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March 21, 2017

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The Lowdown
February 2017 Archive
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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.

Mardi Gras Day is Also Sweet 16th Birthday for New Orleans Based Registrar Directnic - King Cakes Dispatched to Spread Party Far Beyond Bourbon Street

New Orleans based Directnic.com is one of the industry's longest standing domain registrars. In fact today they are celebrating their 16th birthday - a landmark occasion that coincides nicely with their home town's biggest annual party - and one of world's most famous spectacles - Fat Tuesday at Mardi Gras

Like Mardi Gras, Directnic, who has customers around the globe,  knows no bounds. So they decided to spread some Sweet 16th sugar far beyond Bourbon Street by sending out some gigantic King Cakes for others to enjoy. The one we received came from a famous maker of the traditional New Orleans treat - Manny Randazzo - in a box (complete with beads) big enough for two large pizzas to sit side by side. 

Above: My wife Diana cuts into the King Cake. I got the little plastic baby inside which is supposed to presage "luck and prosperity." I will consider myself lucky if I don't gain 5 pounds after eating this - only then will I believe it really works!

Above: The King Cake was too big for two people but fortunately Howard & Barbara Neu were with us when it was time to dig in! Even with four we barely put a dent in it but we sure had fun trying!

Congratulations to Directnic on your long, successful run and a special thank you to their Business Development Director (and a long time friend of ours from Down Under), Mike Robertson, for bringing a taste of New Orleans and Mardi Gras to our door.

(Posted February 28, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170228.htm

.GLOBAL Welcomes Domain Investors -  Owners Invited to List Their .GLOBAL Names for Sale on Registry Website

There are many different business models among the hundreds of new gTLD registries that have launched over the last three years but few  have put a lot of effort into courting domain investors. It's true that many veteran investors simply don't believe a viable new gTLD aftermarket is going to develop. Others are turned off by the high registration and renewal prices typically charged for the most attractive new gTLD domains. With the future direction of the market still uncertain, high carrying costs make holding names such names too risky for most.

Still, there are some investors who believe the new gTLDs will steadily build an audience in the years ahead. That group would buy and hold more domains if registries gave them a better chance of making a return on their investments. The .GLOBAL registry has recently taken some major steps in their direction that CEO Rolf Larsen showed me when we met up at last month's NamesCon conference in Las Vegas.  

The clearest signal .GLOBAL is sending investors is a new program in beta that allows third parties to list their .GLOBAL domains for sale on a registry-operated website - Domains.globalfree of charge.   

Rolf Larsen
CEO, .GLOBAL Registry 

While you are at Domains.global checking out the third party sales service, you will find many more new features geared to domain investors. Those include lists of both keyword and 3-letter domains that can be registered for the first year at the standard prices in effect at a variety of .GLOBAL registrars. The names of those registrars and the prices they currently charge are all shown when you click the buy now button, with those offering special promotional pricing listed at the top of the list. When we checked today Name.com had the best price at $7.99. Among others, there are also lists of dropping and deleted domains at standard pricing. Many registries charge high premium prices for the same keyword or acronym in their extensions.

However, there is still one big hurdle investors will have to decide if it is worth trying to get over. Like many new gTLDs, .GLOBAL often offers promotional pricing for year one but higher standard (non-promotional) pricing for renewals. That full standard rate at most of the registrars offering .GLOBAL is $69 or more. So, you have to balance how much you save with the low first year price against how long you would be willing to hold the domain when much higher renewal costs come into play. I would guess that a number of investors who believe in new gTLDs will test the waters by registering some of the best available terms at the low initial price, then list them for sale for a year on the .GLOBAL site (and other venues) to see what kind of response they get. They can then decide if they want to stay at the table for year two.

Image from Bigstock

We've already seen many changes in strategy and pricing across the new gTLD space and that will no doubt continue. I'm surprised that more registries haven't put greater effort into engaging domain investors but if .GLOBAL's overtures (and those from some similarly proactive registries) bear fruit more will follow suit.  Eventually we may see renewal prices that remain the same as initial low registration prices, even for the higher quality domains - an environment a lot more investors would find to their liking.

(Posted February 27, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170227.htm

Rob Monster Unveils Ambitious Plans for DigitalTown's SmartCity/SmartWeb Platform

Serial entrepreneur and domain industry veteran Rob Monster has long been a proponent of the "go big or go home" approach to business. When he founded domain registrar Epik.com in 2009 he quickly turned it into a one-stop shop for establishing a complete web presence: domain name, hosting, monetization and web development services. Monster has since taken on another, even more ambitious enterprise as CEO of a public company called DigitalTown Inc. ((OTC PINK: DGTW).

Monster started working on his latest project in September 2015 and just went public with a key part of his master plan, SmartWeb, at last month's NamesCon conference in Las Vegas.  Monster told us, "Shortly after coming on board with Digital Town I laid out a plan for creating a Global Smart City platform that would allow any city to become a Smart City using an integrated set of cloud-hosted technologies for making cities work better by keeping more money in the local economy while partnering with residents and visitors to improve quality of life."

"During 2016, DigitalTown completed and integrated four acquisitions of operating companies that had developed components of the Smart City ecosystem that would allow us to accelerate time to market," Monster said.  

Rob Monster
CEO, Digital Town Inc.

"On the domain front, we rounded up what has since grown to more than 22,000 of the .CITY domains as well as pursued strategic discussions with a number of new TLD registries about a concept that we call “SmartWeb”. I believe this notion of a Smart Web may become of great relevance to the future of the domain name industry."

"In short, the big idea of SmartWeb is to bundle descriptive TLDs with (1) TLD-specific content management systems (CMS) and (2) a single-sign-on Smart Wallet.  A domain name registrant gets a free CMS bundled with their domain. The free CMS maps to the logical use-case implied in the TLD. The CMS monetizes through transaction processing that are mediated through the end-consumer’s Single-Sign-On Smart Wallet.  The free CMS service from DigitalTown can integrate with any registrar, i.e. it is NOT Epik-specific."

Monster added, "By way of illustration, for the .MENU registry, we are developing the Smart.Menu platform to launch at the National Restaurant Association Conference in May 2017. Smart.Menu will let any restaurant be a Smart Restaurant, with a multimedia menu 

that adapts to location, time of day and dietary preference, on web or Smart Phone.  A non-technical restaurant staff member can update a Smart.menu in minutes.  For a live demo, see http://wada.menu, with user login henryjackson and password 123456.  Each city in turn gets a dining search engine, for example http://lasvegas.menu."

Regarding DigitalTown's extensive usage of new gTLDs Monster said, "The DigitalTown SmartWeb initiative aims to greatly expand the adoption of the new domain extensions through bundling of turn-key websites that combine intuitive web applications, and mobile applications, with a unified single sign for secure access to personalized services. Descriptive domain extensions represent a logical progression of the consumer-facing web. The missing ingredient for rapid adoption of new extensions, particularly by small businesses has been the availability of cost-effective solutions that turn domains into great user experiences that are intuitive, secure and personalized.  Although DigitalTown does not own any of the new registries, DigitalTown is building win-win partnerships around a shared SmartWeb architecture for powering Smart Cities around the world.”

Rob Monster in the Epik booth at the January 2017 NamesCon Conference in Las Vegas.

In closing Monster noted, ""This is not your classic geo domain platform. Rather, DigitalTown is intended as a consumer-centric operating system for Smart cities. The DigitalTown platform is already getting traction with cities, notably in Europe.  In addition, our vertical solutions for lodging and dining are garnering the interest of State trade associations and Destination Marketing Organizations in cities as these legacy civic organizations work to stay relevant in the Digital Age."

For a detailed account of the DigitalTown platform you can read this DigitalTown Product Overview (.pdf file). You can also read Digital Town's latest quarterly 10-Q SEC filing here if you want to learn more about the company's recent and projected financial results.

(Posted January 25, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170223.htm

Sam Tseng Joins ParkingCrew - Sevan Derderian Moves to Trellian - NamesCon Coming to India - Sedo Raises Cap on Domain Prices 

ParkingCrew has made a key addition to their management team. Industry veteran Sam Tseng has come on board as Director Business Development, Publisher Products. Tseng has previously served as Director of Sales at DomainSponsor/RookMedia and Account Executive at Uniregistry. He will add another 10+ years of deep industry knowledge to the Parking Crew sales force.

ParkingCrew CEO Nico Zeifang said, “We have known Sam since the early days at DomainSponsor and kept in touch with him while building out our ParkingCrew platform. Having a long running relationship, we are thrilled to have him on board."

Tseng said, "I wanted to work in a non-corporate environment on a very technology driven product and this is exactly what Team Internet with their products ParkingCrew and TONIC.  stands for.”

Tseng will be stationed in Los Angeles, catering to the needs of ParkingCrew and publisher TONIC. customers in the United States, Canada  and Chinese speaking countries.

Sam Tseng
Director of Business Development
Publisher Products

Sevan Derderian
Trellian Brokerage Director

In another major personnel move that came to light in a DomainGang story over the weekend, industry veteran Sevan Derderian has joined Trellian (who operates domain monetization service Above.com) as Brokerage Director. Derderian moves into that role after almost three and half years at Uniregistry, most recently as Director of Sales. 

Derderian first entered the domain industry in 2004 with Oversee.net and also held sales and management positions at Thought Convergence and NavBid before joining Uniregistry in 2013. I haven't seen a formal press release on Sevan's move to Trellian but his LinkedIn  page confirms the new role effective this month. 

Derderian will work from Southern California where Australia based Trellian/Above has a Los Angeles office.

Elsewhere today, NamesCon revealed they are planning a series of one-day international domain events in association with World Hosting Days (who acquired NamesCon last year). The first of those will be held May 19, 

2017 in Mumbai, India. The news came in a 2017 NamesCon conference wrap-up posted on the conference website but no other details on the series or India event have been released yet. The post said dates and locations for other one-day events will be coming soon.

Last but not least, Sedo has raised the price cap on domains listed for sale on their platform from $10,000 to $50,000. The increase is something customers have often asked for so it will be a popular move. A note we received from a company spokesperson said, "This means

more flexibility and faster to market times for all domains on the world’s largest marketplace. Since we first added the $10,000 limit it has been more common for sales to reach the five figure range and beyond."  

(Posted February 21, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170221.htm

NameThreads.com Offers New Service That Helps Investors Zero in on Domain Bargains at NamePros

Domain forums have long been popular hunting grounds for investors looking to bag attractive names at bargain prices. However, there are so many domains for sale at the massive NamePros.com forum it can be hard to find the diamonds you are looking for in what seems to be an endless "mine". 

Glasgow, Scotland based domain industry veteran Martin Kellerman decided that providing an affordable solution to that problem could be a good business opportunity, so the professional programmer has built and launched a new service at NameThreads.com. With it, Kellerman says, "You can easily search all of the domains for sale at  Namepros. We have well over 100,000 domains in our database. Domain re-sellers trade their domains cheaply on Namepros.com but until now it has been very hard to search for specific domains according to your requirements."

NameThreads let's you search by domain keyword, TLD (.com, .net, .co.uk, etc.), domain length, number of letters, digits and hyphens in the domain, number of vowels and consonants
and many other factors. Kellerman noted, "If you are starting a website or business in a certain niche, you can search for domains in your niche. If you are looking for a short 

Martin Kellerman
NameThreads.com Founder

brandable domain that is a 5-letter long .com with a certain pattern of vowels and consonants, you can find it. If you are a domain re-seller looking for a numeric domain without 0 or 4, you can find it."

NameThreads.com offers two levels of service and both come with a 7-day free trial so you can "try before you buy". After the trial period a Basic Membership costs $9.95 per month or $99.95 for one year. An Advanced Membership is also available a $29.95 per month or $299 annually. The latter option comes with a lot of extra search criteria including number of letters, numbers and hyphens in the domain, any consonant/vowel combination such as CVCV, CVCVC or any other you can think, keyword the domain begins or ends with, Western premium and Chinese premium domains and the ability to export results to a .csv file for further analysis.

(Posted February 16, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170216.htm

GGRG Report Says Chinese Buyers Gobbled Up a Bigger Piece of the Liquid .COM Pie in 4Q-2016 - Current Quarter Forecast Also Included

Domain brokerage and consultancy GGRG.com has just released their latest  free quarterly report breaking down aftermarket sales of "liquid domains" (short .com domains that are relatively easy to sell at prevailing market prices). The new report (.pdf file) covering the 4th quarter of 2016 that I received from GGRG founder Giuseppe Graziano noted, "China continued to gain significant market share in the last quarter of 2016. Chinese registrants were the only net gainers of liquid domains, with owners in the US, Europe and rest of the world losing approximately 10% of their share. The biggest ownership change came in the 4L .com category ("L"= letter, "N" = number), with China adding over 45,000 domains, or 10% of the category."

Graziano added, "While China is leading the market with over 50% of the registrations in 2N, 3N, 4N and 5N .com, the US is still the market leader for 2L and 3L .com domains, the two most developed categories . This suggests that while Chinese investors are clearly leading investor demand, US companies are still the ultimate end user of liquid domain names."

The report's Executive Summary section includes some interesting sales data. It notes, 

GGRG Founder Giuseppe Graziano

"Disclosed sales increased 12% to 5,455 domains sold, and total sales volume increased 7.7% to $5.48 million. Transactions of top tier domains typically remain undisclosed with the exception of HG.com (rumored to have sold for $3,770,000 to a Chinese company). There were no recorded transactions of LL, NN and NNN .coms in Q4-2016."

"The increase in sales volume came mostly from lower tier categories like 4L and 5N .coms. As predicted in our Q3 forecast, these categories seem to have reached a support level: 5th percentile values increased 6.51% for 4L .com and 8.27% for 5N .com. Transactions of 3L .com domains registered a notable 57% increase in number of units sold; the increase in supply however translated into a sharp 17% decrease of the 5th percentile values, which decreased from $18,200 to $15,100. The number of disclosed 4N .com transactions was unchanged from last quarter (11 domains sold), but sales volume almost doubled, increasing from $259,936 to $512,983."

Image from Bigstock

Looking ahead, the GGRG report sees this for the first half of Q1-2017: "We forecast a decrease in investor demand due to 1) the slow period around Chinese New Year; and 2) the increased activity in bitcoins, an investment alternative to domain names for Chinese buyers."

"In terms of market opportunities, LN & NL domains still appear to be undervalued because their retail price is quite low in relation to their scarcity (520 domains) and high development index (27.31%). The low concentration index, the lowest among liquid domains, suggests that this category is one of the least susceptible to market manipulation and therefore unexpected surges in supply."

" Also, since end user demand does not seem 

to favor domains with Chinese Premium letters, domains with vowels seem to offer better prices than their Chinese Premium counterparts."

(Posted February 14, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170214.htm

TLD Registry Clears High China Hurdle - Now Has Two of the Very Few Extensions Accredited There 

While there are now well over 1,000 domain extensions (TLDs) on the web, one of the world's most important markets, China, has fully accredited only 32 of those. The latest to make the exceptionally short list are TLD Registry's .在线 (Dot Chinese Online) and .中文网 (Dot Chinese Website) extensions. The company got the good news over the weekend from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the state agency of the Chinese government that regulates the Internet from within China, after MIIT gave TLD Registry's Beijing-based WFOE (wholly foreign-owned entity) company full accreditation status.

The accreditation means that Chinese citizens and organizations who register .在线 and .中文网 can now obtain an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license that must be displayed in the footer of any website hosted within China. Non-accredited TLDs can only be hosted outside of China. For domain developers, being able to host a site within China greatly reduces the risk of getting blocked or shut down without notification due to the lack of a valid ICP license. It also means that foreign companies who wish to market their products and services on a website within China will experience much faster access to their sites by Chinese citizens, due to their websites now having the option of resolving from a host inside of China, thus bypassing the firewall and other latency issues that can block access and sales.

TLD Registry CEO Arto Isokoski

Arto Isokoski, CEO of TLD Registry, said, "Receiving MIIT’s accreditation is one of the greatest milestones we’ve achieved as a China
market focused business. SMB’s, corporations,
startups, brand protection agencies, investors, and anyone else in China who wishes to use one
of our domain extensions for their website can now do so with ease and official approval.”

Several foreign registry operators have been vying to obtain the coveted MIIT accreditation due to China’s massive and lucrative market, however they must endure a rigorous and time consuming process. The ability to register .在线 and .中文网 and host a website legally from within China effectively provides TLD Registry with a linguistically correct and culturally relevant alternative for a population of nearly 1.4 billion people (of which 721 million are internet users) and the largest e-commerce market in the world.

(Posted February 13, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170213.htm

Above.com Rolls Out New Portfolio Manager That Let's You Track Domain Monetization, Sales and Renewals in One Place

When I came back from NamesCon a couple of weeks ago I mentioned the extraordinarily large number of new company launches, service improvements from existing companies and personnel changes that were announced during the show. There were far too many to get to while covering events at the conference itself so I will continue to share some of those developments with you in this column over the next couple of weeks. 

One of them was the beta launch of domain monetizer Above.com's new Portfolio Manager. Above,.com/Trellian President David Warmuz tolf us, "The Portfolio Manager is designed to help domain investors more efficiently manage portfolio data, make more informed decisions, and quickly take actions to improve earnings. For example, Portfolio Manager's dashboard offers insights on revenue boosting opportunities associated with Above’s AutoPilot platform. AutoPilot drives revenues higher by finding the highest earning monetization channel for each domain visitor. The AutoPilot Maximizer feature provides a substantial revenue boost by offering domain traffic to our premium direct advertiser channel, fully seamless and integrated with Trellian’s Direct Search Network, where advertisers compete for your traffic."

Warmuz added, "Portfolio Manager’s dashboard also offers a Registrar Consolidate feature, which pulls together data required to make timely, ROI-based domain renewal decisions
Domain investors can also manage offers and counter-offers, generate BuyNow prices

Above.com President David Warmuz

based on domain and revenue stats, and get domains posted quickly for sale on Above’s Marketplace. Portfolio Manager truly offers everything a domain investor needs, all in a single dashboard. I encourage domain investors to check out the time saving, revenue boosting, and cost reduction opportunities offered by the data and tools in our new Portfolio Manager dashboard."

You can also get more insight into the capabilities of Above.com's new Portfolio Manager in this video at YouTube: https://youtu.be/wt6YJ0npAmM.

The Above.com leadership team at their booth during the 2017 NamesCon conference in Las Vegas. Left to right are Aaron Kvitek (SVP Strategic Marketing), Liz Corona (Senior Account Manager), Nancy Bianchi (Executive Vice President) and David Warmuz (Co-Founder/President).

(Posted February 10, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170210.htm

SumoMe Acquires Sumo.com for $1.5 Million Ending a 7-Year Quest to Acquire Their Dream Domain - Founder Noah Kagan Tells Us How the Deal Finally Got Done

The founder of SumoMe, a popular website services company that has operated from SumoMe.com, finally has his dream domain and new brand name after acquiring Sumo.com for $1.5 million. Austin, Texas based serial entrepreneur Noah Kagan, the founder of both SumoMe and AppSumo, filled us in on how the sale came about before he publicly announced it today. Our interview is below:

DNJournal: Premier domains like this are not easy or inexpensive to come by and I understand your quest to acquire it was a particularly stomach churning ride. Take us through it from the beginning – when and why you decided to pursue the name, how you made contact with the owner and how the negotiations played out.

Noah Kagan: We started to pursue the name on April 3, 2010!  It's taken nearly 7 years to acquire it. The owners were unresponsive so we found an introduction to them through a mutual contact on LinkedIn. The owners would respond and then stop for a few months. We hired 3 brokers and none were able to get the owners to budge on selling. When we got on the phone and then made the 7-figure offer, 

Noah Kagan
SumoMe Founder

things started to get more serious. I kept persisting as the owners would be unresponsive. Ultimately I gave them the large offer and a strict deadline which helped motivate the situation to a close.

DNJournal: I understand the owner had asked for as much as $10 million at the height of last year’s Chinese buying boom. While you got it down to $1.5 million that is still, obviously, a very significant investment. How do you expect having Sumo.com to recoup that investment for you? 

Noah Kagan: They did ask $10 million for Sumo.com and I told them they were crazy. I look at the domain as a long-term investment. The brand value, improvement on recruiting and personal satisfaction should recoup our spend within a year in my opinion. We also structured the purchase with monthly payments so we didn't have to spend it all at once which made the investment much more digestible. There's a large value on happiness and being the de facto Sumo brand on the market now and forever is nearly priceless to me. 

DNJournal: Hundreds of new domain extensions have been released over the past two years. Did you ever consider using one of these new extensions rather than making the large cash outlay you did to get the .com?

Noah KaganHa! Yea, we own sumo.ly / sumos.com and I spent 2 years trying to buy sumo.me. It felt like we were settling for second place when we knew what we wanted. Similar to real estate, there's only one Beverly Hills in the world and it's very expensive to live there. Everyone knows its prestigious and one of the nicest places to live. That's what .Coms are. You can definitely live a great and prosperous life in Santa Monica (.IO or whatever) but the status that goes with a dot com is still the de facto TLD. For instance, name one large public company that doesn't have the .com as their main brand.

DNJournal: For a large enterprise changing a name – even to a great, more intuitive one – involves a good bit of work. What has been involved for you and your team in making the transition from SumoMe.com to Sumo.com?

Noah KaganHoly moly. You don't realize how many places and logos your name appears. We've spent about 2 months transitioning the name. There are things anyone buying a domain should do as well is leverage the purchase for PR exposure. Specifically we've:

  • Updated our logo to go along with our new name

  • Reviewed every place where SumoMe is mentioned

  • Updated all our LinkedIn profiles

  • Attempted to get the social accounts of the new domain

  • Setup articles with relevant press sites like your own and more.

DNJournal: Are there any other details you think would be of interest to our readers regarding this major acquisition?

Noah KaganPersistence beats resistance. For anyone else out there really wanting a specific domain, figure out the leverage you can get to acquire it and start the process earlier. Two major changes if I had to do it again would be to use a fake email address personally if you have an online presence. This would have not let the seller necessarily know why we are using it and potentially charge us a premium. Second, I would have pushed harder to purchase the domain sooner, likely would have been able to save a million dollars doing it that way!

DNJournal to readers: Thanks to Noah, who was one of the first employees at Facebook, for sharing his experiences with this sale. He is probably right about saving a lot of money had he pressed to close the sale years ago. Rob Barbour of MarketingFools.com, the mutual friend who introduced us (a big thank you to Rob for that as well), told me the previous owner of Sumo.com had acquired the domain in 2008, just two years before Noah first contacted him, for $150,000.

(Posted February 8, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170208.htm

Somebody Bullied the Wrong Grandma - How Heidi Powell Became a Key Figure in the Fight for Domain Owner Rights  

For as long as there has been a domain business, domain owners have had to deal with people trying to steal their assets through frivolous UDRP filings or lawsuits. Predators quickly learned that instead of paying the rightful owner for it, they could get their hands on a domain name much cheaper the underhanded way because there was rarely a price to pay if they got busted. 

In the case of UDRPs, even if the usurper is found guilty of a Reverse Domain Hijacking attempt, there is no penalty for that. In the case of lawsuits, a lot of domain owners have had no choice but to forfeit their domain rather than face the sky high cost and aggravation of a protracted legal battle against opponents with far larger bankrolls. 

It has gotten a little better over the years but serious problems still remain 

Image from Bigstock

because, for the most part, it was only domain owner's  oxen that were getting gored - and no one had much interest in domain owners unless they happened to own a name that someone thought they should have instead.

Yet, all of the sudden, there is a domain owner that a lot of people care about - a grandmother from Washington State named Heidi Powell whose plight has captured widespread media attention, attention extending beyond the domain world. The injustice in her situation even caught the eye of USA Today.   

Joseph Peterson posted an in depth account of Heidi's story at the NamePros Forum that has now been supplemented by dozens of posts from others, including most notably one of the world's leading domain attorneys, John Berryhill, that further illuminates the complicated situation. I highly recommend reading all of it, but if you are pressed for time I'll attempt to give you the Cliff's Notes version here.

In 2005 Heidi's husband Kent registered the HeidiPowell.com domain name and gave it to Heidi as an anniversary gift. She has used it ever since - initially 

Heidi Powell
The owner of HeidiPowell.com
since 2005.

for email and more recently for her own business. That should have been the end of the story. But years later, another woman, whose name also became Heidi Powell after a 2010 marriage, came along and decided the grandmother should give up her name because Heidi #2 was a "celebrity" of some sort (she apparently appeared as a fitness trainer on an ABC-TV show called Extreme Weight Loss). This even though Heidi #2 already had a perfectly respectable domain name in HeidiPowell.net (for the record Bruce Springsteen is at BruceSpringsteen.net so its not like someone who is less well known than the Boss's roadies should feel the extension is "beneath" them).

Attorney David Weslow

The original Heidi declined the new Heidi's offers to buy the name, so Heidi #2 sued her in an attempt to take something that clearly was not hers to take. Since the original Heidi and Kent had gone through a bankruptcy in 2012 they probably looked like easy targets as they would have little money to mount a defense. However, Heidi #2 did not plan on domain attorney David Weslow (WileyRein.com) getting wind of all this and deciding he couldn't let it pass. Weslow took on the original Heidi's case pro bono and most expect that case will go in the original Heidi's favor once the verdict comes down. Meanwhile, the Internet Commerce Association (who works to protect domain owner rights) has already recognized Weslow for his selflessness by awarding him the ICA's first Lonnie Borck Memorial Award

But wait! Heidi #2 was not done yet!

Even with the original case still to be resolved, Heidi #2 had a trick play up her sleeve. She filed a new suit asking the judge in the original Heidi's bankruptcy case to re-open it, claiming the real Heidi did not list her domain name among her assets of value (never mind that at the time - and even now - the name has no value to anyone not named Heidi Powell). Again Heidi #2 found she had picked the wrong grandma to bully. Even though the original Heidi would have to foot the bills this time, she counter-sued Heidi #2 for damages and expenses that could run into six figures. All of the sudden Heidi #2 apparently realized she had stepped in a big pile of...well, I hate to say it but...#2. According to the commentary in the NamePros thread she withdrew her bankruptcy case law suit - but now it is the original Heidi who is not done yet. Her counter-suit will continue and Heidi #2 cannot withdraw from that.

So, while Heidi #2 now finds herself in a world of hurt, Heidi #1 had landed in an unexpected new role as a champion of domain owner's rights. As John Berryhill noted in his NamePros commentary, "Ending it with a bang, particularly given that a celebrity of sorts is involved, could have the beneficial effect of sending a message to others similarly situated that going into a court or UDRP on a flimsy trademark claim, and walking out with a domain name to which someone else is properly entitled, is not always as easy as it seems."

Berryhill added, "It really spins some folk's heads around when, during the course of a domain dispute the trademark claimant makes an offer, and gets a response to the effect of, "No, we're going to sue you for more than that and KEEP the domain name. Opposing counsel didn't used to take those sorts of statements seriously until a handful of domain registrants began seeking, and obtaining, damage awards for Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. Those sorts 

Attorney John Berryhill

of decisions have made it easier to deter  frivolous claims, and I imagine that this one will add to the impact of counter-threats in domain disputes. That's a good thing."

Even though going to war in the right thing to do, it's not something the real Heidi can afford to do alone. After dozens of people asked how they could help she opened a GoFundMe page where anyone can contribute toward the $7,000 goal to help meet the legal expenses.  There have been lots of donations ranging from $10 to $100 and Heidi said every dollar will go toward the cause - with any money left after legal costs being donated to the Internet Commerce Association who has helped spread this story far and wide.

While I have given you a summary of this situation I want to close with something more powerful - Heidi's own story, told in her own words in this 3-minute YouTube clip:


(Posted February 6, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170206.htm

New Report Shows How Organizations Around the World Use Online Technology and Social Media to Reach Their Goals 

Public Interest Registry (PIR), the not-for-profit operator of the .org, .ngo and .ong domains and Nonprofit Tech for Good released an interesting new survey this week, their 2017 Global NGO Online Technology Report. This 2nd annual report reveals how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide use web, email and mobile communications, online fundraising tools, and social media. 

While the report is specific to the not-for-profit category, the results should be of interest to anyone who is developing a website and trying to figure out the most effective ways to interact with visitors and clients.

The report details the key findings from a survey of 4,908 NGO respondents from 153 countries across Africa, Asia, Australia & Oceania, Europe, North America and South America. Compared to the 2016 survey, the report nearly doubled in the number of participants. Findings in the report include regional comparisons of how NGOs use the internet to build awareness and raise funds, as well as whether NGOs find specific online and mobile communication tools to be effective for their communications and fundraising strategies.

Key findings globally include: 

  • 92% of respondents have a website. Of those, 78% are mobile-compatible.

  • Only 38% regularly publish a blog.

  • More than 68% of survey respondents noted that their organization uses the .org domain, compared to 9.2% that use the .com domain.

  • Email dominates as the preferred form of communication to donors, with 71% of respondents regularly sending email updates, whereas 15% regularly send text messages to supporters.

  • 67% of respondents accept online donations. 

  • While 95% agree that social media is effective for online brand awareness, only 66% of respondents say that executive leadership supports prioritizing social media in their online communications and fundraising strategy.

  • Facebook leads as the preferred social media platform with 92% of respondents having a dedicated page, followed by Twitter (72%) and YouTube (55%).

Heather Mansfield, the founder of Nonprofit Tech for Good, said “As internet infrastructure continues to improve worldwide, we expect that future results of this survey will demonstrate that NGOs around the world are becoming more equally empowered to use the internet to inspire philanthropy and create social change. The NGO Online Tech Report is groundbreaking in that it is the only annual research project dedicated to studying how NGOs use online technology on a global scale and reveals the technological gaps across regions."

With respect to North America, key findings include: 

  • When communicating with supporters, only 3% of respondents in North America regularly send mobile text messages.

  • 85% of respondents accept online donations.

  • 38% of respondents in North America have been using social media for 3-4 years and 36% percent have been using it for 5-9 years.

  • 50% percent of respondents in North America have used social media to report live.

Public Interest Registry CEO Brian Cute noted, “We understand the global NGO community uses the internet to advance their causes, however the status of a region’s internet infrastructure may impact their ability to communicate and spread their mission worldwide. The report allows us to see the challenges, pain points and ultimately opportunities to support organizations online and give them a foundation to stay connected.”

Public Interest Registry's mission is to educate and enable the global noncommercial community to use the internet more effectively, and to take a leadership position among internet stakeholders on policy and other issues relating to the domain naming system. Nonprofit Tech for Good is a leading social and mobile media resource for nonprofit professionals. 

PIR CEO Brian Cute

For more information on the survey's findings and methodology, and to download the full report and graphics, visit: http://www.techreport.ngo.

(Posted February 3, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
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.CLUB Boosts Sales By Offering Five Years of Free Financing and a New Partnership Program for Brokers 

On the same day the 2017 NamesCon conference opened in Las Vegas (January 22) the .CLUB registry launched two new initiatives designed to boost sales - a five-year free financing program for premium domains priced at $1,000 or more and a new Broker Program

that helps brokers profit from .CLUB sales. The first week of results are now in and .CLUB is delighted with how well the programs are working.

Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Sass told me, 
"39 premium names totaling $149,480 (after broker discounts) were sold in the first 7 days. 95% of the buyers (representing 37 names) chose the free financing option and 43.6% (17 names) were bought or sold by Broker Program participants."

"With 60-month, interest free financing, that $1,000 name can be had for less than $17 a month. For businesses and entrepreneurs, great 5 and 6-figure premium names become much more attainable when payments are spread out over 5 years. You can search for and purchase premium .CLUB names, with a one-time payment or with 60-month financing, at www.get.club."

Sass added, "With the broker program, domain investors and brokers can more easily market and sell .CLUB premium names to their clients, passing along savings and the financing option. Approved brokers are issued a unique code they 

.CLUB CMO Jeff Sass speaking on a New gTLD panel at the 2017 NamesCon conference in Las Vegas last week.

can pass along to their customers. The code will automatically offer a 10% discount to the purchaser and earn commission for the broker the code is assigned to. Some brokers have been even been financing their own exclusive inventory of names they have an interest in developing and/or re-selling.  Interested brokers can get more details and apply for their unique code at www.get.club/broker."

.CLUB also reported that they sold over $112,000 worth of premium domains in the final quarter of 2016. 23 of those sales were over the $1,000 mark making them them eligible to be charted in our next weekly domain sales report that will be out Wednesday evening (February 8).  

(Posted February 2, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170202.htm

Editor's Note: On March 11, 2017 DomainX Founder Manmeet Pal Singh informed us the event previewed in the post below (on February 1, 2017)  had been cancelled due to an unexpected illness. If it is rescheduled at a later date we will let you know.

DomainX Conference to Expand Beyond India - Plans Announced for April Show in London

After staging three successful annual domain  conferences in India DomainX Events has decided to make their next step an international one. Plans are underway for a one-day London edition of DomainX to be held Sunday, April 9, 2017 in the UK capital. The conference venue has not yet been announced but the show website already shows an initial list of speakers and a preliminary event schedule. The roster of speakers currently listed includes Jon Yau (StockPhoto.com), Tommy Butler (Glasow.com), Zak Muscovitch (DNAttorney.com) and DomainX Founder Manmeet Pal Singh, as well as several other well-known industry figures. 

Singh launched DomainX with a 2014 conference in Hyderabad, followed it in 2015 with an event in Bangalore, then went to New Delhi for the 2016 show last August. 

Singh told us, "We are hoping to bring together over 100 professionals to exclusively meet and greet each other while networking with some of the best in the Domain Name business in Great Britain." Tickets are priced in three categories - Regular Conference Ticket (£99), 2 Regular Conference Tickets (£149) and VIP Conference Ticket (£199).  As more details are finalized you will find updates on the DomainX London website here: http://www.domainxevents.com/london/.

(Posted February 1, 2017) To refer others to the post above only (and not the full Lowdown column) you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2017/dailyposts/20170201.htm


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