Domain Industry Tsunami

In 2004, Thailand, Indonesia, and nine other countries suffered one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, when a tsunami killed well over 200,000 people. Thousands of tourists and other people in the area were killed when an unexpected giant wave quickly swept onto land and through their villages. There were just a few seconds available to decide whether to climb a tree, enter a building with a solid foundation, or run as fast as possible to beat the wave. Many who made the wrong decision died while trying to survive. It was a terrible tragedy, and the affected areas are still in the process of recovering three years later.
An interesting thing happened just moments before the tsunami reached land that saved countless lives. As the ocean began to recede, many natives who saw this began running in the opposite direction. They grabbed their children, warned their friends, and they booked it as fast as they could run, leaving most of their possessions behind. They knew that a receding ocean meant a tsunami was about to devastate their area, and they didn’t stick around to see what would happen. They grabbed what they could and took cover as far away as their legs could take them in the five minutes they had.
While changes to the domain industry certainly are not a life and death situation, they could be deadly to the industry. With the looming Snowe legislation that was recently proposed, our industry is in peril. Numerous people have been posting about the pending changes for many months now – well before the Snowe legislation was introduced. The most prolific person to issue many warnings was Rick Schwartz.
For as long as I’ve known Rick, he has been telling people that others want our domain names. We are a relatively small industry, and because of that, better funded, larger corporations will have an easier time taking our domain names using various tactics. Rick warned us that people were out there looking for ways to make taking domain names easier, and we need to organize and build a defense against this. That has come, and we aren’t much better than we were before Rick started warning us – practically YELLING to us with his CAPITALIZED and bolded typeface. Many people thought Rick was crazy and only self-interested.
Rick is now running for the hills. He isn’t sticking around to give warnings anymore. He is taking what he can, selling what he doesn’t need and going to safer ground. Rick is done giving his warnings, and now we are looking at each other, many shrugging shoulders asking what this all means. Rick could have almost certainly tried to sell at TRAFFIC, but he decided to sell it in the venue that would raise the most awareness. He didn’t privately sell for what he could. Instead, I interpret this as one last warning for us all. I don’t ever remember Rick looking to sell a name, and with all his contacts, he chooses the one venue that would raise the most questions. Everything Rick does has a meaning, and I look at this sale as a warning to us.
While some of us are mounting a defense with the Internet Commerce Association, many people seem to think the big guys should shoulder the burden of raising money – they argue that the big guys have more money to lose. Guess what – the big guys also have more money to defend their assets if it comes to that. They might not have wanted to worry about developing their names, but they don’t have a whole lot of choices right now. The good news for them is that they can pay to develop their names into businesses which may shield them more than others. Maybe this isn’t 100% accurate, but a developed website is probably going to be harder to take than a parked domain name.
Most of the industry leaders are developing their domain names now – or at least looking at ways to develop them. Some are doing it quietly, but I think most are doing what they can to fortify their positions. Unfortunately for many people in the industry who think others will burden the load, when they try to get into the shelters to weather the storm, they will find that the shelters are full. Warnings have been issued, and there probably won’t be any more warnings.
As the saying goes, you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. The Internet Commerce Association is mounting a defense for us domain registrants. It’s not too late to contribute to their lobbying efforts. As of this moment, most domain investors are exposed to the storm that is brewing just off the coast. Warnings have been issued. How safe are your domain investments?

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  1. Hey chicken little – do you need a ******* or something? Does your ****** hurt? Read other info on the Snowe bill it’s phishing, typosquating and agressively taking advantage of what you do not own. Get a grip – Ricks doing other things, with several mill wouldn’t you


    Why don’t you use your real information when leaving a comment if you are so confident in your opinion? I see what your IP says, but why leave false information?

  2. Hey Elliot,

    Great points. What do you see in the future for domain parking?


    I don’t really have enough knowledge about it to make a prediction. Less than 1/10% of my revenue is from parking. I know that PPC revenues are down across the board. I look at traffic as a potential buyer of a product or service, so I would rather work on a pay per sale basis with an affiliate than PPC. I am moving towards developing my key names into websites. If that makes me less of a “domainer,” well so be it.

  3. Hi Buddy,
    “Bill’s” comments are uncalled for, and an insult to women.
    Even if your “want” to keep them, maybe you could redact the female insults?

  4. Great post Elliot. Thanks for your leadership and advocacy.
    I don’t think the sky is falling. I think the clouds are breaking and the sun is shining through.
    Now if you’ve been making a million a year or more on PPC while you cruise around the world and the money adds up in your account, it’s a rude awakening. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. You don’t own the relationships, you don’t own the technology– all you have is a domain with traffic. Thousands who have passed through your land you know little about… that were turned over to advertisers for a lifetime of rewards… for pennies…… you had no way of auditing — for all you know there could be double what’s reported–
    and likely as much as you made others made 10x more. I certainly know of many masseuses at Google who are grateful for your time and trouble invested following those drops and auctions, helping them retire millionaires. Typos, trademarks, arbitrage whatever you brought them, they didn’t lift a finger to be enriched by it all. And you are back to where you started with a domain and traffic. (Flashback Frager/Schilling PPC debate Rick’s Board 2005)
    For over two years the experts at Traffic have been suggesting pairing down your portfolio and focussing on the best chances for development. As Jeff proves with American Flags, David Carter with his sites, Arbor with his 13 year olds and the bicycle empire, Rick with Traffic forum and Domaining with a model so eloquent yet brilliant in its simplicity– its not that complicated when you focus on solving problems and enriching people’s lives the money follows.
    I think the preoccupation with perception of a website as an ad server or shopping cart has blinded us to the fact that domains represent an incredible opportunity to innovate, to build something of value, to have a worldwide business and communication tool with advantages not possible for previous generations. There are people with webcams sitting at home broadcasting, teaching. It’s a blessing.
    There isn’t a clean domain I couldn’t take and make defensible within 30 minutes. Free blogger tools, YouTube feeds and adsense- a chatboard- an art show- a couple of snaps of some junk you want to get rid of and yard sale– a quote of the day changed daily.
    If you have amazon or zappos affiliate you can transform a dead domain into a branded business in minutes. You may remember I rallied everyone about getting the blog life rafts ready on Rick’s board…. with Rick I set up a domain to capitalize on the Smith story. Doing nothing more then Perez Hilton did to become a millionaire blogger with free Google blogger, I took content from mainstream news sources, search optimized it and had over 300 uniques the first night and 1000 the second day. We did it right before everyone’s eyes.
    And there’s always Elliot’s example of plenty of needy causes you and your domain can do better by doing good. If you want to bond with the GEOS and secure rights, find a cause in the community you can be part of. A new firetruck, library restoration of park etc.
    The sky isn’t falling- this is the land of possibility for anyone with true passion and a dream.
    As an example I have a journalist friend who was watching my blogging take off and he decided to set up his own blog about office technology. He came over for a couple of days watched me at work– called a few times for advice. HE was the journalist but what changed his life was learning to write for seo. He put up AdSense and writing one article a day around his day job, guess what his check was last month- $2300! He said “I have no idea how I earned that. I followed your advice and blog about the expensive stuff and I get the ads that pay more.”
    Coincidentally, under the radar, Google had a major price increase last month. The minimum bid on content network (includes adsense and ppc) jumped from 50 cents to $2.
    With all the doom and gloom on PPC, he got a $500 raise. And can control his income by writing content to deliver ads.
    I can understand Rick’s frustration but not sure why HE”s headed for the hills. He has the strongest and most defensible model around– because the name of his business Advertising Specialities and his roots in call to action 800s and sourcing products then running ads to sell them on a cpc– is exactly what he transitioned to the web.
    Problem with Rick is that he’s been so consumed helping others he forgot the power and possibilities of what his domains can do for himself. I suggest stepping back and taking a moment to reflect on what could be rather then what should have been. He accumulated incredible assets from informed and smart investing. And patience. He’s made an incredible impact on humanity too. All this self-liquidated and ready for act two. That’s huge.
    Everyone should take a deep breath and follow the advice Rick gave me: FORGET what you THINK you know.
    This is not an end but a beginning. A chance to create the future and not lament the past.
    Where the old rules don’t apply.
    As for Widgets on eBay perhaps I’m the only one who sees the irony— if you think about it widgets are domain and ppc killers. They replace browsing and navigation with applications preloaded with your credentials and scaled to integrate with your lifestyle and device. These are the iTunes sticky tools that take browsing out of buying.
    Instead of you going to a domain, the application comes to you. So if you are here on Elliot’s blog the Airline Widget reminds you you wanted to book a flight and preempts you from making it over to Lowell or Palm Springs to do so. This is the real threat- innovation and the land rush isn’t happening in domains- it’s happening in widgets where thousands are getting grandfathered premium real estate on the iPhone desktop. They will integrate voice and data and video and applications served from cloud computers. They are what PPC was. And guess who ends up with the vision Rick may have had for– Steve Jobs who gets $9 at the gate and a 30% take on more traffic then any portfolio could match. All with a $100mm fund rushing development.
    In all your domain dreams, no one saw that coming.
    So it’s different out there.
    Those like Elliot and Michael who built businesses on domains have a tremendous head start but also a chance to rethink the possibilities.
    It’s time to stop acting like lazy, aging monoploy corporations we deplore and renew the visionary spirit that brought us together to begin with.
    The future starts now.
    Sorry for the long sermon. Have a great weekend.

  5. Great analogy Elliot! Like I told you earlier – I think you’ve done a great job on your blog, especially in raising awareness on ICA/Snowe bill issues.
    Although it may be a bit premature to announce the death of parking and domaining (Rick’s run for higher ground), it is definitely an early sign of the tsunami to come!
    You’re a true gentleman, and I look forward to doing business with you anytime in the future….Bob
    P.S. Owen – I don’t have a good read on the widget thing yet, but thank you for a great post here that helps!

  6. At the moment most Americans in the domain field are giving good impressions of chickens with their heads off. Coming Tsunami ? Nice metaphor, but hardly realistic. Just move your domains offshore, to a registrar outside the grasp of US laws. Go read Frank Schilling’s reply to comments on his latest posting. He’s the one who has ‘nailed it’. Americans have had it way too easy for way too long. A little looming adversity and you have no mechanisms in place to see it other than armageddon. Sure you’ve got a few economic woes at the moment coinciding with the Snowe bill, Iraq etc., but from an outside perspective your sky is nowhere near falling.

  7. Hello all lease holders,
    Make no mistake, any form of advertising that takes away the power of advertising dollars from any source is under seige. There is a saying in the public speaking industry. There are things you speak of on stage and then there are things you speak of behind the stage.
    Don’t be fooled by any statements you may hear, about a companies stance. Look for answers in whose payroll they are on. Lets look at the financial truths. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, any media company Etc Etc. Etc. , fear losing control of eyeballs.
    Should we run and crap our pants in fear? Selling our leases in fear! I don’t think so! But we all as collective lease holders need to support I.C.A. not to mention our rights as Lease Holders. Lease Holders, who have a right to run our businesses, in a democratic and free country. This is not to be looked at as defeat, but opportunity to expose the truth, which in the end will win out, if we will it so.
    The Contact Group/Jeff Schneider

  8. ” The Snowe Reverse Hyjacking Bill ”
    In our opinion the Snowe Bill absolutely encourages and facilitates Reverse domain hijacking. In fact the best definition of this Bill is ” The Snowe Reverse Hijacking Bill ”
    Jeff Schneider/ The Contact Group or

  9. Great post and great follow-up from Owen.
    The paradigm shift is finally happening, and we are now forced to re-think the true potential of a domain name. What we have come to realize is that providing legitimate value is really the only key to sustainability.
    This is what has broken the parking industry. Domain investors and parking companies were provided with monetary value, but two very key parts of the equation felt they were left out: 1) those that provided means to monetization (advertisers) and 2) the users that landed on parked pages.
    1) result: GOOG and YHOO tightening up on parking practices
    2) result: Snowe Bill tightening up on domain name use
    A little over a year ago, we saw the tide receding (using Elliot’s analogy). Rather than head to higher ground, we put in a lot of time and effort building out a platform that can maneuver the coming ‘tsunami’ – EVO Landing (
    The EVO platform was built with an understanding of the need to provide legitimate value to all parts of the equation – monetary value to domain investors, qualified leads to monetization partners, and quality content and features for users who happen upon one of the sites in our network (as seen by our average return rate of 10%).
    If you have a great domain name for jobs, it should be a place where people can lookup local jobs, compare salaries, and apply. If you have a great domain name for travel, it should be a place for people to read about a destination and book travel/accommodations. etc.
    To develop them out one by one would be ideal – but to acquire relevant content and figure out a means to monetization one by one across a portfolio of varied domains is not always feasible – cost and time prohibits.
    If you are in such a situation and have great domains, feel free to take a look at what EVO has to offer. We are here to help build sustainability.
    (we will be speaking on this subject at the next Domain Round Table coming soon!)
    Geoffrey Nuval
    CEO, EVO Landing


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