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The State of the Industry 2018: 24 Leading Domain Experts Analyze What Happened in 2017 and Tell You What to Expect Next   Page 2

By Ron Jackson

Domain Investors

Domain Investor/Developers

Michael Castello 
Domain Investor/Developer, CEO, Castello Cities Internet Network

In addition to being a pioneering and highly successful domain investor (with sales including Whisky.com at $3.1 million), Michael Castello is also a legendary figure in the geodomain space with multiple developed city domain website businesses including PalmSprings.com and Nashville.com. He also holds many generic one-word domains and developed websites, including DayCare.com. Michael and his brother David were profiled in our December 2006 Cover Story (that still draws a steady flow of traffic today).

Michael Casetllo
Investor/Developer & CEO, CCIN.com

2017 - the 3-year mark for new gTLDS

At the DomainFest Sky Bar meet-up in Hollywood in 2014, I spoke with Paul Stahura (Donuts co-founder) about the new gTLDs. I know he was a bit reserved on how I viewed them. We had a good hour conversation. At that time, I told him that he would need 3 years and $100 million, as Donut's uphill battle was going to be attritional. We passed that milestone last year and I'm sure it cost Donuts at least that much in investment. 

I think we now have much more clarity on the new gTLDs and their relationship to .com. In many respects I have spoken positively about the new gTLDs in the past while understanding the immense hurdles that they would have had to overcome to succeed with the moniker; NOT COM. It was not so much that the gTLDs failed to live up to their expectations, in my opinion, it was simply a bait-and-switch by Google. They touted that they would go in deep on the new strings. When a company with that much leverage and money purports its strategy, many others follow as a hedge of protection. Google moves markets and in doing so, is highly political. While Google applied for 101 of the new gTLDs, they only touched one; dot blog. That is what is called a fail-safe. 

Outside of antitrust law, I believe domain names are Alphabet's greatest threat. I push back against the 5 big tech companies a lot these days and for good reason. There needs to be an internet agreement of understanding or type of bill of rights that protect netizens from the monopolies that are controlling our virtual freedoms on the web. When I was growing up, my mother told me, "Don't tell people your complaints, tell them your solutions". The solution is simple: Two simple facets of the internet that must be unfettered and have complete control by all of us - the URL and Domain Names. Currently they are being abused and manipulated in ways that are not beneficial for their survival.

Looking ahead to 2018...


I like the idea of Cryptocurrency, I think you can make a quick buck now. While it sits perfectly with the global internet, I don't see it ruling the world in the near-future for several reasons. Most notably; Country states have control over their currencies and that that is where they have their greatest leverage. The American dollar is a global currency, and while it is just made of paper, it is how the world views it that gives it great value. Cryptocurrency can also be used for nefarious business and laundering money. Governments and their agencies go to great lengths to protect their monetary systems and likewise to undermine others. Cryptocurrency is a large target that will always, in my opinion, be under attack. These days you can make a lot of money on it if you are a gambler.

Open DNS and Blockchain

I see the fracturing of many aspects of the internet as society becomes more segregated. That is why blockchain and open source will be so appealing. Societal tendencies will be considered more "stand alone" in the future. Outside sources of control will less dictate how we survive in the virtual world. Like-minds think alike and we will interact more so in this manner in the future.

Domain Names

Domain names sales will grow in 2018 mainly because there is less doubt now within the DNS and TLD hierarchy. I have a new 7 figure sale this year with another closing in. While I do not have an NDA on the sale, I am leaving it up to the buyer to find the right time to story it. We are receiving a lot of generic .com interest that I have not seen in over eight years. Good luck Domainers. There are better times ahead.

Morgan Linton 

Domain Investor/Developer, MorganLinton.com & BoldMetrics.com

In addition being an active domain investor/developer, Morgan Linton writes about the industry (and other topics that catch his interest, like cryptocurrencies) on his popular blog at MorganLinton.com. However, most of Morgan's time these days is spent on full-blown business development of an innovative fashion industry company he and his wife Daina founded (with investors including none other than Mark Cuban) at BoldMetrics.com. 

Morgan Linton
Co-Founder & CRO, BoldMetrics.com

While I think crypto is a general trend that sent ripples through the domain industry (no pun intended) this past year, I don't think it had much of an impact on the individual investor. Yes, some investors (myself included) did sell crypto-related domains that they might not have in years past, but the fundamentals have stayed the same and even strengthened in many ways. I think 2016 was all about understanding the impact that new gTLDs would have on .COMs, in 2017 it became clear that .COM was stronger than ever and one and two-word .COMs are still the best investment for individual investors, and any investor IMO but I'm just speaking as an individual here.

One trend that I think has continued to grow and really spread its wings in 2017 is a shift away from traditional parking pages with a "Make Offer" banner at the top to full format landing pages. Companies like Uniregistry and Efty seem to be setting the standard here and making it much easier for domain investors to focus on attracting as many offers as possible on their domains. 

Of course tied to this trend is the continued disintegration of the parking space. I know it

can be a little controversial to say this since yes, there are still people that make good money parking. That being said, when I started buying and selling domains in 2007 parking and buying domains with parking revenue was a hot topic, that's just not the case any more and the consolidation of parking companies really illustrates this. As an individual investor I just see a gradual change that is continuing which is a focus on domains that have real value to an end-user vs. domains that will make money parked. I know this isn't an amazing revelation and some people will read this and say, duh Morgan we already knew this but I think it's important to mention since it is a trend that has continued to decline over the years. 

Looking ahead to 2018...

Now let's talk crypto. It's the elephant in the room and has divided the industry as we now have two factions, Domainers who have also invested in crypto and are bullish on where things are going, and the other side that thinks it's all a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The reality is that anyone can call themselves a "crypto expert" but nobody actually is, the market is too new, too volatile, and too random to predict. What I can say is that it's very likely (probably safe to say it's a fact) that crypto took money away from domains in 2017 and I think investors will continue to split their investments and add crypto as another investment vehicle. 

Here's the thing, I don't think this is going to be bad for domain investors, in fact I think it could be good, less competition means more domains with less bids on the popular auction sites we all know and love. At the same time it does likely mean that if you're a domain investor that sells to other domain investors, the available dollars looking for investment opportunities has been reduced and will continue to be reduced. It's pretty realistic to say that more people are getting into crypto and putting their money into crypto than they are in domain names and I only see that accelerating in 2018.

The flipside is that crypto domains were always a very niche category without a ton of sales activity. Now crypto domains are more valuable than ever and I think we will continue to see more startups and large companies buying crypto domains in 2018 which will put money into the pockets of crypto domain investors. Already this year we've seen domains like CryptoWorld.com sell for $194,888 - it is very unlikely this would have sold for anything close to this a year ago. As an individual domain investor I'm always looking for new opportunities and I think crypto domains are going to have a nice run for years to come. 

The reality is, whether you love or hate crypto, it's not going away, it's growing regardless of the price of cryptos themselves and more companies, services, and technologies are jumping into the space. This means domains with keywords like coin, blockchain, crypto, etc. are going to get increasingly valuable and offer higher returns for domain investors. So whether you're buying cryptos yourself and bullish on the market, or if you think it's all just a giant ponzi scheme, you can't ignore the fact that crypto domains are going up and will very likely continue to do so well beyond 2018.

George Verdugo 

Founder, CasasBaratas.com

George Verdugo has one of the great rags to riches stories in our industry - one that we told in our December 2017 Cover Story. George has been a serial entrepreneur, literally, since he was a kid! He went through some hard times but today he owns and administers a wide variety domains and developed Internet businesses from his home base in Kansas City, including his first big web business hit, CasasBaratas.com ("cheap houses" in Spanish) as well as several enterprises build on new gTLDs like Hotels.club.

George Verdugo
Founder, CasaBaratas.com, Hotels.club
and many others.

I feel that the most significant event of 2017 has been bitcoin and blockchain. It's interesting that a lot of domineers and brokers shifted to crypto currencies and as visionaries saw the new opportunities to invest. I go to all the conferences in our industry (USA) and the big thing with all the domain investors was cryptos. 

Looking ahead to 2018...

2018 will be a great year for Hotels.club. Hands down, Hotels.club continues to be the lowest cost solution in the market for families and business people who travel more than 2 or 3 times per year. I had a good friend reach out recently who told me their company saved $2,700 last year by using this service. The real challenge is just getting that message out.

In 2018 you will see a new website for Hotels.club and we will also will be launching Flights.club and RentalCars.club before years end. 

Home prices are booming nationwide and that trend should continue in 2018. KCHomes.com and CasasBaratas.com should benefit from this market.  As an  investor in Kansas City, we are seeing sweeping changes in the real estate

market. I am definitely going to experiment with Facebook ads in Kansas City for KCHomes.com. It seems like Facebook as an ad network has some potential for domain investors looking to run a real business. It’s a great advertising network for targeting niche concepts.

As a Domain Investor, I see the domain industry as a whole doing exceptionally well in 2018. We continue to see strong end user demand for brandable domains. Crypto currencies are the new opportunity similar to  the early domain investors  in 1994, 1995, 1996-  the golden years of domaining.  Bitcoin is the .com of crypto.  I will be investing in Bitcoin and believe that all the other crypto currencies will fall behind Bitcoin. Beware of those ICO’s as most will fail. 

John Colascione 

CEO, Long Island Media Inc., LongIsland.com & many others

Most people in our industry have a lot of domains but not many (if any) that have been developed into full-blown businesses. John Colascione is not most people - his focus has always been on talking relevant domains and building businesses on them (see his LinkedIn profile to see what I mean). John also writes about the business of buying and developing domains on his blog at StrategicRevenue.com

John Colascione
Founder, Long Island Media Inc.

One of the most significant changes I feel took place in 2017 is contained within my own observations and my own confirmation that social media, specifically, Facebook, is becoming an equalizer on the playing field when compared to Google as a “top referrer of traffic to websites”.  I wear a lot of hats in this industry and for the multiple companies I am involved in, but for the most part, my key objective and responsibility is always overall website monetization. I feel in 2017 I, myself, have finally come to terms with the fact that website traffic generation is no longer all about Google, but rather it is cut up between these two Internet giants, Facebook and now Alphabet, with their Google search engine. 

It seems, at least based on what I have experienced with my own projects, that while Google, as a search engine and traffic referrer, is implementing never ending rankings changes, predominantly due to their paid search model growth and expansion of their local listing endeavors (aimed at all directories), hogging up the natural results, (and there is more of this to come with Google’s guaranteed local listing services) it’s Facebook  that is filling that gap, becoming a top referrer to websites, and in many cases, delivering much more traffic than Google, 

due to its massive audience, and their own endeavors to keep people on Facebook, for their entire lives. Facebook will also continue to compete with Google in advertising by doing exactly what they are doing now, by building their advertising network around an already user-friendly, simple system, that the ordinary Facebook user already understands how to operate.

Looking ahead to 2018...

There has been so much change in the past few years that we should all be prepared and very much expect this to remain the status quo. There will continually be battles over what types of content appears in search and how Facebook attempts to capture more and more people to both their platform and away from the Google ad network and to their own. The .com domain will remain the gold-standard in a never-ending sea of alternatives, although it should now be clear to all that no longer does your domain name, regardless of extension, provide the type of significant leverage it once did - and that domains need to be developed, not only into great sites, but great and powerful brands – that is, if they want to compete for web traffic algorithmically. Social media will continue to morph into its own optimization component adding continually challenging tasks for the everyday marketer who must now master both to succeed.

Ray Dillman Neu 

Co-Founder, MERGE! Conference

Ray Dillman Neu literally grew up in the domain business. When he was still a teenager Ray was able to learn the ropes while helping his dad, attorney & T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu, stage the first major domain conference ever (T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2004, put on by Howard and Domain King Rick Schwartz in Delray Beach, Florida). Since then Ray has bought, sold and developed many domains and co-produced many major conferences.  His primary business now is the new MERGE! conference that he and his partner, NamesCon Co-Founder Jothan Frakes, launched in October 2017 in Orlando. 

Ray Dillman Neu
Co-Founder, MERGE! Conference

The biggest trend in 2017?

Obviously, cryptocurrency. Domainers have always been on the forefront of the newest tech trends. Some came from the 800 number business, to domains, and now crypto. It is not a surprise to me that many domainers had the foresight to get into crypto early; even though many still believe we are in the first or second inning of cryptocurrency! 

What excites you about 2018?

The timing of MERGE! could not have been better. Jothan and I both feel the stars aligned and we truly are merging industries from all facets of tech business. We tout the show as the world’s fair of tech covering everything from domains, cryptocurrency/blockchain, hosting, development, startup/business.   

This year MERGE! 2018 is being presented in a new venue to help keep attendees cost down and their experience up! The Hilton Lake Buena Vista - Disney Springs is the perfect setting to bring all of these different investment opportunities into one venue. The rates of $149 per night  are affordable; the location across the 

street from Disney Springs is fantastic; and the networking areas are made for just such a show. The hotel is not as large as last year's and it makes for an easier experience for all attendees and Sponsors.  Once again MERGE! will be at the forefront of bringing all of the compatible and symbiotic interests together to make it a truly unique experience. 

Domain Brokers

Kate Buckley 
Founder & Principal, BuckleyMediaGroup

We had Domain Broker Kate Buckley in last year's State of the Industry report after she had finished 2016 with two that year's 20 biggest domain sales. For an encore, in 2017 Kate went out and rang up three of the year's top 25 sales, a trio led by Refi.com at $500,000. Look out 2018, Kate is in the house and determined to make sure the hits just keep on coming.

Kate Buckley
Founder, Buckley Media Group

In 2017, more than ever, there was a realization from the leadership of major consumer-facing companies that a subpar domain or non consumer-resonant extension simply will not cut it. Particularly as many of them cede more and more marketshare to Amazon, and/or the tyranny of Google, they see ultra-premium domains as a way to claw back. And not just to regain ground, put to plant a flag in that ground with an authoritative ultra-premium .com. Which is exactly what Guaranteed Rate has done with their acquisition of rate.com (they are now cleverly branding with rate.com throughout their consumer-facing campaigns—from sponsorships to TV and radio ads to billboards!).  

Not only does this place them first in the minds of the consumer, but we have now seen conclusively that ultra-premium .coms are appreciating assets that add value to their balance sheets and can be liquidated down the road (think: fly.com). Compare and contrast that to pouring money down the gullet of Google, or even traditional media—there may be short-term gains, but arguably little to no lasting impact.  

In the industry overall, I think we’ve seen a loss of confidence in both privacy and escrow services, as well as a real need for independent analysis and due diligence before undergoing any significant transaction.  

Additionally, blockchain technology continued to fascinate as investors speculated profits via IOCs and governments and organizations speculated via applications (think data management and IOT). And, as Raymond Hackney recently reported: “Verisign released their top trending keywords for December. No surprise it was crypto dominated again. Everything in .com was coin/crypto related.” (Think coin, crypto, chain, block, etc.)

Looking ahead to 2018...

I don’t see a lot of fundamental changes for 2018 from 2017 (for my company or category). I see one and two-word premium .COMs continuing to appreciate in value, and the lower value domains (including new TLDs) flattening to depreciating—certainly not emerging on the aftermarket. Consumer-facing companies increasingly appreciate the tangible value of ultra-premium.coms, not only in terms of the bottom line, but in terms of authority principle, social proof, and consumer resonance. That’s not to say there’s not a time and a place for new TLDs (particularly for B2B), but I don’t see them moving the needle in any meaningful fashion for brands. Startups are also investing more and more in premium domain names as they look for more efficient ways to capture marketshare right out of the gate.  

On the tech front, we’re seeing a not unexpected correction in the cryptocurrency market (with an even more severe value correction predicted), but blockchain, of course, is much more than bitcoin. It’s the decentralized ledger technology that tracks bitcoin transactions, and has massive applications and implications that go way beyond the ups and downs for investors—think hardware convergence and broad sweeping social change.  

I think it will be interesting to watch what might happen with the integration of blockchain with domain names. Not only with financing and acquisitions, but as crypto domains themselves increase in value. As Crunchbase reports, “Bitcoin eclipsed ‘cancer’ in worldwide search interest sometime in November 2017.” However, at the current time, I treat all things crypto-related as “racetrack money” (particularly given the recent crash and rampant concerns about regulation and fraud). Great for a long shot, but don’t bet the house. As the dust settles, premium .COMs will still be the most dependable assets and you'll own the real estate.

Andrew Rosener 

CEO, MediaOptions.com

Year in and year out, few domain brokers have been as consistently successful as MediaOptions CEO Andrew Rosener. The only reason you don't see his name far more often on our weekly sales charts is that he deals primarily in the kind of high end domains that come when non disclosure agreements when they change hands. While domains have been his bread and butter, another kind of virtual asset has made him sit up and take notice. 

Andrew Rosener
CEO, MediaOptions.com

For me there is no question, the biggest event or trend of 2017 was around Crypto Currency & Blockchains “coming to the masses”.  This was the year that the World woke up to Bitcoin!  Funny enough, we “earned” our first Bitcoins in 2013 or early 2014 when someone couldn’t pay for an approximately $10,000 domain deal in $USD and asked if we would accept Bitcoin.  Since we only paid $69 for the domain, I said sure, why not, since there was very little downside.  Those Bitcoins are now worth over $300,000!  Unfortunately, we sold them in 2016 when the price started to rise above $1,000.  Ouch!

For registrars this was evident in the massive number of new registrations containing crypto related keywords.  However, for MediaOptions this was more apparent in the number of crypto related companies that we sold domains to (premium domains, not necessarily “crypto” specific domains) and in conjunction with that, the number of companies that bought domain names from us using Bitcoin!  In total we concluded 2017 with near 10% of our total sales volume in crypto currency I’d estimate.  This trend will most certainly continue and likely escalate in 2018.  

In addition to the very obvious trend of blockchains & crypto currency influence on the domain name market, I also saw a very large divergence in the domain market as a whole.  We now have (more than ever) two very separate and unrelated markets, one at the top end (top 2% of domain names) and everything else.  The demand and therefore prices of the best domain names (LL.com, LLL.com & One Word .COM) have noticeably increased in 2017.  Its becoming incredibly difficult to source top notch domains, especially one word brands, for our clients.  However, on the flip side, the mid tier and lower end names have dropped by the wayside.  We have found very little demand or liquidity for the mid range and lower names.  I also expect this trend to continue and likely exacerbate in 2018.

I believe 2018 is going to be a very exciting year in Domaining!  2018 is going to be the year that companies & brands take back their identity.  Take control of their branding & message.  Take control of their customers & data.  They will move away from the social media dependence and allowing 3rd parties to control their brand, message & data.  Move away from the “walled gardens” and with that, I believe, they will come to realize the value & importance of premium domain names more than ever before.  This will be reflected in higher valuations, greater scarcity & more deal flow.  We completed the two largest domain transactions we have ever made in 2017 and will close a similar deal likely right around the time this gets published.

Of course, as mentioned there will be all kinds of innovations and developments coming out of the crypto & blockchain space that will benefit domain names.  For one, the sheer number of new companies and projects that will be launched, each one of them will need a domain name.  With the industry still in its infancy, we have seen an early adoption of the .io domain extension.  But we are already seeing that as these companies begin to mature & grow, they upgrade to their .com.   Particularly for the Crypto Currency markets, it is foolish for ANY company to operate on anything but the .com since they bleed traffic & email from anything else and that is highly sensitive since these are financial organizations and dealing with very sensitive data and information.  We are already witnessing this first hand.

Ryan McKegney 

CEO, DomainAgents.com

DomainAgents.com has been making waves ever since the company was founded by brothers Ryan and Phil McKegney in 2012.  CEO Ryan McKegney picked up a big award at the 2017 NamesCon conference when Escrow.com named DomainAgents one of the top five brokerages in total sales volume on the Escrow.com platform.

Ryan McKegney
CEO, DomainAgents.com

There was a lot of consolidation within the industry during 2017 with GoDaddy investing heavily in domain portfolios, Tucows buying eNom, and the rollup of nTLD registries. What this means for the long term health of the industry is uncertain. 

In domain names themselves, the hottest and most obvious trend has been in crypto related domain names. Anything with 'coin' or 'block' in it has garnered much more interest. We've also seen domain investors selling domains to invest in crypto and then some of the profits realized in crypto flowing back into domains themselves as crytpo investors look to diversify or buy trophies.

Looking ahead to 2018...

Crypto currencies have captured a lot of the mindshare of the domain community and online investors in general.  There are probably a fair number of people who might have tried investing in domain names who have instead focused on crypto.  That could end up being an opportunity for some domain investors who stick with it or it might just accelerate the consolidation we're already seeing.

George Hong 

Founder & CEO, Guta.com

George Hong, a native of China who lives in the U.S and maintains offices in both countries, is intimately familiar with key buyers and investors on both sides of the Pacific. With Chinese buyers becoming a market force - especially at the high end of the market - in recent years, his company, Guta.com, has enjoyed tremendous growth.

George Hong
Founder & CEO

A significant trend in 2017 was Cryptocurrencies and blockchain bursting into the mainstream. Blockchain was a primary content theme for major domain conferences like Namescon and the inaugural Merge conferences. Another hot trend is the expansion of the sharing economy. At the beginning of 2017, few people know about the concept of bicycle sharing. By the end of the year, some bicycle sharing company names are household names in China and many other countries.  These two trends provide plenty of examples that underscore the value of premium domain names and show us that end user market is strong and active.  

Bicycle sharing company OFO spent USD 7 figures to upgrade their domain name from ofo.so (a hand registered name by the founder of ofo) to ofo.com (brokered by Guta). Car Sharing company DiDi Chuxing (url: didichuxing.com), commonly known as DiDi, bought didi.cn for close to USD 1 Million.

We heard a lot of high priced crypto related domain sales in 2017. Guta has brokered the sales of several crypto related domains for much higher than wholesale market prices. Even in the 

wholesale market, LLL.com domains that end with C (Coin), T (Token), B (Bi: Coin in pinyin) and L(Lian: Chain in pinyin) command a higher price than average LLL.com domains. In order to add credibility to their projects and to attract investors, some ICO projects bought and leverage premium domain names. An example: Game.com is the domain name of an ICO project. Another example is XMT.com, a domain which was reportedly sold for an 8-figure New Taiwan dollar amount about 1 month ago. There is a statement  in the center of the xmt.com web page (in 4 different languages) that states: "The xmt.com domain, which was purchased with tens of millions, is a reliable site for you to choose".

Looking ahead to 2018...

We'll continue to see  two letter and three letter domains selling well in the aftermarket. Last year, Guta brokered the sales of several two letter .com domains, some of them are 7 figures sales. In 2018, we expect to see high value .com sales in this category - mostly into the Chinese market.

Soccer is the world's most popular sport in terms of fans. 2018 is a soccer world cup year (which happens only once every four years). Many operators of world cup related websites like to use numeric domains. Short numeric .com/.cc/.net domains have been sold recently. Guta has been having a strong January brokering the sale of numeric domains. We expect the demand for short numeric domains will continue into the first half of 2018.

We will see more and more people who invest in both Domain names & Crypto Currencies. Crypto Currencies will get more popular as a payment method for domain sales. An increased number of domain industry companies will start looking into different ways to leverage crypto currencies and/or blockchain technologies to improve their existing services or create new services.  


In 2018 I predict that some domain escrow companies will add  bitcoin as a payment method and gain a noticeable amount of new customers because of it. Guta brokers a lot of sales where buyers and sellers live in different countries and use different currencies. Some buyers can only pay in RMB, which sellers and escrow companies in the west don't accept. We constantly find ourselves spending  time and efforts helping buyers convert money to USD and wire them to escrow companies or sellers. Paying via cryptocurrencies will speed things up and make domain transactions smoother.

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