Founder of Social Rank Discusses How it Got the .com

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Alexander Taub, founder of SocialRank published an article on Medium.com today discussing how the startup was able to get the SocialRank.com domain name from the former owner who had his own plans for the domain name. The startup had initially used the SocialRank.CO domain name for its website, and they later decided that they needed the .com domain name.

I think people who own domain names should read the article to see how the startup was ultimately able to acquire this domain name.  In my opinion, the tactics they used could have backfired and cost them the opportunity to buy the domain name. I can only imagine what would have happened had Rick Schwartz owned the domain name.

Since Medium.com doesn’t seem to allow comments, there is an active discussion about this article on Hacker News right now.

Thanks to George Kirikos for making me aware of this article.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting read. Don’t see anything wrong with what they did. At least they did not pretend to be a college student working on a class project.

    The best of line of the story:

    Pros:
    “More legitimate → .co are for hacks and if we ever want to be a legitimate business we needed the .com”

  2. “I decided to be a little more forceful in my response. We were losing users because of this and the domain played a big part in that. I told the owner that we were first to file for the trademark and we’d be talking to our counsel about options because they were hurting us with dilution of our brand. Not only were people thinking we weren’t live, but a few Fortune 500 brands assumed SocialRank.com was us and it was obvious that it turned them off to us until they found out we were SocialRank.co. I asked the owner to take down the homepage by next Friday or we would have to move forward with legal actions.”

    Their plan from the beginning was to build the brand on an inferior extension, start the trademark process and hold a gun to the guys head and basically tell him “sell or else” or we’re going to sue you. This was a completely planned process. Dirtbags in my opinion.

    I hope the owner knew that during the last weeks of the negotiation process Social Rank got 1 million in funding. I bet he didm’t know that.

  3. Nice story indeed, but IMHO the “tricks” their advisor suggested would probably not work with people like Rick and other professionals 😉
    Every negotiation is a different story …

  4. Always great to get more insight in how end users think and behave when they are keen on purchasing their preferred domain. They definitely made a few mistakes imo (and as Shane points out, threatening with legal action makes them look pretty bad) but it’s a great example that persistence often pays off and that making an actual $$ offer get’s the ball rolling much.

  5. These guys were dumb. I can’t believe they documented their idiocy for the world to see.

    They should have negotiated and bought SocialRank.com from the owner BEFORE they ever launched their service on SocialRank.co. They were being lazy and cheap.

    The owner had every legal right to the SocialRank.com domain name despite them filing a trademark on it in 2014 because he registered SocialRank.com well before they filed the trademark — it doesn’t even matter if the owner had “prior use” of the term in commerce or not. Fact is, he registered the domain name before their trademark filing so there is no way he registered the domain name in bad faith or could be viewed as a cybersquatter taking advantage of a trademark that didn’t exist at the time of registration. They would have been laughed out of a courtroom or a UDRP hearing, and rightfully so.

    Just pay the domain name owner what he’s due — the money he asks for the domain name — and start your business on the dot com.

  6. Presently I have a potential buyer for one of my domains who wants it for her son’s school project, won’t accept my asking price but keeps telling me how clever he is and how pleased he’d be to own it. Replied that an 11 year old kid isn’t really going to need the .com when the.net ect are readily available. Anyway, checked for trademarks a couple of days and found that she’s registered one for the name in question and want it for a board game her son is making. Told her this but she still insists it probably won’t come to much. The person is on Linkedin and seems to be legit, but it’s hard to make the call between legitimate and fabricated stories when being contacted regarding a domain name.

  7. I think the people on Hacker News are making this seem much worse than it really was. I am not sure how the SocailRank.com owner can claim they were using the trademark since 2011 if they had no website and their business had not launched yet. All they had to do was put up a coming soon type page and that would have covered them. But, that would be something for a court to decide. They could easily have enough proof to win, there is no way to know. On the surface though I don’t see how Alexander Taub did anything wrong.

    No matter what now that SocialRank was big, there was going to be a confusion issue, no matter what domains each company owned. It seems more practical for the unlaunched business to rebrand. SocialRank may not have been able to legally take the .com domain, since it was not registered in bad faith, but the .com owner probably would not have been legally able to use ever use it, at least for a site that competes with SocialRank.

  8. Razzmatazz – It is not really a UDRP issue or a legal issue over the domain, it is a legal issue with the SocialRanking trademark in general. The old owner had full rights to the .com domain, but if he can’t launch a business on it because it would violate the other company’s SocialRank trademark, the domain would be useless to him.

    • @Eric Borgos – not true. It would not violate the other company’s trademark if the new SocialRank business at SocialRank.com were a new trademark in a completely different industry. The current trademark holders do not have carte blanche right to the trademark — it is limited by industry and use. So, the domain would not be “useless” to him, nor would it be worthless to him — plenty of opportunity to cash in its value.

    • @Razzmatazz – Yes, the previous owner of SocialRank.com could have still the domain in a different industry, but I can’t think of any possible value the SocialRank.com domain would have in a different industry. What other business could you use it for that is not related to social rankings (which is what the current SocialRank.com company does)? The only value the domain has is for the type of business both of these companies were going to use it for.

  9. This startup group are lowlife bottom feeders for taking this approach. Too bad Rick didn’t own the domain. Let them pay for their unethical plan. Suckers!

  10. I wouldn’t say that it’s unethical or immoral. Perhaps a ruthless or cold-business yes. Which is what goes on all the time I think, especially in an industry as big as domain name ownership and sale / resales.

    However, a lot of the domain name purchases I think come out of a strike of luck. Sometimes a user can own a name with such massive value without even knowing it. When it expires, then suddenly someone snaps it right up and then get rich. Which is why there is a big market in the registration of expired domain names and also on back orders, (which have seen a recent rise).

  11. I will say what you are all thinking: only .com is good. All others including cctlds and gtlds are .worthless!

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