Read on and you can travel along with me from start to finish
what was an unforgettable trip Down Under. I knew from the start
that the only downside to this journey would be the
ocean-front view from inside the Sheraton
Mirage Resort - site of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down Under.
| travel hassles
involved in getting from our home base in Tampa, Florida to
the Gold Coast and back again. It meant traveling more than 24,000
miles round trip and if you spend much time on airplanes these
days, you know most of the airlines go out of their way to make
things as unpleasant for you as possible!
I got a chance to experience first hand what so many Australian
friends have repeatedly endured to lend their loyal support and
patronage to conferences held in the U.S. There was lost luggage,
interminable delays, missed flights and other assorted headaches,
but all of that was forgotten once I finally arrived in the southern
hemisphere's version of paradise on Australia's east coast.
the travel snafus I didn't arrive at the show hotel, the fabulous Sheraton
Mirage Resort in Surfers Paradise, Queensland until 6pm
Monday (Nov. 17). That was six hours later than planned which caused
me to miss that
| day's pre-show special activities -
racing and paintball, but fortunately Fabulous had a professional
photographer on duty throughout the week and covered my back by
lending me some of their
photos from those events.
going for the kill in paintball war at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down
racing - now this is more my speed - no flying bullets to worry
Above: Prepare to Zorb! Two domainers are encased in
this giant rubber ball as it heads for a wild downhill ride!
At left: A zorber
being expelled at the bottom of the hill.
Though I missed the paintball battle, kart racing and
zorbing, I did at least get there just in time to enjoy a welcoming cocktail party
where reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones made the long
trip seem like nothing more than a minor annoyance.
especially enjoyable to meet in person, for the first time, many
Australian domainers whom I had done business with online,
chatted with in forums or simply repeatedly heard about ever since
entering the business six years ago - people like Dean Shannon
(the legendary founder of Fabulous.com's parent company Dark Blue
Sea), Max Walker and Joe Honan to name just a few.
from the opening night cocktail party (Monday Nov. 17).
Blue Sea founder Dean Shannon (left) with Jeff Marr
(Boomerang Australia P/L)
|The next morning (Tuesday, Nov. 18), Fabulous.com COO Dan
Warner kicked off the opening day of business with a welcoming
address in which he noted "we're here to, first and foremost,
build a community, not to compete with one another. We are more
friends and compatriots than we are competitors."
philosophy has always been at the heart of Fab's business model. As
owners of hundreds of thousands of domain names, they hold one of
the world's largest portfolios. In the course of developing tools to
manage their own portfolio they decided "why not just share the
platforms we have built for ourselves with the rest of the
community". That resulted in them opening up their very low
cost registration platform, a popular parking service and pioneering
a new aftermarket platform with their registrar-based Domain
Distribution Network. Their string of domainer-friendly
products and services and the camaraderie their team members have
always displayed has made Fabulous a very popular company with the
COO Dan Warner welcoming
attendees to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down Under
After Warner's comments, the first seminar got underway with four
separate presentations related to Domain Strategy. Warner
stayed on the dais to talk about Domain Economics, Thought
Convergence COO Ammar Kubba delved into Mergers
and Acquisitions, Michael
Gilmour broke down Risk Analysis and Rick
Latona detailed the Market Forces that are
shaping the business today.
|Kubba was well equipped to talk about the wave of consolidation
the industry has been undergoing over the past two years as his
company was the buyer in one of the biggest deals to date, the purchase
of Name Intelligence earlier this year. Kubba said this trend
will continue because "there are too many parking companies,
too many registrars, too many secondary markets and auction houses
and yes, even too many conferences" (his company stages the Domain
Looking out 6-18 months
from now Kubba said M&A activity would be fueled by desperation
as well as value. With the general economy in free fall he said
assets are cheap and getting cheaper. As a result many will run out
of time, capital or both and be forced to sell or merge. He said a
new cash-rich entrant may enter the space (perhaps a Microsoft,
Google, Yahoo, eBay or Amazon) to lock up domain traffic and/or
commerce platforms at historically cheap prices.
During the course of his talk, Gilmour, who is a numbers guy,
said his research showed that the percentage of online ad revenue
Convergence COO Ammar Kubba
|that Google doles out to domain owners for their traffic has
declined by more that 7% over the past four years. He calculated that
Google was paying out 37.2% in Q1-2005 but that figure had dipped to
27.9% by Q3-2008.
| Of course, as they increased their own margins,
your PPC revenue has gone down. This is one reason pay per click
revenue has been sinking at a time when Google and Yahoo have been
raking in increasingly higher ad revenues - revenues that will
continue to grow despite the massive downturn in the general
economy. Though the growth rate in online ad revenue will slow
down in the recession, it is still expected to jump by another 9%
In a question and answer session following his presentation,
Warner underlined something that is becoming increasingly apparent
to domain owners when he said "This year proved that we are at
the mercy of Goggle and Yahoo and we have to change that."
A pleasant morning tea break followed the opening seminar. 20 to
30 minute tea and coffee breaks were built into the morning and
afternoon schedule each day and they
|provided an opportune time to get
in some extra networking, discuss what had been said in the
preceding seminar or just find an out of the way easy chair
to catch up on email or relax.
The second morning session Tuesday (Nov. 18) covered Industry
Development, a topic tackled by panelists Michael Collins
(Executive Director of the Internet Commerce Association), Mark
Klein (Director of Business Development at Sedo.com) and Mike
Fiol (Managing Director/Analyst at DomainConsultant.com).
Each addressed a specific part of the overall theme with Collins
talking about Managing Community Risk, Klein dealing with Industry
Standards and Self Regulation and Fiol throwing out some
interesting ideas on Community Development.
Fiol speaks from the podium as Michael Collins and Mark
Klein look on.
With so much
ground to cover in this overall conference review article, we can
only touch on a few of the many points made in the individual
seminars. A common thread touched on by all of the panelists in this
session was the need to organize to protect domain owner rights
while also helping stop abuses by a few that tarnish the reputation
of the industry overall (with unethical domains, clear cut trademark
infringement and click fraud among the ills that have to stopped).
After a lunch break, the first of the conference's two keynote
addressed was delivered by ICANN President and CEO Dr.
Paul Twomey. Twomey said the decision to expand the
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference series beyond the boundaries of the U.S.
was a positive development and he thanked the T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
founders for that. Twomey added that he thought the domain community
had made great strides in professionalism and went on to call on
domainers to become active particpants in ICANN by either joining
existing constituencies (as several have done by becoming members of
the Business Constiutuency) or by creating a new constituency
of their own. He said that ICANN offers "an open structure for
domainers who want to have their voices heard."
During his wide ranging and well received talk, Twomey commented
on what the
President and CEO Dr. Paul Twomey
| future held for the domain community, noting that the new
gTLDs that are to start rolling out in the second half of 2009,
and IDN TLDs (extensions that use local language character
sets, not just the English alphabet), would present challenges but
would also open up many opportunities. He predicted "an
explosion of multi-lingual, multi-cultural content, ideas, social
and business interaction, education and things we have never even
dream of." Twomey said that true globalization of the Internet
is being realized with the fastest growth and greatest potential
lying in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Immediately after Twomey's address, the first of two Tuesday
afternoon seminars, Law & Regulation, got underway but
had to proceed with one scheduled participant missing in action. A
travel snafu kept Dr. John Berryhill from reaching the show
until the next day (when he was able to deliver his presentation
during a different session). T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu,
who is also an attorney and the ICA's Michael Collins carried on
with the task at hand. In his talk, UDRP & WIPO Unveiled,
Neu dissected key UDRP and WIPO cases to give registrants an understanding
of their rights and the issues they needed to be aware of should
they ever face UDRP or WIPO proceedings aimed at taking away one of
Collins offered an Interest Group Review that underscored
the need for a strong domain industry trade association and he urged
attendees to support and get involved in the Internet
Commerce Association to meet that need. Without a strong
trade association there will be no one standing between domain
owners and those trying to modify or create laws that will make it
easier for them to take away domains they are not entitled to.
Co-Founder Howard Neu
Following the afternoon tea break, Australian Domains took
center stage with a four-man panel explaining the unique rules and
regulations that govern the .au ccTLD space and discussing
the prospects for the continue growth of the extension. The dais
featured Chris Disspain, the CEO of auDA (the
governing body for .au domains), Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry
(operators of the central registry for .au domains), Kartic
Srinivasan, Product Manager for pioneering Australian registrar Melbourne
IT, and Erhan Karabardak, Director for Cooper Mills
Lawyers (a firm involved in all legal issues surrounding .au
Domain Panel (left to right): Erhan Karabardak,
Adrian Kinderis, Chris Disspain and Kartic
The .com.au extension (reserved for business use) has
enjoyed a high rate of growth, especially since tight restrictions
on the extension were liberalized last summer. Sales and
monetization of .com.au domains is now allowed (though you still
have to be a registered Australian business to own them) and that
has created aftermarket demand for .com.au domains (as evidenced by
healthy sales in the live domain auctions held at the conference
later in the week).
You see the extension on billboards and signs throughout
Australia. In 2002 .com dominated in Australia but the .com.au has
now made significant inroads. The extension has been growing at a 25%
annual rate and now has more than 1 million domains
Kinderis said an active marketing program helped
turn the tide for .com.au (an example that other slow-growing ccTLDs
like America's .us would do well to follow). Kinderis sadi
AusRegistry launched an educational campaign to make sure businesses
knew about policy changes that made the TLD more appealing and to
inform them of how using .com.au domains could help their bottom
lines. He said a variety of media platforms was used included
radio, TV, print and direct marketing. The end result is that
Australians are some of the most loyal ccTLD users in the world.
One complaint I heard from Australian domainers was that they
felt auDA often made arbitrary decisions in taking .com.au domains
away from registrants without sufficient cause. Disspain
|tried to bridge that gap by
explaining the things that auDA takes into consideration
before making a decision to revoke a domain registration. He
emphasized that auDA has no bias against domainers or the
previously prohibited practice of domain monetization
through PPC programs.
The Australian Domain session concluded the opening day of
business. The big evening social event was to be an outdoor beach
barbeque but that had to be brought indoors due to steady rain that
began early in the day and never let up. Thunderstorms and continual
rainfall, a rarity at this time of year on the Gold Coast, would
continue throughout the rest of the conference but show goers
refused to let it dampen their spirits. The party was moved inside
complete with fire dancers and exotic animals that had attendees
above and below: Fire dancers heat up the crowd Tuesday night
Domainers were glad handlers didn't let any of the local wildlife get loose in
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