Is this the future of domain names?

names of london

James Stevens was born in Singapore, the son of a military chaplain. Educated at boarding school in England, James (who had always excelled in Mathematics & Physics) fell in love with technology when, in the early 1980s, the school acquired some Apple ][ PCs. He later took a holiday job writing accounting systems, on the Apple ][, for small businesses at an Apple dealership in the Barbican. Although, technically, his first paid work in computers was aged 16, selling games for the 8-bit home computers that had become popular in the mid-1980s.

James went on to study computer science at university where he first came into contact with Unix system and immediately was taken by their openness and flexibility.

After working at a software house and a relational database vendor, James went into freelance contracting working in the City of London, specialising in high-speed database applications and front-office trading systems mostly using Sybase on Solaris.

While at Goldman Sachs in 1994 he worked on a project to provide server monitoring and management using a web interface and could immediately see the potential of this new technology.

Leaving Goldmans he started a Linux research company specialising in network appliances, embedded operating systems and remote web management. That was sold ten years later to his business partner when he was offered the role of CTO at the dot-IO domain name registry – which also managed dot-AC, dot-SH and (under contract) dot-TM.

While there he jointly founded CommunityDNS (www.cdns.net) to exploit the security advantages of the then emerging Anycast network technology. Using his experience in embedded operating systems to design and create the hardened & encrypted operating system for the CommuityDNS platform, as well as implement a full rewrite of the dot-IO domain name registry system.

With his heart still in entrepreneurship, he left the CTO role to found Names.of.London Ltd to exploit innovative and imaginative new techniques in human readable domain names, made possible by the release of the wave of new top level domains.

 

Mike: I like the idea of what you are doing with names.of.london.  Tell me how you came up with the concept.

James:  One morning, I heard a radio ad for dot-LONDON on a local station and immediately realised there was an opportunity to run a second-level registry using “of.london” – I also thought it would be cool to own “mayor.of.london”

I was originally going to launch with “of.london” & “in.london”, but I wasn’t allowed “in.london” as “in”, for all the new-GTLD, is currently blocked by India as they fear confusion with dot-IN.

So I designed an algorithm to look for other combinations that would work, for creating three word phrases, and the one that came out head-and-shoulder above all the others was “for.sale”.

It cost quite a bit to buy, but it needs no explanation.

 

Mike: It reminds me of co.com. Have you collaborated or learned from the people behind that effort? What similarities and differences do you see?

James:  Those domains were/are all run by CentralNIC – they were one of the customers of CommunityDNS (www.cdns.net) while I was CTO there, so I know Gavin Brown, the chief techie there, pretty well.

I always liked the idea, but felt it lacked a certain something. It seems to be pitching itself as a second-class choice – you’d only buy it if you can’t get the dot-COM.

Clearly from a purely technical perspective they are basically the same business model, but I feel the additional concept of turning domain names into human readable phrases gives mine an edge. I feel what I am doing offers something quite different from anything else on the market.

As far as I know, nobody else is offering a similar service to me.
I’ve not spoken to anybody there about this project, or collaborated in anyway, but I have learned a lesson from the problems they have had with “gb.com” in terms of ownership and control of the parent domain.

“gb.com” is (was?) rented from a third party and when there was a dispute the original owner would disable all the names – this kills the reputation of /all/ their other domains – for this reason I would only sell from parent names I own directly.

 

Mike: How does Google and the other search engines treat the names? Are there any SEO benefits or penalties for this type of URL?

James:  They seem to be treated very favourably.  We get top-5 ranking on many terms where we clearly have absolutely no relevant content. I think this is due to the high levels of type-in traffic we get.

Most (55%) of the people using our phrases are under 35. They don’t remember the original dot-COM boom, so domain names mean something different to them.

This can make buying one of our names one of the cheapest ways to draw targetted visitors to your site – “pugs.for.sale” is $25/yr and will get you about 650 targetted visitors per year for your $25.

Although Facebook’s ad rates are pretty low, it would cost you quite a lot more to get that number of /targetted/ click-throughs.

 

Mike: Again, similar to co.com, are these second level domains in which registrations are at the third level?

James:  Right – but, as with “co.com”, my domain names can work exactly the same as any domain at the second level, if you want to use them that way – just like “co.uk”, which used to be the de-facto standard for UK businesses.

Where one of the names coincides with an existing brand – e.g. “links.of.london” or “just.for.men” – I see that as the most obvious use. I like the way the domain name is just the brand and nothing else, really makes it stand out.

However, with “phrases.for.sale” we’re offering a service more like bit.ly where you use the phrase to re-direct people to existing content – but unlike bit.ly our phrases are easy to read & easy to remember.

For example, if you have a Nike store on ebay you an use “nikes.for.sale” to redirect to your store – its much shorter & memorable than the full URL – but still clickable in Twitter and attractive URLs get 34% more click-through (according to bit.ly).

Or you could use a phrase like “break.from.work” to (say) promote a snack bar – linking users to online content offering a competition or coupon etc.

 

Mike: What does it cost to register a name with you?

James:  Like most new-GTLDs, it depends on the name. But all prices are capped at $300 new ($250 renew) and we don’t have a massive number at that level.

However, “.for.sale” has flat pricing, every name is $25 – about 10 are reserved – otherwise, if its not sold its available & $25.

If I thought it would boost sales, I would be happy to drop prices to any sustainable level, but I don’t think pricing is currently the barrier to adoption as we also have a 30-day free trial.

 

Mike: How many registrations have you received to date?

James:  Although I started the business about 18 months ago, it was only at the end of Jan-2017 that I left my “day job” to work on this full time.

So right now sales are slowly picking up.

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and I think I’ve been able to provide solid responses to legitimating concerns.

 

Mike: What are some examples of names that are in use?

James:  We have a Chinese buyer who has bought a few clothing related names, and some domainers who have bought some property and domaining related names.

One buyer has signed up for an affiliate program and has bought names to redirected to that, which seems quite an interesting business model.

e.g. domain.for.sale redirects to a Uniregister affiliate.

We’re getting over 600,000 visitors a year to our domains, which are often really targetted (like pugs.for.sale), so the lack of sales can be really frustrating!
Mike: Do you think this is the future? Are you acquiring other names to use in a similar manner and grow the business?

James:

Yes – I’m convinced human-readable domain names will be a big part of the future direction of the domain industry.

It feels like the time when we switched from the geeky old MS-DOS 8.3 files names to the freedom of full Windows file names – no longer were we tied to the computer code file names of the 1980s.

You can already see the human-readable combinations like “golf.club”, “coffee.club”, “diet.expert” fetching some of the highest prices.

The new-GTLD registries need to find new markets for domain names if they are going to sell in anything like the numbers they want/need. Naming websites is a limited market – they need to get a lot more creative and innovative.

I think that’s where names.of.london can come in – domain names can become like promo-codes that you can enter into any phone or browser to be taken directly to the content that relates to the promotion you saw.

We are also already seeing businesses rebranding to include the dot as part of the company brand. This started with some dot-COM, but is more common with the new-GTLDs.

I have a list of existing names I want to buy and, if the concept becomes universally accepted, registering my own new-GTLDs would be the eventual aim of the business.

I am aware its a problem, only being able to offer a specific range of endings. If a TLD was registered for the purpose of turning into phrases you could guarantee that any phrase ending in that word could be available to buy. Whether ICANN would agree to that is a different matter, but I don’t give up easily.

Right now I would buy a premium name that has good potential (I am currently negotiating on one), and I sometimes buy ones that are dirt cheap even where they have limited potential, but mostly my priority now is getting my sales up.

Its a myth that a good product sells itself – if nobody’s heard of it, no matter how good its is, nobody’s going to buy it.

 

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What is everyone around me doing right now?

dot social

Mack Hasz is a 22 year old raised in Malvern, PA. He’s a recent Virginia Tech graduate who had an idea for an app. As a freelance Software Developer living in Arlington, VA, he decided to put his idea into action and created OutHere. His website is OutHere.social

 

Mike: What inspired you to create the app?

Mack: OutHere is an idea I conceived when I was a sophomore in college spending the summer in Blacksburg, Virginia. Life moves pretty slow in a college town in the summer and I kept thinking “What is everyone around me doing right now?”. I wanted to be able to get a general snapshot of what was happening at this very moment. There are other services out that tried to do that, but none to my liking. The problem is that these services allow any ‘ol picture to be upload, usually resulting in meme like being shared. I wanted to see what was happening in real life. The closest thing to what I wanted was Snapchat city stories, where this app draws heavy inspiration. I enjoyed seeing what the community was doing and it was cool to see my posts be a part of the story. However, it didn’t do enough of what I wanted and I saw many ways to improve upon the idea.

 

Mike: Tell me about the app. What makes it unique?

Mack: OutHere is a public social network. Your typical social app is inherently private, allowing you to connect with family and friends. OutHere, you connect with the world. There is no direct interaction with other users. You don’t send send anyone anything. You simply take a picture or video and put it “OutHere” for the world to see. All media is taken straight from the phone’s camera. Arbitrary uploads are not allowed. This guarantees authenticity. That moment you are viewing wasn’t photoshopped or edited, it was real and it happened. Furthermore all posts are tagged by geolocation with the city they were taken in. This results in you being able to search and discover places that interest you most.

 

Mike: You selected the name outhere.social as opposed to a traditional dot com name. Tell me why you chose a non dot com and specifically the social TLD.

Mack: I’m a big fan of the non dot com domains. They are alluring and for sure stand out more than a normal .com would. I went with .social to be different, hoping to attract more visitors. I specifically chose .social because it fits my app pretty well and it sounds inviting and friendly, like a “come hangout” vibe.

 

Mike: Did you write the app yourself? How hard is it to code something like this?

Mack: Yes, I wrote the front and backend which came out to nearly 25,000 lines of code. The level of difficulty depends on how experienced you are as a programmer. I was lucky to start this project with 4 years of university under my belt. If I were a beginner programmer and learning coding from scratch, this would be quite an ambitious project. I already knew good coding practices so all I had to pick up was the Swift programming language syntax and come to understand the iOS UIKit API. There are a ton of great resources available for free online which I was able to use to my benefit. All in all the app wasn’t too challenging and I reckon most seasoned iOS developers will be able to implement something like this rather quickly.

 

Mike: What is the first thing a person should do when they have an idea for an app?

Mack: It’s important to look at the competition. What’s already out there? Why are they successful? What do you do differently? You can see where your app fits into the ecosystem. Either there is a killer shark waiting to eat you up or you’ve discovered a new species.

 

Mike: Do you anticipate any challenges with a dot social name? Customer confusion, people not knowing what dot social is?

Mack: I am not sure how knowledgable the public is of other domain names. They have only recently come out and I know most of my non-tech friends don’t know what they are. Regardless of wether they know it or not, they do not that text in blue and underlined are links that take them to other websites. As long as that holds true I should be OK. Over time consumers will become more aware and I should observe a long term benefit.

 

Mike: What means can one use to promote a new app and get the word out about it?

Mack: This is a good question and one I’m still trying to figure out! I am finding this the most difficult part of the process. How can I get the app into the hands of as many people as possible for as little as possible? So far I have done very little marketing, just a Facebook post to friends. I’m thinking I’ll have to pay for some sort of advertising, I just need to figure out what is most effective. This being a mobile app, it makes sense to advertise to mobile users. I’m working out all kinks, but I do know that blog entries certainly help!

 

Mike: How important is it to have a website supporting your app?

Mack: It’s crucial to have a website that goes along with your app. It’s what makes your idea shareable. Maybe you start showing up in some search engines, maybe your website gets shared on a forum somewhere, or maybe a coworker sends the link over the work list serve. Before you know it, your app has gone viral. This is not possible if you don’t have a website supporting your app. Another factor to consider is that any people, including myself, don’t want to download another app to add to their growing arsenal of already downloaded apps. It’s important to have a place on the web where they can easily check things out and learn more about the app. If the website is effective, then it should lead to more downloads. I have made my site a preview of what goes on in the app with the idea being that people will see some interesting posts, maybe think of some posts of their own to add, and then hit download.

 

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Finished with dot Club

dot club

David Leshaw is the CEO of Finishers Club, a startup for runners. He hails originally from New York, and currently lives with his wife and their toddler in Jerusalem, Israel. He is passionate about trail running, good coffee, and tech startups. He one time got a double-bingo in Scrabble.

 

Mike: David, what exactly is finishers.club and how does it work?

David: Finishers Club is a free online platform for runners to log their race finish times and track their gear — think of it as a mix between a virtual marathon trophy case and locker for your running gear. It’s a fantastic way for runners of all distances to show off their running achievements with a dedicated running profile page, and to also let other runners know what kind of gear they use, and how they like it. We also have a weekly newsletter, as well as an iMessage sticker pack.

 

Mike: You chose dot club for your domain. Tell me what went into your domain choice.

David: Dot-club was a natural choice for us. We had originally chosen the name “Finishers Club” as a way to convey the exclusivity and sense of community engendered by crossing a finish line — no matter the distance. Whether you’ve hustled across a 5K finish line or dragged yourself through the last minutes of an ultra-marathon, you’ve become a member of a club — people who set a goal, who trained, and who followed through. We wanted to capture that spirit of achievement and camaraderie through our name, and “Club” seemed the natural way to do that. At the time, FinishersClub.com was taken, but .club fit better with our mission, regardless.

 

 

Mike: What benefits have you seen from going with dot club as your tld?

David: The medium is the message here, and our choice of .club as our TLD makes it clear that we are committed to conveying that sense of exclusivity and achievement produced by crossing a finish line. I also believe that, in general, shorter names are better, and since it takes fewer breaths to say – or keyboard strokes to type – “finishers.club,” the name’s relative brevity works to our advantage. Say it out loud: “finishers-dot-club.” It’s simple, almost impossible to misspell, and the “clubbiness” of the TLD provokes curiosity in people who haven’t yet signed up.

 

Mike: How long have you been in business and how many users do you currently have?

David: We’ve been in business just about one year, and have several thousand users across the globe. Our member base ranges from busy parents and college students who run 5Ks on the weekends through sponsored ultra-marathon runners who tackle 100-mile races in a stretch, and everyone in between.

 

Mike: How does a site like finishers.club generate revenue?

David: We’ve just launched our tee shirt store, where race finishers can customize a performance race tee that features a bib imprinted with their name, their favorite race, and their finish time at that race. We also sell various other fun tee shirts and trail running caps. We currently use affiliate links on our site and in some of our content, and are exploring sponsored content, as well as events and premium features that would provide additional revenue down the line.

 

Mike: I see FinishersClub.com is available for sale. Is that something you would consider to supplement your domain. Why or why not?

David: At this juncture, our focus is on using our resources to make something insanely great for our users. We rank reasonably well when it comes to SEO, and so, at this point, we are just focused on asking ourselves “How can we make finishers.club even better for runners around the globe?”

 

Mike: Tell me about running an online business. Is it a lot of work? What have been the biggest challenges?

David: The biggest challenge in running an online business is finding a way to keep delighting users in new and surprising ways — based both on the things that users actually request, and the features we sense they would want based on how they use our site. I mean that seriously.

For instance, we noticed that users were inputting in a lot of detail about the kind of gear they were running in. Runners were spending time keying in, for example, “New Balance Vazee Pace v2.” We wanted to find a way to make that and easier to do and more visual. So we crafted an auto-complete function that necessitated re-writing our database and re-doing certain visual elements on the site. But it will now auto-complete the name of your gear as you type, and also produce the relevant image, as well as the ability to rate that given gear item. We think – and users tell us – that it’s a fantastic addition to their running lives.

But ultimately, our whole team – from our CFO to our developers to our marketing team – is comprised of runners, and so delighting athletes is part of our organizational DNA. We are lucky to be able to build the best running platform of its kind for an incredibly passionate group of people.

 

 

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The “Legal” side of TLDs

dot legal

Brian Pendergraft is a Real Estate Attorney and Planlord® Attorney at tpf.legal that uses his most valuable resource, his time, on studying and practicing law to provide landlords and investors with a wide-range of services. Most real estate attorneys “specialize” in one particular area such as only being a title producer, but Brian is 6 or 7 real estate lawyers in one. He does contract drafting and review, evictions, litigation, document drafting, closings, and more. His life’s mission is to turn landlord into Planlords.

Mike: Brian, the domain you chose is a dot legal name. Why did you decide to go with that over a dot com such as tpflegal.com?
Brian: With .legal and other non-dot com domain extensions it is easier to get shorter domain names. I value having a shorter domain. I also own the more conventional pendergraft.net and pendergraftfirm.com, but people tend to hear and spell “Pendergrass” (like the singer Teddy Pendergrass) instead of Pendergraft.

Also, .legal is something most of my potential clients have never heard of and it stands out. It has a certain “coolness” factor to it that distinguishes my modern law firm from older. more traditional ones.

 

Mike: There is also the dot law TLD. Have you considered also securing your name TPF.law? Why did you choose dot legal over this?

Brian: I did consider .law but last time I checked it cost about $400.00 a year whereas .legal is about $40 a year. So it was based on cost.

 

Mike: Do you see other attorneys leaning towards these new TLDs as well? What are your thoughts about the future of dot legal?

Brian: The adoption of .legal will be very slow. Attorneys, like the law itself, are very slow to change. In addition, many attorneys invest their knowledge and training into reading and writing and not into learning domain name registration and building websites. So many attorneys won’t know that these options exist unless whoever they pay to build there website brings it up. Also, changing domain names after you have been using one for a while has its own unique set of challenges, so attorneys that do learn about .legal will tend to stick to whatever they were using first.

 

Mike: What strategies do you currently use to promote your site and your law business? SEO, advertising, social media?

Brian: SEO, content marketing, and e-mail marketing. I do blog post and video where I share free legal information that is very relevant to my target audience of landlords and real estate investors. I share the content on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. I am currently not paying for any advertising. I want to see how far I can go by just giving away free content. It’s working well so far! To see an example of what I mean you can check out my latest piece of content on how to file for wrongful detainer in Maryland at https://tpf.legal/wrongful-detainer. I tell my audience exactly how I do it so they could actually just prepare their case themselves and not hire me. However, I’m betting that many people will watch the video or read the post and just want an attorney to handle it for them and hire me, the helpful attorney.

 

Mike: Did you hear the one about the two lawyers on a row boat in the middle of the ocean? Just kidding. Why is it that lawyers, in general, get a bad rap?

Brian: I think it’s a combination of classism (or should I say access to justice), high fees, rotten apples, television, and a lack of transparency and understanding.

We have all read a few stories where rich kids were able to avoid prison for committing grievous offenses because their families had connections and were able to afford high-powered lawyers with lots of connections.

Lawyer hourly billing rates are very high when put into perspective. At $300 an hour that’s one brand new Nintendo Switch an hour!

Corrupt lawyers make the rest of us look bad. Kind of like how bad police officers make good police officers look bad.

The general publics understanding of what we actually do, in part because of television, but admittedly it maybe moreso because of us lawyers ourselves. Being a real lawyer and running a law firm is nothing like TV. One time I had a case where the Judge decided to postpone the case to give the other side time to get an attorney. He asked me why didn’t I object. The Judge already made his decision there was nothing I could do. But on the TV shows the great lawyers can say magic super convincing words and get their clients whatever they want. In the real world in many cases we settle and compromise a lot and no one actually gets what they want.

I think this lack of understanding may be more so the fault of lawyers because law firms and lawyers are very protective of their processes and what they actually do. I remember when I first tried reaching out to other attorneys as a brand new attorney and they refused to help me in the name of protecting their business when I was just trying to figure out how to lawyer at the time. So if the lawyers aren’t telling people what they do then television will.

 

Mike: Do you think you’ll consider getting additional names to support and promote your business?

Brian: Yes. I recently registered the trademark for “Planlord” a term I made up registered on the same day as my birthday, April 11th. It’s a pun on the words plan and landlord. I self-published a book on book Amazon for landlords on how to avoid the legal pitfalls that cost landlords thousands of dollars called Planlord – The Landlord Primer. Planlord.com was available so I bought it and plan on using it one day for a Planlord line of legal products.

 

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What’s all the buzz about this domain?

buzz

There are many new TLDs floating around out there with people and businesses registering countless domains each day.  The whole concept is great, and opens up tremendous opportunities.  Some names and TLDs just don’t fit well together and require a certain niche.  Others, fit together like they were made for each other.  Jordan Lavin is Chief Operating Officer at Mosquito.buzz, and has taken some time to talk to me about his domain and his business.

Mike:   Mosquito.buzz just flows off the tongue.  A great name selection.  Tell me about the business behind it and what service you provide.  Is it a new business?

Jordan: We offer mosquito control service to residential homes, cottage owners, events, business facilities and anyone who is looking to ‘stay outside’ without the annoyance, or health risks associated with mosquito bites. We opened the company in January of 2016, the first service of its kind in Canada. Our expansion plans across the country include franchise opportunities as well as corporate operations. We have had a lot of interest to be a part of the brand.

 

Mike:  What did you take into consideration when you were choosing a name for the business and domain.  What factors feed into it?

Jordan: We sort of ‘reverse engineered’ the business name once we found the domain we liked. We were not going to pick a business name without a solid domain to connect it to. When we saw the .buzz extension, it really worked for our brand, and our service. It’s functional and fun…and hopefully memorable.

 

Mike: You offer a free ebook on mosquitoes.  How has that helped business or to drive traffic to the site?

Jordan: Our free e-book offering is simply just delivering what we know to potential customers, and people interested in learning more about how to control mosquitoes. Why not offer up your knowledge? It give us good ‘street cred’, it follows the law of ‘reciprocity’ and it gives customers, potential customers, and general visitors some further knowledge on the insect that tops the list of the world’s deadliest animals. Mosquitoes kill over 700 000 people each year and the diseases they carry are getting broader. Mosquitoes are a growing concern for people all over.

 

Mike:  .buzz is a newer TLD and not necessarily widely know by consumers.  What sort of feedback have you received?

Jordan: Generally great feedback. It fits well with our brand. We have ‘gone back’ to adding the www. in front of the domain on a few occasions to ensure people understand that .buzz is the whole domain. It’s a good conversation starter!

 

Mike:  Personally, I get eaten alive by mosquitoes and would love to have your service on a regular bases.  I also have dogs and kids… is it safe for them?

Jordan: The products we use are safe for mammals. We ask for a 30 minute grace period to let the products dry before you re-enter the treated area. Our products are very similar to the widely used for animal flea control, and many outdoorsmen, and military treat their clothing to protect against insects in the woods.

 

Mike:  I see that you wisely registered MonsquitoBuzz.com and have pointed it to your main site.  Are there other domains that you have registered? 

Jordan: We registered several, just to protect the brand, and anyone’s confusion about the domain. It’s just good business practice when building a solid brand.

 

Mike:   Any tips for those considering the .buzz or any other new TLD?

Jordan: .com domains are tough to come by. I think that creativity add some ‘spice’ to a brand. In our case, I think that .buzz ended up more powerful that any other choice we could have made. At first, we were hesitant that people wouldn’t ‘get it’. We were wrong. They get it, the like it, it’s fun, and fun wins the consumer these days.