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NamesCon picks if you’re not a domainer

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2017, Gossip

I’m not going to NamesCon this year. Scheduling conflicts, personal life, blah blah blah. You don’t need to know.

It’s a shame, as I’ve enjoyed the show in previous years and there’s usually plenty to be learned even if, like me, you’re not a domain investor.

So while I won’t be there, I thought I’d put together a list of sessions that I’d be likely to attend in my capacity as a non-domainer, if I were attending. Which I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I usually find the domainer-focused stuff interesting. It’s just less interesting to me because DI is not an investment tip sheet and I personally have no pony in the race.

In agenda order…

The Evolution of Domaining

This is Frank Schilling’s seemingly annual keynote, this year subtitled “A vision for the future of domaining and how we’re going to get there. The next wave of passive income generation for the savvy domainer.”

While it’s certainly got a domainer-leaning theme, the Uniregistry CEO’s speeches are often must-listen events. Schilling is usually a candid and amiable speaker.

Plus, he’s made a shedload of cash out of domains so many people hang on his every word. That’s why he’s been on the Domain Name Wire podcast 86 times.

It’s on at 10am on Monday.

Dominate the Drop: Best Practices for Successfully Acquiring Deleting Domains

Michael White from SnapNames and Jonathan Tenenbaum from Namejet promise to spill the beans about the crazy competitive drop-catching market.

I find this aspect of the industry fascinating, especially given the arms race going on between SnapNames/Namejet and its rivals at the moment.

Over half of all ICANN-accredited registrars are currently shell companies created to bulk up the dropnets of the two aforementioned companies, as well as TurnCommerce and Pheenix.

There’s clearly money in it, so I regret I’ll be missing this session.

It’s on at 11am on Monday.

Domain Monetization for Registries and Registrars

As somebody who writes a blog largely looking at the sell-side of the industry, this session title speaks to me.

It’s being held by Michael Gilmour, CEO of ParkLogic, a company I’m not particularly familiar with.

Even if it just turns out to be a sales pitch for ParkLogic, it might be interesting anyway, due to the promise to “unlock hidden value from data that is readily accessible to you”, which intrigues me as a data nerd.

It’s on at 11am on Monday too, so it clashes with the dropcatching session.

The Most Shocking UDRP Decisions of 2016

This one sounds like fun. There are few things more amusing in the domain industry than listening to domainers moan about crappy UDRP decisions.

In this session, three industry names who are no strangers to UDRP will compete to have a decision of their choice crowned the “most shocking” of the last year.

This is on at noon on Monday.

Investing in New TLDs – Making Money in the Short and Long Term

A panel of experts discuss how to make money out of new gTLDs. I think that is going to be a hard sell to a typically skeptical domainer crowd, so I’d be curious to hear what they have to say at 2pm on Monday.

NamesCon Domain Auction 2017

Live domain auctions are sometimes entertaining, but depending on the auctioneer you may need to bring ear-protectors. It’s on at 3pm.

Uniregistry After Hours Party

If you haven’t fested enough sausage yet, now’s your chance to top up, from 9pm until “late” (which in Vegas could mean midnight, 2am, 6am, or mid-February).

Christian Domainers Breakfast Buffet

I’m slightly flabbergasted that this is a thing. What is a Christian domainer, and how do they differ from non-Christian domainers?

A special prize goes to the first person to send me a photo of themselves at this event reading a hardback copy of “The God Delusion” whilst eating a free Christian pastry.

7am Tuesday.

Building a Business to Last Decades

Despite the dry title, this is Matt Muellenweg, founder of WordPress/Automattic, and I’m interested to hear what he has to say. Plus, it’s the only thing going on at 10am on Tuesday.

China Masterclass

Few things have influenced the domain name industry over the last couple of years than China. In this session, four guys who understand the market over there discuss the trends they’re seeing and expecting.

12pm Tuesday.

Will Branded TLDs Impact the Marketplace in 2017 and Beyond?

Events promising to spill the beans about how big companies plan to use the dot-brands are rarely very informative in my experience — speakers play their cards far too close to their chests — but I keep going to them anyway.

Let’s hope the Microsoft and MarkMonitor speakers have something new to add to the conversation at 2pm.

Dollars and Sense of .net

Verisign’s Pat Kane pitches .net, which has been stagnating since the launch of new gTLDs. 3pm.

DNS Industry SWOT Analysis, 2017 Edition

The “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” for the industry according to… ICANN?

Global Domains Division head and occasional CEO Akram Atallah is the only big ICANN name speaking at this year’s NamesCon, so it’s worth checking this session out for that reason alone.

It’s on at 9.30am on Wednesday.

A Look Ahead at New TLDs

Three registries and one registrar discuss the future of new gTLDs at 11am on Wednesday.

Bloggers Broadcast: Dispatches from NamesCon 2017

An opportunity to throw things at my competitors at 12pm on Wednesday.

The Pragmatic Rebel: a Fireside Chat with Elliot Noss

Noss is one of the most engaging speakers in the industry in my view, even if the subject matter of this session is not quite up my alley. 1pm Weds.

Privacy and Your Domains

This review of domain privacy developments is right up my alley, but it also clashes with the Noss interview.

Executive Roundtable: Industry Trends Forecast for 2017

A conference roundup from four registry/registrar bigwigs closes down the conference.

.com-dominated NamesCon auction already has one million-dollar bid

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2017, Domain Sales

There’s still about week to go until this year’s NamesCon conference kicks off in Las Vegas, but the live auction that will close the first day of the show has already seen pre-bidding action.

One batch of domains has already received a high bid of $1,010,000, but does not appear to have yet met its reserve.

The batch is led by bar.com, but also includes bar.net, cafes.com, grill.com, place.com, pub.com and shelter.com.

Another five domains on the list, all .com names, have attracted bids in six figures, topped by the $800,000 bid for ol.com.

The list of names up for pre-bid on NameJet (100 of which will hit the live auction) is dominated by Verisign TLDs — .com, obviously, and to a lesser extent .net and .tv.

The biggest pre-bid for a 2012-round gTLD is the $1,010 currently offered for gold.club, roughly 110th on the list as ordered by current bid.

The most active new gTLD auction is currently shoes.xyz, which has 28 bidders but a top bid of just $330.

I’m not sure how much can be inferred from pre-bids, but it certainly seems that most of the money from domain investors is still being put into short, one or two-word .com domains.

The auction will begin at 1500 US Pacific Time next Monday, January 23.

The auction is being managed and promoted by Right Of The Dot and NameJet. Would-be buyers need a NameJet account to participate.

Names not sold during the live event will go to an extended auction until February 9. ROTD’s Monte Cahn said this is in order to give Chinese bidders time to bid after Chinese New Year (January 28 this year).

RightSide cuts super-premium fees in half, drops premium renewals

Kevin Murphy, January 11, 2017, Domain Registries

New gTLD registry RightSide has slashed the minimum price of its so-called “Platinum” tier premium domains and dropped renewal fees for these domains down to an affordable level.

The price changes come as part of two new marketing initiatives designed to start shifting more of its 14,000-strong portfolio of super-premiums through brokers and registrar partners.

The minimum first-year price of a Platinum-tier name has been reduced immediately from $50,000 to $25,000.

In addition, these domains will no longer renew every year at the same price. Instead, RightSide has reduced renewals to a more affordable $30.

“We weren’t selling them,” RightSide senior VP of sales and premiums Matt Overman told DI. “There is not a market for $50,000-a-year domain purchases.”

Now, “we feel comfortable enough with amount money we’re going to make up-front”, Overman said.

However, premium renewals are not being abandoned entirely; non-Platinum premium names will still have their original higher annual renewal fees, he said.

RightSide has sold some Platinum names in the five and six-figure range, but the number is quite small compared to overall size of the portfolio.

But Overman said that “none of them sold with a $50,000 renewal”. The highest renewal fee negotiated to date was $5,000, he said.

Before yesterday’s announcements, RightSide’s Platinum names were available on third-party registrars with buy-it-now fees that automatically applied the premium renewal fees.

However, it seems that the vast majority if not all of these sales came via the company’s in-house registrars such as Name.com and eNom, where there was a more flexible “make an offer” button.

Under a new Platinum Edge product, RightSide hopes to bring this functionality to its registrar partners.

It has made all 14,000 affected names registry-reserved as a result, Overman said. They were previously available in the general pool of unclaimed names and available to registrars via EPP.

Each affected name now has a minimum “access fee” of $25,000 (going up to $200,000 depending on name) that registrars must pay to release it.

They’re able to either negotiate a sale with a markup they can keep, or sell at “cost” (that is, the access fee) and claim a 10% commission, Overman said.

A separate Platinum Brokerage service has also been introduced, aimed at getting more professional domain brokers involved in the sales channel.

Brokers will be able to “reserve” up to five RightSide Platinum names for a broker-exclusivity period of 60 days, during which they’re expected to try to negotiate deals with potential buyers.

While no other brokers will be able to sell those names during those 60 days, registrars will still be able to sell those reserved names.

Overman said that if a registrar sells a name during the period it is under exclusivity with a participating broker, that broker will still get a commission from RightSide regardless of whether they were involved in the sale.

“We won’t give that name to any other broker, but if it sells through a registrar they still get their 10%,” he said. The registrar also gets its 10%.

This of course is open to gaming — brokers could reserve names and just twiddle their thumbs for 60 days, hoping to get a commission for no work — but the broker program is expected to be fairly tightly managed and those exploiting the system could be kicked out.

RightSide will be making the case for the two Platinum-branded offerings at the upcoming NamesCon conference in Las Vegas, where it also expects to name its first brokerage partners.

NamesCon confirms three more shows after being acquired

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2016, Domain Services

NamesCon says it has booked the venue for three more years of domain name conferences, following its acquisition this week.

The conference organizers said today that it has been acquired by 13-year-old German events outfit WorldHostingDays, which usually focuses on the hosting market, for an undisclosed sum.

NamesCon said in a press release that all existing commitments — such as tickets and sponsorship deals — will be honored, and that the same folk will still run the 2017 conference.

It said that it has booked the Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas, venue for the first three events, for the next three years.

The next three events will be held January 22 – 25, 2017, January 28 – 31, 2018 and January 27 – 30, 2019, the company said.

NamesCon focuses on the business of domain names, providing sessions on the buy and sell sides of the business.

Kinderis calls on industry to cut the bullshit

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2016, Domain Policy

Domain Name Association chair Adrian Kinderis has called for the industry to “grow up”.

The former ARI CEO, now Neustar veep, said Monday it’s time for the industry to kick out the handful of bad actors that ruin its reputation, and to quit the “bullshit bickering” about which TLDs are best.

“For far too long this industry has turned a blind eye to the less than scrupulous activities,” he said, “and these activities have plagued this industry. Bad actors have tarnished the perception of this industry.”

“This may have been acceptable when it was a few insiders first grasping at a fledgling product in the early nineties but… we are now front and center of the internet,” he said.

“These practices of a few bad actors have led to the frustration of consumers. We have not served the best interests of our consumers at all times,” he said. “This has to change.”

He was speaking to an audience of registries, registrars and investors at the opening session of the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas on Monday.

It was a fairly standard DNA sales pitch, the kind Kinderis has given before, but few could deny the truth of his remarks.

He called upon the industry to more effectively self-regulate, working with ICANN, to keep the boogeymen of government legislators and law enforcement agencies at bay.

“It’s time to grow up and show that we can regulates ourselves and build a strong sustainable industry with integrity,” he said.

He also called for unity among industry participants, pointing out that the threats to their businesses are external to the domain industry.

“The domain name war must be over,” he said. “The infighting and bullshit bickering has to stop. The .coms, the not-.coms, the IDNs, the g’s versus the cc’s… this must stop.”

“As an industry we have been very lucky. We’ve stumbled through 20 years without a collective strategy nor cohesion,” he said. “Outside forces have not had a massive impact on us, yet. QR codes have tried. Apps are trying.”

He pointed to the recent positive “bump” that many domain companies have experienced as a result of investment from China, but attributed to “dumb luck” rather than the result of any smart marketing or outreach.

The 10-minute speech can be viewed below or on the NamePros YouTube channel.

Rightside to auction “xyz” domains at NamesCon

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2016, Domain Sales

.xyz made a bit of a splash with domain investors in 2015, but is the meaningless string “xyz” inherently attractive? Even at the second level?

Rightside seems to think so.

The registry, which does not operate .xyz, is planning to auction at least four “xyz” domains during next Monday’s live auction at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas.

Rightside today disclosed that xyz.sale, xyz.market, xyz.news and xyz.live will be among about a dozen registry-reserved short domain names– such as q.sale and z.pub — it will attempt to sell.

The only meaningful domain on its list is the absolutely fantastic, category-killing viral.video.

It’s difficult to see the “xyz” names as anything other than attempt to cash in on the popularity of .xyz domains among the investors, many of them Chinese, currently pumping money into the domain market.

XYZ.com’s .xyz gTLD has over 1.7 million domains in its zone file today, making it the largest-volume new gTLD by a considerable margin.

I’m not sure there’s any causal connection here, but it should probably be noted that Daniel Negari and Michael Ambrose, XYZ.com’s CEO and COO respectively, recently acquired a substantial chunk of Rightside.

The two men disclosed November 30 that they had paid over $8.5 million to buy almost 10 million shares — or roughly 5.2% of the company — on the open market.

The NamesCon auction kicks off at 1400 Pacific (2200 UTC) on Monday at the Tropicana in Vegas. It’s being managed by RightOfTheDot and Namejet.

NamesCon hotel “scam” doing the rounds

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2015, Domain Services

A company with a track record of misleading conference attendees into booking hotels with higher fees appears to be targeting NamesCon.

This morning I received a phone call from somebody claiming to be from NamesCon, but he pronounced it “Name Escon”.

I asked him what company he worked for, and he continued to insist he worked for “Name Escon”.

So I indulged him for a while, and it turned out he was trying to book me into a Las Vegas hotel for the duration of the January 10-13 trade show.

He offered me a rate at the Tropicana of $99 per night, including breakfast. That’s actually not a bad rate — about $20 less than what Expedia is currently asking.

I kept him on the phone until he sent an email to an address he had on file for me (the one from DI’s About page, which I don’t use to sign up for anything).

It arrived immediately, from Exhibitors Housing Services (ehshousing.com), which appears to be a Los Angeles company, with a link to housing-portal.com.

The link led to a credit card authorization form, pre-tailored to my details and the rate offered, which included some terms and conditions I didn’t like the look of.

A simple web search revealed that the company is widely believed to be Bad News.

The same outfit appears to regularly target annual conferences using the exhibitor lists published on earlier conference web sites. Contact information appears to be taken from the exhibitor’s own site.

According to the likes of Affiliate Summit and The Physiological Society, and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association these guys may charge up-front processing fees and/or have a very unfavorable cancellation policy.

In fact, just Googling for “Exhibitors Housing Services” will return pretty much nothing but scam warnings from various conference organizers.

One chap even posted a YouTube video explaining what he thinks the scam is.

I’m pretty certain the company has nothing to do with NamesCon.

Get NamesCon 2016 tickets at 80% off

Kevin Murphy, February 23, 2015, Domain Services

After its well-received 2015 show in Las Vegas last month, NamesCon has confirmed a third annual domain name conference for 2016 and is offering deeply discounted tickets for “super early birds” until the end of the month.

Until February 28, conference passes can be bought for $199. That’s an 80% discount on the regular $999 fee. No other early-bird discounts have yet been announced, but NamesCon says this is the “lowest” price the tickets are going to get.

As the event is targeted largely at domainers, NamesCon notes that tickets are non-transferable. Touts are not welcome, in other words.

The show will run from January 10 to 13 next year, in Las Vegas. The venue will be the reasonably priced Tropicana hotel for the third year in a row.

Conference producer Richard Lau said that the 2016 show will have a new sponsorship opportunity in the form of a “Meetery” on the first day.

With space for about 30 companies on small tables, the six-hour window will be “ideal for companies who do not want to man a booth for the entire conference but still want to be able to meet with all of the attendees,” Lau said.

NamesCon is also expanding the number of small tables available for sponsors that want to exhibit for the whole four days from six to 15 to 20, he said.

Tickets can be obtained through the NamesCon web site.

New gTLD registries talk up marketing plans at NamesCon

Kevin Murphy, January 15, 2015, Domain Registries

This week’s NamesCon conference here in Las Vegas, which ended yesterday, offered several new domain registries the chance to talk about their efforts past and future to market new gTLDs.

One theme to emerge was how registries need to work with each other and with their registrar channel partners to raise awareness of alternatives to .com.

Donuts VP Dan Schindler said during a Tuesday keynote that the company plans to ramp up its marketing in 2015.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done by all the beneficiaries in this process,” he said, saying that Donuts intends to carry out a “broad education and awareness program over course of 2015 and beyond”.

He said the company is pursuing co-marketing efforts with some of its registrar partners at trade shows and such and “possibly including television”.

Schindler also spoke out against paid placement — where registries pay popular registrars for prominent shelf space — “not because we’re cheap”, but because Donuts doesn’t believe it offers registrants the best choice of relevant TLDs.

Here’s a photo of Schindler talking, offered for no other reason than it just cost me £6 to upload from my phone. Note the juxtaposition of a) the extensive Verisign .com/.net sponsorship, b) the Donuts “Not Com Revolution” messaging, and c) my thumb.

Dan Schindler

Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling said in his keynote an hour later that he expected “more marketplace collaboration… where it is in our best interest to collaborate” on new gTLD promotion.

But he offered a somewhat dissenting tone with regards what he called the “dog and pony shows” of marketing new gTLDs.

Saying the company is “bootstrapping” some of its strings, he said big marketing spends now would lead to Uniregistry needing to raise its prices in two to three years to cover today’s costs.

Instead, he pointed to efforts such as its decision to release most of .click’s available names for a flat, cheap registration fee at launch, which he said should get names into the hands of users more quickly.

Contrarily, .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell boasted during a brief pre-auction address on Tuesday of his company’s $2.2 million marketing spend for 2014, which he said would increase to $3.5 million in 2015.

Another recurring theme emerging from the conference (and from every other new gTLD event I’ve ever been to) was, as Schindler put it, that “use begets use”. The more high-profile sites a gTLD gets, the more likely it is to gain mindshare and sell more domains.

DotStrategy, the .buzz registry, is to be the beneficiary of such customer marketing.

Howard Lefkowitz, CEO of travel site operator One Degree World (which revealed it paid $100,000 for vegas.club earlier this week) revealed during NamesCon that some of his company’s city-related .buzz domains, such as sydney.buzz, are to feature for two weeks on the US TV game show Wheel Of Fortune as prize sponsors.

Will we see a bump in .buzz sales as a result? The gTLD currently has fewer than 8,500 names in its zone file, so if the TV time bears fruit it should be fairly easy to spot.

Seller’s remorse despite .club leading $1m NamesCon auction

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2015, Domain Services

The Right Of The Dot and SnapNames auction here at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas last night raised just shy of $1 million, in what attendees broadly seem to agree was a successful event.

The grand total was $990,851, with 87 out of the 134 lots hitting their reserve and selling during the live/online bidding.

Leading the pack was homecare.com, which sold for $350,000.

But that deal actually closed before the live event began, leaving .CLUB Domains’ wine.club at the top of the sold list with a winning $140,000 bid.

Despite the sale, registry CEO Colin Campbell — evidently disappointed he had not placed a higher reserve on the name, expressed some seller’s remorse on Twitter this morning.

.CLUB also offloaded reserved names weed.club ($16,000), fight.club ($13,500) and tequila.club ($8,000), among others.

.com of course had the best night, with carauctions.com going for $90,000, susan.com going for $34,000 and tik.com and vil.com both going for $33,000.

Organizer Mike Berkens took a $76,000 hit on sexeducation.com, which he purchased for $100,000 and sold without reserve for $24,000.

Also noteworthy was what I believe was the biggest bid of the night — a $1.2 million in-room bid for auctions.com, owned by .xyz registry CEO Daniel Negari.

The domain failed to meet its reserve, however, and will join the other unsold names in an extended online auction that begins this weekend.