Ruurtjan Pul is the founder of nslookup.io and whatismyisp.com which fall under his company at monomatic.io. He even owns his name, Ruurtjan.com. Ruurtjan is a figure who has made significant strides and has a wealth of knowledge to share with us. His unique domain names have not only caught my attention but also opened up a discussion about his views and business.
Ruurtjan’s journey into creating two successful websites is nothing short of inspiring. He has also ventured into educating others through his comprehensive DNS course. With his forward-thinking approach and a keen eye on future trends, Ruurtjan is making his way as an entrepreneur. We will delve into his thoughts on domain names, the impact of TLDs, and his current and future projects. So, let’s get started!
Mike: Can you share with us the story behind choosing the domain names nslookup.io and whatismyisp.com?
Ruurtjan: I launched a free ISP checking tool back in 2013 as a side project during my studies. I found an API that returned the ISP for a given IP address but couldn’t find a single-purpose website that did the same. And so, I made a simple website in a couple of weekends and launched it on whoismyisp.org. The .com was taken at the time, and I didn’t put much thought into the domain name.
It took years for it to get any meaningful traffic, but when it did, I managed to secure a partnership with NordVPN and monetize the site beyond generic ads. Now that the site was profitable, I scouted for a better domain name, and found whatismyisp.com for sale on afternic. I don’t remember what the asking price was, but I bid $999, which — to my surprise — was accepted without any negotiation.
For nslookup.io, I was super lucky. It had been registered for a long time, but had dropped when I was looking for my next side project. Nslookup is the name of a command line utility used by many network engineers. So I sort of had brand recognition and branded search out of the box.
Mike: What was your thought process in selecting the .io TLD for nslookup.io?
Ruurtjan: .io can work for tech niches. There have been quite some tech startups launching on this TLD, and it’s legitimate enough among techies. But I’d love to migrate to nslookup.com for more legitimacy and type-in traffic, but I can’t justify the price at this point. Maybe one day 😉
Mike: In your opinion, how do different TLDs impact the perception of a website or brand?
Ruurtjan: They definitely do. .com is still king. I’m not launching anything on anything else anymore. If I can’t secure a good .com domain, I’m not starting the project! No more uphill battles for me.
It might even impact SEO by proxy, because so-called user signals weigh quite heavily in search rankings (right after page relevance and backlink quality). And since people instinctively assign more trust to short .com domains, they’re more likely to click and stay longer. Two signals I’m sure Google takes into account.
Mike: What is DNS and how does it relate to domain names?
Ruurtjan: All domain names exist in the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS is where the technical information of domain names is stored. Once you own a domain name, you can configure it in the DNS to point to IP addresses of web servers and mail servers. These are the primary two uses of DNS. It also stores information to combat spam in SPF, DMARC, and DKIM records.
DNS can be intimidating because it is, by nature, a technical subject. And at times confusing, because caching can give you an outdated view of reality. But I think a basic understanding of DNS can be learned, and would be a good time investment for domainers that are in it for the long haul. The core of DNS hasn’t changed since 1987, so it’s unlikely it will any time soon.
Mike: Can you tell us more about your DNS course? What inspired you to create it?
Ruurtjan: I’ve been building nslookup.io full-time for the past two years and in the evenings before that. I didn’t know much about DNS when I started, so I had to learn a lot in order to make this project as useful as possible. I’ve read books, watched conference talks, read technical specifications and even implemented my own DNS software.
I figured that if I spent this much time learning DNS, I might as well teach it! I already had a free learning center, but many people prefer a video course over text.
For the past three months, I’ve spent all my time researching, writing, recording and editing the course. It’s currently in pre-sale with three out of the six modules released.
The course teaches developers and other IT-minded people how the DNS is structured, how it works, how it is secured, and how they can investigate and fix DNS issues. It also has a full module on the domain names ecosystem.
Mike: Tell us about whatismyisp.com. What is the purpose and use of the site?
Ruurtjan: WhatIsMyISP is a simple tool that shows your internet service provider, among with some related information. It is mostly used to find the ISP of a network you don’t own yourself, to check if your VPN is working, and to see whether you’re on mobile data or on WIFI. It’s used by about 5,000 people per day.
Mike: Do you own any other domain names?
Ruurtjan: I don’t do domain name arbitrage, but I own quite a few domain names regardless.
Most of them to forward to either nslookup or whatismyisp. I try to own the .com, .net, .info, .org and .io domain names for both projects as well as some variations of both domain names. It’s not super expensive (these domains go for $100-$1000 for non-.com TLDs if they are registered at all). It adds a barrier to entry for competitors, but mainly helps visitors who couldn’t remember which TLD I use. Especially since I started whatismyisp on .org, and nslookup is still on .io.
Mike: What future projects are you currently working on or planning?
Ruurtjan: I’m heads down working on the DNS course right now, and will keep doing so for at least a couple of months. Once that’s done I might go back to nslookup and expand it with WHOIS and IP data. I haven’t decided yet.
Mike: What advice would you give to someone trying to choose a domain name for their business?
Ruurtjan: Domain names matter a lot. A short, descriptive .com is obviously better than a long, generic .net domain name. But it is possible to migrate to a different domain name without any impact on SEO. You’ll need to do it right, but you can.
So I’ve always stayed away from buying an expensive domain name up-front. Mostly because I do everything myself and don’t take outside investment.