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The State of the Industry 2024: 36 Experts Reflect on the Past Year and Predict What's Ahead For Us Now

By Ron Jackson

Welcome to our 20th Annual State of the Industry Cover Story! DNJournal was launched on New Year's Day 2003. In January 2005 we started our annual State of the Industry Cover Stories with experts from all corners of the industry commenting on what they saw as the highs and lows of the past year as well as what they were expecting in the year ahead.

We wanted this 20th annual edition to be the biggest we have ever done and that challenge has been met thanks to three dozen industry leaders who responded to our interview requests (past SOI stories have averaged around 20 panelists). 

Image from Bigstock

We called on successful domain buyers, sellers, brokers, and developers and also invited high level corporate leaders representing registries and registrars, aftermarket sales platforms and a variety of  innovative service providers. To make it easier for readers to zero in on the areas of most interest to them, we sorted them into three groups: Domain Investors & Developers, Domain Brokers and Corporate Executives. In this business with so many multi-talented people, several  could have been placed in more than one of those groups, so we picked one of the areas in which they have been especially active in the past year.

In the photo gallery below the color coded nameplates also indicate the group that person is in. Executives are blue, brokers green and investor/developers black. Within each group, the experts are shown alphabetically by first name. To make it easier for you to immediately access a specific individual, you can just click on their photo and you will be taken directly to their commentary. Of course, you can also read the entire story (spread over three pages) straight through. However you choose to navigate the course, we are confident you will find your time to be very well spent. Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to each of our experts for taking time out of your busy schedules to contribute and make this landmark edition of our State of the Industry report everything we hoped it would be.

Our 2024 Panel of Experts

Andrey Insarov
Intis Telecom/.it.com

David Warmuz
Trillion/Above.com

Jeff Sass
.ART Registry

Karen Bernstein
Bernstein IP

 

Kathy Nielsen
GoDaddy Registry

Lisa Box
Identity Digital

Michael Gilmour
ParkLogic.com

Michael Robrock
Sedo

       

 

Monte Cahn
ROTD/.HipHop

Munir Badr
AEServer/DomainDays

Paul Nicks
GoDaddy

Sandeep Ramchandani
Radix

       

Simone Catania
InterNetX

Todd Han
Dynadot

Arif Sengoren
SecretBrokerage

Dave Evanson
Sedo

       

Giuseppe Graziano
GGRG.com

James Booth
DomainBooth.com

Jeff Gabriel
Saw.com

Joe Uddeme
NameExperts.com

       

Kate Buckley
Buckley Media

Mark Daniel
DomainHoldings.com

Mark Ghoriafi
MrPremium/Sedo

Michael Law
GritBrokerage.com

       

Ryan McKegney
DomainAgents.com

Tessa Holcomb
Domain Advisors.com

Andrew Allemann
DomainNameWire

Andrew Miller
Hilco Digital Assets

       

Braden Pollock
LegalBrandMarketing

Deepak Daftari
eSiksha.com

Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz
ExcellentDomains.ca

Jack Dai
DN.com

       

Michael Castello
CCIN

Mike Mann
DomainMarket.com

Nat Cohen
Telepathy

Rick Schwartz
The Domain King

 

Each year we rotate the order in which groups appear. Last year it was the corporate leaders. This year the domain investors and developers are up to bat first. In each group the commentators are shown in alphabetical order by first name. Now, it's time to get this party started!

Domain Investors & Developers

Andrew Allemann
Founder, DomainNameWire.com

Andrew Allemann, who founded Domain Name Wire in 2005, is one my colleagues in the domain media corps and, like most of us who write about domains, he is also a veteran domain investor with countless acquisitions and sales to his credit. 

Andrew Allemann

I talk to a lot of domain name investors throughout the year, and 2023 was an interesting one. Lots of people say it was a slow year. For me personally, it was one of my best ever in domain name investing. I attribute this to a couple of things. 

First, I focus on lower-priced domain names that typically sell for under $10,000. I believe this end of the market is still strong. The upper end of the market, on the other hand, has been hurt by a decline in venture funding and higher interest rates. It has also been hurt by slower demand in China. Second, I made significant investments in domains about 3-5 years ago, and it takes time for domain investments to come to fruition.  

Overall, the industry is reverting to the mean after a spectacular 2020-2022 as people jumped online during the pandemic. But there are still spectacular opportunities, as evidenced by this year's surge in artificial intelligence-related domains. 

I've been investing in domain names for about 25 years, and change has been the one constant. What worked for domain investors 25 years ago no longer works today. The market is continually shifting. With this in mind, my plan in 2024 is to double down on learning and experimenting. I can't continue to do what I did five years ago and expect the same results. And despite decades of experience, I need to continue learning. 

There are several ways to learn in this business. You can read industry publications like DNJournal and Domain Name Wire. You can visit the forums. But most importantly, you need to have those side conversations that you can only get by going to conferences or setting up one-on-one calls with people in the business. So for anyone reading this who wants to up their domain investing game, I highly recommend attending a domain name event in 2024.

Andrew Miller
Managing Director, Hilco Digital Assets
Founder & President, ATM Holdings, Inc.

When you talk about longevity in the domain world a lot of people have been around long enough now to be called veterans but there aren't too many real pioneers - people who who were successfully plying the trade in the 1990s - well over two decades now! Andrew Miller is one of the pioneers and he has the sales track record to prove it. He is also one of the few industry experts that fit into all of our categories - corporate executive, broker and domain investor/developer.

Andrew Miller

I have spent a significant amount of time reflecting on what has been both a successful yet challenging 2023. In 2023, We at Hilco Digital Assets  (HDA) oversaw the Chat.com acquisition/sale, one of the most important domain name deals of all time, as well as over $40m in domain name transactions. Yet, the environment was challenging, with interest rates skyrocketing, leading to stagnant home sales, global political instability present, and venture investing way down. These trends along with the collapse of banks like SVB, that fueled the startup and tech ecosystem, and major Web3 platforms such as FTX, had a profound effect on even the most reputable venture capital investors. While in 2020-2021, VC investment fueled a bubbly growth throughout the pandemic, leading to countless "exact match" .com domain names being acquired by brands that needed them, 2023's paralysis in venture investing created the opposite effect. 

In order for consistent premium domain name sales to happen at a healthy pace, there must be an invigoration of venture investing. Otherwise, the most valuable domains will still be transacted but only by those that are established, and with the deepest pockets. Despite the overall economic

slowdown, 2023 will be remembered for the year of innovation, with more of it than in any time since I got into domain names and tech in the mid 1990s. The one area where investing continued to thrive was in AI, fueled by the bursting onto the scene of ChatGPT, and hence, why the Chat.com transaction was so significant. AI and ChatGPT are the most transformative technological developments since the browser, the Internet, and the iPhone. Just as those technologies did, 2023 will go down as the year that the foundation for AI to entirely shape the landscape was set in place. The effect this will have on domain name assets will be material, as thousands of new AI driven applications will be born, leading to unparalleled ultra-premium domain asset acquisition, which will be phenomenal for our business at HDA, to our strategic investment in Squadhelp, and to everyone who caters to, invests in, or advises on the most valuable domain names and digital assets.    

I am confident that while there is some economic downside to go, digital assets (Domains, NFTs, Crypto) will begin an upward trajectory in 2024 that takes off in 2025.  I am also excited about the prospects for increased investment activity from the VC's, with more Founders/Investors following the example of so many others and acquiring their exact match, category .com domain names. This investment has been proven over and over to be the single most strategic one these companies can make.  Any time there is something new and powerful, in this case AI/ChatGPT, it becomes more important than ever to keep a sharp focus. We have seen a spike in domain investing and acquisitions in the .AI TLD. While AI will certainly explode as a use case as we enter the AI era, this does not guarantee that the domain extension that mirrors the technology will become meaningful long term. I expect there 

Image from Bigstock

will be some companies that emerge on the .AI TLD, maybe even a market leader, but history has shown that these trends end up being most friendly to the most valuable .com brands, and that the secondary TLD ends up with a frenzy for only a short window. 

Squadhelp has established itself as a modern-day AI company, using AI to establish a strong technological leadership position as a domain marketplace. HDA will look to take advantage of these new TLD opportunities like .AI by way of our strategic investment in Squadhelp. As far as .Com's, we will continue to invest in and oversee some of the most valuable .com domain assets on the Internet and position the company to best work with buyers and sellers of these assets in 2024, as improving conditions accelerate. We are working on several extremely significant transactions, that I see materializing in 2024. 

Braden Pollock
Founder, LegalBrandMarketing.com

Multi-talented Los Angeleno Braden Pollock, one of the industry most widely-known domain investor/developers, is primarily an Angel Investor who has invested in some two dozen technology start-ups. He has also purchased more than a dozen small companies that have been rolled up into existing companies that he owns and operates.  

I can think of a couple significant things that affected the industry in 2023. VC funding slowed way down for startups.  They either were not able to raise a round, raised a much smaller round than expected or had their valuations cut. All of these outcomes cut or eliminated their domain budget. I think investors felt this at virtually every pricing tier.   

The other significant event, which I assume everyone will mention is AI. We had a massive increase in .ai sales along with an uptick in AI-related domains. A few significant sales being Chat.com, Prompt.com, Humane.com and Agent.ai.   

Also related to AI, were the creation of search tools to help find new, unregistered domains.   

Looking ahead, while the real estate sector will probably take a hit, I expect the economy to have a relatively soft landing in 2024. Assuming that happens, budgets will open up again so Iím cautiously optimistic that weíll see an increase in domain sales. 

In addition, I expect continued consolidation in the TLD space. Fingers crossed that itís a profitable year for all of us in the domain industry.

Braden Pollock

Deepak Daftari
President, TiE Kolkata, Founder ESiksha.com

Deepak Daftari is one of India's most widely known domain investor/developers as well as being a busy broker and angel investor. Since 1999 he has also been running one of the oldest education portals in India at eSiksha.com, with a 1 Million plus user base. He also serves as President of Tie Kolkata, a highly respected organization devoted to fostering entrepreneurship in the Kolkata region.

Deepak Daftari

2023 appeared to be slower for many compared to 2022, for the median range sales. There was no stopping the big ticket sales but for the average domainer with less then 1,500 domains, it was a slow year although the price realized per domain was higher. Another trend for some being, the number of domains sold was less but revenue was close or almost close to 2022 revenue figures.

There was a major decline in the sales volume for .XYZ names. The same being applicable to .IO domain sales too. 2023 saw the phenomenal rise for .AI names and the expiry auctions for .AI names have been achieving higher & higher prices in every auction.

1 word and short .Com names have always been in demand and the pricing for these names is slowly inching toward the out of reach territory for the small portfolio holders.

The acquisition of Dan.com by GoDaddy has bought its own set of challenges and those not pointing their servers to Dan or GoDaddy and now facing a 25% commission fee

Spaceship, the newly launched Platform from NameCheap is quickly gaining acceptance from the domaining community. Dynadot has seen phenomenal growth this year and has become the go to choice for a vast majority of domainers primarily for their competitive pricing and excellent Customer Support. SquadHelp has become the go to place for the Domain Community especially after their recent & steady release of many Innovative features and tools. Their popularity also received a boost after their recently launched a Super Premium & Curated Domain Name MarketPlace

2024 will be the start of the reversal of many trends. Further segmentation of Market Places with the emergence of new player/s competing with the likes of Afternic, Sedo, DynaDot, GoDaddy Auctions, NameCheap, NameSilo, DropCatch, Dan etc. There will be a further increase in the prices of marquee .AI Names, more 8 figure sales for super premium .Com names, more difficulty for the average domainer to compete and buy quality expired names at Wholesale pricing, from the expired Auctions and possibly the first 7 figure sale for a .AI name.

Overall 2024 should be a better year for domaining compared to 2023.

 

Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz
Founder, ExcellentDomains.ca

Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, is a veteran domain investor who has success with both .com and .ca domains (.ca is the ccTLD for Canada). She also has one of the most interesting life stories in the industry, one that we told in a 2015 DN Journal Cover Story

Ilze Kaulins-Plaskacz

The ďState of the Domain IndustryĒ in Canada has been declining, based on our company sales, as well as observation of the lack of .ca sales reported.   As the owner/broker of Excellent Domains Inc., I control a portfolio that consists of a wide variety of .ca domains, i.e. acronyms, as well as one word and two words.  I interact with buyers almost on a DAILY basis.  Even the ďtire-kickersĒ inquiries have slowed down.  Of the sales that are reported on Ron Jacksonís website, I observe that most are speculators/Investors.   I will post a sale on my platform, and when I do a follow up a few weeks later, I see the domain is for re-sale.   Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, but when looking closely at the sales, the high percentage is not from end-users. 

Inflation has hit Canada hard.  Small businesses are looking more closely at their budgets.  When it comes to the Economy and Inflation, Canada and the United States are very similar.  The sales that I have been able to report (with the exception of a few NDAís) are only in the $5,000-$15,000 range, and mostly below actual Market Value based on similar sales.  Domain owners would rather take a 

low ball offer than wait for the economy to pick up. As well, I think end-users are waiting for the economy to get better before they upgrade to a premium domain.  There are always outstanding sales in the 7 figure range, by experienced brokers like Dave Evanson and Kate Buckley, but of the millions of domains that are registered, it is the Premium .com domain that makes the headlinesÖand those sales are to companies that have deep pockets, and most importantly understand the true value of the ďaddressĒ of their business. 

The newest trend that I can even comment on is on the .ai extension.  I see quite a few investors jumping in, but that boat has already sailed.  The premium .ai domains are gone. Of course, there have been .ai sales that have been notable, by exceptional domain investors, like Andy Booth, but in addition to his sales to Ďend-usersĒ I see too many sales that are just investors gambling.  I saw one .ai sale recently for $10,000 that is now listed for sale at $500,000!!  I feel like I am back at the .CO/Mobi/ Green, etc., etc.  extension boom.  Over the years, I cannot even think of all the new TLDís that have come out, and have gone into obscurity.  I have always maintained that .com is KingÖ(along with country codes that make sense).  I predict that companies will use the letters A and I, but that they will mostly be incorporated into their current .com address to maintain their current branding, and save money. Only time will tell on this one.

  

Jack Dai
Co-Founder,
DN.com

Jack, a first name Yue Dai recently adopted after expanding his interests throughout the western world is one of the most successful domain investor/developers in China. He is expecially well known for his portfolio of 2-letter .com domains (some of the most valuable assets in our field). Jack has become a regular participant in conferences around the world and, as those who have met him will attest, one of the most personable people in the industry.

Jack Dai

It is a great pleasure to participate in the interview of DNJournal, one of the most well-known domain name platforms in the world, and thank DNJournal for its continuous contribution to the global domain name industry.  My name is Jack from China. I have been engaged in domain name investment industry for more than 20 years. Now I run the DN.com domain name trading platform.

According to DNJournal's top 20 annual domain name transactions in 2023, 8 of them are short domain names with three characters or less, the transaction of short domain names is very active, the transaction price is relatively high, and colleagues also have the transaction of multiple word domain names.  In 2023, we also traded a number of short domain names including py.com, hx.com, hyz.com, etc. I think short domain names and word domain names belong to the trend of domain name market in 2023, and this trend will continue in the next few years.   

Secondly, in 2023, the launch of ChatGPT once again ignited the boom of AI, and now ai has 

become the hottest track in the field of science and technology, and the capital market is also very optimistic about the field of AI, and the investment in the field of AI is very huge, so it also brings the growth of AI-related domain name transactions.  In 2023, I took advantage of the trend to acquire a number of AI-related domain names, such as Y.ai Robot.  ai I think the best way to face this trend is to directly participate in it and invest in domain names in related fields.

With the recovery of the global economy, in 2024, I think that short domain names, word domain names, AI-related domain names will still be the trend, we are also very happy to see the New Year has just begun to have dx.com eze.com and other short domain names announced successful transactions, these cases will also strengthen my view on the short domain name market.

I plan to do some outdoor and elevator advertisements for dn.com in some big cities in China this year, so that more Chinese people can understand domain names and more Chinese companies can realize the importance of domain names for enterprises, so that more people can participate in the domain name industry. We are currently negotiating a number of two-digit short domain deals and are progressing very well. We aim to trade more than five two-letter domain names this year, and we look forward to working with the world's leading domain name brokers to close more high-value domain names.

With a large number of high-quality domain name assets in China and good domain name purchasing power, dn.com will also become a bridge between China and the global domain name trading market. With over 20 two-letter.com and over 100 three-letter.com domain names for sale on dn.com, and many others, dn.com has started to become a destination for quality domain names.

Michael Castello
CEO, Castello Cities Internet Network (CCIN)
Co-Founder, CastelloBrothers.com

In addition to being a pioneering and highly successful and visionary domain investor (with sales including Whisky.com at $3.1 million), Michael Castello and his brother David have developed multiple successful websites (Michael and David were profiled in our December 2006 Cover Story). As a proven industry visionary we often turn to Michael for analysis of where this business is headed because he always calls things exactly the way he sees them and has a batting average that very few have been able to match.

Michael Castello

One of the most pivotal technologies of 2023 has been the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into open society. AI will undoubtedly have a long-term effect on civilizations and business, and I've been particularly focused on how its power and influence will impact my businesses, the domain name industry, and online commerce. 

I subscribed to ChatGPT with OpenAI as soon as it was released. Once again, I want to emphasize the importance of creating and developing a website and managing that space and its personas effectively. 

Take Daycare.com, one of my businesses. With nearly two decades of accumulated content and insights from childcare professionals on our forum, I envision using AI to sift through the enormous amount of data. Imagine creating a Deepfake video and audio to offer a virtual daycare assistant online, answering visitors' questions in a childcare persona. 

Artificial intelligence can be your proofreader, advisor, and perhaps even your companion, but it should never become your master. I've observed how AI algorithms, infused with specific logic, can influence and manipulate from beneath the surface. We certainly donít want a scenario like Skynet from the "Terminator" movies becoming a reality. Keeping a close eye on AI usage is key. 

While examining Daycare.com's live traffic logs, I noticed Amazonís Alexa scraping data from my forum. Alexa, primarily a home assistant rather than a search engine, appears to be using my data to respond to user queries, potentially generating revenue from its subscribers using my website's content. That's a bad deal for me. 

As AI grows more sophisticated, the ethical and legal implications of data usage become increasingly significant. This is an area where regulation must evolve alongside such technological advancements. 

The growing market share and advertising revenue of large tech companies make it challenging for individuals to create and develop profitable websites, which could negatively impact domain sales. Common-sense legislation is necessary to protect online entrepreneurs and startups. 

Likewise, Google is dominating search and online advertising. Over the years they have taken over the address bar with their search bar, and paid billions of dollars to make other browsers like Appleís Safari use Google as their search engine default.   

These days, many believe the way to a website address is by searching for it in Google.  This perception has shifted dramatically over the last 30 years. Google's search results often prioritize advertising, evident when a domain name like Cars.com is searched, and Google displays various other businesses, including competitors like UsedCars.com. Google should direct visitors straight to Cars.com. These unfair business practices need addressing by governments and ICANN for the domain name industry to advance and grow.

Michael Castello has played a visionary role in the domain industry for nearly 30 years now. 
In this photo Michael is speaking at the 2014 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference in Las Vegas.

Looking ahead to this year, I echo the same warning I as last year. A market correction is inevitable. Cryptocurrency is an great concept and will have a future, but government regulation will shape its use. This goes counter to its invention as a disruptive force against centralized currency and power. 

The .ai extension has a window of saleability-itís two to three years to catch-the-frenzy and flip your .ai domain to make a quick return. After that, only the most desirable addresses will continue to sell, much like what happened with .mobi, .TV, and .IO, among others. They all have their moment. As long as the DNS exists, .com will remain the gold standard, which other extensions will follow. 

Lastly, we don't have to be under the thumb of internet overlords if we utilize the tools inherently available to us, such as domain names. These do not require monopolies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, or AT&T to connect people worldwide. While these companies excel in their fields, we shouldn't empower them by making them middlemen. Avoid letting them turn the internet into a stagnant rolodex with a cookie-cutter mandate of rules. Instead, create immersive and unique personal experiences that no monopoly can replicate. Embrace your freedom, dive into your domain space, and make it something you can empower and own for the future.

 

Mike Mann
Founder, DomainMarket.com

Mike Mann, one of the industry's true pioneers, has been a fixture in the Internet and domain space since he founded an ISP in Washington, D.C. in 1994. He went on to co- found one the industry's most powerful aftermarket platforms, BuyDomains.com, a company the he sold for approximately $80 million. In 2007, Mann, who owns around 300,000 domains, also founded aftermarket sales platform DomainMarket.com that he still operates today.

2023 saw a more mature market; slightly less speculation at the low end; and slightly more end user purchases at the very high end; a flight to quality/bifurcation, as should be expected every year. While some relatively new TLDs/CCDs gained a little traction; most of the thousand others continued to falter, as predicted. Com is king and always will be I am certain. .ai is an interesting phenomenon as AI is the biggest growth area in tech, while at the same time that tech space and those domains are in a huge bubble. Many thousands of great companies will come out of this alive, however only a small percentage of those will actually want to create a permanent space on a .ai domain name. .Com still works fine for them and is less confusing. 

So, ultimately speculating in .ai long term is a foolís errand; only a few thousand serious companies will need them. Admittedly, a few people will get lucky selling a few thousand of those .ai domains. While of course many millions of companies, including all of the Fortune500, already leverage .com, and many millions more will, with further growth of the business world and the internet, and more, better press explaining the profitability of super premium domains.

 

Mike Mann

Also keep in mind as with the .xyz bubble, many of the reported .ai sales are fake or insider dealings, so the social media representations should not be trusted on their face, unless and until an unrelated third party ultimately builds a real verifiable long term brand on top of that domain.  

Notable multimillion dollar .com sales have been reported in 2023 and the buyers were overall geniuses in their acquisitions, because it almost instantly made their businesses much more successful, and able to attract more investors, more press, and more job applicants. Plus, buyers usually got fantastic deals on the domains in my opinion; therefore, they will go up in value over time even if they go unused or if the company fails. Many of these high-end sales went unreported due to nondisclosure agreements, including by me.

Mike Mann at the 2023 NamesCon Global conference in Austin where he was
 interviewed  by Amanda Waltz in a keynote chat that attracted a capacity crowd.

In 2024 I think expected further bifurcation of the market favors wealthy people buying at the high end of the market. Smaller speculators can barely afford to renew their domains on average, and their sales asking prices are not optimized, because they do not have the data and skills to achieve the maximum market prices and/or their domains ultimately have no resale value at all and wonít sell irrespective of their intended price. Many people end up deleting or selling cheap their wheat with their chaff, their babies with their bathwater. They can barely tell what is what; it is too expensive, confusing and frustrating to manage a large unprofitable portfolio, they need to revert to a day job.

I personally have an extremely detailed proprietary data system and user interface for appraisals, the best in the world by a long shot, and will continue to get the highest resale prices and lowest buy prices, as I always have. I will continue to buy many thousands of names for far less than what my system and I estimate to be their true wholesale value; and very dramatically below the value an end user could realize by leveraging them to improve their business branding.

I will sweep up a large number of mid-level .com. The low-end ones are not worth the time and expense, and the high end are too cash consuming. However, for outside investors the high end is really where all the action should be. The names are incredibly valuable and rising virtually forever. Since few people can afford them, they sell for much less than their intrinsic values.  All premium .com domains sell for less than I think they are really worth, but the very high end tends to offer the most poignant discounts.

Anyone buying other than .com is making a mistake. Since investing in .com is so difficult to analyze and very hard to sell no matter how good or what the price, therefore anything else (less) is just as expensive buy on average, but even harder and riskier to sell, despite a few gems and fortunate sales mixed in on occasion.

Email me or find me on social media if you have any questions. Have a great year!

 

Nat Cohen
Founder, Telepathy

Nat Cohen is one of the key industry pioneers that you don't hear a lot about. That's because the personable but self-effacing Telepathy founder, who holds one of the world's most valuable domain portfolios, prefers to spotlight other people, worthy causes and important issues, rather than be in it himself. Nat has done this any many ways, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Internet Commerce Association. True to form, rather than talk about himself and his company, Nat took this opportunity to address a key topic that affected all of us in 2023 and will continue to do so in 2024 and beyond, the UDRP.

Nat Cohen

This year marks a quarter century since the domain industry became subject to a dispute policy that is not well suited to resolving disputes involving domain name investors.  In 2024, for the first time since the UDRP was adopted in 1999, a long overdue review of the UDRP will commence.  

The UDRP has served a useful purpose in quickly resolving tens of thousands of disputes involving clear-cut instances of cybersquatting.  Yet it is a flimsy procedure that is poorly designed for disputes that are not clear-cut instances of cybersquatting, such as when both parties have a substantive claim to rights in the domain name.  Disputes involving domain name investors, where investors claim a legitimate interest in owning and offering the disputed domain name for sale, demonstrate the limitations of the UDRP.  

Through the UDRP, ICANN outsources the determination of who is entitled to own a domain name to unaccountable providers throughout the globe who operate without any meaningful ICANN oversight.  The administrators at these UDRP providers are chosen with no ICANN community input. The ICANN community has no direct influence over how the UDRP providers operate. UDRP

providers operate without a contract from ICANN.  They are bound by no performance standards or requirements as to fair or transparent operation.  UDRP administrators may employ subjective, arbitrary criteria in choosing whom to accredit as panelists.  They may hand pick panelists with known views on certain issues to resolve specific disputes where those issues are determinative.  Most UDRP panelists concurrently act as representatives for brand owners, while attorneys who primarily represent domain name owners are systematically denied accreditation as panelists.   

UDRP providers are selected by the companies who file the complaints (ďComplainantsĒ) and are paid by Complainants.  The Complainants are the customers of the UDRP providers.   UDRP providers compete to be viewed as the most appealing to the Complainants so that their service will be chosen.  The service that the Complainants seek is the transfer of the domain names that they desire Ė perhaps deservedly so, perhaps not.  This creates a dynamic where a supposedly neutral provider is strongly incented to favor one party (the Complainant) over the other party (the Respondent).

The UDRP has continued to function as well as it has thanks largely to the integrity and reasonableness of most of the panelists who participate in the program, and to UDRP administrators who adhere to some limits on exercising their powers to influence outcomes in UDRP disputes.  Yet the UDRP is vulnerable to the appointment of an unrestrained administrator at any one of the six current UDRP providers.  Such an administrator could choose to appoint only extreme pro-brand panelists to disputes such that the UDRP morphs from a means of dispensing justice to a service where innocently registered domain names are seized based on the flimsiest of justifications in exchange for a small fee.   

The core of the UDRP is a subjective determination as to whether the domain name owner has acted in bad faith.  The UDRP offers no clear guidelines as to what constitutes bad faith.  The panelists are empowered to make a finding of bad faith based on whatever criteria they wish.  Panelists have found bad faith due to ads placed by a registrar on a default landing page even though there was no evidence that the Respondent was aware of such advertising; because they thought an asking price was too high;  because they thought the criticism on a noncommercial criticism site was too harsh; because one company out of dozens of different companies making commercial use of a three-letter acronym had a small presence in the large country where the Respondent resided; and for numerous other flimsy reasons.  The domain name industry has lost domain names totaling many millions of dollars to unjustified transfers ordered under the UDRP and has spent many millions more defending domain names against speculative complaints.   

Domain names are the foundational assets of the Internet economy.  That ownership of domain names remains subject to a Policy where justice is outsourced, and one that lacks transparency and accountability, corrodes the rights of domain name registrants, and undermines the foundation of the domain name industry. 

 Recognition of the need for procedural improvements in the UDRP is widespread, even among many representatives of brand owners.  Certain proposals for limited procedural improvements to the UDRP, available for review at UDRP.group, have achieved widespread support and, if adopted, would meaningfully improve the quality and consistency of the UDRP, even if these proposals leave many core issues unaddressed.  The year 2024 may be the year, at long last, when substantially progress is made in updating the UDRP to better meet the needs of the current Internet Age.

 

Rick Schwartz
The Domain King

The domain investing experts on this page appeared in alphabetical order but if we had chosen someone to have the last word this category, Rick Schwartz, AKA The Domain King, would have been the obvious choice. The outspoken industry pioneer is never at a loss for words nor, given his vast experience, ever lacking relevant topics to talk about.  Rick has made many millions of dollars since he started investing in domains in 1990s. He also had a 10-year run promoting the popular T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences around the world from 2004-2014 with his then partner Howard Neu - conferences that were instrumental in builduing the global domain community we have today.

Rick Schwartz

I think the most notable trend is the emergence of Ai becoming such a factor in life as well as a threat. As far as domains go relating to Ai I think there are three different avenues, and Iím not sure which one is going to work the best. Time will tell. You can get AiKeyword.com Or You can get KeywordAi.com Or You can get Keyword.Ai.

Sitting here today, I could not tell you which of those choices will emerge as the most sustainable and valuable. But we will probably know by this time next year. As with any other non dotcom, .Ai will still have leaks and traffic loss. The nature and size of these issues will soon reveal themselves and businesses will act in their own self interest as far as upgrading to dotcom.  

Speaking of upgrades, the next thing would be the continuation of upgrading and rebranding domains for those that chose Unrecognized extensions that Itís undeniable, and if it wasnít, you wouldnít see the train loads of those upgrades and rebrand for

the last few recognize, and the confusion and lost business that they caused. Itís unstable. three years now. That trend will continue for years to come and each year has produced more and more upgrades. 

Those companies that choose to experiment with non dotcom domains for the most part have failed miserably, and the rebranding that occurs almost every day of the week now is absolutely and positive proof. But it is also very expensive. So maybe doing it the right way to begin with would have been a much better choice. Especially with the amount of very reasonable lease rates until a company can grow into the proper domain name. I believe of the Fortune 1000 companies, 999 use a DOTCOM. There is reason why!!

Other than that, the biggest thing will be wider and greater acceptance, and the importance of a great domain name. Itís more than just a domain. Itís your brand. Itís your world headquarters. Itís your information portal. Itís your point of contact. Itís your greatest salesman. And perhaps most importantly, it has your greatest expansion potential because itís completely scaled in an unlimited way.

Most Fortune 1000 companies use ONE DOMAIN to transact all their business. This is NOT the place to be CHEAP! This is the single biggest decision a company online makes and most failure revolts around a third rate domain because of laziness and being downright cheap and shortsighted. 

The greatest headwinds in 2024 will probably be world events. After October 7 things and decisions got delayed or postponed. I think things will start picking up in the first quarter of 2024 however, depending on world events it could stop again on a dime. That said, with the surge in the market over the last few weeks and upcoming interest rate cuts, it has fueled speculation, and has given companies more liquidity to do things that they may have not been able to do before the surge.  

Historically, election years are very good economic years because of many factors. So lots of decisions will be made. Other companies may be in a holding pattern until after the elections, and to see if world events simmer down.  But generally, I donít really see many changes whatsoever in the upcoming year, other than greater and greater adaptation of high profile and important dotcom domain names.  

Now the best way to take advantage of the opportunities coming in 2024 are to have liquid funds that are available to transact deals. Cash is King. Itís not going to change in 2024. But with opportunity it may be more important.  

Personally, my two biggest years in domain investing was 2015 and 2023. But 2023 was more important, because after 15 years of my Candy.com deal, it came around to true full fruition, and I had a great windfall. it was just more proof of how you can finance a domain for the long-term and go from 0 to 9 figures in a fairly short amount of time.  I want to accomplish something great in 2024. I have no idea what type that might be. But I have a saying that has worked well for me in life that has helped me also be very patient which is it will reveal itself.

Domain investing is a marathon. I hope to get a couple of important deals done in 2024. Thanks and I wish everyone a healthy and happy New Yearís!  

And a special congratulations to Ron Jackson on his 20th anniversary of DN Journal. Itís been a great service and a consistent flow of solid and important information. I think I can speak for everyone in the industry when I say, Thank you Ron!  

You've heard from domain investors. See what Domain Brokers and Corporate Executives have to say on these pages:

Domain Brokers   ~   Corporate Executives

*****


 

 

 
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