September 28, 2012    

 

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Knights of the Domain Roundtable Ready for Summit in Seattle

By Ron Jackson
Editor/Publisher


The inaugural Domain Roundtable Conference will be held in Seattle Wednesday, May 25 through Friday, May 27 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel and Towers. Though this is a debut event the organizers are hardly new kids on the block. 

 

Domain Roundtable is being produced and presented by Seattle-based Name Intelligence, a company universally recognized for domain research that powers sites like RegistrarStats.com, DailyChanges.com and WhoIs.sc (a site with over 140,000 registered members that is ranked among the web's top 500 busiest sites by Alexa). They are also the industry leader in semantic name suggestion technology and many of the industry’s top registrars rely on them to provide services in that area.

 

We called on Name Intelligence Founder and CEO Jay Westerdal and the company’s Vice President of Business Development, Jothan Frakes, to fill us in on what attendees can look forward to at Domain Roundtable. Frakes is responsible for the overall coordination of the event. For almost a decade, he served as the Chief Technical Officer of eNIC (the .CC registry).  After Verisign acquired  eNIC Frakes stayed with the company to work as a Senior Manager for VeriSign’s Naming and Directory Services group overseeing the engineering groups for the .TV and .CC registry systems.

Archived May 26, 2005

   

Seattle Skyline

 

 

Sheraton Seattle Hotel and Towers
Location of the 
Domain Roundtable Conference

“When I joined Name Intelligence in September of last year one of the many things I discussed with Jay was how there were no industry conferences for the various people who work with internet domain names,” Frakes told us. “As the leading provider of domain information we felt part of this gap fell upon our shoulders and Jay had already been formulating a trade show before I joined Name Intelligence.”  

Westerdal, who spent more than ten years working with web hosting and internet technologies before founding Name Intelligence in 1998, said “the domain industry touches most every internet industry there is. Yet companies in our industry generally had to settle for participating in web hosting, web marketing, or search engine conferences, or smaller fledgling conferences that are egregiously self-promoting or look more like an eBay listing for a cruise ship ticket than something of actual substance.” 

Both say that the ideas that led to Domain Roundtable were originally hatched after attending ICANN meetings years ago. Frakes told us “I recall attending ICANN meetings in Los Angeles and Marina Del Rey from 1999-2001. The most fascinating parts of the meetings were seeing the various companies lined up in the hallways showing off their products and services - these were many of the visionary people who saw bigger pictures – people who now are fueling ad revenue and paid search or other monetization services. The other interesting phenomenon at these meetings was the networking. To see key industry players outside of the meetings, at lunch or over a cocktail, discussing the foundations of large strategic business relationships that are still in place today.”

While ICANN meetings serve as nice quasi domain conferences, the meeting locations rotate around the globe and it has now been almost 4 years since one has been held in the U.S. The most recent one, in Mar del Plata, Argentina required a 36-hour journey for many Americans who made the trip. Westerdal said “in putting the Domain Roundtable together, we wanted to create a forum for people who can’t travel to these remote locations so they can talk, share and network with their peers, and for internet entrepreneurs looking for the next big thing, as well as the sophisticated user base who wants to know about the next steps or current events – all without the extended travel requirements.” 

Frakes added, “We have reduced some of what I call the ‘yawn factor’ as well. I enjoy attending the ICANN meetings, and Vint Cerf can be an engaging and charming presenter. This unfortunately does not offset the fact there is a lot of time consumed on politics (and understandably so, given their scope and mandate). I have worked hard to ensure that The Domain Roundtable is structured, both in content and in speaker background and diversity, so that the sessions will be entertaining, educational, and valuable…and if the session that you are in isn’t for you, well, three more will be going on that might interest you more!” 

That brings up a unique aspect of the Domain Rountable conference, something they call multi-tracking. It simply means multiple seminars will be going on at the same time, so attendees can choose the topics they are most interested in learning. Westerdal explained “ We have four major groups of session foci; Domain Entrepreneurs, Intellectual Property, Domain Industry, and Search Engines. We have put a lot of careful thought into the schedule to help someone maximize their conference experience, based upon what their focus is.”

If you find the plethora of possibilities a bit overwhelming, Frakes has some recommendations, “If I was forced to identify the sessions that I get contacted most about, without a doubt, the Thursday afternoon CEO Roundtable is the session that has probably attracted the most buzz.  In one room, are Champ Mitchell of Network Solutions, Bob Parsons of GoDaddy, Peter Forman of Register.com, Paul Stahura of eNom, Clint Page from Dotster, Eric Harrington from Moniker, and Rob Hall from NameScout. This panel is an amazing gathering of the registrars representing 75-80% of domain name registrations worldwide, and they will be talking about their personal experiences in the industry and the registrar business.” 

Frakes said another key attraction would be “Understanding Domain Hijacking”,  a session that long time industry expert Richard Lau is doing to help people understand the crafty techniques that he has had to defend victims from. Also, “Friday holds some fantastic panel events in the main room, with industry heavyweights in the legal field talking about intellectual property and the way that it intertwines with domain names," Frakes said. “In two of the afternoon sessions, the audience will be hearing from John Berryhill, Ari Goldberger, Scott Donahey, Bob Cumbow and Derek Newman.”  

Frakes added, “There is a two part session on ccTLDs on both Thursday and Friday that has a massively diverse panel. In fairness, I mention this because ccTLDs have been a personal passion of mine for almost a decade now, but I think that this session will be great for anyone interested in this growth area.” Asking Westerdal to pick what are likely to be the best sessions is  kind of like asking a parent to pick which one of their kids they like best. “The whole conference has great sessions, very worthwhile," Westerdal said. "The agenda is color-coded to identify the focus of a particular session, and there will be sessions in addition to Jothan’s suggestions that might match what you are coming to the conference for.”

We wondered if attendees might find themselves wanting to be at two places at once since so many interesting seminars will overlap. Frakes said, “this is what would be referred to as a high quality problem, having to choose between two or more good things. Proactively, there has been a great deal of careful thought put into the schedule development to avoid such conflict, yet the possibility exists that someone may have to pick and choose some of the sessions that they attend.” 

The show organizers have an answer to that dilemma however. They intend to record the sessions so that someone can still listen to the content of the session that they may have missed. Plans are to make them available on CD or DVD for a nominal charge that will cover production costs plus shipping and handling. 

Frakes and Westerdal believe that Seattle itself will be a strong attraction for show goers. “Seattle is a very metropolitan place and it has a very technically progressive culture in communications, telephony, and hardware/software,” Frakes said. “The area is densely populated with many brilliant thinkers and successful internet companies such as Microsoft, Amazon.com, and Real Networks. In adition our local newspaper, “The Seattle Times, frequently  has great headline articles on Search Engines and Technology in the Business and Technology section of their website.

Domain Roundtable has already generated a lot of goodwill with their decision to donate proceeds from the show to the Tsunami Relief effort. “We have had a lot of positive feedback on this," Frakes said. Each and every person at Name Intelligence felt it important to do something to help those who were so dramatically impacted by the Southeast Asian tsunamis last year. One afternoon in January, the management team was following up about our conference plans from September, and I suggested that we donate a quarter or half of the net proceeds to a charity aiding Tsunami victims. I remember that meeting to this day, because Jay shocked me when he stood up and said, “Great idea, but I think that we should donate 100% of the net proceeds!  No more discussion about it.  Let’s do this!”  

Frakes recalled, “I made it a point to really get involved and passionate about putting the Domain Roundtable together after that meeting.  It was a really inspirational event. AmeriCares.org (the relief agency DR is working with) is great! They update us constantly on where their efforts are at. People can read about the tsunami and humanitarian relief efforts that our net proceeds will be directed to  on the Domain Roundtable website. I am constantly posting updates from AmeriCares.org there as well."

The decision to donate proceeds to charity might not be responsible, but there is no doubt Domain Roundtable is enjoying some good karma. “Within weeks of announcing the conference, we had lined up Bob Parsons, the tour-de-force behind the huge GoDaddy growth phenomenon. We received commitments from other great people like Bruce Tonkin of Melbourne IT, Ali Farshchian of CircleID, Raymond King of Snapnames, Antony Van Couvering founder of NameEngine, Peter Forman of Register.com and companies like Name.com and EasyDNS,” Frakes said.

“The major domain aftermarket companies are also well represented with Michael Collins of Afternic, Matt Bentley and Tim Schumacher from Sedo, Mason Cole of SnapNames, Rob Hall, Taryn Naidu, and Tony Farrow from Pool.com and the new Global Domain Name Exchange. All of these folks coming out to this conference means great things for the audience.” 

Frakes added, “legal heavy-hitters in the area of domain names and intellectual property are coming too - Valerie du Laney, Doug Isenberg, Leslie Ruiter and those I mentioned earlier including Derek Newman of Newman and Newman. When I contacted him about the conference, it was a matter of how much could he contribute to this event, and never a matter of if he would.” 

“I realize that I have mentioned a lot of names, and there are so many that I have not mentioned that have joined us to get behind this conference.  Registries, registrars, even ICANN themselves are participating. The support has just been amazing, all of these great people in contact with us to participate in this great conference, and towards a great cause.” 

Of course, staging this event has left Frakes and Westerdal with more than enough on their plate but we had to ask them about their plans for Domain Roundtable beyond their inaugural event. Frakes told us “This is definitely a time consuming process, to put on a big show, yet thankfully we have been authentic with our participants, and have been honest and organized. I would definitely do it again, and I think that the participants in our event would say the same.”

As to potential locations for future shows Frakes said “we are obviously somewhat partial to our beautiful Pacific Northwest, yet we realize that there are so many people on the East Coast, and even internationally who would want to have a location that is convenient for travel, perhaps in Chicago, Texas, or New York.  For example, when I spoke with him, Marc Ostrofsky suggested we do the next one at Javitz in New York."

Regardless of the venue, Westerdal said, “the mission of this event and future events is to put on a conference that helps fortify the pride and integrity of the domain name industry and to do so while helping others.”  Frakes concluded, “the Domain Roundtable will be a fantastic place to find the next opportunities and to meet people, and to learn more about what is really going on in an industry that touches every facet of the internet. All of that and it goes toward a fantastic humanitarian effort. If you have to enjoy a few good meals, meet great people, share some laughs, and a good experience as part of the process, then … mission accomplished!” 

Editor's note: Show organizers said the conference is filling up fast, but there are still conference admissions and sponsorship opportunities available. You can contact contact them through their website at DomainRoundtable.com. 

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Editor’s Note: For those who would like to comment on this story, we invite you to make use of our Letters to the Editor feature (write to editor@dnjournal.com).



If you missed our previous Cover Story click on the headline below: 

Tools of the Trade: Free Resources That Will Help You Identify Domains That $ell 

All other previous Cover Stories are available in our Archive

 

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Domain Name Journal
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