Domain names and their hidden value
Posted by Doug Peters on January 10th, 2016
Domain names can have value. Certainly, if you are going to register a domain name, it will cost money. And although the person who registers a particular domain name never actually owns it, the registrant actually holds the rights to that name, in the extension registered. So it can become an intellectual property, because the registrant holds the rights to that name in a particular extension.
The internet was originally established so that university scientists could easily and immediately exchange data, information and ideas. In order for participatory computers to talk with each other, unique numerical identifiers were established for colleges and universities to connect and be able to reliably communicate with each other. These unique identifying Internet Protocol (IP) numerical addresses were particularly hard to remember, so a textual naming system was established to associate with identifing IP address of each school, establishing the Domain Name System (DNS).
The DNS works by using a specific database of registered names to establish a relationship with the unique numerical IP address of each computer that serves as a contact point for each domain. The specific Top Level Domain (TLD) registry that a name is associated with is established by its unique extension (.com, .net, .edu, etc).
The DNS is not case sensitive, so that an address such as 'DomainPerfection.com' will point to the same place as 'domainperfection.com', allowing businesses and brands a means of making their domain name more memorable.
The dots in each domain name are actually delimiters that are used to seperate labels. The last label is the most important and is most often referred to as the domain name extension, which specifies the particular registry to use. The example domain address of 'www.DomainPerfection.com' consists of the registry (com), the unique domain name registered (domainperfection), and the subdomain (www). In this case, the subdomain points to the same place as the registered domain name, but is included so that it is available to those who are still in the habit of using the common www subdomain address.
Some name registries were established as generic global Top Level Domain (gTLD) registries (.com, .net, .org), where anyone in the world is allowed to register a unique name. Other registry databases were setup as country code (ccTLD) registries whose availability and pricing are established by the authorized governing body of that country, based on the established ISO-3166 two-character territory codes. Examples of ccTLDs are .US (United States of America), .UK (United Kingdfom), .DE (Deutschland, aka Germany), .CO (Columbia), .WS (Western Somoa, now American Samoa), .CN (China), .JP (Japan).
Some TLD registries, particularly country code TLDs, use subregistries to categorize the use of a website. These are known as Second Level Domain (SLD) names. Examples are .UK & .CN: .CO.UK, .NET.UK, .ME.UK, .CO.CN, .NET.CN, .
All domain name addresses use a TLD address as the master domain address. But country code (ccTLD) registries are not under ICANN authority. However, some registries such as .CO (Columbia) and .WS (Western Samoa) have genericized themselves as available for global registration by anyone worlwide to take advantage of the opportunities presented such as using .Co for a Company designation, or .ws to communicate website.
TLDs with three character codes or more are usually global TLDs (gTLDs). Most often, they are referred to as generic TLDs, but because some of these are restricted, this writer does not choose to think of them as generic since they often require proof of restriction requirements at registration.
Originally, there were only seven global Top Level Domain (gTLD) extension registries; .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, .org and .int -- they represent the oldest of the TLD registries in the DNS root zone. Each had its initial purpose, to delineate use.
Once a particular domain name is registered in a particular TLD registry extension, no one else can register that same name in the same extension. This allowed businesses to brand themselves pretty effectively by establishing their brand as a domain name. The problem with using a domain to act as and secure a brand now is that now there are hundreds of extensions, with thousands of extensions awaiting approval.
The core of the generic TLD names are the com, net and org registries. These are the eldest TLDs that were grandfathered in to the new, modernized and expanded Domain Name System (DNS), which includes the new International Domain Names (IDNs) which allow for more language characters in the DNS.
ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was eventually setup in 1998 to coordinate and maintain the system for assigning unique address identifiers such as server IP numbers and the serves as the authority for registry databases of domain name extensions which allows the practical application of the originally established domain name system (DNS), which we still use today for a stable, secure and reliable method of internet addresses.
In 2000, ICANN introduced the idea of adding new biz, coop, pro, areo, museum, info, name TLD registries in order to alleviate the lack of selection in the com TLD namespace. These were slowly implemented from 2001 to 2004. The info registry was the first gTLD that was specifically designated as a non-restricted generic TLD for global registration (later, com, net and org were grandfathered in with an unrestricted charters due to an inability to enforce the proposed restrictions).
Then, ICANN started adding sponsored registries: asia, cat, jobs, tel, travel, xxx and post TLDs.
By 2008 it was clear that although all these new TLD namespaces and even genericized ccTLDs were available, com remained king among registries with the most registered names. This created a bit of stress when brands of different niches tried to occupy the same .com namespace. So names were registered such as foo.com, foobrand.com, foosite.com, foowidget.com, each of them legally holding naming rights, a Trademark or a brand in different niches and genres.
In 2008 ICANN started exploring a way to introduce a multitude of new open gTLDs and community based gTLDs. Some of the new gTLDs would be sponsored registries, some geographic gTLDs, and would include International Domain Name (IDN) registries.
ICANN reviewed 1,930 applications for new gTLDs which included application submittions from Donuts (307), Google (101), Amazon (76), Uniregistry (54) and Microsoft (11).
The first four 'new era' gTLD agreements were signed into effect on July 15th, 2013, giving us:
Since then, hundreds of 'new era' gTLD text strings have been delegated (605 as of May 3rd, 2015). Some of the more popular that are available include .guru, .club and due to a registrar's special promotion, the .xyz gTLD registry.
There were 483 brands that requested a "spec 13" exemption that would allow the sponsors to m anage their own brand gTLDs themselves in a closed environment.
There are a whole host of issues that spring from these new gTLD registries. Some browsers and software do not recognize the new domain name extensions as a gTLD. An example is the default browser on most Android phones (as of March 2015). To rectify this possible flaw, prefix the new gTLD name address with "http://" or include a trailing slash, so that it is not treated as a search directive.
Still, there are many other issues involving ICANN's expansion of the gTLD space with 'new era' gTLDs.
In short, I am among many that believe that the domain name system has been harmed by the expansion of the DNS with the addition of ICANN's new era gTLDs. There are simply too many and the new registries make brands easy to target. Only ICANN and the lawyers will make money, and securing a Trademark was always supposed to be an easy first step for a start-up or entreprenuer.
A group of trade organizations and companies, led by the Association of National Advertisers, has formed the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO), which also opposes the expansion of the gTLDs. CRIDO cites "its deeply flawed justification, excessive cost and harm to brand owners."
To give an example, suppose you are running Foo Photography Studio with the domain name foophotography.com as your website's domain. Already, ICANN has introduced new era gTLDs .photography, .photo, .photos, .camera, .gallery and .digital. On top of this, .art and .studio gTLDs may come to pass, as well.
Another example is that I own SiteDomains.com. But I cannot purchase the new era gTLD Site.domains because ICANN has decided to make the word 'site' a generic reserved name which is unavailable to register, anywhere. When questioning ICANN about this my messages fall on deaf ears, never getting a reply.
National Restaurant Association vice president Scott DeFife says "Even beyond the financial toll the gTLD program will exact on millions of U.S. businesses, the Association believes that ICANN’s program will confuse consumers by spreading Internet searches across hundreds or even thousands of new top-level domains."
Even ICANN's founding chair person, Esther Dyson, wrote that the new era namespace "will create jobs [for lawyers, marketers and others] but little extra value."
Obviously, this is now the case. A domain name, whether gTLD or ccTLD, whether a .com or a new ICANN era domain extension, is the intellectual property of the registrant.
Although you can not actually 'own' a domain name outright, as long as you are the registrant and keep your registration current, it is yours to keep.
How you use that domain name is your business, too. But when we build brands and Trademarks we often use domain names to back-up our name.
Many experts will grab an easy-to-remember, relatively short catchy domain name that is easily communicated and spelled, instead of using a longer or more difficult company name. For instance, Herman, Myers and Tubman Law and Associates might simply use HighPoweredAttorneys.com, or use a location trigger such as UpstateNY.Lawyers (if the firm was located in upstate New York). This is a particularly good example because law firms are often changing their firm name as firm partners retire and junior partners move-up into full partner roles. But the short, catchy, memorable domain name remains a constant so that their clientel can always find them on the internet.
Of course, don't ever think that I suggest that you don't register your company name, as well. That is always a good idea so that someone else doesn't grab it. Plus, you can park it on top of, or redirect it to, the actual branded website that you use for marketing purposes.
The US courts are constantly answering legal challenges for the rights to specific domain names. In the course of doping so, they have established that domains themselves can be marks.
Therefore, it is important that we safegaurd our domains the same way we safegaurd our Trademarks, Service Marks, brands and reserved names.
Domain names can establish our business name or mark. They can be used to secure an established brand or name, to back-up a brand/name, or used to enhance the reuptation of a firm as a new online brand that can enhance the user's experience with the business.
But, you probably knew all that. If you didn't, you have probably been skipping around parts of this page. Believe it or not, I am not a fast typist. I do try to make my points, but I haven't even touched on others, yet...
Because that isn't all that is in a name. Whether its a personal name, business name or domain name, we all harbor certain preconceived notions about names. Apparently, there are more CEOs named Bob than any other name. Certain names are considered more macho than others.
We often give certain names psychological advantages or disadvantages as a society based on other people we have met with the same name. We even name ours sons and daughters after our most cherished family, best friends and heros. I always think that there are more Deions (in a variety of spellings) after Deion Sanders showed us all his speed and football moves on his way into the Hall of Fame.
It still seems cool to have a long list of partners in a big staunchy law firm's name, but they use a special easy-to-remember name for memorability and ease of use. Just as Bart is cooler, more catchy and easier to remember than Barthalamule or Batholumew; we look for domain names that are cooler, more positive and upbeat, shorter, catchier, easier to spell and communicate.
Of the domain names that command the most attention, the best ones are brands. The next best are common spoken generic words and quick phrases.
In the short term, a dictionary word domain name will see more popularity than a popular brand, but in the long term, customers identify with a brand name over a generic word. That said, there are still other names that can generate significant traffic by being such a common search keyword or term that people will actually type it in to the browser bar (without spaces if there are any), add .com to the end of it and hit return just to see who owns that corner of the market the generic word or term defines. The sad part of that is that most of the generic dictionary words and common terms are already registered. Corporations have registered every dictionary word, even the all of the short character domains, just to sell them for a premium.
Do not overlook the brand, though. The brand market is as wide open as possible, no one can register every thing someone will make-up, and even made-up words and terms can imply specific associations and communicate Where generic name recognition flatten out because of their inherent association as just another generic, well managed brand names soar higher and go further due to there uniqueness, recognized creativity and recognizability. Brand names are communicated better than generics; i.e: 'Recliner' isn't really note worthy, where 'Lazy Boy' is a fun take on comfortable, so recliner.com and lazyboy.com share the very same disadvantages and advantages.
Brands can make a mark. They market a feeling, an idea, they relate and communicate.
However, when you make-up words, watch-out, be careful. Recently, a local international business that had lead the 'video & game rental from a set-top-box in the hospitality industry' renamed itself from Lodgenet to Sonify. The business is doing well, but I can't help thinking that their new rebranded name is holding them back because 'soni' is so very closely associated with sonic, sound and music for me. When you dream-up names you have to carefully consider the connotations they might have.
Other options are initials and acronyms. A short ABCDS.com is better than a long-ass AlphabetBusinessComputerDeskSystems.com, but most nice sweet short acronyms are owned by individuals and corporations that have invested in the name and speculate that it will be more to someone else down the road. These investors and speculators are usually known as domainers. However, just because a domain such as ABCDS.com commands a premium price at GoDaddy auctions at the moment (Jan 13th, 2016) doesn't mean it's a bad deal. An acronym or initials can be a great brand.
Abbreviations usually do not do well. Misspellings are usually not a good idea (unless you are Citibank), nor are plurals. There are exceptions, of course, but the more positive a name that can be associated with your product or service is more important than a company name. Heck, if you make it you will probably be big enough to have a company site in addition to your product showcase site, after all.
You may want to register common misspells and the plural version in order to avoid having to pay a cybersquatter a grand for the name later because he registered it and the site he puts up a website that delutes your brand, and to sick a lawyer on him/her will cost you more. For that matter, grab your company name, unless you plan on changing it anytime soon. All you are doing is saving yourself money by protecting yourself now. There is, unfortunately, evil in thios world, and most of it is white collar, now.
Do remember that most are not trying to get you. There is a difference between a domainer and a cybersquatter. The domainer speculates and invests, often even develops and markets his names. The cybersquatter rips-off the misspells and plurals of domain names, brands and marks simply to hold them hostage in order to cash in on a small ransom. But cybersquatters are pretty stupid taking that route when domainers who work at it sell legit domains for tens of thousands, even millions for great names.
You can easily beat-out the cybersquatter. You do not have to deal with a domainer such as myself if you don't want to, either. But a domainer is often building the brand for you either through its anticipated arrival, or by building a site around its subject to show its usefulness. Nevertheless, you don't need us if you don't want us.
There are now so many new ICANN era domain name extensions that you can likely get the domain name you want in a good registry that can be closely associated with your product or service. The list of available registries is staggering, now.
Another option is to use a country code domain name. There are plenty of .US names available, and I think it is quite patriotic. Most other countries prefer to use their ccTLD first, when setting up sites or searching.
But the .com does remain king of the domain name extensions. As Americans, we have gotten so used to typing it in, that if I wanted to type-in one of my own domains "PremiumBrand.Name" I often type "PremiumBrandName.com". Luckily, I covered my mistake and both domains arrive at the smae website, saving me lost time, web traffic and headache.
Having said that, we will force ourselves out of the .com typo habbit. We webmasters used to like putting www. in front of our domain name addresses because it set it off from the http:// which seemed to lean into our sacred brand name and make the name less legible...
But now browsers typically do not show the http:// part and our brands look so much better without the www. in front.
Plus, now people using tiny software keyboards on small smartphones and handheld mobile devices want to type fewer characters. So the www. has been used a whole lot less as websites updated to the new website fashion look.
PremiumBrandName.com is also a good example of what I consider the max length of a domain name. 16 to 18 characters at the most is really a long-ass name. All my life my teachers told me not to run-on with my sentances, my paragraphs, my reports (can you tell?). Well, its really the same with domain names, the longer they are, the more likely someone will mistype it and arrive elsewhere. By all means, avoid losing traffic to your site if you can.
When someone is typing your site into the browser bar from memory, there is a very good chance they want to not only find you, but research youu and do business with you. This phenomenon is not at all uncommon, many of us do it just to get around the web. So shorter names are better.
I also recommend staying clear of using a hyphen unless you are Duetsch (German). For some reason, the hyphen is popular in Germany (Duetschland). There was a day when Yahoo used it to denote a space in a domain so that any keywords in the name would be more noticeable, but that was well before the turn of this century, and then they improved their search. Now, they just feed other people's results, with some personal tweaks.
The smaller problem with the dash is that a few search engines and directories won't even list a domain name with more than two hyphens in the domain. This is because cybersquatters, spammers and scammers are using them.
But the real problem with any domain name that uses a hyphen is that it is a branding issue. Wordwrap is now the default for most anything from text to web pages. When a dashed domain name settles in at the end of a line, it often breaks-up, causing a branding nightmare. The brand should always be seen complete and together. Like it or not, no matter how generic a name you have, the domain name becomes your online brand. When successful, it is a presence on people's minds when they think of competive products/services in your field.
But even scary movies have their place in our lives. The truth is, the .com namespace has been crowded long before ICANN did anything. In order to get my name, or my son's as a domain name, I had to get one with a dash in it. So, you have to decide if you will settle, or not.
I have been running an experiment with a dashed name, Font-Journal.com. I also own the FontJournal.com domain, which redirects to Font-Journal.com. But in this case, I did it for a whole different reason. I honestly don't expect a lot of traffic at Font-Journal, I just don't have the time to spend keeping it up-to-date all the time. It remains an important site for me, because I often send my website design clients there to pick out a freeware font that we can use commercially without problems. But the truth is that I like the extra separation between the t and the J, especially in lowercase... tj or t-j or tJ or t-J. The reason is that Journal was the favorite word of Picasso and his other artist friends.
So, Font-Journal or font-journal, it's kind of a salute to them. Jeepers, I have a lot to do on that site. LOL
I know, I know, I carried on a bit. But, this doesn't even touch on all the aspects of domains, the different extensions, ways of branding them, using them as a means of search optimization, the various scams associated with them or how to speculate, invest and even develop domains into full blown websites.
Then, there are all the domains that expire everyday. Some may have traffic. That is a whole 'nother can of beans.
This page itself breaks all the rules because it uses way too much text. But I don't feel that people should stick to any sort of a formula that pigeon holes them in. This is all just basic info, elaborated on a bit so that things are plain. But the domain name industry is not so simple. The politics alone are simply selfish and greedy. Life really isn't about money, and anyone that pretends it is, fools himself. Unfortunately, there is a lot of money in domains and it has corrupted even the authorities that were supposed to reign it in.
Nevertheless, when you are selecting a domain name, if you read this one page in its entirety, you should be armed with at least enough knowledge not to hurt yourself in selecting a name.
It's like designing a website. Anyone can do it if they take the time to learn how and then invest the time to work on it without distraction to put-up a great site. But if all I have done is convince you that you need more help finding Domain Perfection, establishing a brand and marketing it, I would be glad to help in all aspects.
Of course, every small business needs a website and grabbing the perfect domain name is the first step. It is a lot more important than many realize. If you would like, I can broker a domain for you or set out on a search to create the best brand based on your business or professional profile.
If you are interested in my services, just contact me. If not and you liked what you read, I have other helpful sites, too. Check out the links in the footer section at the end of the page.
The following wikipedia pages listed below were used as reference material:
The opinions, politics and conjecture were simply my take on things.
This site offers info about domains, discusses domain name speculation and investments, promotes discussion and offers domain name development resources.
Unattainable, but still a goal.
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