed in 2016 and I got to witness these changes real time after spending more than 8 months in China last year. Bulk domain investment, buying and selling categories of domain names in batch without knowing/caring the exact domain names ahead of time, is a trend that got people’s attention in 2015 and continued in 2016. A few example of bulk domain investment categories are CHIP LLLL.com (“Chip" is an abbreviation of "Chinese Premium.")  Chips typically describe valuable domain names that contain only premium letters, known as initials, which exclude the letters a, e, i, o, u or v.), CHIP LLLL.cn, CHIP LLLLL.com, CHIP LLLLL.cn,  NNNNNN.com, 3/4 letter/number domains in certain new gLTDs. Bulk domain investment is easier than ever before. People don’t need to have any prior knowledge of domain names to participate."


"Existing domain platforms came up with innovative ways to buy & sell domain in bulk while new domain platforms, specifically designed for bulk domain trading, came online one after another. Buying certain categories of domain names becomes as simple as buying stocks or bitcoins," Hong said. "As a result, more and more new investors and money are drawn to the domain market. At first, these contributed to the phenomenal surge in late 2015 and early 2016.  

However as time went on, these exact same factors created major problems and concerns that led to the market slow down in 2016:


1. The domains involved in bulk domain investment typically are usually traded among investors and rarely used in commerce. In this case, a more appropriate term for bulk domain investment would be bulk domain speculation. Few people make huge ROI in a short period of time, while most people suffer

George Hong at the Xiamen, China office he opened in 
(thanks to the China boom that year he moved to bigger offices soon after).

losses. The quick and huge ROI potential draws experienced domain investors’ focus away from investing in premium domains to bulk domain speculation. The big losses cause people to lose confidence in the domain market as a whole.


2. Some new investors bring money in to make a quick profit. These people have extensive experience in trading stocks or other commodities and they are skilled at handling volatile market situation. There were price manipulations; there were pump and dump scams; while many seasoned domain investors’ impression about domain market that it should be steadily increasing. All things considered, it is not a surprise that most experienced domain investors were caught off guard and lost money speculating.


Looking ahead to 2017 Hong said, "Bulk domain speculation is here to stay. Some people will find out the ways to make money by manipulating the market. On the other hand, many more people will lose money speculating. Seasoned domain investors will gradually realize that bulk domain speculation is a gamble, they will shift their money and focus back to what they were doing best before: buying undervalued premium domains and selling them for a profit."


"In early 2017, there will be a lot of opportunities to buy undervalued premium domains such as CVCV.com (consonant-vowel). Chinese buyers will keep buying premium domains, such as pinyin domains with good meanings, 2-3 letter .com, 3-4 number .com and other short domains as the CNY currency is devaluing and there are few other viable investment alternatives."


Giuseppe Graziano
Founder & Managing Director, Lisbon Media, GGRG.com

While broker Giuseppe Graziano is based in Lisbon, Portugal, he has also been paying close attention to what is happening in China and began his commentary with that subject.

Giuseppe Graziano
Founder & Managing Director
Lisbon Media, GGRG.com

"For the niche I cover, which is short, liquid .com domains like LL, LLL, NN, NNN, NNNN, LN & NL 2016 was a year of transition," Graziano said. "After the drop in prices at the beginning of the year that extended throughout the summer, prices seemed to have reached a support level."

"To understand if the Chinese buying frenzy will resume, or the market will stabilize, let’s analyze the factors that drove the increase in demand and subsequent surge in prices of 2014-2015:  

1) The long term, sustainable demand of Chinese e-commerce giants and Internet companies.  

It is fair to say that the first type of demand will stay constant as the Chinese internet space continues to grow. The Chinese consumer marketplace is a “go big or go home” game and companies that want to play in the same league as Alibaba, Tencent or JD, have to get a short .com domain. Chinese consumers do not care for “boutique/independent” brands, but do trust large consumer brands. A short .com domain sends a “You can trust us” message to the public, and this is exactly the reason why record sales like HG.com for $3.75 million will continue to happen.

2) The short term, speculative demand that came from Chinese domain investors.  

The speculative short term demand is instead driven by: 1) profits 2) the availability and profitability of alternative investments. For what concerns the profits, in a bull market (as the one of 2014-2015), it was easy for investors to ride the upward trend. 2016 has shown though that the price of domain names can also go down, and many fair weather investors are less confident to jump in the market again.


Regarding the alternative investments available to Chinese investors, we have noticed an inverse correlation in performance caused most likely by funds allocation: the 2015 Chinese stock crash fueled the peak in prices of November 15. Bitcoins were surging again while the demand for domains flattened. As of January 5th, the People’s Bank of China announced that bitcoins are to be treated a commodity and not as currency. This made the bitcoins drop 20% in a few hours. If you consider that the total market cap of Bitcoins is no more than $16 billion, and that, according to our quarterly report, the estimated value of the short liquid .com domains is $8 billion, there is a chance that this might cause more money to flow back to domain names." Graziano said. 


Giuseppe Graziano (right) visiting George Hong 
at George's Guta.com office in Ximaen, China last year.

Looking ahead Graziano added, "2017 appears to be an uncertain year from many angles. Besides a difficult political outlook, US, EU and China have kept printing money, in an effort to sustain the stagnant economies and improve trade deficits. It is a currency war to who can devalue their currency faster and there is a new tendency for investors to distrust paper currency which is at the whim of central banks. Europe will have 3 elections this year, including France and Germany. Some of the parties, like the National Front in France led by Le Pen are asking for an exit from the European Union if they were to win. If this were to happen, the euro zone might be in danger of collapse and, as a result, the demand for alternative investments might increase as European investors look to hedge themselves. Will European investors also look at domain names as a place to invest?"

"If we look at last years, this is unlikely to happen. European investors have more investment options available to them as opposed to Chinese. As we noted on our quarterly report, in Q3 only, over 6,000 liquid domains moved from US, Europe and rest of the world towards China."

"So how is this going to affect domains? Speaking about the niche I cover, I do not see any significant change in the end user demand, at least in the short to medium term. For what concerns the short term speculative demand, I think February (after Chinese New Year) will be key to see if the Chinese buying activity resumes. I would watch closely the bitcoins price charts. A decrease in the value of bitcoins might signify that money will be flowing again to domains. Large domain purchases from Chinese end users might also restore confidence."

"In terms of opportunities, there are certainly market inefficiencies that can still be exploited. For example domain with vowels are priced significantly lower than the “chips” - and the international end users do not necessarily favor the Chinese Premium letter as much as the Chinese investors do. The niche of LN/NL domains (t5.com, 2h.com, etc) is priced significantly lower than the 2 letter category, although they are actually scarcer (520 vs 676) and present similar development indexes

Outside of my niche, here are a few more trends I see in 2017:  

·  Chinese investors who started investing in 2014-2016 will gradually gravitate more towards domains that have a higher chance to be sold to end users. 

·  Internet users are moving away from typing on a browser and onto speaking to a personal assistant on the phone. This trend is unlike to stop anytime soon and might likely damage the revenue of traffic domains and monetization companies.

·  India is a place to watch with attention. Using .cn domains as comparables (being valued roughly at 25% of . coms), India has a huge potential market and a rising middle class - we might see the sales prices of premium English .in keywords go up sometimes soon."


Tessa Holcomb 
Co-Founder & CEO, Igloo.com

Tessa Holcomb, who was profiled in our June 2015 Cover Story, is another accomplished, veteran domain broker who is no stranger to seven-figure transactions. As one of the smartest and hardest working people in the space we always value her insight into current industry trends.

Tessa Holcomb
Co-Founder & CEO, Igloo.com

"As an industry, one of our biggest challenges continues to be pricing, and even more so when there are such pronounced fluctuations in the market as there were between 2015-2016," Ms. Holcomb said. "The leveling off (to put it mildly) of the Chinese Market created an evident swing in the pendulum putting the ball back in the hands of buyers and resulting in competitive end-user sale prices and tremendous investment opportunities (as publicly noted here on DN Journal’s 2016 Top 100 Sales Chart.)"

"Many owners turned down significant offers, holding out for numbers they had witnessed only months earlier while others cut their losses not knowing what the future would hold.  Q4 has always been the strongest quarter for Igloo and 2016 was no different as prices steadily crept up throughout the end of the year. Stagnant buyers came back to the table with increased offers and sellers, previously unwilling to negotiate, responded positively creating a win-win situation for all."

"Although the number of companies using gTLDs is on the rise, over 90% of Igloo’s transactions in 2016 were still .coms. Startups with higher level funding and businesses of all sizes 

continue to see the value in acquiring their one-word .coms and make up a large portion of our acquisition business along with domain investors buying both individual names and portfolios," Tessa said. 

"2017 will be an extremely busy year bringing an onslaught of unanticipated activity and movement within the industry as a whole. More companies will come, go, join forces or change direction than in any year before. We’ll see an increase in the number of transactions overall with owners, who don’t normally sell, coming out of the woodwork and more investments being made either by existing players or new individuals or groups. With pricing continuing to fluctuate, we’ll see less Buy It Now Pricing, especially on the higher end. We’ll see more collaboration among established brokers and more common practices being shared. On this front, Igloo has created the Premium Broker Network as a more formal vehicle to help in the collaboration efforts between trusted brokers, give higher end names more exposure at the right levels, and close more sales at these price points."


Alan Dunn 
Managing Director, NameCorp.com

Alan Dunn's many years of successful experience as a domain investor, broker, consultant, researcher and writer has made him one of the most respected figures in the industry. He will be profiled in an upcoming DN Journal Cover Story.

Alan Dunn
Managing Director

When asked about the key stories of 2016 Dunn cut to the chase. "China—for a different reason this year. I think 2016 proved that the Eastern and Western markets for domain names are completely different." Dunn said. "This realization has led many companies to rethink their overall strategy for the China market (which still has tremendous opportunity), and has also diminished a lot of noise from people who were only visitors in the industry looking to make a quick buck."

"GoDaddy’s continued portfolio acquisitions were also quite important, but not just from a sales perspective. These acquisitions have given some industry veterans a chance to retire, and with retirement there is often a drop in shared knowledge. We also lost some great people this past year. While retirement and loss are both natural elements of industry evolution, I think that more people realized the need for a long-term plan this year than ever before."

With respect to 2017 Dunn said, "I think we all know demand for premium short .com domains will continue to rise, supply will continue to decrease and more competition will enter the market. (No surprises there, right?). 

"The biggest challenge for the domain name industry has been (and will continue to be) a collective voice. Last year, many companies changed direction, a result that I think can be attributed to either not having a plan or understanding the importance of marketing. This is not just limited to gTLDs, but also includes legacy companies that have failed to innovate or lead. In 2017, I hope that we can (collectively) change that."

"Milk has the famous “Got Milk?” campaign. Cotton Incorporated—which was founded in 1970 to support U.S. cotton farmers and importers in the research, development and promotion of cotton—has the amazing “The Fabric of Our Lives” campaign. Domain names are the foundation of the internet. Why do we not have a “Get Online” or “Get Your Name” campaign that promotes the education of the very product our businesses are built around? (But not sponsored by GoDaddy, who we all have to thank for making this industry where it is today.)"

"Whether it’s .com, .org or the further maturity of new gTLDs, there is no doubt the industry (as a whole) is moving forward. Maybe, hopefully, 2017 will be the year we finally make progress together," Dunn concluded.


Kate Buckley
Founder & Principal, BuckleyMediaGroup

It has been a big year for Kate Buckley. A few days before this article came she brokered the sale of Advance.com for $300,000 giving her two of the 20 biggest sales reported over the past year as she also sold Rate.com for the Castello Brothers last spring for $725,000. 

Kate Buckley
Founder & Principal
Buckley Media Group

While the China market has cooled Kate said there are still the engine pulling the high end domain train. "Chinese investors now own 26% of the 676 LL.coms," Kate noted. "They have money to tie up, and believe domain names are relatively secure. And they believe in .COMs. By my calculations, of the 676 LL.coms, half are in use, the Chinese are using or sitting on roughly a quarter, and investors are sitting on another quarter of them. There are probably 160 or so investor-owned LL.coms out there, which is not a lot. Seeing what happens with these remaining LL.coms could be interesting, I believe their value will continue to rise. I’m brokering one of them right now, in fact: QO.com."

"Additionally, this was another year that reinforced the fact that premium .coms do in fact have significant liquidity, and are highly sought after by businesses that desire greater reach and impact (not to mention consumer resonance) for their marketing and branding spend."

"VR (virtual reality) and IOT (the Internet of Things) are all fascinating to me right now. And it’s reached the mass market tipping point. Some in the industry think this will hurt domains; I disagree. Google and Amazon are now promoting voice activated call-to-action services and devices like Echo and Home. Those words are actionable and will lead more and more customers to those businesses that have actionable and memorable web addresses. The future is still .com."

"Additionally, I believe that the continued proliferation of new gTLDs will perpetually raise the value of premium dot-com names. The reasons are many, but two of the most important are 1) dot-com has a long term “trust” factor and 2) the public always defaults to dot-com when trying to recall or share a domain name. Some believe neither is important because search engines like Google control the game, but the ability to immediately and accurately recall a company’s brand will always be paramount to a business’s success. It’s basic branding and marketing. Furthermore, I believe that the new gTLDs will begin to be judged more on the bottom line (revenue), instead of the amount of registrations."

"The fact that Fortune 500 Companies, without fail, invest in dot-coms and continue to do so drives this point home. As Paul Graham, venture capitalist and co-founder of the Y Combinator said, “The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness.” And, in fact, every single one of the top 20 Y Combinator companies by valuation have the .com of their name."


Monte Cahn
Founder & President, RightOfTheDot.com

Monte Cahn has been involved in some of the biggest domain sales of all time and, as an original founder of Moniker.com, he has been doing it since well before DNJournal began over 14 years ago. Monte is still doing it today as Founder & President of RightOfTheDot.com, who stages the annual live domain auction at NamesCon and is also a well-known consultancy to new gTLD registry operators.

Monte Cahn
Founder & President

"2016 saw some up and down roller coaster rides with the drastic swing in the Chinese markets which had direct affects on the overall domain industry and market," Cahn noted. "In some ways it was good by weeding out artificial sales and transactions from real transactions at real market values and prices. Speculators were liquidating and flipping domain assets when they couldn’t liquidate or monetize other assets due to Chinese laws and markets, On a side and interesting note, China was responsible for 54% of all new gTLD registrations in 2016."

"This was bad for folks buying higher than market and trying to flip out as well as those holding out too long waiting for that higher price that never came."

"On a more positive note, there were several buy outs of domain portfolios that were both good for buyer and sellers - Godaddy (NameFind), Endurance, and others on the good buying end, my good friend and former partner Michael Berkens, Monster Worldwide, CentralNicAnthos Chrysanthou / Emerge Media, and others on the sellers end.  Many questioned the per domain price per domain these portfolios were sold for but in my opinion 

they were all win win transactions for both sides and put good spark in our industry when we needed materially valid and fair transactions for both buyers and sellers."

"Then there were some of the company to company buyouts and mergers and acquisitions involving some of our friends in the industry. Most notable was Directi / Skenzo founders Divyank and Bhavin Turakhia who later formed Media.net and built it to be one of the largest online Yahoo/Bing based ad platforms. They sold to a large Chinese consortium for $900MM - announced in August of 2016.  This couldn’t have happened to nicer guys and well deserved for all their continued innovation, hard work and perseverance."

"In addition, several new TLD companies made strategic moves in acquiring other new TLD strings and companies. Afilias acquired StartingDot domains .archi, .bio and .ski in August.  It was also discovered that Afilias was the second highest bidder for the public ICANN auction for the new TLD .Web which Verisign won through Nu Dot Co.  I felt that bid and the company behind it validated that .Web could be the next .Com competitor and now compliment to .Com.  After suing ICANN to try to stop the Verisign .Web deal, Donuts acquired .Irish at the end of the year.  And .Buzz decided to put their TLD up for sale.  I think some of the newer players in the new TLD space had a reality check and realized that unless you have big money behind you, a lot of experience, and / or efficiencies of scale, its hard to successfully launch new TLDs and successfully compete in a market that will take 5-10 more years to survive." Cahn said.

"Meanwhile we started off 2016 with the largest industry trade show and domain auction at NamesCon with over 1,000 showing up in Vegas for great networking, content and close to $2 million in domain auction sales.  This kicked off a strong year in individual domain sales in both legacy TLDs and even new TLDs.  Ironically NamesCon ended up being acquired by WebHostingDays (WHD) who was then acquired by Godaddy through its acquisition of Host Europe Group who owns WHD!"

"What I find so significant about 2016 is how far we have come since I started in 1995…and how much our industry has matured since its early starts.  Yet we are still in our infancy with so much bright future ahead of us!"

Monte Cahn (standing at center) helping auctioneer Wayne Wheat run the 2015 NamesCon Live Domain Auction. They also did it in 2016 and will be returning yet again next week at NamesCon 2017 in Las Vegas.

"2017 will continue where 2016 left off," Cahn predicted. "I think there were be more strong domain aftermarket sales, more portfolio buyouts and more mergers that touch our industry in some way or the people that helped pioneer it.  Although there will be challenges in the change of US political leadership, that is likely to be messy in many ways, I do feel that overall business will be strong as we move towards less political regulations, lower US tax rates over time, increase in employment. This will result in the start of more business opportunities and more individual and corporate wealth overall.  This will only help overall business and our industry in the next year and beyond."

"Our next generation of internet / web users will be registering new and existing TLDs.  There will be some more big new TLD primary and aftermarket sales along with legacy .com sales.  Both will be raising the tide water for all and will be good for the entire industry.  Existing .com speculators will continue to cross lines and register more new TLDs as more are registered world wide.  More brands will start using their new TLD extensions and start building brand awareness on those extensions and again it will raise the tidewater for all."

"We will see more new TLD strings being acquired by some of the multi string holders and even by some new players wanting to get into the domain space.  Some unlikely friends and competitors teaming up on some other interesting deals before the end of the year as well.  2017 will be a year of exciting and interesting times.  We kick off this year with a record breaking crowd at NamesCon with close to 1,400 people in attendance and another successful RightOfTheDot / NameJet Live and Online auction!"


Paul Stahura
Co-Founder & CEO, Donuts Inc.

Paul Stahura, the Co-Founder and CEO of the largest new gTLD registry operator, Donuts Inc., sees an extremely bright future for new domain extensions - so much so that he has bet a good chunk of his personal fortune on it, as detailed in our July 2015 Cover Story profiling the domain  industry veteran. 

Domain Investors
Domain Investors
Domain Investors

Paul Stahura
Co-Founder & CEO, Donuts Inc.

"The most significant trend of 2016, by far, was the more than 200% growth in the number of names registered in new gTLDs, which now total more than 27 million," Stahura said. "The utility of these names has been solidly proven and they now are in use by the world’s top brands and organizations.  A secondary but important trend is the emergent development of technologies that are adjacent to, or otherwise leverage, the domain name system infrastructure.  Donuts invested in two companies last year that push these technologies forward, and we anticipate future opportunities to do so again."

Looking ahead, Stahura concurs with others who are predicting continued consolidation in the new gTLD space (as well as the industry at large).  "We’ve already seen some consolidation — Donuts bought .IRISH recently — and we’ll see additional consolidation as the year progresses," Stahura said. "I also believe we’ll see additional innovation around the DNS.  There are several companies that are creatively using the DNS to power or otherwise structure new technologies, and we’ll see more of that.  We also will see new ideas come from the namespace itself as registries and registrars find new ways to reach customers with emerging needs."


Jothan Frakes
Co-Founder & Co-Producer, NamesCon

Domain Investors
Domain Investors
Domain Investors

Industry veteran Jothan Frakes, who was profiled in our July 2014 Cover Story, is now known for being the Co-Founder and Co-Producer of the world's biggest domain conference, NamesCon, but his experience in the field stretched back more than a decade before NamesCon was founded. He has worked in almost every aspect of the business allowing him to give us some unique insight into developments in multiple sectors of the industry.

Jothan Frakes
Co-Founder & Co-Producer

"Governance and Policy, though yawn inspiring to follow, continued to be important for domain name owners and the industrial providers in 2016," Frakes noted. "Registries and Registrars are compelled to introduce new policies where directed to by ICANN or Governments. For Registries, there was a new policy for Registries with regard to being available and operational within China, where it became necessary for a registry to become approved, which is a new type of barrier for registries, registrars, registrants, and end users to an otherwise fluid and frictionless operation of the Internet."

"Registrant contact validation by registrars (where you have to validate your email gets received and respond to it) still causes issues for domain names being deactivated inadvertently if someone is not looking out for an email from their registrar."

"In addition, further policy was introduced upon registrants about contact creation or changes this year. Registrars were required to add new validation policy which can transfer-lock domain names for 60 days when there are changes to the domain name contact.  This change came at the front of December 2016 and is already manifesting into some challenges 

within the registrant world - many within transactional marketplaces within the aftermarket, but the hope and intent of the policy was to reduce the ability that predatory actors exploit to steal names.  This 60 day period can be opted out of, but creates a bit more friction for transfers in domain transactions between registrants."

"Consolidation was heavy in the industry, the acquisition of NamesCon and DOMAINfest by World Hosting Days (WHD), and then the subsequent acquisition of their parent company Host Europe Group (HEG) by GoDaddy is a great example. .IRISH registry was acquired by Donuts, .WEB was acquired by Verisign, .BLOG was acquired by WordPress/Automattic, and there are many that we will see in coming months and into 2017."

"The industry saw changes in The Domain Name Association - a change in the Chair and the move to not operate with an executive director.  ICANN, though not an association, is a 'bottoms up' place to bring ideas or changes (or complaints) through the various stakeholder groups - they now have a new CEO that comes from a background of industry regulation in Sweden.  The Internet Commerce Association has been growing its presence, activity, and capacity in 2016 with its new membership model.  Participating in all of these is important, and there are also two other that I should point out as organizations that are worthy of some of your readers attention - the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2c) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who are making great headways in preservation of rights and freedoms."

Jothan Frakes speaking at the first NamesCon 
conference in Las Vegas in January 2014. Frakes co-founded the show with Richard Lau.

"Many Top Level Domains traded hands in 2016 (we will see more of this in coming times) and there were two very noteworthy events in 2016 - which were the announcement of registry back end provider projects.  One was the Nomulus project (a collaboration between Google and Donuts) for a registry platform, and the other was the qualification of the Canadian 'CIRA' (They run the .CA ccTLD and now .kiwi) Fury platform for new gTLDs.  The new TLDs that exist are always looking to optimize costs and have choice and competition. Back End Service providers that were not part of the 2012 TLD application round, but there was not a way prior to Fury being approved for a back-end provider to be vetted in a manner consistent with the panel reviews that had occurred for the new TLDs.  This precedent means that we will see registries seeking better costs or services, or even creating their own integrated registries for innovation.  Though this impacts the channel more than the end-user or registrant, it might hopefully play out as savings in registration fees - or stem the tide of wholesale fee increases per name in TLDs - where it becomes harder and 

harder for a registry to whine or justify 7-10% annual increases in the presence of cost competition reducing fees."

"Consolidation will continue in 2017.  The Open registry and NCC Group's TLD business was acquired by KeyDrive at the very front of the year, and we will no doubt see a trend of M&A within the business continue throughout the year. The good news is that this means that there continue to be cycles of opportunity - the moves and changes often give way to new company formations as teams and structures change through acquisitions.  After watching waves of these cycles, smarter companies fight to keep the talent around and continue or grow their market positions, while other companies restructure and exit people who go work for (or become) their competition."

"Startup opportunities still abound. Yes, someone maxed out the taxi-disruption service.  Yes, there's an app for everything you can think of.  Execution, capabilities and talent are often the big difference that makes for the success or failure of startups, not just capital.  A domain name can be a big part of this, but it is just a part.  If you're the person with the 'category killer' domain name, be sure you can kill that category.  If your domain is just a booster rocket for an existing project that someone else is building, watch for that person who is 'all in' on their concept, and keep in mind that their perspective is that they have to hand you their kid's college education money for something that should be around 25-50 dollars.  Leasing names or equity share is starting to become the new trend in getting startups the best domain names, and we will likely see leasing trends increase in the coming year."

"The Internet as we have grown to know and love it will undergo quite a large number of changes in 2017-2018.  Within the US, Net Neutrality, and other free-flow concepts that have been the baseline expectation and platform for innovation, choice and opportunity have a lot of potential to be under threat. This does not necessarily mean disruption to the opportunities within the domain name space, but it does represent potential for changes - some possibly good - in the flow of information, goods, services, and money."

(Left to right) Joe Alagna, NamesCon Co-Founders Jothan Frakes and 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 firstl NamesCon conference in Las Vegas, January 2014.

"Clearly we will see some changes in the new leadership within the Presidency and balances within the branches of government within the USA.  I closely follow updates from the DNA, ICA and i2C to help sift through the various announcements and understand how they might impact me or my interests."

".COM and .NET thick whois are coming.  That's going to be big, as it shifts the contact detail for names away from being held at the registrar, making the contact details available to the registry that will be operating .WEB."

"Will we see market forces allow for cross ownership within the largest industry player, with Verisign cross-owning an integrated registrar?  This remains to be seen, but in possession of what would essentially be the entire database of registrants globally (at least those not under privacy), it would put Verisign in a even more dominant than dominant position than they currently enjoy as registry for the .COM TLD."


Bill Sweetman
President & Lead Ninja, NamesNinja

Bill Sweetman has been an internet professional for well over 20 years with experience in just all aspects of the industry. His skill set has made NameNinja one of the top consultants in our field.

Bill Sweetman
President & Lead Ninja

"What struck me as notable about 2016 were the sheer volume of large domain portfolio transactions (GoDaddy scooping up several big ones for seven-figures) along with consolidation in the registrar and registry space (larger players swallowing smaller players). It's becoming harder and harder to keep track of which company is now owned by which larger organization, and which TLD is operated by which entity; someone should produce an infographic to map this messy spider web out!," Sweetman said.

"I imagine that 2017 is going to be a year of stark contrast. I expect we're going to see some exciting, innovative, and high-profile DotBrand launches along with, unfortunately but not surprisingly, some catastrophic failures by some of the smaller, independent new gTLD operators who are in over their heads."

"While the Chinese domain buying 'bubble' of Q4 2015 is now a distant memory, I don't think we should write China off as having the potential to make another huge impact on the domain industry. India, too. I, for one, will be watching the US startup and technology market carefully as it adjusts to the new government. If the 

venture capital money starts to dry up, I think that will have a dampening effect on some big-ticket domain sales."


Scott Reynolds
Vice President of B2B Services, Payoneer.com

After years of being dominated by Escrow.com, providing escrow services to domain buyers and sellers has suddenly become a very competitive space. The battle was ratcheted up considerably when deep-pocketed Payoneer.com joined the fray. Payoneer, represented here by Vice President of B2B Services Scott Reynolds, even enlisted former Escrow.com President Brandon Abbey as a Senior Adviser.

Scott Reynolds
Vice President of B2B Services

"2016 has been an eventful year in the escrow payments space, particularly with the major announcement that Armor Payments was acquired by digital payments industry leader Payoneer. In one fell swoop, the escrow payments space has gone from a fairly sleepy industry served by relatively small players to one that is seeing significant growth and innovation," Reynolds said. "Now, buyers and sellers of domain names have a viable alternative to take advantage of licensed secure payment services, backed by a global, well established company with millions of users."

"As the world continues to flatten, we see more and more small and medium sized businesses look beyond their borders to find new customers and source from new suppliers.  The domain industry is no exception.  At Payoneer we expect cross-border commerce to continue to grow, particularly from the Asia Pacific region.  Buying and selling from individuals and businesses abroad is potentially risky and complex, and traditional players like banks are not geared up to address these SMB needs.  We expect further innovation from tech startups focused on streamlining the challenges of

transacting across borders – financing, logistics (when relevant), payments, compliance, etc."

"In terms of challenges, when industries gain traction, regulators aren’t far behind. While the additional regulation provides security to consumers and businesses, it adds a layer of operational complexity and increased cost for the payment providers. Payoneer has always invested a huge amount of resources in licenses around the world, and in addition to our escrow license, we will continue to ensure that we keep the highest regulatory standards, across all the regions we currently support."


Stevan Lieberman
Attorney, Lieberman & Greenburg

Moving on to the legal field we have commentary from three of the domain industry's leading attorneys for you. One of those, Stevan Lieberman, is also a successful entrepreneur whose interests include DigitalCandy.com and Escrow.Domains

Stevan Lieberman
Managing Attorney
Lieberman & Greenberg

"2016 has been an interesting year," Lieberman began. "Just a few of the significant events last year (some overall and some for our industry specifically) were:

1. Substantial greater acceptance of new Gtld’s by the general public
2. Fake news abounds
3. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority transition - Consolidation of ICANN (naming) and IANA (numbering) into a single organization, which is now supranational. And is a not for profit, with one half billion cash in the bank and growing.
4. Verisign Contract extended to 2024
5. .Web extension sells for $135 million and law suits abound
6. Chinese domainers invest heavily
7. Chinese Gov mandates new rules for Registries
8. Massive investment in Block Chain technology (by Donuts and others)
9. Judicial redress Act signed – privacy laws extended between US and Europe
10. Ename goes public
11. Major companies (Microsoft and Google and others invest heavily in Augmented reality (Hololens & Magic Leap and AI)
12. Trump is elected president
13. WordPress buys .Blog
14. Large amount of consolidation within the industry (large companies buying smaller ones)"

Regarding 2017, Lieberman said, "I expect: A greater interest in privacy by the public which goes hand in hand with less trust of the government by the public.  The election of Trump shows this along with the dissatisfaction of much of the citizenry of the state of the union.  However I expect the government to increase its attempts to have greater and greater access to private company’s data of its users and to be able to filter the Internet for what it believes are bad actors to continue.  This will result in the stepping on citizens privacy rights to a much larger degree. Accordingly we will see large numbers of law suits in 2017 on these subjects."

"We also see a number of law suits against ICANN pertaining to how it controls new registries and expect further such law suits. Government control will also lead to terser control over the movement of money (we are already seeing this in the new identification, money laundering and know your client rules) which will lead to greater barriers to general transactions.  We however did not see much stopping industry roll up and expect even less control over such rollups becoming de-facto monopolies in 2017 (you know which companies have the majority control over the domain name industry)."

"All of this sounds pretty negative, but I also expect there to be a lot more money in the industry due to interest in the new TLDs, continued uptake in alternative ccTLDs (China and India), and the massive diversification of domainers into alternative monetization methods forced on them by the dying off of basic PPC (the silver lining)."


Zak Muscovitch
Principal, The Muscovitch Law Firm (DNAttorney.com)

Veteran Toronto-based attorney Zak Muscovitch is an acknowledged expert on UDRP issues and has helped countless domain owners successfully fight off attempts to take their assets through misuse of the UDRP process. 

Zak Muscovitch
Principal, The Muscovitch Law Firm

"The first trend that I have seen in 2016, is that Domain name investors have come under renewed attack by overreaching trademark," Muscovitch said. "I have noticed an increase in UDRP complainants arguing that they should be entitled to a domain name even though the domain name was registered by the registrant BEFORE the trademark was even adopted by the complainant. The reason for this appears to be that new companies are going after old domain names."

Until 2009, it was a nearly certain that the UDRP required both “bad faith registration and “bad faith use”, and that “bad faith registration” was of course impossible if the domain name owner registered a domain name before the brand was even a twinkle in the eye of the trademark owner. However in 2009, a handful of rogue UDRP panelists came up with a handful of decisions, starting with Octagen, that attempted to “re-write” the Policy, so that a domain name that was clearly registered in good faith, could be turned into a “registration in bad faith”. These misguided panelists took the position that if the domain name owner registered the domain name in good faith, but 

subsequently renewed the domain name in bad faith, i.e. by subsequently using the domain name in an infringing manner once a complainant’s trademark rights arose, that a domain name could be transferred."

"Fortunately, the consensus remained amongst most UDRP panelists, that this approach totally misinterpreted the Policy, and that a “renewal” does not amount to a new registration. Very recently, one excellent panelist, Mr. Adam Taylor, in TOBAM v. M. Thestrup / Best Identit, hopefully put one of the final nails in this misinterpretation of the Policy, when he concluded that “the Respondent could not have set out to target the then non-existent rights of the Complainant”, and that was fatal to the UDRP Complaint."

"Nevertheless, I have seen that a lot of high value domain names that have been owned by domain name investors for well over 10 years come under attack by companies that only started in business a few years ago. These new companies obviously want the .com that corresponds to their company name or brand, but the domain name was already taken. Instead of adopting a name where the .com is available or negotiating the purchase of the domain name from the registrant, these new companies are trying to get the domain name for free by reviving the misguided and outlying approach. Over the years, most previous UDRP cases involved domain names that came after the trademark, but nowadays, those may have mainly worked their way through the system already, and it may be that we are seeing a “new kind” of UDRP case where the trademark comes after the domain name," Muscovitch noted.

"Accordingly, until this errant approach is finally put to rest, domain name owners – even ones who have owned their domain names for 20 years – must be ever vigilant as to how they are using their domain name. Using an old domain name for PPC could easily turn into a UDRP for the unwary domain name investor, as in the intervening 20 years, a trademark could have arisen, and the trademark owner my take a wild and expensive shot at the domain name using the “retroactive bad faith” approach."

Zak Muscovitch speaking at the 2015 DomainX Conference in Bangalore, India.

"The second trend for 2016 that I see, relates to domain name transactions rather than domain name disputes. This past year, I have noted an increase in high value domain name lease or “financed” purchase transactions. Values for high quality generic and brand-able domain names have clearly reached a point where a start-up or existing company who wants to adopt a new brand, in many cases realizes that they cannot afford to purchase the domain name outright, so they therefore pursue alternative acquisition models. For example, I have seen more than the usual number of six-figure domain name “lease to own, “options to purchase”, and “financed purchases” transactions for decent generics and brand-able domain names. This is a marked difference from the past, where such transactions were less common and outright sales were the norm. As the value of domain names continues to increase, we can expect to see more and more of such transactions which enable a purchaser to start using a valuable domain name right away, but pay for it over time."

"In 2017, UDRP reform will be a major challenge for the domain name investment community, and the Internet Commerce Association will be able to meet that challenge with its increased capacity. ICANN established a Working Group that will be dealing with UDRP reform in 2017, and this Working Group is mandated to review the UDRP which has not undergone any changes to the Policy since it was first established in 1999. Accordingly this is a major development that could lead to profound changes for how the valuable property owned by domain investors is treated. The trademark lobby may attempt to use this Working Group to push through radical changes that may fundamentally decrease the fairness of the UDRP procedure. Fortunately, the ICA has never been better positioned to address such challenges. The ICA has now increased its Board members to five from three, adding in myself and Jay Chapman from Digimedia. Nat Cohen continues to serve on the Board, and Ryan Pierce of Rook Media has also recently been appointed, having replaced Daniel Law who has taken on the position of Executive Director. In addition, Phil Corwin continues to lead through his role as General Counsel to the ICA, and Kamila Sekiewicz continues in an expanded role as Operations Manager. Jeremiah Johnston, who has been with ICA from the beginning, continues his incredibly valuable leadership role as President of the organization."

"By increasing Board membership, the ICA has increased its capacity to work on behalf of the domain name investment community. Nat Cohen, Jay Chapman, Jeremiah Johnson, Ryan Pierce, and myself are all volunteering our time to advocate on behalf of the domain name 

investment community through a UDRP Reform and Domain Name Theft working group, by representing ICA at industry events, and by helping coordinate and develop ICA’s direction and initiatives. The appointment of Daniel Law as Executive Director, is particularly special, as the ICA will have an unprecedented ability to continue its important work and even expand on it through an increase in membership and ICA initiatives. Phil Corwin, is a Co-Chair of the ICANN Working Group that is engaged in reviewing the UDRP, and is therefore in an incredible position to monitor its work and continue to advocate for the ICA’s members in his capacity as General Counsel. Kamila Sekiewicz fulfills a crucial role by helping to coordinate all ICA activities and making things happen, including some fantastic work increasing the ICA’s membership, and her assistance will increase in 2017. Accordingly, the ICA is in the enviable position, with the generous support of ICA members, to greatly expand its work in 2017, through its greatly increased capacity."

Phil Corwin
Legal Counsel, Internet Commerce Association

Zak Muscovitch's comments above about the Internet Commerce Association (in the two paragraphs above) is a perfect introduction to Phil Corwin, the man to whom I want to give the last word in this year's State of the Industry report, because of the extremely important and effective work he and the ICA has done over the past decade and continues to do in protecting the rights of domain owners.

Phil Corwin
Legal Counsel
Internet Commerce Association

"From a public policy perspective, the most significant event of 2016 was the completion of the IANA Transition on October 1st and the ending of a unique US government relationship with ICANN," Corwin said. "It remains to be seen whether the GAC will remain content to have a merely advisory role in the newly emancipated ICANN, as early signs are that it may be flexing its muscles and seeking at least a coequal role with the community-based GNSO Council in setting ICANN policy going forward. There are also rumors that the Trump Administration may try to “claw back” the IANA contract or, in the alternative, try to assert some unique continuing US powers over ICANN; if that occurs, it may invite a variety of destabilizing responses from ICANN constituencies and the GAC."

"Another major event was the departure of Fadi Chehade as ICANN  CEO and his replacement by Goran Marby. So far Marby has assumed a much lower profile than Chehade. He is getting generally good management  marks so far, but as of now it is difficult to identify any unique stamp he is putting on the organization."

"With respect to 2017, the ICANN working group (WG) reviewing all Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) in all gTLDs, which I co-chair, will be

moving into the heart of its work of evaluating and perhaps revising the new gTLD program RPMs this year, prior to launching its phase 2 UDRP review. So far the WG is working in  fairly collegial manner, but that may be tested as we get into the trademark clearinghouse and related RPMs, and then especially as we reach the URS. Some trademark interests have indicated the desire to add a domain transfer option to the URS, but many in the domain investment community fear that would be too much of a domain hijacking risk in the context of a rapid, limited inquiry, $500 filing fee procedure," Corwin said.

"This month another working group that I also chair, on curative rights processes (UDRP and URS) for international intergovernmental organizations, will be releasing its draft report for public comments. IGOs and the GAC had asked for the creation of a totally separate process that would deny domain registrants the right of appeal to a court of mutual jurisdiction, to be replaced by another arbitration process. But the WG, at the end of two years of work, determined that there was no sound legal or policy basis for such action. The GAC may try to use the ultimate disposition of our recommendations as a test of their role in post-transition ICANN."

Phil Corwin speaking at the 2016 NamesCon conference in Las Vegas.

"Another major event this year will be the negotiations and outcome regarding renewal of Verisign’s contract to operate the .Net registry. ICA has called on ICANN’s Board to impose a moratorium on staff imposition of the URS on legacy gTLDs by contract (as is pending for .XXX and .Mobi) as the ongoing RPM review WG is charged with recommending whether the new gTLD RPMs should become mandatory Consensus Policy for legacy gTLDs. The stakes are big, given that current .net registrations exceed 15 million. Other issues may arise once the proposed registry agreement is released for public comment."

"Events may well arise that test whether ICANN’s new accountability measures work in practice, not just theory. The output of the work stream 2 accountability subgroups also remains to be seen on additional measures that, while deemed important, were not necessary preconditions of the IANA transition. The results may be a mixed bag; for example, the transparency subgroup is making good progress to recommending far greater public access to internal ICANN documents, but the jurisdiction subgroup threatens to become bogged down in a divisive debate on maintaining ICANN’s corporate jurisdiction in the U.S., notwithstanding ICANN pledges to the Congress and NTIA that this was a binding commitment."


With that we conclude our 13th annual State of the Industry report. Now it's time to take the field and see how the game plays out in 2017. We will meet you back here in January 2018 - same place, same time - to again take stock of where we are and where we've been. Also, once again - a sincere thank you to each and everyone of the industry leaders who took time out of their very busy schedules to contribute their thoughts to this report.

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