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February 24, 2020

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

New GGRG Report Breaks Down Over $19 Million in Liquid Domain Sales Closed in Q4-2019

GGRG.com has released their latest quarterly Liquid Domains Overview (LXDO), covering the 4th quarter of 2019. These reports break down aftermarket sales results for short .com domains comprised of 2-4 letters, 2-5 numbers and a combination of 2-3 characters mixing letters and numbers. Collectively, GGRG refers to domains that fit those parameters as liquid domains because there are almost always buyers (at least at the wholesale level) for them. As in all markets, prices fluctuate for these closely-followed domains, of course, which is why GGRG developed the LXDO to track those price movements and give you the most current information available on how these domains are currently being valued.

This is the 14th edition of the LXDO that the Lisbon, Portugal based domain brokerage and consulting firm founded by Giuseppe Graziano has published. It includes data collected from a variety of public sources as well as cumulative private data contributed by Escrow.com. The report is presented in infographic format for easy consumption of the information.

The latest report begins with a brief overview page that, for Q4-2019, shows the total dollar volume for publicly reported liquid domain sales jumped to nearly $7.3 million, a rise of over 30% from the previous quarter. However that news is tempered by seeing total liquid domain sales dip 13.3% at Escrow.com to about $12.2 million (individual domain sales information is not released by Escrow.com but they do their cumulative sales total for these domains).

Giuseppe Graziano
GGRG Founder

The main page overview is just the tip of the iceberg though. To get the more detailed information from the nine individual sub-categories (like two-letter .coms, three-letter .coms, etc) be sure you don't overlook the Menu row at the top of the main LXDO page that has abbreviated links that will take you to each section. Those are shown as: (there are also links to information and on the same row). The entire liquid domains universe, as defined by GGRG, totals just 614,298 domains, a relative scarcity that contributes to the investment value of these domains.

(Posted February 18, 2020) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
https://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2020/dailyposts/20200218.htm

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Is the Tide Turning for Domain Investors on the UDRP Front? New Data Uncovered by Attorney Howard Neu is Promising

In the course of my reading this week I came across an article by veteran domain attorney Howard Neu posted on his NeusNews.com blog that was quite surprising. It unveiled an encouraging trend that bears watching in the months ahead. Before getting into the specifics, for those not familiar with the UDRP, some brief background may be helpful.

As a domain industry attorney, Howard frequently handles UDRP cases and writes about developments related to ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). That's the arbitration system that resolves disputes that arise when a

Image from Bigstock

trademark owner claims someone's ownership of a particular domain name infringes on their rights.

If a UDRP complaint is upheld by the arbitration panel, the domain gets transferred to the complainant. If they lose, the name stays with the current owner (the respondent) but  even if the respondent wins the battle they typically lose several thousand dollars in legal expenses from having to defend their property (often from a party who had no legitimate claim to the name in the first place). There is no financial penalty for filing a frivolous UDRP complaint against someone (only the risk of losing your own legal fees). Worst case scenario is the offender is ruled guilty of a reverse domain name hijacking attempt and essentially told to "go and sin no more."

Attorney Howard Neu
NeusNews.com

Of course, this emboldens others to try their luck at using the system to steal valuable domain names. UDRP panelists are just as responsible for stopping that from happening as they are for stopping the bad actors who register domains for the purpose of infringing on and profiting from famous marks. 

Over the nearly 20 years I have been in this business, the feeling among the vast majority of domain investors has been that the deck has been stacked against them, as they wound up on the losing end of far more UDRP decisions than they won, something that the statistics bore out. That's why the new stats in Howard's article caught my eye.

After studying nearly 200 recent cases handled by WIPO and THE FORUM (two well-known arbitration services), Howard found the odds for domain owners were evening out and even shifting in their favor at THE FORUM. Most cases that are lost are uncontested (the domain owner simply fails to respond

because they can't afford the cost to defend the domain or the name is not worth that much to them). However, in the 30 WIPO cases that were contested (out of 171 filed) the complainants won only 17 of 30 - much closer to a 50/50 chance for respondents than we are used to seeing.  In the real shocker, at THE FORUM, where 27 cases were filed but only five contested, only one complainant won - an 80% success rate for the domain owners. Howard emphasized that this is a very limited data set at this point but he will continue to follow and report on UDRP results very closely. There is much more information in his article, including names of the arbitration panelists and how they individually ruled in these cases.

(Posted February 13, 2020) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
https://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2020/dailyposts/20200213.htm

GoDaddy Makes Blockbuster Acquisition of Uniregistry's Registrar & Market and  Frank Schilling's Domain Portfolio  

In our annual State of the Industry Cover Story published two weeks ago, one of the most frequently made predictions by our panel of experts was that we would see much more consolidation in the industry in 2020. That point could not have been hammered home harder than it was today when GoDaddy announced a jaw-dropping deal to acquire Uniregistry's registrar operations, their domain marketplace and Uniregistry Founder Frank Schilling's entire Name Administration domain portfolio of more than 350,000 domains. GoDaddy also acquired Brandsight in the transaction, an add that will help them better support enterprise-level customers. The price paid for those assets was not revealed.

Schilling, a domain industry pioneer who was profiled in two DNJournal Cover Stories, one in 2007 and another in 2012, will retain Uniregistry's new gTLD registry operations that includes 26 TLDS as well as the backend platform serving those extensions and others. So, Schilling will remain an active participant in the industry after the deal with GoDaddy closes in Q2-2020 if all goes as planned. 

For Uniregistry customers, things will continue as they are now with no major staff or operational changes expected over the balance of the year as the two firms work through what is expected to be a smooth transition. 

 

Frank Schilling
Uniregistry Founder 

Paul Nicks
GM & VP, Aftermarket, GoDaddy.com

GoDaddy Vice President Paul Nicks, noted "Uniregistry is unique in that domain investors built it from the ground up so their products and services have always catered to the domain investor community, This acquisition reinforces GoDaddy's commitment to domain investors. Combining Uniregistry's solutions and incredible knowledge with our platform will help investors succeed and advance future innovations for them."

Nicks was also excited about acquiring Schilling's domain portfolio, adding, "Frank is one of the smartest and savviest investors, and his portfolio shows that knowledge and acumen. We can't wait to bring these to market for our customers with competitive prices."

After new GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani delivered the keynote address at the 2020 NamesCon Global conference on January 30, I wrote that he had made a very strong personal commitment to championing the

domain investor/developer community that I felt was extremely good news for our industry going forward. GoDaddy's purchase of Uniregistry quickly underscored that (as does Paul Nicks' decision to serve the community as a Board Member of the Internet Commerce Association, the non-profit organization that protects domain registrant's rights). The company has the money and the marketing skill to dramatically elevate recognition of what we do in mainstream business circles, and to portray it in a more accurate light than has often been the case among those with little understanding of the business.

Frank Schilling, who built Uniregistry to be a custom-tailored platform to meet the needs of domain investors and developers is also confident that GoDaddy is the right company to carry what he and his team created forward. Schilling said, "One of the mantras we repeat around the Uniregistry office is that we dream about building a company of permanence and value. When I started speaking with GoDaddy, it became clear how passionate we both are about our customers and this industry. I realized the best way to fulfill our mantras and dreams was to join with Godaddy. I'm so proud of the team we've put together. It is incredibly rewarding to give them the opportunity to scale our solutions with GoDaddy's customers. The years ahead will truly be awesome!"

(Posted February 11, 2020) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
https://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2020/dailyposts/20200211.htm

Voices Rising Against Proposed ICANN Agreement With Verisign That Would Push .Com Prices Up 31% in 4 Years

ICANN is again catching flak (on top of the incoming fire over the pending .org registry sale) by proposing that .com registry operator, Verisign, be allowed to raise the wholesale price of the world's most popular TLD 7% annually over each of the final four years of their current six-year contract. If approved, the current wholesale price to registrars of $7.85 would soar 31% to $10.26 by 2024.

Domain registrants already pay well above the wholesale price, of course, as registrars have to mark up prices to cover their overheard and marketing costs and make enough of a profit to stay in business. Big changes in the wholesale rate force them to pass price increases on to you. That doesn't make customers happy, so many leading registrars are strongly opposing the proposed agreement.


You can make your feelings known too, as ICANN is accepting comments from the public  through Friday, February 14. The Internet Commerce Association (ICA), the non-profit group that fights for domain registrant rights, has created a tool that makes it easy for anyone to file a comment. As of this writing, over 1,300 comments have been files and the number is growing quickly.

The ICA released this statement about the proposed agreement:

"Verisign is the sole-source supplier of .com domain names at the wholesale level, giving them an effective monopoly. When you register or renew a domain name through your registrar, such as GoDaddy or NetworkSolutions, $7.85 of your registration or renewal payment goes to Verisign. The actual cost to Verisign to provide the expensive infrastructure and the management of the registry has been estimated at between $2.50 to $2.90 per domain name per year. Other registries have said they can offer the same services at lower cost. But ICANN does not allow other companies the opportunity to bid to operate the .com registry, for ICANN has given Verisign the perpetual right to operate the .com registry - meaning forever!

As the cost to operate the .com registry drops lower and lower, Verisign's profits are already rising higher and higher. Verisign already enjoys one of the highest profit margins of any company in the world.  A further price increase is not justified. Yet ICANN staff has determined that Verisign should be able to increase prices on .com registrants by 7% per year from the current $7.85 to $10.26 after four years. This will impose hundreds of millions of dollars of added expense on .com registrants - simply to benefit Verisign.
 
ICANN is supposed to act in the public interest, and be responsive to public comment. This comment period is your opportunity to share your views with ICANN, whether you think the price increases are justified or unjustified. You can learn more about the issue in the following articles:

Circle IDVerisign's Attempt to Increase its Fees Still Unjustified Despite Diversionary Tactic

Circle IDHundreds of Millions of Dollars at Stake as .COM Price Freeze Set to Expire

Domain Name Wire.Com prices are going up after Verisign pays off ICANN

ICANN says it wants more public feedback. Here's your chance! Take 30 seconds to let ICANN know what you think.

(Posted February 10, 2020) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
https://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2020/dailyposts/20200210.htm

GoDaddy's Afternic Honored the Domain Sales Platform's Longest Running Partnerships at an Awards Ceremony in Austin

There was a lot going on in Austin, Texas with the 2020 NamesCon Global conference in town last week. In addition to all of the official conference activities, several of the industry's leading companies staged parties and special events of their own to thank their clients and partners. 

I thought GoDaddy's popular Afternic domain sales platform put a cool new spin on one of those. It came as part of a reception for the company's new CEO, Aman Bhutani, that was held at GoDaddy's 12th floor offices in downtown Austin Wednesday afternoon, January 29, 2020 (the opening day of NamesCon Global).

Afternic Chief Revnue Officer Bob Mountain (left) and GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani recognized Afternic's longest Tenured Partnerships in an awards ceremony at the GoDaddy office in Austin, Texas January 29, 2020.

With some 100 guests on hand, Mr. Bhutani and Afternic Chief Revenue Officer Bob Mountain handed out special awards to the six companies that have been Afternic's longest running partners, with all dating back ten years or longer.

Above: Bob Mountain, getting ready to announce the winners of the awards for having the longest Afternic Longest Tenured Partnerships. Four of the six had representatives in town for NamesCon Global who were there to personally accept their awards. Trophies were sent to the other two, TierraNet, who has been a partner since 2007 (the longest tenure of the six) and Name.com, who has been a partner since 2010.

Above & below: The longest tenured partners with representatives at the presentation were Web.com and DomainTools.com whose partnerships both started in 2008. Above, Web.com SVP of Partnerships Barbara Sher accepted for her company, an industry giant whose brands include Network Solutions, Register.com, NameJet and SnapNames, among others. Below, DomainTools.com Principal & Director Ammar Kubba with his company's award. Ammar is a well-known serial entrepreneur with many other business interests as well. 

Above: New GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani, who joined the company in September, made a great first impression on attendees. It was telling that he spent much of the time that had been set aside to put him in the spotlight diverting it to partners instead. Bhutani also made it clear that he would be a champion for domain investors, developers and small business entrepreneurs which was certainly music to everyone's ears.

Completing the quartet of partners honored in person were DirectNic/Fabulous.com Director of Business Development Mike Robertson (above), a partner since 2009, and Dynadot.com CEO Todd Han (below) whose partnership dates back to 2010 (Todd started has a great back story too, having started his popular registrar in his garage back in 2002)!

We live in a busy world and work in a constantly changing industry but there should always be time to stop, say thank you, and show gratitude to those who have helped you along the way. Good job Bob, Aman and your team at GoDaddy/Afternic. 

(Posted February 7, 2020) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
https://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2020/dailyposts/20200207.htm

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NamesCon Global 2020: The Complete Conference Recap with Photos from Every Session

The NamesCon Global 2020 conference is now history! The 7th annual edition of the industry's marquee event was held January 29 - February 1 at the Omni Hotel in Austin, Texas. It was the show's first time in Austin after the first six editions were staged in Las Vegas. 

While the conference was underway we posted daily photos and highlights in The Lowdown, but with the show's busy day/night schedule we didn't have time to write about all of NamesCon's dozens of business sessions. So, after the show ended, we set about putting together this complete conference recap that has photos from every one of the week's business sessions, along with the session topics and speaker's names. We also added new, previously unseen photos from the Exhibit Hall that are sprinkled throughout the report that has also been posted on our Home Page. We hope you will enjoy this look back at a very big week in the Lone Star State's capital city. It's the next best thing to having been there yourself!

NamesCon President & CEO 
Soeren von Varchmin
(right)
 
and DNJournal's Ron Jackson

(Posted February 5, 2020)

Photos & Highlights from NamesCon Global 2020's Fun Day That Closed the Conference Saturday

The 2020 NamesCon Global conference concluded Saturday (February 1) with a Fun Day at Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden in Austin, Texas. The casual outdoor networking event under bright sunny skies was the perfect way to wind up a productive week in the Lone Star State's capital city. It followed three busy days filled with dozens of business sessions and social events at the Omni Hotel. You can see the opening day photos and highlights from Wednesday here, those from day two Thursday here, and the ones from day three Friday here.  

With around the clock activity while the show was underway we didn't have time to post photos and information from every session but, now that we are back home, 

that is exactly what we are working on now with plans to release the complete review Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. In the meantime, here is look at the aptly named Fun Day that officially brought down the curtain on the 7th annual edition of NamesCon Global Saturday:

Above: (left to right) NamesCon Global attendees Krinal Mehta, Prakhar Bindal and Aishwin Vikhona ready to get Fun Day underway Saturday (February 1).

Above: The closing day event was held at Austin's immensely popular Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden, running all day from 10am to 5pm. NamesCon arranged a large private area for attendees on the elevated patio overlooking at the far right that overlooks the public area in the foreground.

Below: In addition to live music from a top notch Austin band, attendees enjoyed a loaded buffet with a variety of sausages, side dishes and desserts, as well as access to an astounding variety of draft beers and cold drinks that came in handy as the temperature zoomed well into the 70s by afternoon.

Above: With the sun out and not a cloud in the sky, tables in the shade were popular. Those settled in at this one are (clockwise from the left): Hani Armstrong, Marlon Phillips and Dave Roberts (all from ProtectedParking.com), as well as Susan Lawrence, Adrienne Phillips and Diana Jackson.

Below: The best part of the day was a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. (Left to right) Howard Neu, Ammar Kubba and Ron Jackson first met in the domain business over 15 years ago and have remained fellow domain aficionados and personal friends ever since.

While the music, food and drinks were great, the conversations were even better. Above, Tess Diaz and Alan Hack do some catching up in front of the nearly 200 draft beer taps at Banger's. Below, Morgan Linton (left) and George Verdugo were also busy comparing notes.

Above: NamesCon Global attracts domain investors and developers from all of the world. India, which has one the world's most thriving domain communities, is always well represented at the show. Left to right above are Mayur Saparia (who was making his first trip to the U.S.), Manish Lunja, Deepak Daftari (a long-time friend of ours who helped welcome us to India when we first visited there), "honorary Indian" Bennie Sparkman (an industry veteran and close friend of Deepak's who is actually a Texan!) and Ritesh Singh.

We stayed at Fun Day all the way to the end. It's always hard to say goodbye to good friends that you likely won't see again for months or even a full year when NamesCon Global rolls around again,  but it is certainly a blessing every time we get to do it.

Above & below: With NamesCon Global keeping us busy, we didn't get around to seeing a lot of other things the city of Austin offers, so right after the Fun Day event ended, Diana and I, along with Howard & Barbara Neu (above), grabbed a ride over to the Texas State Capitol building, It is a remarkable place that many travel  guides recommend people see for its rich history and ornate architecture. The Capital grounds are a park in themselves, filled with beautiful statues and monuments. The elaborate one below celebrates the wde variety of early settlers that played a role in developing the territory that became America's biggest state.

Above: A view of the Texas State Capital Dome Saturday. Looking up from the rotunda inside also provides a stunning view. This was NamesCon Global's first time in Austin (after six years in Las Vegas) and we thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace. It is a great city in a great state. Everyone on the NamesCon management team told us they loved it too and they are leaning to returning to Austin again next year. However, as they do every year, they will now take a bit of time to reflect on this year's event, listen to attendee feedback and research all of the options. They have already decided the dates will remain in January for 2021 and they expect to announce the location in the near future. In the meantime, NamesCon fans can look forward to the NamesCon Europe conference coming up August 6-8, 2020 in Budapest, Hungary.

Finally, a big thank you to NamesCon President & CEO Soeren von Varchmin, Head of Operations Helga Neumer and their entire team for producing another outstanding event that made every minute in Austin time well spent!

(Posted February 3, 2020) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
https://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2020/dailyposts/20200203.htm

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Day 3 Photos & Highlights from the NamesCon Global 2020 Conference Friday in Austin, Texas

The 2020 NamesCon Global conference continued in Austin, Texas Friday (January 31) with the final day of business, but a full Fun Day still ahead on Saturday (you can see the opening day photos and highlights from Wednesday here and those from day two Thursday here). While the show is underway we are posting a selection of photos from each day to give you a sampling of how the event is unfolding. Early next week we will be putting together a complete review with photos from every business session held through the entire week, as well as the social events that we attended. In the meantime, here is a capsule view of a busy day 3 at NamesCon Global 2020:

Above & below: The Friday business day at the Omni Hotel in dowtown Austin began with a Keynote discussion with Phenom.com Founder James Booth, one of the most successful domain brokers in the industry. Bill Sweetman (Name Ninja) conducted the insightful interview with Booth (below) who, earlier in the week, received the Escrow.com Award as the #2 broker worldwide in total sales closed on the Escrow platform.

Above & below: The Friday business day continued nine more business sessions, concluding with a 4pm panel discussion on Transparency of of the Secondary Market (below) that featured, left to right, moderator Braden Pollock (LegalBrandMarketing.com), Amanda Waltz (Saw.com), Deepak Daftari (eSiksha.com) and Joe Styler (GoDaddy).

Above: While business sessions were going on upstairs, the company booths set up in the first floor Exhibit Hall were welcoming a steady flow of visitors. At the Name.com booth Diana Jackson picked up a cool T-Shirt that might come in handy for the outdoor Fun Day Saturday when it is supposed to be sunny and warm.

The Exhibit Hall also featured a table tennis Game Area sponsored by ESQwire.com. Above (left to right) are ESQWire attorneys Jason Schaeffer and Ari Goldberger with veteran domain investor/developer Steven Kaziyev. All three know how to handle a ping pong paddle but are a little loose with the rules. Below Ari and Jason ganged up on Steven in a two against one match!

At 5pm, the business portion of NamesCon Global 2020 officially closed with some final comments from NamesCon President and CEO Soeren von Varchmin (above). Soeren said the NamesCon team loved Austin and are strongly leaning toward bringing it back to the Lone Star State's capital city next year, but will also consider attendee feedback and all options before making a final decision and announcing the January 2021 show dates and location. Between now and then they will be putting on the NamesCon Europe conference in Budapest, Hungary August 6-8, 2020.

Above & below: While the business day was over, the fun was not, especially for the industry's professional women who got together for the annual Women in Domaining networking event held Friday evening in the Afilias Lounge. Kudos to Lisa Box and Susan Lawrence for organizing another outstanding event.

Above: Three of the most well-known women in the domain industry reconnected at the Women in Domaining event.  Left to right are Nancy Bianchi (Above.com/Trellian), Andee Hill (ICANN) and veteran conference promoter Barbara Neu.

Below: At the same time the Women in Domaining event was going on, Uniregistry was hosting a social event just a block away at the Elk Lounge, close enough for guests to do both. Here, Truc Tran, who came in from Norway, caught up with IP attorney Karen Bernstein at the Uni event.

Above (L to R): NamesCon CEO Soeren von Varchmin, attorney Howard Neu, Dr. Gregg McNair and Ilze Kaulins-Plakacz also joined the crowd at the Elk Lounge.

Below: I caught up with a lot my favorite people as well. It has been awhile, so it was especially good to see industry veteran Vern Jurovich (left), who flew in from Vancouver, Canada.

Now it's on to the final day of NamesCon Global 2020, a Saturday Fun Day devoted to informal networking at Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden in Austin. We'll have photos and highlights from that event for you in my next post.

(Posted February 1, 2020) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
https://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2020/dailyposts/20200201.htm

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