Epik Offering “Forever Registrations”

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I received a note from Epik CEO Rob Monster, who announced that Epik is now allowing its customers to effectively register some of their domain names at Epik forever. Rob’s email included a link to a press release published by Epik during the ICANN meeting in Barcelona. According to the press release, “Epik is the first ICANN-accredited registrar to offer the perpetual registration.”

Here’s a short excerpt from the press release:

“Forever domain registrations provide individuals and businesses with peace of mind. Once a Forever registration is secured, the future risk of domain loss due to administrative oversight or lack of funds is eliminated. While domain owners are still subject to legal use, domains can now become an enduring part of a will or estate, with continued managed registration compliance, even after the death of the original registrant. A Forever domain registration, which can be optionally combined with a Forever hosting plan, offers not only peace of mind, but also allows registrants to preserve their digital legacy, and on their terms.”

The cost of a .com “forever registration” at Epik runs $420. If a person were paying $10/year all-in to renew their .com domain name, that upfront cost would be 42 years worth of renewals (assuming the price stays the same over that time period).

The concept is certainly interesting. It would effectively reduce the concerns a domain owner may have over what happens to their domain names if they die. In theory, the names should essentially not expire, and the executor / courts could then determine what happens to the domain names in perpetuity. There shouldn’t be a scramble for friends and family to ensure domain names are renewed if something happens to someone suddenly.

I asked Rob about what happens if a domain name is registered under this program at Epik and the owner sells the domain name or otherwise wishes to transfer it to a different domain registrar. Rob told me the feature is only available at Epik (at least for the time being), and they “are working with industry stakeholders to introduce peering and portability.”

If I were an Epik customer considering this offer, one concern I would have is if Epik goes out of business or Rob sells the company to an entity that doesn’t want to honor these registrations. To my knowledge, I do not believe there is a way to renew domain names “forever” at the registry level. People will have to trust that Epik will continue to renew these domain names on their behalf forever. Obviously, people place a lot of trust with their domain registrar, so this may not even be an issue for some people. The other concern is that I don’t plan to hold most of my investments for close to “forever,” so it would make more sense for me to renew for 5 or 10 years out and reevaluate annually.

Back in 2004, Network Solutions made news when the company apparently offered 100 year domain registrations. I don’t believe the company is still offering this. I am not sure what came of this program either.

It’s a neat idea, and it would be great if there is traction at the registry level and interest from other domain registrars.

14 COMMENTS

  1. So Rob is a friend of mine…at least he was. “Forever” is like a “Lifetime”, ever hear of a lifetime guaranty? I actually own about a dozen “Forever” crappy domains like ForeverCanna™, ForeverJava, ForeverArmy™. and ForeverBrew™ (could be for coffee or beer). I have a “lifetime” membership at a blue collar country club where I golf, and it turned out to be one of the best investments I ever made. I paid 30K for it, and I’ve owned it for about 15 years now. It’s all inclusive, and I even get 24 guest rounds a year. I did the math, and I knew it would pay for itself in 7 years. The only danger was that if the owners of the club went out of business I’d be SOL. Another thing that was part of my agreement is that I could either sell or transfer it one time. It’s because I’m saving $400 a month that I can afford to buy all my crappy domains…how cool is that☺

    I’ll leave you on this note, I wouldn’t pay $420 for a “forever registration” and I have my reasons, thinking it would be a stupid investment. However, this got me to thinking about getting a “ForeverCarWash” or a “LifetimeCarWash”, and I’m the proud new owner of both domains as crappy as they may sound. I may even give these domains away if I can get my cars washed forever☺

    • Bulloney knows I still love him. However, I reminded him that my very small expectation for dispensing free advice is that people should hold their domains at Epik. To ask my opinion about a domain you bought 5 minutes ago at GoDaddy is not a win-win relationship. That said, I am generally known to give more than I ask.

    • Epik is no longer for sale. I briefly considered selling it in September 2018 before coming back in the industry full-time. I see tremendous opportunity in this industry and am excited to bring my corporate development skills to an industry that I think lacked vision and leadership. If someone eventually acquires Epik, they will have customers for life.

    • It depends…like with my “Lifetime” club membership, whoever buys the club has an option to buy me out for the 30K I paid for it, or continue to honor it. That’s happened once since I’ve owned it and the new owners honored my lifetime membership. However, something like this should be in the contract.

    • “Rob Monster is shopping Epik and looking to sell, he has been for some time.”

      If that is true then this move makes a lot of sense. $420 equals to around 50 regular .com registrations or renewals. You sell the “forever” package and book the whole $420 in that year, balance sheet looks fantastic but in the coming years you lose all the revenue from the forever registrations.. If Epik sells one day I wonder if the new owner would honor these “forever” packages.

  2. I also posted this on TheDomains, where it is pending moderation, but will share it here for anyone who needs help understanding the economics of Forever registrations.

    ###

    The retail Forever .COM price is $420. We can discount it in bulk but that is the price. After payment processing of 3% we have $407. We then incur $8.10 per year for 10 years, including ICANN fee, which is another $81, leaving $326 in working capital. Easy so far. Now a healthy registrar might have a Weighted Average Cost of Capital of say 6% (GDDY is 6.51%). So as long as a .COM is $19.50 or less per year, the .COM is actually self-financing into perpetuity without even spending the $326 on deposit.

    So, yes, Godaddy will do it. Their finance people are bright people and their management loves cashflow and monopolists naturally gravitate towards defensive moat. And once Godaddy offers it, and I am confident that they will, every registrar with an established retail brand will follow. I ran the numbers and decided to go first not waiting for ICANN to agree to formally vote for a capped $10 fee. Why? Because the underwriting risk here is negligible for the foreseeable future and I have a 10 year view of the horizon by always pre-paying the maximum 10 years.

    So, what happens when GoDaddy follows Epik’s example? I predict we will see something along the following lines:

    1. By mid-2019, GoDaddy offers a Forever domain product. With let’s say 60 million domains under management and 5% conversion within 1 year, they would have at least an incremental $979 million in free cash flow. For a company with a market cap of $12 billion and an enterprise value of $13.5 billion, let’s agree that we are talking about serious money even for the industry leading company.

    2. Now let’s say that they take half of that nominally $1 billion in cash and do stock buybacks and drive the enterprise value from say $13.5 billion to say $20 billion while moving up the value chain for their overwhelmingly retail customer base. Most stock analysts will see the spike in FCF and not check where it came from and besides Forever penetration will not cap out at 5%. Plus a forever customer is a great customer.

    3. Now let’s say that take the other $500 million in Free Cash Flow and take out any registrar that is competing too aggressively on price and has scale. Companies like NameCheap, NameSilo have scale but are a nuisance. Tucows with a market cap of $500 million and an eccentric but lovable Founder and a lackluster Open SRS platform can either be acquired or out-marketed would be a good example. Keep buying for as long as Trump is POTUS because there will be no meaningful antitrust action.

    4. Push gross margins from currently 66% to 72 or even 75%, further improving operating cashflow. In order to take domain margins higher. You have to become a registry and so it will be interesting to see if GoDaddy begins acquiring registries. Once the cash machine is spinning, much goodness flows. If Forever registrations become common as I believe they will, the new registries are very interesting. Nobody wants to do a consultative sale or affiliate marketing for a $5 domain registration. However, a $500 or $5000 one-off domain sale is a different story. We’ll have commission-based sales people happily selling that product from remote offices all day long.

    ###

    Yes, the registrar business just got better. The industry should rejoice as the next few years should be good for the established retail-facing registrar brands that embrace the megatrends:

    (1) Forever domains purchased mainly by Retail customers

    (2) Domain Leasing by Registrants not Registries.

  3. De facto this option has been available with countless hosting providers (which are also resellers of domain registrars) for years. There would be a “no hosting” or very basic hosting plan and the cost would be only of domain renewals. So with auto-renewals ON, one just needs to add 500…1000…5000 to their account to have renewals secured for a long time. As long as you trust this provider, of course.

  4. Seriously Rob, the “Forever” or “Lifetime” concepts aren’t new. However, you’re right about domain investors like myself not being interested. About 33 and 1/3% of my 1,500 domains are with you, and I wouldn’t waste a dime for a “Forever Registration”. The only ones who might be are your customers that have a long term commitment to their business/domain. I would guess that’s no more than 1 or 2% of your registrants. I have just two domains that might qualify and neither of them are registered at Epik, They are MakeSomethingHappen and DomainGourmet, I’ve owned MakeSomethingHappen since September 1, 2001. It’s “My Mantra”, and it’s registered at Network Solutions, a Web.com company, and DomainGourmet registered at Go Daddy. The only way I would spend $420 on either of those domains for a “forever” or “lifetime” registration is if I were flush with cash, and I’m not, or if I was concerned about keeping up with the administrative piece of registering a domain every 1 or 2 or maybe 5 years.

    Also, as for your comments about this industry being in a state of flux, “Adapt or Die”, you’re 100% right. The old business philosophy “TQM” aka Total Quality Management isn’t, “if it aint broke don’t fix it”, but rather “there’s ALWAYS a better way”, and that’s what I see you trying to do with “Forever Registrations”.

    Finally, I may be the most controversial domain guy who has come around for a while, but I’m enjoying the role much to the chagrin of some of the “old timers”. Peace my Brother!

  5. To all the people who have lost a domain name due to a renewal fail for whatever reason, they are game. The cost is under $500, opening it up to a larger audience. What small business would not want this peace of mind, what register would not want free cash flow up front. Can you imagine what godaddy could generate from such a marketing campaign, it would touch into billions of free money, decades before it’s due. Any business this forever domain concept is like winning the lottery. As domainers it may sound stupid, but to everyone else it is one less worry.

  6. I think one point worth clarifying is that Epik is not just offering a product. We are actually working with industry stakeholders to introduce a better option, notably for new TLDs but also for legacy TLDs.

    I realize that there are many capable people who bring their talents to the industry for the collective benefit of the industry. The ICANN meeting attracts many of these people. If you never went to one, try to go at least once.

    For professional domain investors, I suggest taking a close look at Epik’s Leasing platform. This is really a power tool for transition from dependence on parking. Our goal is to help you sell and lease domains.

    And once we do get a customer to buy your domains for 4,5 and 6 figures, the upsell to a Forever registration is an easy one. This is the other reason why our commissions are low and why we work hard to give domain investors maximum tax efficiency.

    I am not sure I can be more transparent and I invite anyone who does not have an Epik account yet, to get one soon. We have a .COM transfer promo for $6.49 that runs through October 31.

  7. How much for only 1,000 years? I don’t plan on living forever.

    I figure $420 ÷ Forever should equal ……

    .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001

    So 1000 years x .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001

    equals…..

    .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001

    Am I missing something? Did I do my math wrong? I don’t see why I should pay more than .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 per every 1,000 purchased.

    This consumer has spoken.

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