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Where in the world is dot com?

I have just returned from a trip across several countries in Latin America and Europe and noticed a consistent trend – ccTLDs are dominating the visual space of major cities outside of the US. Yes, in the US dot com is king, but not for Argentina, Chile, Greece, nor Spain.

Argentina and Chile

In Argentina, .com.ar dominates almost completely in all forms of commercials and billboards that I saw. The local extension is very popular, even though it has had the limitation of not allowing second level registration (i.e. .ar).

The same popularity for the Chile domain extension can be seen throughout their capital, Santiago. Unlike Argentina, the most popular form of the domain is the direct second level domain. Dot com or any other domain extensions other than the .cl are almost non-existent.

Greece and Spain

At Greece I had the opportunity of visiting several places mainland, as well as several of their islands including all of the most popular ones. Again, the ccTLD .gr was by far the most dominant in all the places I visited. In Athens, I saw a few dot com addresses, but possibly no more than a 10%.

Finally, in Madrid and Barcelona I continued to see the same tendency as the other places. One significant difference was Barcelona – which might be indicative of what’s to come. The official extension in Barcelona was not the ccTLD .es. Rather, the gTLD of choice is .cat, which is short for Cataluña – the region Barcelona belongs to. Aside from the government using .cat as their official extension, and many businesses using .es, there was also a few .com and .info domain names used by businesses.

Conclusion

Important regions like Cataluña could push for having their own regional extensions (and they currently are), opening the opportunity to register domains under those new gTLDs. The new CEO of ICANN has expressed ICANN’s path towards the creation of new gTLDs.

“For example, the chief of the Zulu tribe, His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, recently sent a letter notifying us of his intent to register the dot-zulu domain name so that different but related businesses and other groups can be linked by their domain name to the entire Zulu community. According to His Majesty, “We believe that the .Zulu TLD, as conceived and proposed by the Dot Zulu Project Inc. represents the best interests of the Zulu community and will be able to provide a viable structure for us as an evolving community.” New York City and the city of Berlin have expressed a similar interest in their own domain names. It is impossible to imagine the possibilities that could occur when these and a multitude of other TLDs are opened.”

If we extrapolate from Barcelona, when trying to enter a local market outside of the US, descriptive or generic domain names including the region or country (Berlinicecreams.com) will most likely be less desirable or useful than the new forms of gTLDs covering those regions (icecreams.berlin). I can see a dot com as being more desirable if it is in the travel industry, where the visitors are not the locals, but rather a population of foreigners.

There are many countries out there that still have high value generics available for registration. There are also still relatively low prices for premium generics in the secondary market for some countries. However, one big impediment has been the management of these domains, scattered through multiple NICs all having their own particular ways of renewal. So, if you are willing to deal with that inconvenience, then ccTLDs and new regional gTLDs could be a good pocket of growth for Domain Investors.

RE: DNZoom

Sahar Sarid is one of the most active voices in the Domain industry and a leading domain investor. Recently, he launched a contest to determine the best features needed for domainers, to be incorporated in the recently launched DNZoom service. As a domain investor, I’d like to jump in with a few suggestions of what I believe is needed to improve the domain investment market:

These suggestions are in no particular order:

1. Have active offers with expiration dates or without expiring. I have seen way too often in the domain forums how sellers of the domain claim that they once received a “$x,xxx” offer for the domain once. Well, make this process transparent. I want to buy xyz.com, I give them a $xx,xxx offer that will expire in 2 months. I give them a $xx,xxx minus $x,xxx offer that will never expire. This offer is visible – it is active. Other buyers can see the active offers on the domain. The seller can choose to execute the sale based on these active offers any time they want.

This adds value to the market by establishing floors on demand for domains. This further increases the amount of data available for calculating the value of comparable domains. Active offers by reputable buyers could even serve as collateral for the owner of the domain to take out a loan.

2. Expiration dates for domains should be active. By this, I mean that there should be buttons for me to click on and have it add the date to my calendar. Palm, Google, Outlook. This way, as I search for domain names, I can click on this active link and instantly integrate it into my calendar system which will remind me when that domain is going to expire.

Furthermore, you could have a paid service of receiving an SMS alert when a domain is close to or has expired.

3. Group data on an industry and provide a perspective to domainers on how well they are performing on their monetization. (OK this is a bit hard to do) But imagine if I was in the  “travel” industry. How are my travel domains performing relative to the entire pool of travel related domain names? Which parking service is performing best for that industry. Perhaps lead generation by xyz parking company is proving to be more lucrative in this industry. Perhaps it is Cost Per Click by abc company.

4. On that same note, let domain holders know when specific industry domains are being sold. If I have a strong portfolio on “car” domains, it is more likely that I will pay a premium for a domain related to “cars”, because among other reasons, I have a multiplier effect in income when I hold many domains from one industry. So, identify or ask domain holders which industries they are interested in, and notify them when a domain has been put on sale or expiring auction.

5. Transparency on traffic and revenues! Offer the option to share certified income reports and/or traffic with prospective buyers, or simply to share it in a public space. If publicly shared, then integrate it into the whole search experience. This way, people can search the whois and see the field for traffic and revenue of that domain. Or search by traffic and/or revenue. Buyers can then make their offers in the style of Suggestion #1.

6. Open is the new black! Once you have gathered enough data, put it out to the world in the form of APIs. This will make the industry stronger, unleashing valuable data for bright minds that want to build applications we haven’t even imagined.

I hope many of you choose to participate in this contest and make this industry better.

Quick Q&A: Could the value of a premium generic domain name depreciate?

January 25, 2008 2 comments

This is a debatable subject. The specific question I want to consider is: When a company accomplishes a dominant leadership position in an industry, how will the generic domain most descriptive of that industry be affected in its value?

Here are three examples to consider:

Books.com – This is a powerful generic domain. Yet, it would be interesting to learn how many actual type-in visitors it generates for Barnes and Nobles. The reason – Amazon.com. Amazon has become synonymous to books for most Americans. So, when people buy books, how much type-in traffic has Amazon taken from Books.com due to a powerful brand?

Auctions.com – You probably said it in your mind before actually reading it – eBay.com. Perhaps their success was greatly influenced by fate/luck, when they tried to register echobay.com as their website’s domain name and it had already been registered. This is why they had to shrink it into the catchy four letter word. Again, when you want to buy or sell in auction format, how likely would it be for you to type-in Auctions.com, rather than eBay.com.

Search.com – Some lawyers are even trying to stop reporters from using the term “googling”, as search giant Google overshadows even the phrase “to search” with the increasingly popular phrase “to google”. How would you think this change has had an impact on the value of Search.com?

If in these three cases you agree that the word actually lost value, rather than appreciated in value as a company grew into a leadership position of the industry, and you own a premium generic name for an industry in which a new company is growing to become a leader of that industry; then you should try to sell the domain name before the company establishes itself as the leader. Or at least for accounting/tax purposes, you should be able to begin a trend of depreciation from your asset as the company’s leadership position solidifies.

Italia.it Closes

January 23, 2008 Leave a comment

What a beautiful domain name. Apparently, the estimated budget of $45 million euros for development of this portal by the Italian government was insufficient. Italia.it was launched last February under heavy criticism for its high cost and complicated structure. The ephemeral website was finally closed by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Francesco Rutelli.

Complete story here (in Spanish): Italia cierra su página Italia.it 

Categories: Domains Tags: , , ,

GoDaddy Coincidence?

January 9, 2008 3 comments

Following on the Network Solutions story about domain stealing or “front running“, I’d like to share a recent story of my own. I am currently learning to speak Russian, so I decided to check out a few Russian IDNs under the .com extension for availability. I found one which I was amazed to learn that was available: невест.com (google translation: Brides.com)

I began the process to register it at GoDaddy, but decided to come back to it later after I had asked a Russian friend of mine if it was the correct and most popular translation for “brides”. Today, I went back to check the availability and невест.com was registered on December 27th, 2007 to a person who’s name doesn’t appear even once under a Google search. I called the listed phone and it is “Temporarily Disconnected”.

bridewhois.jpg

Coincidentally, the address listed for the domain registration is 26 minutes from GoDaddy’s headquarters.

It was best not to register the name, because as my Russian friend clarified, the correct translation is невеста, ending “a” and невесты is the plural form. Both of the correct translations were registered a few years ago.

CNET Acquisitions

January 7, 2008 1 comment

For the past several months, I have been watching and considering an investment in CNET Networks, precisely because of its attractiveness of individual assets, which if spun off could suggest a much higher total worth than the current $1.3 billion. However, upon closer inspection of the individual parts, I am still not convinced that the sum of its parts, under current conditions, is worth more than its 1.3 billion. CNET is currently carrying too much fat and producing mediocre returns on their prime jewels. Take for instance News.com, which as suggested by the NY Times produced in October a mere 6 million page views, compared to 8 million page views produced by a small group of bloggers with minimal costs over at TechCrunch.

The key of course, is finding buyers for CNET’s crown jewels, which are:

  • TV.com – This is currently a site which alone could be worth more than CNET’s current market cap, but the focus of the site is its main problem. TV.com is aimed at providing a TV guide resource – big mistake!

Instead, TV.com could become the place to go for TV watching, think YouTube or Hulu. Capitalize on the millions of confused visitors coming in from the highly marketed .TV extension. Strike deals with media companies to stream television through TV.com. Stream everything under the sun! Sell the idea to Mark Cuban, sell it to Murdoch. Try to get a link from future generation television sets that are integrated with wireless internet, so that TV.com is the link to online television. How many people are looking to buy a TV and just type TV.com? Have a section in the site for TV purchases, cable subscription services.

The current site is probably 10 to 15% of the traffic and revenues it could achieve.

My current price – $100 to 500 million. Future worth with minimal refocus – $1 to 5 billion.

 

  • News.com – When you type News.com, the first thing you see is technology news. Get over it. If I want technology news, I will type TechnologyNews.com, Technology.News.com, or TechCrunch.com. I don’t even want to know how many of CNET’s 2,600 employees it takes to run this charitable venture costing investors $16.65 million last quarter. Again, as TV.com, News.com is being used for less than 15% of its capacity.

When I type in News.com, it should be news about everything. I want to see videos of what’s happening around the world. I want to get international perspectives for what is happening in the war in Iraq. People should find ALL possible resources on news information and be able to interact and contribute. Oh so many possibilities!

My current price – $50 to 300 million. Future worth – $0.5 to 1 billion.

 

  • Download.com is fairly well developed and should fetch a good price. I don’t have specifics on how much it costs them to offer what they claim to be a, “a rigorous testing process to ensure it is safe and spyware free”. Unless this rigorous testing process is subsidizing a considerable number of employees, an automated system should not represent a considerable cost. Advertising money here should be flowing comfortably in the black.

My current price $50 to 150 million.

 

  • Search.com – Wow, these people really knew how to pick their names. However, as Google becomes a household synonym for “search” I am less confident in this domain than what I would have been five years ago. I would assume that this is a rapidly depreciating asset and should have been shopped around much earlier. Sell it to Sahar Sarid for his search venture Assista. I am sure he’d appreciate the value it can bring to own the direct synonym to Google in his quest to take a bite of that space.

My current price $10 to 20 million (perhaps more depending on current traffic and revenue numbers)

 

  • Chat.com – Give me a break! This baby redirects to cnet.com? Yes, it should be a crime punishable to death. Chat.com has no home of its own. I’ve personally shopped around to buy chat ccTLDs and have already developed one into a chat site. These sites are great, because they are cheap to build and to maintain, and user loyalty is huge. Chat.com is a dream domain with immense potential. I want it.

Suggestions for this site are obvious – build chat channels and capitalize on the type-in traffic, which will serve as the commencement of an avalanche of visitors. These people spend 20, 40, 60 minutes straight in a page. Even at $2 CPMs, this is one site that could produce millions. Instead, old grandpa CNET reasons – if they type in chat.com it must be they want to read technology product reviews! Shame on you CNET.

My price $300k cash, right now! OK, seriously – $5 to 10 million – and the 10 is pushing it, because there’s no community. This is just a domain name purchase.

Future worth – $10 to 50 million easy.

Mp3.com – $5 million

GameSpot.com – $4 million

ZDNet.com – 3 million

TechRepublic.com – $2 million

mySimon.com – $1 million

UrbanBaby.com – $500k

Chow.com – $300k

As you can see from current conditions, a $1.3 billion market cap is reasonably priced. Yes, many of us see potential in a much higher worth, given the properties they own, but right now there is no bargain investment in CNET unless you have the power to enforce radical changes to current management or have faith in Jana’s capacity to push for that change.

2008 Internet Predictions

December 30, 2007 Leave a comment

To continue with the tradition of those who like to make predictions for the New Year, I have recovered an old crystal ball which has shown me the following Internet changes coming for the year 2008:

1. Big search engines will update their algorithm to favor country code top level domains (ccTLDs) in local search related queries.
2. As a result, in part,  of number 1 prices and liquidity of ccTLDs will rise.
3. .mobi will continue to gain momentum, even though I have opposing feelings about this extension.
4. People will learn to understand the importance of IDNs and the value of these will rise – specifically for one word IDNs under the corresponding ccTLD or under the .com and .org.
5. Thousands of wannabe land rushers will flock to try and get a piece of China’s Internet population – and like in the West, most will fail.
6. General Internet users will be more knowledgeable of the Internet and search – reducing Type-in traffic for common words under the .com extension.
7. Many successful Internet ventures will start as tools built for users within Social networks, and no longer start from a single proprietary website.
8. A top Internet executive will be arrested.

Hey, don’t argue with me. This is what the crystal ball showed me, and it was very dusty.

May this New Year bring much love and happiness to all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!