Two Dozen Domain Experts Detail How Covid
Changed the Business in 2020 and What to Expect Next

Two Dozen Domain Experts Detail How Covid Changed the Business in 2020 and What to Expect Next


Welcome to
our 17th annual State of the Industry

Cover Story! We have once again called on leading experts from all major sectors of the
domain industry to get their take on how the industry
fared over the past year – a year in which a once in a
century pandemic touched almost every aspect of our
lives. While the pandemic is still a long way from
over, we’ve already learned that, for many, domains
have been one of the business world’s safest havens
in the midst of the Covid-19 storm. 

We
all hope new vaccines can bring a return to something
close 

Image
from Bigstock

to
normalcy by the end 2021 but we also wonder if the
pandemic has created a permanent change in how
people view the importance of being able to do
business in the virtual world? The answer to that
question – also asked of our panel of experts – will
have a huge impact on this industry’s prospects in
2021 and beyond. 

 

To
assemble our panel we called on successful
domain investors, developers and brokers, as well corporate
leaders from a variety of categories including
registrar and registry operators, aftermarket sales
platforms and conglomerates that offer all of those services
and more. To assure fresh voices are always in the
mix, we aim to have at least half of each year’s panel
comprised of members who were not featured the
previous year, and were able to do that again this
year.

 

A new wrinkle
this year
is a partnership with the NamesCon.Online
conference to expand on the State of the
Industry
theme so that we can jointly help
more participants in our dynamic business start
the new year fully up to speed on what changed
in 2020, where we are now and what the future
looks like in this field. As part of that
initiative, when NamesCon.Online 2021
runs January 27-29, I will host a live
State of the Industry session each morning of
the conference. On January 27 I will sit down
with Corporate Leaders, on January 28 it
will be Domain Brokers and on January 29
it will be 

Domain Investors
and Developers
(those are also the three
categories we sort our panelists into for this
annual article). The NamesCon programs will
include many of the industry experts featured in
this article, as well as some that will be
exclusive to the conference sessions, so I hope
you will take full advantage of both!

Since we value the
contributions of every expert contributor equally,
we rotate the order that each group appears in every
year. Last year we led with the Domain Investors &
Developers, followed by the Brokers, then the
Corporate Leaders. So this year, the Domain
Brokers
move up a notch to kick things
off, followed by the Corporate
Leaders
,
with the final words going to the
Domain
Investors/Developers
(the links in the
preceding category names will take you directly
to those groups). Many of our experts operate in more
than one category. For those multi-talented
individuals, we put them in the group that looks most
relevant for them this year.

Now, let’s
get this party started with an introduction to the
experts
who have graciously taken time out of their
busy schedules to share their insights with you. Please
note
: For quick access, we added a LINK
to each expert’s photo below. Just click a
photo if you want go to directly to that person’s
commentary

(with
one exception – there is no link from my photo at the
bottom right –
I
a
m just
here to direct traffic)!
 
Personally, I like to read straight through from top to
bottom so I can absorb all of the information from one
complete group at a time, but however you want to
navigate the course, I’m confident you will find it to
be time well spent! 

Our
2021 Panel of Experts

(Left
to right):

Row
1:
Kate
Buckley
(Buckley
Media), Andrew Rosener (MediaOptions.com),
Ryan McKegney
(DomainAgents.com), Jeff
Gabriel
(SAW.com).

Row 2:
Amanda Waltz

(SAW.com),  Mark Daniel (Domain
Holdings), George Hong (Guta.com),
Bill Sweetman
(Name Ninja).

Row
3:
 
Monte Cahn
(RightOfTheDot.com),
Jen Sale
(Evergreen.com), Michael Robrock
(Sedo),
David Warmuz (Trellian/Above.com). 

Row
4:
Sandeep
Ramchandani
(Radix),
Dr. Gregg McNair (Premium Traffic
Ltd.),  Mariah Reilly (Donuts), 
Andrew Miller
(ATM Holdings, Inc.).

Row
5:
Christa Taylor
(DotTBA
and MMX),
Zak Muscovitch
(Internet Commerce Association
& The Muscovitch Law Firm), Michael
Castello
(Castello Cities Internet Network),
Mike Mann (DomainMarket.com). 

Row
6:
Braden Pollock
(LegalBrandMarketing.com),
Deepak Daftari (Tie Kolkata), Morgan
Linton
(Bold Metrics Inc. and
MorganLinton.com), Ron Jackson (Editor
and Publisher of DNJournal.com’s annual State of the
Industry Report).

Domain Investors

 

….and
away we go!

 

Domain
Brokers 

Kate
Buckley 

Founder & Principal,
Buckley
Media

Seeing
domain name sales brokered by Kate Buckley
at the top of DNJournal.com charts has become a common occurrence
over the as Kate continues to ring up sales of six figures and up
(the most recent being Engage.com at over $800,000
last month).  Kate also has a
fascinating life story, one that we detailed in a 2018 DN
Journal Cover Story
. Here is Kate’s
take on how Covid-19 affected the industry in ways some might
never have expected. 

Kate
Buckley
Founder & Principal
Buckley Media

As
news of the pandemic swept the globe, I,
like many in our industry, wondered how it
would affect domain values and
aftermarket sales (both volume and
pricing)
. I reasoned it could go one
of two ways: a severe pullback and
contraction as marketing budgets shriveled
or were put on ice—or conversely, a
rapid acceleration in demand in alignment
with the old saw: “Out of chaos, comes
opportunity.”

 

Happily,
the latter proved true, and as businesses
were forced to shift dramatically to
online services in response to the global
pandemic, having a strong and
trustworthy domain name became more
important than ever. After an initial
contraction in startup activity (VC
funding decreased by 20% in Q1), the
second half of the year saw large
increases, both in funding rounds and the
establishment of new startups. This was
particularly pronounced in the U.S., where
an unexpectedly huge amount of new
companies was created in the aftermath of
the crisis
(DCMN). Consequently, demand
for consumer-facing premium .coms
skyrocketed
. At Buckley Media, we were
inundated on both the buy and the sale
side, and closed out one of our most
successful years-to-date.

 

On
significant non-Covid domain industry
trends, the march toward market
consolidation continued
(with 2021
promising more of the same). We also saw
some interesting new products and
platforms
enter the domain inventory
marketplace (such as DNWE)—which speaks
to the ongoing maturation process of the
still nascent domain name market.

 

Ideas
previously dismissed as outré are now
being normalized: cannabis, fractional
ownership, etc. The growing global
understanding and adoption of Bitcoin,
crypto, blockchain & distributed
ledgers are changing not only actual
technology, but more importantly for our
domain world, they are underscoring the
global recognition of the cost of not
being agile
—left flatfooted with a
rapidly changing global economy and
business ecosystem. In 2021 we’ll see
this further compounded: with the
astounding and massive SolarWinds hack
only recently discovered, executives who
have not invested in security choices
along with IP and shoring up their brand
will pay the price, along with their
companies. All of which opens the door to
continue to educate founders and the
C-Suite on what premium domains bring to
the table!

 

Wholesale
prices on aftermarket domains continued to
rise as a result of demand—so much so
that some wholesale prices even rose to
lower-end retail level
—as the
available inventory of good domain names
(particularly ultra-premium domains)
continues to dwindle, and as more and more
domain investors enter the market. After
all, market uncertainty historically
creates entrepreneurs and emboldens
risk-taking.

Look
ahead to the new year and beyond Kate said
this:

Recession
fears still linger, and companies continue
to recognize and prioritize growing their
status and competitiveness online. Most
investors think the market is either fully
or somewhat in a bubble. To drill down on
this further: a well-known British
investor, Jeremy Grantham, believes that
the stock market is in a
“fully-fledged epic bubble,” driven
by extreme overvaluations, explosive price
increases, frenzied issuance, and
“hysterically speculative investor
behavior.” 

 

On
that note, there’s a well-noted fear of
inflation on the horizon. Some LPs have
commented that they see early stage
startups as an inflation-protected sector
in which to park their capital. If
they’re correct, that means a lot of
money flooding into startups over the next
12 months. And all of those startups will
need domain names
.

 

Now,
founders seem to grasp, more than in years
past, the need to build their brand on the
bedrock of a premium dotcom. Overall, I
see greater awareness of domain names as
digital assets aided by a field of factors

including: last year’s massive digital
global expansion (compressing years of
growth into one) and greater adoption of
blockchain technology. We can expect to
see new wealth in unpredictable sectors,
along with increasing vocabulary and
acceptance for non-tangible assets like
domain names.

 

Kate
Buckley speaking at the first NamesCon
Online conference in September 2020,

As
ever, we’ll continue to see growth in
the top 2% of names (ultra-premium .COMs),
with end user sales of one-word, English
Dictionary .coms continuing their rise.
Likewise, good two-word .COM will increase
in both STR and price, due to the scarcity
and price points of the former. On the
other hand, we should see continued
depression in the bottom end of the
market: A polarization—mirroring the
polarization of our economy, and the
sectors that have both thrived in and been
devastated by the pandemic.

 

It’s
worth watching certain verticals that
experienced accelerated growth due to
COVID. It’s these that are bringing in
funding (and thus acquiring domains!) as
they compete to become leaders. Notable
sectors to watch: eCommerce, Gaming,
Digital Media, Healthcare, Crypto, EdTech,
Food, and Biosciences, along with startup
sectors within the categories of: Cloud,
Social, and Delivery.

 

A
vital note on data collection, biohacking,
and bio tracking (we’ve even normalized
sharing our temperatures everywhere): with
more data, plus the normalization of
sharing more extensive data than ever
before, AI has been empowered to impact
innovation on a whole new level
.

 

This
is a tremendous, world-altering shift,
particularly unexpected after years of
incrementally stringent privacy laws. What
exactly does this new normal of super data
access mean for business? Marco Casalaina,
senior VP of product management at
Salesforce remarked: “The pandemic
introduced countless new digital touch
points for B2C and B2B companies alike,
which means there’s more data than ever
before….IDC predicts that global
spending on AI will double in the next
four years, reaching $110 billion in 2024,
as companies see an opportunity to boost
innovation, improve customer service and
automate routine tasks so their employees
can focus on more strategic work.” And
all of these new digital touch points
translate into solid opportunities for the
domain industry
, as these new
companies, products and services require
solid consumer-facing domain names.

 

Lastly,
these same new touch points and
insights mean better focusing and
targeting, which result in more meaningful
and useful companies/products/services
.
And that means more revenue, greater
infusion of capital for startups, and
every single one of those items
means greater need for quality
domains…and more money to spend on these
mission-critical digital assets.

 

A
final note: the recent focus on a social
media platform’s ability to suspend or
ban accounts (both personal or corporate)
has further amplified how owning one’s
digital brand via a domain name is
mission-critical to ensuring that one’s
voice cannot be silenced. While it’s the
platform’s first amendment right to ban
any user in violation of their policies
(after all, they are profit-seeking
corporations who are well within their
rights to enforce their terms of usage),
it’s definitely opened eyes as to the
consolidated power of social media
platforms (some would say Tech
Monopolies). And, if a company wishes
to ensure they aren’t de-platformed in
the new “public square,” they would do
well to ensure they control their
brand—and therefore, their access to
their audience—via an exact match domain
name
.

Andrew
Rosener 

CEO, MediaOptions.com

At
the 2020 NamesCon Global Conference in Austin,
Texas, MediaOptions.com
Founder
Andrew Rosener
was named winner of Escrow.com’s
#1 broker in the world award, based
on the total dollar value of domains sales
transacted on their platform. Year in and year out
Andrew has proved himself to be one of the very
best in the business.

Andrew
Rosener
CEO, MediaOptions.com

The reality for the MediaOptions business is that we have been a distributed team with no central office since inception in 2008! So
Covid-19 really had no negative impact on our ability to work or our processes in any
way
. In fact, because we were ahead of the curve, I suppose it could be argued it provided us with a competitive advantage since we didn’t need to adapt at all. That was reflected in our market share of the domain brokerage market if the numbers from Escrow.com are to be used as a measuring stick.

From a business perspective solely,
2020 was the best year in our company’s history. Overall, what I would say about 2020 was that all of the trends and signals I’ve been picking up on and pondering for the last decade, finally popped their head into reality. 2020 will be seen as
the tipping point where digital real estate began it’s absorption of the bricks and mortar commercial real estate market. When
Marc Andreeseen said, “Software will eat the World.”, this is what he was talking about. EVERYTHING will be digitized, including you! Domain names are and will continue to be the bedrock foundation on which this new digital world is and will be built, likely for decades to come. 

2021 is going to be another great year for domain names! However, I do not believe that from an economic, social or even political stand point we will see much “relief” from the Covid blanket. I doubt that vaccines will achieve enough penetration or effectivity to be sufficient for returning the global economy and society to normal, particularly when you consider that this is a global economy today and global society and much of that globe won’t even see a vaccine in 2021. Perhaps towards the end of the year, but my estimate is Spring (Q2) 2022 for any semblance of normalcy.

That being said, the acceleration of the digital trend will continue at an even faster
pace
. Healthcare, education, communication, money & even travel will be further digitized. 10 years of adoption and adaptation will be compressed yet again into the next 24 months. Domain names and Bitcoin (perhaps other crypto) will be the biggest winners of that acceleration. 2021 will be the year in which these digital macro themes dove tail, exhibiting entirely new use cases of domain names and DNS, such as: identity, payments, wallets, single-sign-on, geo-targeting, geo-fencing, pseudonymous digital identity, social media, virtual societies (“metaverse”) & digital sovereignty. Combine that with cancel culture and censorship and you have a perfect storm for massive changes of hearts and minds in how the public and business leaders perceive and value domain names (and immutable digital currency). As we witness the greatest transfer of wealth in human history over the next decade, the beneficiaries will be the holders of the strongest, hardest & most recognized digital assets on Earth and the haters and doubters and those that hang on to the legacy economy and society will be the losers of that wealth.

A
blast from the past – Andrew Rosener speaking at
the 
2013 Domainfest Global Conference
in Santa Monica,
California. 

2020 saw a slew of high tech IPO’s that will likely continue into 2021.
The biggest winner there is the venture capital market. Despite what anyone may say, the biggest driver of the domain name market, or better domain name prices, is venture capital. As venture capital goes, so do domain names. There is a flood of liquidity in the VC market and more to come. They have a mandate to reinvest that capital and that means more and bigger funding rounds for startups. From what I can tell, $1 million is the new $100,000 and $1 Billion is the new $1 Million. That means more domain name sales and likely materially higher values as more demand chases less supply of premium domains. Lastly,
.COM will accelerate fastest but as prices increase rapidly, lease options and lease to own models will become the norm as apposed to the outlier and large portfolio owners will begin treating their names more like venture capital than assets to be sold. At the fringe, those who are not smart enough to take advantage of these cash flow advantaged lease models for premium .com domains, will begin adoption of lesser domain extensions. I think .Horse will be the winner in the race for second place! 



Ryan McKegney 

CEO, DomainAgents.com

DomainAgents.com
has been making waves ever since the company was
founded by Ryan’s brother, Phil McKegney and Adam Strong in
2012. The last three years in a row DomainAgents won
awards presented by Escrow.com as one of the top
ten brokerages in total sales volume worldwide on
the Escrow.com platform.

Ryan
McKegney
CEO, DomainAgents.com

The
pandemic forced ten years of change
into one.
Out of necessity,
businesses and services moved online
and consumer habits have been
permanently changed
. That rush
online was a boon to domain
registrars and many domain
investors.  We had our best
year ever at DomainAgents
.

The impact of the pandemic was not
distributed evenly. While many
businesses were hurt immensely,
companies that did well, did very
well. We continued to see a lot of
industry consolidation and record
low interest rates and high stock
prices mean that will almost
certainly continue.

The biggest challenge that we faced
was the one that everyone faced:
uncertainty. In the Spring, as a
business had to suddenly prepare for
the possibility of major economic
disruption. Our employees already
worked from home, but the pandemic
placed an enormous amount of stress
on everyone as we feared for our
health and safety. We’ve worked hard
to accommodate our employees as
they’ve dealt with the lockdowns and
stress.  Their resilience was a
major contributor to the success
we’ve had. 

2020
definitely showed us the folly in
making predictions. As I write this
in early January, there is so much
instability and so many unknowns in
politics, vaccine distribution,
crypto, to name just a few areas,
that any predictions for the year
could be proven wrong by next week

I think many of the long term trends
that the industry has seen have been
accelerated by the pandemic. 
More companies and services will
push online, including traditionally
offline services like health and
fitness, and that should be good for
domain prices. Cheap money and
high stock prices will continue to
fuel industry consolidation
as
well as interest in domains as
alternative assets.

My advice for the year would be to stay
nimble and open to opportunity
.
We’re likely at least a year away
from “normal” and what
normal looks like will be different. 
In the meantime, stay safe and keep
your eyes open for new
opportunities.

Jeff
Gabriel

Co-Founder, SAW.com

Jeff
Gabriel
Co-Founder, SAW.com

We officially launched Saw.com
in December of 2019. Our goals are the same now as they were
then:

1. To sell domain names to
every possible type of business in the world at whatever
stage they are their journey; and

2. Have fun doing it.

In Q1 of 2020, we exceeded our
projections in every category. We were, what I like to say,
“Rocking and Rolling.” Then mid-March came and
we hit a wall
. Buyers who made offers were relieved to
get countered so they were not committed to paying. At the
same time, others in our future pipeline changed from
showing buying signals to, “Call us in a couple of
months.” What was a vibrant little startup was becoming
a victim of the virus. There were six of us; we made it a
point to have regular conversations, not just about work,
but about what we were all experiencing. We discussed how we
were feeling and helping each other understand they were not
in this alone.

Once
we were finished asking ourselves where all the toilet paper
went, we decided as a Domain 

Brokerage
we weren’t going to feel sorry for ourselves and that even
though people were not buying, our customers’ domains
would be at the front of the line when they did. It was
like someone flipping a switch in mid-June
. Buyers were
back and we finished the month with just under 1M in sales.
In July, we sold $2,000,000 in domains. In the
remainder of the year, we fully exceeded all expectations,
and December finished with almost $4,000,000 in
domain sales. The virus had a short-term detrimental effect
on our business, but it also has created a demand that I
haven’t seen since the Chinese domain market took off in
2015
.  

When the virus broke out in
March, I recall speaking to a client that works at a large
company with a huge customer service team. That team had
been providing service from different offices throughout the
world. But within a matter of days, they migrated thousands
of employees from those locations to their homes. Use your
imagination. This was no easy feat! Companies that were
lagging technology-wise or getting away with a weak online
presence before COVID learned that they needed to become
more competitive online or take drastic action to stay alive
.
That has caused us to see increased demand in the Domain
Brokerage side of the business. On the Domain Blocking
front, clients with established brands and those that are
not household names as of yet are concerned about cybercrime
and want to ensure they are doing everything they can to
protect their business and their customers.  

Amanda
Waltz

Co-Founder, SAW.com

Amanda
Waltz
Co-Founder, SAW.com

The
initial challenges we expected in the early days of the
Covid19 global pandemic being recognized here in the US were
turned into opportunities with the highest annual U.S. ecommerce
growth in at least two decades
by the end of 2020.
Opportunities for internet and ecommerce businesses grew
exponentially over the past ten months with ecommerce sales
reaching a staggering $839.02B resulting in a rate of
growth by over 40% from 2019. 

Our
clients who recognized this opportunity and pivoted from
physical to online real-estate were able to not only
maintain but scale growth when times were difficult. As a
result, our team has had the pleasure to work with some
incredibly thoughtful founders who have achieved great
success and in turn are giving back to their communities and
customers impacted by Covid19. 

For
our team; one of the biggest challenges is finding
inventory
for our clients.  I believe this trend
will continue as the supply dissipates for 

quality
one word .com domains. The prices for short, easy spelled,
meaningfully positive, English language words continues to
increase.  One positive trend we see daily is that savvy
marketers finally understand the impact these valuable
domain assets have on their business
in the digital
transformation 2020 has brought to our global community.
 

 

Mark
Daniel 

Managing Director, Domain
Holdings Group

Mark
Daniel
Managing Director
Domain Holdings Group

It might be
an understatement to say it’s been an interesting
12 months as we deal with the changes affecting our normal
course of business. When the virus first hit and lockdown
began, many of us in the industry who broker domains had
concerns that it would negatively affect the domain space.
We have found that business has only increased as more
companies shift their focus from “in person” to
“online”
and better understand the value of a domain
asset. The online focus and consumer lifestyle changes
during the pandemic created some new markets and many
organizations had to adjust and continue to do so. There are
a plethora of new startups and VC organizations coming to
market. We have seen increased consolidation in the industry
as several companies made large acquisitions in 2020. GDPR
and new privacy laws continue to affect the industry. As
domain name brokers, we have had to further sharpen our
detective skills
when trying to track down registrants. 

We have also
worked with more new buyers and sellers from all over the
world who have never completed a domain transaction before.
We spend a lot of time educating our clients in our
role as domain name matchmakers. The healthcare 

and finance
spaces seemed to be the most active in 2020. Personally, I
miss the face-to-face interactions we have at industry
conferences but am hopeful that someday soon we will return
to meeting in person. I look forward to seeing many of you
at the virtual NamesCon
later this month.

2021
should be a great year for the domain space and
especially for aftermarket domain sales. Domain
valuations will keep going up. I think many of the trends we
saw in 2020 will continue this year. New digital
technologies affect the way we go about our daily lives and
simultaneously, the domain industry is also evolving and
growing. Video services such as Zoom and Teams
will remain vital for interacting with clients, employees
and associates. More online industry events may occur this
year as planning remains difficult due to the pandemic. 

Companies are
starting to better understand cryptocurrency and how
to incorporate it into the financial structure of their
organization to ensure they are prepared for the digital
future. We saw this happen with MicroStrategy and I
think as the year goes on, we will see more and more
companies getting involved. As public awareness of the
crypto space evolves, we will see increased crypto-related
domain name sales and more clients wanting to buy and sell
using cryptocurrency. 

In 2020,
about 98% of our transactions were with retail end-user
buyers vs. wholesale buyers
. As domain prices increase,
that trend will likely continue. We will keep helping our
clients make the best decisions on the right domain. Many
clients are trying to differentiate themselves from their
competitors by using short, memorable .com names. Premium
domain name sales are increasing, and it is important for
all of us to keep an eye on the changing global market
conditions. Prices for super-premium category killer domains
will continue to appreciate as we see more and more domains
“off the market forever.” Here is to a healthy and happy
2021!

George
Hong 

Founder & CEO, Guta.com

George
Hong
, a native of China who spent years
living in
the U.S and maintains offices in both
countries, is intimately familiar with key buyers
and investors on both sides of the Pacific. When
Chinese buyers became a major force in the domain
aftermarket – especially at the high end of it – a
few years ago, George’s brokerage company, Guta.com,
was experienced tremendous growth that catapulted
the firm into the top tier of brokerage services.

George
Hong

Founder & CEO

Guta.com

In 2020, businesses
adapted to the pandemic by moving online
.
However, online companies faced challenges
too. An example: many Asia based gambling
or sports betting websites were out of
business. These websites typically prefer
numeric domains; their struggle is one of
the reasons that total short numeric
domain sales fell to a historic low since
2018 (According to Guta’s Premium
Domain Sales Observation Report
). 

Due to global
trade wars and government monetary policy
controls, in 2020, it was much more
challenging than in prior years for the
Chinese buyers to convert CNY to USD and
wire the money overseas. Compared to
prior years, the number of investor buyers
who sought our help to buy domains
decreased, while the number of end-user
buyers
, who sought our help, increased

We see more
and more Chinese domain investors
buying/selling premium one-word .com
domains from/to overseas. The quantity of
western individuals and end-users
entrusting Guta to purchase domain names
from China has been increasing.

The pandemic
has accelerated many trends. Some of them,
such as the work from home and shop
from home trends, will not reverse in 2021
.
More companies will allow employees to
work from home permanently. For
many businesses, the quality of their
domain names is more important than their
office locations.  

Global
central banks had “printed”
extraordinary amounts of fiat money in
2020 and will continue to do so in 2021.
The Fed’s massive injection of fiat
money will cause hyperinflation. Buying
premium domain names is a smart way to
protect against inflation. 

Bitcoin has
been setting record highs in the first two
weeks of 2021 after it blew past its
previous high of $20,000 at the end of
2020. Bitcoin and Crypto Market will
Boom in 2021
. A robust cryptocurrency
market means good things for the domain
industry, as crypto companies and
investors flush with extra cash as their
cryptos rise are more likely to buy domain
names. Furthermore, there are advantages
of cryptocurrency payments over fiat money
payments.

Guta has
successfully brokered premium domain
transactions paid via cryptocurrencies. I
believe that increased cryptocurrency
payment adoption among domain name buyers
and sellers will lead to more domain name
transactions. I expect domain sales in
2021 would be very active, and we will see
a lot more high price domain sales
reported than we did in 2020
.

Bill
Sweetman 

President & Lead Ninja, NameNinja.com

Bill
Sweetman
has been an internet
professional for well over 20 years with
experience in just about all aspects of the
industry. With numerous six-figure sales under his
belt, Bill’s skill set
has made Name Ninja one of the top domain
brokerages/consultancies in the business. He is
also a top tie conference moderator as you will see again at NamesCon.online
January 27-29, 2021
.

Bill
Sweetman

President & Lead Ninja

Name Ninja

In
February and March, due to the
pandemic and general business mood
at the time, Name Ninja proactively
went into defensive mode and ‘braced
for impact’
. I’ve managed
several businesses successfully
through global economic recessions
in the past, so I knew the general
playbook to use, although I was
still on edge since this time things
felt very different. We were fully
expecting a downturn in our buyer
brokerage business, especially after
one mid-sized project was cancelled,
so we took evasive action, watched
our expenses and cash flow very
closely, and secured additional
business lines of credit so we could
ride out the storm. We also tried to
shower our loyal clients with lots
of love and attention for sticking
with us. 

Miraculously,
that storm never came
, and we
saw a steady uptick in business from
April onwards. We ended up having
the second best year in the
seven-year history of Name Ninja,
and I partially credit that to the global
awakening
that companies the
world over had that doing business
means doing that business online
via a Website using a great
quality domain name

I
also give major kudos to my amazing
team of Ninja and freelance agents
who were already used to

working
remotely and really pitched in to
help one another through a very
challenging time. I know that many
businesses suffered or collapsed
last year, it was painful to see
that devastation, so I feel very blessed
to work in that rare business sector
that actually saw business increase

this past year. 2020 was a brutal
year that really tested everyone’s
patience and strength and also
forced us to focus on what’s
important in life. I feel very lucky
to have survived the year,
personally and professionally.

2021
is shaping up to be a huge year in
the domain industry. The economy is
going to improve, especially in some
countries, and more and more
businesses have realized the
importance of using a great domain
name. With innovative platforms like
DAN.com and DNWE.com and others
making bold moves in this space,
2021 is going to be an exciting year
of change, disruption, and new
opportunities the likes of which we
haven’t seen in over a decade. Here
at Name Ninja, we’re onboarding an
additional Ninja to our team this
month, and I’m no longer bracing for
impact, I’m bracing for growth!

Monte
Cahn 

Founder, President & Director, RightOfTheDot.com

Monte
Cahn
is a true domain
industry pioneer who has handled some of the biggest domain sales
on record while providing world class aftermarket services since
entering
the industry (before it was even an industry) back in 1994. Monte
deserves a lot of the credit for paving the way countless other
have followed over the past 25 years. 

Monte
Cahn
Founder, President & Director
RightOfTheDot.com

The Covid / Corona Pandemic significantly affected the entire world and therefore
I would say everyone was negatively affected in some way. Although only a few did not see or feel it in the domain industry, I would say the majority of the market was down by at least 30% in overall sales volume and possibly more in sale value averages due to the overall financial markets being down globally. People were holding onto their funds, some industries like entertainment, travel, restaurants took and are still taking huge negative hits so if you have domains in those industries, you saw a significant drop in traffic, revenue, and sales and resale values. 

On the other side, healthcare, telemedicine / covid, work at home, etc. related domains increased in value, however, sales volumes certainly were not increased that much due to the uncertainty in overall markets and the unpredictable events happening around us. 

To that end domain names proved once again to be a very valuable asset in bad
times
. Although values in many categories saw some lows, there was still some liquidity and many saw good chances to buy at good prices while others sold for profit and reallocated those funds for other
purposes. It

reminded me of flashbacks of the 2000 and 2008 recessions where domain names were a quantifiable asset that could be turned into cash or a new venture. I / RightOfTheDot managed to sell several big 6 figure domains in March through August and a 7 figure name along with others before year end. Those names could have sold for more given the right environment and circumstances but everyone was happy on all sides.

The process of getting back to normal will take time in my opinion. My guess is that it will take 18 – 24 months for things to settle down and come back to somewhat normal especially with the political changes and turmoil in our government. In the mean time the stock market has been gaining strength as well as crypto currency markets. With that said, many are losing their jobs as business continue to close and we will likely have the highest unemployment rates and downward pressure on the overall economy in years. This is likely to affect most financial markets and will affect the domain industry.

In my opinion, it is more important than ever before to keep our industry fluid with legitimate sales and transactions. To have domain names highlighted and at the top of industries as live successful businesses will be critical. To that end and in full support of our industry, I / RightOfTheDot will hold yet another successful premium live and online auction in February with details to be announced soon! Domain sales are good for our business and this industry, in good times and in bad. It proves that domain names are real assets with residual value and those domains can continue to trade, become real companies and businesses and information sites, etc. In some cases, the sales prices may not be that in years past but
having transaction liquidity and fluidity will be very important over the next 2
years
. This will keep our industry strong and eventually thriving once again.

Jen
Sale 

CEO, Evergreen.com

Jen
Sale
CEO, Evergreen.com

Throughout
2020, Evergreen.com
experienced a surge in sale enquiries for one-word
.COM domain names
under brokerage.

Some
of our prospective buyers included aspiring entrepreneurs
seeking great domains for their new ventures,
brick-and-mortar businesses going digital and established
companies expanding virtually and upgrading their brands.

A number of leads were not familiar with the domain name
aftermarket and valuations, so our team spent time with
them, breaking it all down. As such, we have considerably
expanded our buyer network for one-word .COM domains.

Oneword
.COM domains will continue to increase in value and
demand
, however the quality of leads may be questionable
for some time – something we are personally working to
remedy via our sale
landers
and marketplace.

 

The
future of professional travel looks grim
in 

the
midst of COVID-19, so video teleconferencing and virtual
events are not going anywhere, anytime soon. We highly value
and enjoy in-person meetings with colleagues, clients and
friends, and can’t wait for a face-to-face reunion!

Next
up….

Corporate
Leaders

Michael
Robrock

CEOSedo.com

After
a successful 20-year career in online marketing, Michael
Robrock
took on a major role at Sedo in
August 2019 as their new Chief Operating Officer.
Barely a year later, on Sept.
1, 2020
, Robrock was picked to lead
the company as the industry giant’s new CEO

Michael
Robrock
CEO,
Sedo.com

2020
was a year like no other that no one
could have prepared for but in spite
of all its challenges, Sedo had one
of its best years performance-wise
.
Like many others in our industry,
there was a small negative impact
when the pandemic first began but
we came back from this vigorously. We
saw internet usage expand
correlating with an increased demand
for domains
, our parking
business grew expotentially
and
domain trading overall peaked well
above our predications especially at
the ultra-premium level. There was
also a 20% uptick in our
ccTLD
sales category which
may be due to businesses targeting
specific markets internationally. 

For
us personally, we take the safety
and comfort level of our employees
very seriously and in response to
the global pandemic, Sedo
immediately transitioned to working
remotely
from home. Our staff
was well prepared for this shift as
home office is already in practice
within our corporate culture. But
naturally we are looking forward to
when we can safely be all together
again in our offices.
 

Overall,
our challenges in the last year
dealt mostly 

with
adapting to the “new normal”
but even under these unusual
circumstances Sedo was still working
towards improving and further
developing our existing product
lineup and services. Another
challenge we’re addressing is
being able to offer an even more
efficient and streamlined selling
process
to our domain sellers. These
are just a few goals we will
continue to work on in the coming
year to achieve some very
positive results.

Everyone
including all of us at Sedo are
anxiously awaiting a broad and
successful distribution of the
Covid-19 vaccines resulting in more
normalcy in their daily lives. With
this we still see the need further
increased for businesses to have effective
online presences
and be able to
support their customer bases fully
online which means more domain
sales
for marketplaces like
ours.  With financial markets
moving towards more balance, there
will also be more investments in
premium domains
and increased
activity from domain investors more
willing to take risks in building up
their domain portfolios. 

AI
and technology
are still going
to be big areas of opportunity
within the domain world. As will bitcoin
and alternative currencies. Themes
that have come from the pandemic
like virtualization including online
learning, remote working options and
delivery services will continue to
perform strongly among domain sales. 
As people start to return to their
normal ways of life and getting out
more fashion, cosmetics
and similar categories will have an
increase in sales along with related
domains.  Travel and leisure
industries should also experience a
positive spike after a huge hit to
their business lines.

 

The
domain industry has undergone a lot
of consolidation in recent
years and with all the shifts of the
past year, it’s only natural to
foresee this continuing. But
we believe overall the industry will
become stronger and more resilient
even with all of the changes we’ve
faced in the last year. 

David
Warmuz

Founder & CEO, Trellian.com
and Above.com

Trellian.com
Founder David Warmuz celebrated the company’s 23nd
anniversary
in 2020. David, who serves as CEO of both
Trellian its popular domain monetization, aftermarket and
brokerage platform, Above.com, launched Trellian
with his late brother Ren and their remarkable journey was
detailed in a November 2017 DNJournal Cover
Story

David
Warmuz
Founder
& CEO 
Trellian/ Above.com

As
for 2020, what a year it was! 

I
know that 2020 was a difficult year for
everyone, with lots of changes required,
not just at work, but also how we work, at
home and with family. These changes
forced us to adapt
and we were
fortunate enough to be in an industry that
saw substantial increases in demand.
We were also extremely blessed to have
such an amazing team of over 60 that had
to transition to working from home. The
whole team grew closer and many work flow
improvements were made that I know our
business will benefit for many years to
come.

As for the domain industry, domain
monetization
and domain name sales
were a clear winner
, in both volumes
and $ values. More and more businesses
realized the need to go online and the
need for a good domain name, thus creating
a demand that is still strong. This
trend will continue in 2021
, so
definitely expect more sales and for more
$.

The demand for quality traffic in many
verticals had a huge spike in 2020,
with some exceptions such as travel
vertical that dropped to nil. Good news is
that we are starting to see signs of
recovery in 

the
travel vertical as well, but 2021 will see
a continued growth in demand for domain
traffic by many advertisers. Domain
traffic simply converts the best
.

Many
c
lients saw a greater need for a
professional service to help them manage
all parts of their portfolios:
registrations, renewals, sales and
monetization. Our focus for 2021 will be
to continue to grow our Above Managed
domain portfolio service that generated
exceptional returns for our clients,
capitalizing on our strong advertiser
demand , that we fully anticipate to
continue to growth.

As predicted, Bitcoins in December
2020 started their usual upward trend, but
where it peaked even surprised me as one
of the original miners and investors. I
really liked this surprise!

2021 will see a number of bitcoin price
corrections and multiple runs that I
expect to surpass the current top price.

Really looking forward to 2021 and
consolidating on the amazing growth and yes
we are hiring!  



Sandeep Ramchandani

CEO,  Radix (part of the Directi Group) 

In
2018 Sandeep Ramchandani
completed a 15-year rise through the ranks to
become CEO
at Radix Registry
, a
position he continues to thrive in at a company
that operates nine new gTLDs and one re-purposed
ccTLD as part of industry giant Directi Group.
Radix now has millions of domains under
management.

Sandeep
Ramchandani
CEO, Radix Registry

Covid
related challenges

When
Covid hit, it filled our minds with a
type of uncertainty we had not experienced
before
. We resisted the advice to lower
our marketing investments, and to brace for
an extremely challenging few years ahead as
the global economy slips into recession.
Every economic pundit was certain that Covid
is the trigger which would end the
economic boom
that we had witnessed in
the previous decade. Knowing that the growth
in our business is correlated to the
economic activity in general and birth-rate
of new businesses more specifically, we did
expect some short term detrimental impact
which would last a couple of years at least.

I
recollect a particular weekend in March when
I received some enquiries from our founders
regarding Covid’s impact on new sales. My
response was “Nothing yet! As a
matter of fact, we’ve just had our best
weekend in 2020!
” I expected that
to be an aberration and that we would
eventually start seeing a slow-down. I
couldn’t be more wrong; as was evident in
the months that followed.

Turned
out that domain names, along with all
sorts of digital products and services,
would see a sharp boost followed by
a sustainable acceleration in growth
due to Covid. As cities started locking
down, businesses of all types, and retail
in particular, could no longer put
‘building a website’ on the backburner.
Websites were suddenly elevated to
becoming mission critical for every
business, whether small or large, and
across industries globally.

.store
and .online for obvious reasons
have seen the most uptake since March, but
all other TLDs including .site, .fun
and .tech have had one of their
best years yet.

Major Non-Covid
Event 

Registry
Industry

One doesn’t
need to look back too far, or think too
hard, to identify the Afilias sale
to
Donuts as the biggest event
in Registry space last year. Afilias has
been one of the most recognizable brands
in our industry, and it played a big part
in the development of the modern domains
ecosystem. They also contributed to the ICANN
community by setting new technical
benchmarks, innovating in the DNS, and
combating abuse. As someone who entered
the industry at the time when .info was
launched, for me, this marked the end of
an era.

Domains
Industry

The biggest,
and easily the most shocking, event (or
non-event) of the year was ICANN
rejecting .org’s sale to a private equity
group, Ethos Capital
. I was amongst
those who assumed that ICANN’s approval
was a mere formality. ICANN’s board must
be given due credit for making the bold
decision. There is a clear alignment
between PIR’s ‘not for profit’ status, and
the purpose behind a vast majority of the
.org registrants. Moving .org to a
‘for-profit’ private equity entity under
the stated terms, and placing .org under a
$360 million debt, would not
be in any way serving the best interest of
the 10 million+ .org user base. It
enables ICANN to signal to the community
at large that they are more than a ‘rubber
stamper’, and that it can do what’s
necessary to uphold the interest of
internet users at large.

Radix
CEO Sandeep Ramchandani speaking at
the 
2018 NamesCon Global conference in Las
Vegas.

We
see
Covid as an accelerant
.
Large segments of customers sitting on the
sidelines, not seeing it as necessary to
set up a business website or adding
e-commerce capabilities to their existing
websites, now see their online presence as
one of the ways to ensure survival in the
post-Covid world.

Even after a majority of the world’s
population is vaccinated, and things start
returning to normalcy, the way of doing
business will be changed permanently
.
Having gone through a phase where
digitization and virtuality was forced,
those who operated in a ‘high-touch’,
analog style, have tasted the gains in
efficiency by adopting a virtual-first
approach
of doing business. And there’s
no going back!

Carvana, a platform where
used-cars are purchased online, did $1.5
billion
in revenue in Q3 2020 (up
43% yoy
). How quickly has mankind gone
from questioning the idea of buying
everyday items on the Internet, to
trusting a 100% online experience for
buying a car? Cars are usually among the
top three highest ticket purchases made by
any household. Carvana buyers have no
opportunity for a prior, real-life visual
of the vehicle, leave aside taking it for
a quick spin to see how it ‘feels’.

If the ultimate, high touch, high
ticket and high experience product can
shift to online first, anything can,
and over time, everything will.

Radix operates a bunch of great top
level domains such as .online, .site,
.fun, .tech, store amongst others. We feel
extremely good about playing a more
dominant role in powering the online
addresses of the new generation
entrepreneurs across industries.

Extremely excited over what’s in
(.)store in 2021. As more of the world
moves (.)online and (.)websites gain more
prominence, it’s going to be a busy but
(.)fun ride 😉

Dr.
Gregg McNair

Founder and Chairman,  Premium
Traffic Ltd
.  

Dr.
Gregg McNair
is a veteran of our industry despite, as he would
say, being somewhat late to the party! The background and
commercial skills of ggg, along with his technical management
team, quickly advanced PTL to a position of prominence and success
which has been maintained for more than 15 years.

Gregg
McNair
Founder & Chairman
Premium Traffic Ltd.

Whilst
2020 began with the normal flurry, and Namescon in Austin
set the tone for a great year, we all know that the Pandemic
quickly impacted the whole world, including our industry,
mostly in negative ways at first. But as the world became
more accustomed to the new normal, so our ever flexible
industry morphed to embrace the before unknown intensity of online
communication, business and shopping. 

The PTL
monetisation platforms ended the year with amazing upward
results
, more than compensating for the devastation of a
few specific verticals, such as travel and entertainment. 

The
harvesting of new domains has become one of our major
businesses these days with monthly revenues exceeding
seven figures
in December and on track for much more. The
business model of accumulation and excellent monetisation
has stood our group in good stead for continued expansion
and servicing of new larger monetisation clients. 

One
wonders where the consolidation of our space will end,
however in such a comparatively small industry many of the
combinations actually make sense overall. 

Philanthropy
has always been an intrinsic cornerstone of the PTL Group.
The year 2020 brought a whole new level of needs and
opportunities to provide assistance to hundreds of
families devastated by Covid
and the subsequent
lock-downs of already impoverished communities. 

All in
all, a pretty terrible year for the world but not so bad for
the domain industry.

Sharing the view that the 2021
recovery of world economies, post Covid, will take much
longer than predicted
, we remain confident that internet
use, fueled somewhat by more permanent work from home
adoption, will continue to grow.  

I believe that the Covid
vaccination programs will experience slippage and setbacks,
especially in poorer countries and the pandemic will
continue to prevent the rapid return of many of the old
freedoms we enjoyed. 

Consolidation will
continue
fueled by at least two factors. Economics will
force some industry players to sell, especially those which
have dependencies outside of domain sales or monetisation.
Uncertainties and the reflection on life values, encouraged
by the pandemic, will bring others to change focus and
decide to liquidate even if valuations are less than
previously envisaged. 

The impact of Verisign price
increases
will negatively impact the whole industry in
2021 and will test the resolve of that company, the only
positive recipient, to retain any respect in the industry by
deferring once again the .com price increases. Almost
everyone knows that despite the injustice of the increases
from any perspective, that ICANN failed to protect
its constituents once again. 

Dr.
Gregg McNair
urging attendees at the 2016 NamesCon
Global
conference in Las Vegas to join and
support the Internet Commerce Association – the
non-profit organization dedicated to protecting domain
owner’s rights.

There are other potential
injustices facing domain registrants in 2021. Our only
collective voice, especially at ICANN, is the Internet
Commerce Association
(ICA)
. Join
the ICA
or increase your membership category to
enable our registrant rights to be better protected from
those seeking to dilute or destroy them. Contact Kamila
on +1 646 894 4590 or kamila@internet
commerce.org
 

I’d like to acknowledge and thank
those who have joined us in assisting the less fortunate in
this world as they experience the further body blow from
Covid. It’s far from over for them and we are redoubling our
efforts for 2021 in gratitude for the comparative  and
unique prosperity our industry has, and continues to enjoy.
Contact me for further details +1 512698 0407 or ggg@PTL.com

Mariah
Reilly

Senior Director, Channel Management,  Donuts
Inc.
 

Mariah
Reilly
is a talented domain industry veteran who has been
serving in executive positions with top tier domain companies
since entering the business back in 2007 with Demand Media.
Successive stints with eNom and Rightside led to her current
position with Donuts, the world’s biggest operator of new TLDs
with well over 200 extensions in their portfolio.

Mariah
Reilly
Senior Director, Channel Management
Donuts Inc.

Everyone has been affected by
the events of 2020 in different ways. I am incredibly proud
of not just Donuts’ resilience and agility during the
uncertainty of the past year, but of our industry as a
whole
. Kudos to all the people who quarantined and
working remote still ensured that businesses were able to
thrive and grow online!

At Donuts, we have a bird’s
eye view of the industry and domain trends. We’ve observed
the pandemics’ effect on the world reflected in our data as
almost every industry pivoted to virtual or alternative
operations
. Trends such as telehealth, virtual or hybrid
education, delivery services, fitness, streaming and more
were all reflected in TLD sale trends during 2020. TLDs such
as .delivery, .live, .boutique and .education
saw surges up to 300% YoY.

Seeing
these trends in real time gave the Donuts team a renewed
appreciation for the strength of the TLDs in our portfolio.
It also influenced enhancements we made to Donuts products
like RNS, to help users find the best available name for
their digital identity. The data we are seeing also inspired
a new publication from Donuts called the Domain
Trend Reports
… a fun report to share 

the
domain trends we see with the rest of our industry. Despite
the abnormal circumstances and adjustments that everyone on
our team had to make, Donuts came out of 2020 stronger
than ever
.

Digital security was and
is at the forefront of everyone’s mind! Not only did we
get this feedback from consumer surveys we conducted in
early 2020, we saw those concerns mount as the Internet
experienced a surge in the number of malicious behaviour
and cyber attacks
during the height of Covid-19. 
Protecting against phishing and other security
vulnerabilities is an increasing priority for businesses of
all sizes.  Providing a secure internet will
continue to remain in the forefront of Donuts’ mission. 
In 2020, we launched the TrueName brand, offering
registrants the benefit of our robust security technology by
blocking malicious homographic domain variants on every
Donuts domain registered at no cost. Our commitment to
security will continue as we integrate Afilias teams
and technologies.  I predict that we will see more
companies and individuals within the domain industry become
more vocal and take action to provide a secure and safe
place on the internet in 2021.

Andrew
Miller

Founder & President, ATM
Holdings, Inc.

When
you talk about longevity in the domain world a lot of people have
been around long enough now to be called veterans but there aren’t
too many real pioneers – people who who were successfully
plying the trade in the 1990s – over 20 years ago now! Andrew
Miller
is one of the pioneers and he has the track record to
prove it. 

Andrew
Miller
Founder & President
ATM Holdings, Inc.

I have been investing in
domains since 1998
, when we acquired our first category
domain, Beer*com, which we sold a few months later
for an eye opening $7.2m at the time. From there, I
went on to be a Founder, investor, partner, or advisor on so
many “iconic” category domains, such as Diamond*com,
Shop*com, Timeshares*com, Computer*com,
Software.com, Chocolate.comTours.com,
and of course my operating companies, CreditCards*com
& InsuranceQuotes*com

While 2020 with Covid had such
a widespread impact on how businesses both thrive and
survive, it was also a transcendent year for a shift
in category and exact match domain names. While from
1998-2019 we experienced the success of several generic
domain name branded companies, as well as large dollar
buy/sell transactions, 2020 was the year where it became
evident that the decades of education of the importance
and asset value of prime Internet addresses really bore
fruit
. Many of the most successful emerging PE and VC
backed companies realized that their exact match category
domain name was both a must have asset and a path of
least resistance to widespread word of mouth growth,
increased sales, and exponential enterprise value.

The
next step is to see this trend expand to the corporate and
investment fund management teams that still have not
figured this out
. It is a next level time for domains,
with so much opportunity, provided we can keep the momentum
to overcome some of the same challenges that have existed
 since 1998. 2020 was the most important shift
towards that of any year to date. 

2021
has to be a better year for our country and the global
landscape. While Covid will not resolve itself for awhile,
making 2021 as challenging at the outset as 2020 was, there
is so much to look forward to and be optimistic about.
The vaccine will begin to take hold, likely halfway through
2021. We have new leadership in the US that, regardless of
one’s political affiliation, will bring more positivity,
compassion, and collaboration to the globe, which is good
for both humanity and business.  Many people, small
businesses, companies, and industries will have been gravely
hurt by the pandemic, and many others will have thrived
because of the new normal. In either scenario, resiliency
and adaptation will be a necessary trait
. The year 2020
was transformative in how business in all categories will be
conducted for decades to come, and in many ways accelerated
changes and facilitated behaviors that were already
underway. It will continue to be necessary to adapt quickly
and embrace seismic shifts. Partial remote to fully
remote work is here forever
, cloud kitchens will be a
mandatory skill set for those in food service, home fitness
will grow, and a cashless society led by Bitcoin type
crypto currencies
will become mainstream.  

What
does this mean for domain names?
They will continue to
be the “landing spot” and “doorway” to all of these
shifts and great opportunities. “Location, location,
location” will be more important than ever on the global
Internet.  Secondary TLD’s will continue to bolster
the asset value of .com and be a money maker for
registrars and secondary marketplaces, yet a poor investment
by those who buy them, as .com becomes as
engrained in the mind of billions of consumers as the word
that comes before it. The convergence of all devices  that
was promised in the early 2000’s is finally real and
it’s here, and domain names are the common link, a trend
we will see continue from 2020 and be cemented in 2021.
 

Christa
Taylor

Founder, DotTBA
& Chief Marketing Officer, MMX

Christa
Taylor
is another one of those rare executives who has now
spent over 20 years in the domain business and unlike almost
anyone else you will meet,  Christa started in this business
at the top – as the CEO/CFO at Poker.com Inc. in 1999! In
2012, Christa, a master of analytics, founded DotTBAa
firm that provides financial, marketing and other services to new
generic Top Level Domains
and
in 2019 she took on an additional role as CMO at MMX. You
will also see a lot of Christa at NamesCon.Online
where she will be one of the primary moderators.

Christa
Taylor
Founder, DotTBA and CMO, MMX

From a
data perspective
, the wave of COVID related domain name
registrations was both interesting and concerning.  In
January there were around 1.3k names registered containing
‘covid’ or ‘corona’ to a peak of 64k in March to
6.9k in December for a yearly total of 205k.  Data was
used to flag websites disseminating disinformation and
unsafe products
(fraudulent cures, uncertified personal
protective equipment, fake test kits, spoof government
financial aid sites along with the familiar cyberthreats) to
help keep people safe. 

Also, a time
where analytics became a part of everyone’s daily
routine.  News outlets provided timely updates on
infection rates using machine learning from data collected
around the world on a daily basis (yes, daily!), a host of
now mainstream terms, ‘flattening the curve’,
‘infection rate’, ‘next wave’ and the use of visual,
interactive graphs and maps have become the norm.    

Both
a challenge and an opportunity is the development of
streamlined methods and 

policies
that support registrars and registries in safeguarding
users from disinformation
that could affect the health
and safety of users.  At the same time, non-EU
governments will be wrangling on introducing new
legislation on internet privacy
, akin to GDPR, which
could generate a multitude of new issues within the Internet
community.

On the positive side, we’ll
become accustomed to new visual charts on the volume of
vaccinations and predictions on when herd immunity targets
will be achieved and when we’ll be able to see our friends
and colleagues in person instead of a video call.

Zak
Muscovitch

General
Counsel at Internet
Commerce Association
& Principal at The Muscovitch
Law Firm

Veteran
Toronto-based attorney Zak Muscovitch has
long been acknowledged for his expertise in
UDRP
issues but he has also gained acclaim for
the extraordinary work he has done as General Counsel for the Internet
Commerce Association
(the non-profit
organization that protects to domain registrant
rights). While Covid-19 overshadowed almost every
aspect of business and personal life around the globe, Zak pointed
out that some events of historic importance to domain registrants
also went down in 2020.

Zak
Muscovitch
ICA General Counsel & 
Principal at The Muscovitch Law Firm

In
my capacity as General Counsel to
the Internet Commerce Association (ICA),
I would say that one of the most
significant events from 2020 was
the rejection of the attempted
acquisition of the .Org registry by
Ethos Capital
for 1.3 Billion
dollars. In 2019, ICANN removed all
price caps on .org domain names despite
massive public opposition
. The
historical price caps were a crucial
safeguard against unjustified price
increases on a captive market of
.org registrants. By removing price
caps, ICANN paved the way for the
attempted purchase of the entire
.Org registry by Ethos Capital, who
obviously determined that
unrestrained price increases on a
captive market made the .Org
registry an even more lucrative
take-over target. Some people
believed that the fact that the .Org
registry was in the hands of a not
for profit, Public Interest
Registry
, was a sufficient guard
against unbridled price increases on
registrants, so when the purported
Ethos Capital acquisition was
announced, many people immediately
realized that .Org registrants were
likely to be subjected to
unrestrained price increases by the
new for profit owner. 

The
harm of the impending price
increases were compounded by the
fact that many .Org

registrants
are non-profit organizations

such that cost increases would come
at the expense of the services that
they are providing, who are long
entrenched on .org domain names,
have no suitable alternatives, and
in any event migration to another
TLD would be impractical for many
and would cause confusion and make
them more vulnerable to fraudulent
impostors.

Since
ICANN had already demonstrated
disregard for the public interest in
removing price caps
in the first
place, many were fearful that ICANN
would do the same thing again, and
permit Ethos to take over the .Org
registry. One of those fearful
parties was the California Attorney
General Xavier Becerra, who
on April 15, 2020, wrote to ICANN
and urged ICANN to reject the
transfer and let ICANN know that it
would take “whatever action
necessary” to protect registrants.
This unprecedented intervention by a
powerful governmental authority on
ICANN’s normally independent
decision-making demonstrated that ICANN
was not trusted to make decisions in
the public interest
, having
disregarded it in removing price
caps in the first place, thereby
setting the table for the purported
acquisition. ICANN, under threat
from the California Attorney
General, was then compelled to
reject the acquisition.

ICANN
has a history of deferring to the
large companies under its mandate
and approving sweetheart deals

that benefit those companies at
the expense of the general public

whose interests ICANN is supposed to
represent.  It is unfortunate
that it took outside action by the
California AG’s office to prevent
this debacle.  We will only
learn in the future whether the
significance of ICANN’s rejection of
the sale of .org to Ethos Capital is
that ICANN is unable to protect the
interests of the general public on
its own, or whether the significance
is that this is a wake-up call
alerting ICANN to its failure
and
that ICANN will now remember for
whose interests it is supposed to be
acting.  The significance of
the event is also that ICANN
was on notice
that governmental
authorities are prepared to
intervene in the public interest
when ICANN fails to do so.

ICA
General Counsel Zak Muscovitch
speaking at a meeting of Internet
Commerce 
Association members at the 2020
NamesCon Global conference in
Austin, Texas.

In
terms of how Covid affected ICANN,
well it cancelled all in-person
meetings for the foreseeable future.
Such meetings, which have
historically been conducted in
far-flung places 3-4 times a year
have always been subject to
criticism due to their expense and
utility. So the cancelling due to
Covid in some way, was arguably
an improvement
since it has been
demonstrated that much of ICANN’s
work can be effectively conducted
online.  

2021
will see how the new Administration
in Washington may affect .com
pricing
. Under the Trump
Administration, ICANN and Verisign
were permitted to raise prices on
.com registrations despite no
real justification for doing so
.
It is of course yet to be seen how
new leadership at the NTIA,
Department of Commerce, and
Department of Justice views ICANN
and its virtually perpetual no-bid
contracts with registry service
providers, but there is an
expectation that improvements are
possible.

On
the UDRP front, 2021 will be
the year that the UDRP is reviewed
after 20+ years without any
changes
to it. ICANN will
strike up a Working Group to review
the UDRP so we can expect interested
parties to advocate for changes to
the UDRP which may negatively effect
or improve the prospects for domain
name registrants. I encourage all
registrants who are concerned with
or are affected by the UDRP, to contact
me and get involved in the UDRP
review
.

Next
up….

Domain
Investors & Developers 

Michael
Castello

CEO, Castello Cities Internet Network (CCIN)
Co-Founder, CastelloBrothers.com

In
addition to being a pioneering and highly successful and visionary
domain investor (with sales including Whisky.com at $3.1
million
), Michael Castello and his brother David
have developed
multiple successful websites, including PalmSprings.com,
Nashville.com and DayCare.com to name just a few. Michael and David were profiled in our December 2006 Cover
Story

Michael
Castello
CEO, Castello Cities Internet Network
Co-Founder, CastelloBrothers.com

The Queen’s
Gambit

What does a chess opening have to do with domain names? Everything.

I play a lot of chess. What we are now seeing with Big
Tech is the Queen’s Gambit — a bold move to take control
of the board
. The monopolies and Big Tech companies are so
emboldened with their consolidation of power, they believe
they can now force people into compliance and under their
dominion. Why not? No one is stopping them.

In the game of chess, the queen is the most powerful
piece. The queen does not usually move out early. She
waits until the mid-game, when the other pieces have
established their positions. But with the Queen’s Gambit,
the queen takes the board much earlier. If left unchecked,
the game can quickly come to a close.

Big Tech’s success depends on whether its opponents do not
see the attack or realize its intention
.

In today’s world, we needed what Big Tech offered —
but with that comes a much greater cost. The protocols and
platforms they built upon were offered equally to all of
us by the Internet’s creators — founders including Jon
Postel
,

Vint
Cerf
, and Tim Berners-Lee — that created the
bedrock it stands on. They asked for nothing in return. It
was barren land, and all that was needed were people to
breathe life into it, untethered and unencumbered.

In a free
and open Internet, domain names are the greatest
expression of freedom
. It is a form of ownership offered
to us with the most potential for our growth and success;
the homestead of the virtual world. The creation of the
DNS (Domain Name System) allowed people to immerse within,
navigate, and make whole the Internet.

A domain name allows for anyone to create a Google,
Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. That may now all change
if we allow those employing the Queen’s Gambit to
checkmate the rest of us. They are certainly positioned to
do so; the perfect storm in a Machiavellian race for
control.

For big tech and the monopolies to succeed, they need
compliance and submission
by those that they must control.
In our compliance, we will have what I call “PaPow”
— Pain or Power. Compliance is the currency of the
future. You are rewarded for your compliance with access
and influence within their established hierarchies and
walled gardens. These are false prophets of intellect.

These platforms have now coalesced to form an even greater
power, one yet unmatched — because we ourselves helped to
empower them with our data. Government oversight refused
to rein them on their anti-trust and unfair business
practices
. Politicians may not understand how the virtual
world works — or they may be negligent in their duty.

Michael
Castello speaking at a 2015 meeting of professional 
domain investors and developers in Fort Lauderdale,
Florida.

This could be a good juncture for the domain industry’s
growth. As I write this, big tech monopolies are flexing
their muscle unchecked by restricting smaller businesses
and opposing points of view. Out of these restrictions
comes the ability to promote domain names and website
addresses outside of these powerhouses of influence.

There are two paths forward. The correct one leads to an
Internet that allows its people to express themselves
openly and freely without a grand overseer. We must move
to counter the Queen’s Gambit
.

Everything is in flux as we move into 2021.

Domain name sales have been much slower than in previous
years, no doubt partly from the uncertainty that COVID-19
has inflicted on our society and the economy. However,
that has not stopped many from buying and selling domain
names. I have written many times over the years that a
grand event would push the masses onto the internet. While
everyone is combating the pandemic, many are forced to
take their livelihoods to the web
.


Cryptocurrencies
like Bitcoin could soon become tethered
to the banking system, and subjected to regulations in
kind. That’s a major change in the story of crypto over
the next decade, with potentially huge ramifications for
crypto’s value. If domain names do not abide by new
standards of censorship, will domain names and their
content be subjected to stringent regulation or even
deplatforming?

Prepare for the segregation of people, segregation of
ideas, and segregation of creativity.

I wrote several years ago that our population envisions
two conflicting truths. That is ultimately the truest
expression of free speech. Everyone has their convictions
on what is right or wrong. Plausibility or deniability is
all that is needed as a foundation. The support systems
that validate those views make them viable.

In many ways, this is the future that will flourish in a
free and open society. An open Internet allows for these
systems to propagate freely. It is not the job of
monopolies, governments, or extremists to encroach,
control, or dissolve them. A free society supports many
ecosystems of thinkers. It is not so much the segregation
of people that is the problem, but the propagation of
thought only among the like minded. Freedom allows for
creativity. This plays very well for domain names and the
network of individuals that make up this industry.

Michael
Castello with wife Sheri and daughter Jessica 
at the 2014 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference in Las Vegas.

Cocooning should be promoted even if it goes against the
values of opposing views. These systems will either carry
forward or dissolve on their own. Compliance to these new
thought systems is the currency of those who believe in
its principles.

The question that remains: will these ideas be allowed to
flourish?
If Big Tech monopolies or governments impose
strict standards to their compliance, then our domain
names are worth much less. With over 300 million domain
names, there can either be 300 million new creative ideas
and businesses, or cookie-cutter platforms of redundancy
and decadence. The few influencers left with the most
power, will have all the leverage in a closed web society.

The end-game for the powerful is in your ultimate
compliance to their influence. That influence is
manifested by you when you use their services. In their
overreach, they may not be able to sustain that influence
without a completely controlled membership. If that
clientele dwindles, they will collapse under the weight of
the massive, costly infrastructure they maintain for their
members.


The solution is to promote the development of your domain
address
. This plays well for our industry. We will now
have millions looking for an outlet. Domain names are the
beginning of that process. The names and extensions that
you now own are the future currency of these thought
platforms.

The dollar is simply a piece of paper. Its value is in
what we believe is its greater purpose. This will be no
different in the virtual world. You can promote your
domain name and its content for others to envision its
relevant value within your own sphere of influence.

The liberties that the US Constitution offers are nothing
without the dedication of those in positions of power to
enforce them. Ultimately, it is you that decides who has
that power by the choices you make. Choose wisely.
  



Mike Mann

CEO & Founder, DomainMarket.com

Mike
Mann
has been a fixture in the Internet and domain
space since he founded an ISP in Washington, D.C. in 1994.
He went on to co- found one the industry’s most powerful
aftermarket platforms, BuyDomains.com, a company the he
sold for approximately $80 million. In 2007, Mann, who
owns around 300,000 domains, founded a new marketplace at DomainMarket.com
that he still operates today. The outspoken Mann also
hosts a weekly live video stream featuring in-depth
interviews that are posed to his
YouTube channel
.

Mike
Mann
CEO & Founder
DomainMarket.com

In 2020, it was impossible to
get financing or other assistance, or make enough
sales, yet the bills and expenses and other needs
did not lessen. A classic squeeze, due to grossly
incompetent liberals in politics wasting
everyone’s money and time (plus rioting, arsoning,
and looting).

The
main challenge is getting people to appraise domains
, and respect that only premium
.Com domains
have sustainable long term value (other than rare
exceptions traded by insiders). There is ostensibly
a marketplace, but nobody knows the fair prices and
values of the assets
, so it’s very illiquid and
hard to trade or trust, unlike any decent
semi-liquid marketplace would provide (people
can’t buy used jewelry or cars or homes without a
professional appraisal). With appraisals all the
domains that appraise at $0 will be removed from
marketplaces, and the rest will convert more
frequently at higher prices
, then new improved
markets will develop around that efficient
profitable phenomenon.

Please
see links at MikeMann.com,
MakeChange.com, and see
me on social media for more info.

 

 

Braden
Pollock

Founder, LegalBrandMarketing.com

Multi-talented
Los Angeleno Braden Pollock, one of the industry
most widely-known domain investor/developers, is
primarily an Angel Investor who has invested in some two
dozen technology start-ups. He has also purchased more
than
a dozen
small companies that have been rolled up into existing
companies that he owns and operates.
Some of
Braden’s fame also comes from being a skilled moderator at
conferences held throughout the world. He will be seen in
that capacity again the the NamesCon.Online
conference January 27-29, 2021.

Braden
Pollock
Founder
LegalBrandMarketing.com

Last
year consumer spending decreased since most people
stayed home. This allowed for more disposable income
for many Americans (average savings actually increased
173%). Combining the extra savings with
idle time at home led many people to invest their money.
To see these effects, one needs only look
at the record highs of the stock market, the growth
of investment apps like Robinhood and Rally
Rd
, the
chart topping price of Bitcoin, the rise in
value of collectibles, etc. And, of course, on this
list is the wholesale domain market. I feel the
biggest impact COVID had on domain investing was
bringing new investors into the space
. This caused a
spike in wholesale auction prices. These higher
wholesale prices will decrease margins in the short
term as retail pricing hasn’t yet caught up. I think
payment plans could be one solution to the higher
pricing. (More on that later.)

For
me, personally, I closed all my offices (hence no
daily commute) and I haven’t done any major
traveling which has provided more time to focus on
my domain investing. What has always been a
side-hustle for me has now become a primary focus. I
bought far more domains in private transactions and
invested more money in 2020 than any year in the
past. I expect this trend to continue for me.

As
many new investors will soon learn, buying 10
domains in the aftermarket won’t yield a return in
year-one. These investors will shake-out as
renewals come due, especially after their poor
sell-through-rate (STR). As life goes back to
“normal”, these new investors will have
less time and many will be discouraged after not
having enough (or any) sales. They will then
liquidate their holdings to other investors. (Good
timing for liquidation sites like DNWE and NameLiquidate). With fewer investors in the
auctions, pricing will experience a correction

In
general, ecommerce and digital marketing will
continue to grow at a faster rate than in past years
.  Companies will continue their focus on
digital sales as a hedge against brick-and-mortar.
This will continue to drive retail domain sales –
and their value.

As

DAN.com
has proven, payment plans increase sales
velocity
. I believe we’ll see GoDaddy and other
major marketplaces roll out financing and leasing
options. This allows for not only more sales but
also at higher retail pricing. We’ll also see
fractional ownership
become a legitimate investment
model. What domain investor doesn’t want to be a
part of 6 and 7-figure deals? 

I’m
bullish on domain investing this year and in the
future. Values are only going up!

Deepak
Daftari

President, TiE Kolkata

Deepak
Daftari
is one of India’s most widely known domain
investor/developers as well as being a busy broker and
angel investor. Since 1999 he has also
been running one of the oldest education portals in India
at eSiksha.com,
with a 1 Million plus user base.
This month he also
became President of Tie Kolkata, a highly respected
organization devoted to fostering entrepreneurship in the
Kolkata region.

Deepak
Daftari
President
Tie Kolkata

Covid-19
has been the most significant event that has
re-shaped the world and especially the Domaining
Industry. IMO the Domaining Industry is on the verge of
a massive breakout
and it’s already happening as
we are seeing the price domainers are paying to buy
quality inventory and how the same has gone up by
manifold in the last 12 months

Prior
to Covid prices were rising but in a spaced manner
but once the Covid induced lockdown took place,
prices across the board for all kinds of quality
inventory have just shot through the roof, both for
domainers and end-users, for buyers as well as
sellers.

The
most significant change that I have observed in the
domaining industry is the massive rise in prices of
good One Word .com names. The rise has been simply
phenomenal. Trying to buy a good quality .com names
in the 5 figure range as just become the proverbial
dream chasing.

The Second most important shift that I observed for
the industry is the rise of pricing for alternate
TLDs and ccTLDs
like .CO / .IO / .AI names.
Quality one word .co and .io name pricing has
already been on the rise and now it’s progressing
more rapidly

Third
being the significant consolidation happening among
Domain Industry specific companies and how it’s
reshaping the industry as a whole.

The
Fourth change I see in domaining in the last few
years is the rise of HugeDomains, DropCatch &
NameBright. Any domainer active in the domain drop
business can relate to the massive rise of the
company and how it has impacted and reshaped the
domain drop business.

The
fifth and final change, that I feel has a long term
impact for domaining is the Online Transformation of
Offline Domain Conferences
like NamesCon

from a Offline only conference to an Online
Conference, thus making it accessible to a huge group
of Domainers for whom it was not possible to attend
before, given the cost of International Air Travel,
Hotel and other expenses associated with physical
travel. This has acted as the single biggest game
changer for the Industry
, enabling the new entrants
to attend all the sessions and have access to the
key players in the industry at next to nothing
pricing. This would have been unthinkable for them
pre-covid and has been a dream come true for them

.
 

Covid
as a pandemic touched every sphere of human lives
and majority of the population has either lost a
loved one or have faced other hardships and the same
applied to me too, but the emergence of Covid has
also ushered in significant changes for the domain
industry as a marketplace. With the emergence of
more and more businesses going online, the demand
for quality domain names has gone up manifold and
those with access to sizeable funds have been paying
more and more for quality one word .com names. 

On
the personal front, my business tripled in revenues
compared to last year BUT at the same time it has
become extremely tough for me to replenish my
inventory
at pricing which I consider optimum to me.

In
essence although I have sold more names but I am
unable to replenish the inventory at the same
selling speed. This has acted both as a boon and
bane for my business

My
observations for 2021 and once things are more
stable after the roll-out of the vaccine are as
follows:

·        
Further consolidation of companies related to Domain
Names and related services

·        
Prices rising higher and higher for 1 word .com’s
and LLL.com names

·        
Prices rising significantly for quality 1 word .net
and .org names

·        
Price rise of second rung extensions like .CO / .IO
/ .AI

·        
First 6 figure sale for a .IO name

·        
Continued price rise for drop auctions

·        
A mix of Offline / Online version of Domain
Conferences like NamesCon

·        
Gains from Crypto currency moving into Domains

·        
Rise in UDRP’s

·        
Increased cooperation between Parking Companies and
standalone Domain Sales Platforms

 

Morgan
Linton

Founder, MorganLinton.com 
Co-Founder, Bold
Metrics Inc
.

Morgan
Linton
Founder, MorganLinton.com
Co-Founder, Bold Metrics Inc.

Overall I think one of
the most interesting trends we saw in 2020 was the
incredible growth of .COM alternatives like .IO and
.AI
. While there is no doubt that .COM is still king,
it’s very clear that startups are now very comfortable
with other extensions that five years ago weren’t even
on their radar. Couple this with more and more
multi-billion dollar companies running on these
extensions and it’s clear this trend will only
accelerate
in 2021. Last year we also saw all of the
top Silicon Valley VC firms back companies branding on

non .COMs
so it’s also very clear that investors no
longer see .COM as a must-have to build a billion
dollar business.

As for challenges related to COVID last year, I think
many of us have seen net new business grow
significantly
, but where that business is coming from
has shifted. It’s clear that travel and hospitality
invested a lot less in digital in 2020 while
industries like SaaS and eComm doubled down on domain
names like never before. 

While I wish I could say
that we wiped the slate clean of 2020 on January 1st,
we clearly didn’t in the United States and I don’t
think we will until later this year or early next
year. That being said, there are many other countries
that have done a much better job dealing with COVID
than the US. I know people in New Zealand, Singapore,
etc.

that are living what we all used to call
“normal life.” At the same time, I see so
many businesses see their customers shift online and
domain names become even more important to them in
2020 and I think that will continue in 2021. 

All that being said, I think it’s fantastic that the
US has been able to develop vaccines so quickly and I
hope they can fix some of the issues faced in
distributing them to people. What this means for the
domain industry IMO is a further acceleration of
trends we saw in 2020 as US businesses will have to
get used to the fact that many of their customers are
staying online
and not coming back to stores this
year. 

 

*****

Once again, a
sincere thank you to every domain industry leader who
contributed to this year’s State of the Industry
report. Your willingness to share what you have learned from
your years of experience has made ours a stronger industry,
blessed with camaraderie and countless opportunities that are open
to all
who wish to pursue them, no matter who you are or
where your are located around the globe.



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