When I started, domain names were free, because why would anyone pay money for something of no consequence?
My first online voyage was in 1994, working with my college pals at Internet Direct, Arizona’s first Internet company (and also the inventor of virtual Web hosting, ultimately sold to Mindspring). Domain names were free, and brands didn’t even know what the World Wide Web was in many cases (given that graphical browsers barely existed). If you were a .org, you had to prove you were a non-profit. Domain names ending in .net were reserved for telcos and Internet providers (like us) exclusively. So, in this Wild West era, the Internet Direct guys registered several choice domain names before anyone even noticed.
Anheuser-Busch: “It seems you have the Budweiser.com domain name?” “We’re thinking about putting together one of those Web Sites, so can we have the name?”
Internet Direct: “Sure, but it’ll cost you.”
Anheuser-Busch: “How much?”
Internet Direct: “100 cases of Bud longnecks, delivered to our office.”
Guinness: “It seems you have the Guinness.com domain name?” “We’re thinking about putting together one of those Web Sites, so can we have the name, lads?”
Internet Direct: “Sure, but it’ll cost you and we’re not selling as cheap as we sold to the Bud guys.”
Guinness: “How much?”
Internet Direct: “Two trips to Ireland, and brewery tours.”
The Good Times
It’s easy to forget in our modern, Twitterfied, post-9/11 world where The Situation can make $25,000 to show up at a party, but it was just six years between the first Netscape browser (Mosaic Netscape 0.9) and the dot com crash of 2000. Barely 2,000 days. The world changed an awful lot in six years, and while Internet usage then was nowhere near as pervasive and insidious as it is today, the seeds were certainly sown. Five years after the brewery tour “swindle” of Guinness, my Internet Direct pal sold the beer.com domain name to Molson for several MILLION dollars. (I did not have a piece of that action, which is why I’m writing this blog instead of sunning myself in Barbados).
That was the apex of the domain name.
Slip Sliding Away
Today, the beer.com domain name has been abandoned, and I wonder why we even bother to worry about whether “good” domain names are available.
After all, how often do you really encounter domain names these days?
- Twitter shortens and hides domain names (for your “protection”).
- In many cases, you willfully disguise the brand equity of your domain name by using bit.ly, tinyurl.com or the bada.ss shortener your cousin cobbled together for you.
- Compared to domain name, Facebook gives headlines far more visual prominence.
- QR codes are routinely used (mostly incorrectly) as a domain replacement.
- Facebook has nearly one billion members. Your website does not. Thus, you may be tempted to show your Facebook URL at the end of your TV spot, or on your trucks, or in your email – instead of your domain name.
- Pinterest doesn’t even show domain names until you get to the detail page, and even then it’s at the bottom.
- YouTube won’t let you add a link in a video to your website, only to another YouTube video – another strike against the domain name.
- Business cards – historically featuring prominent domain names – are becoming the drive-in movie of networking, a quaint relic of yesteryear. (except mine)
Does your domain name even matter? You could probably change it to rumpelstiltskin.com right now, and it would be mid-week before anyone noticed. (alas, name already taken)
No wonder GoDaddy sold when they did. Got out while the getting was good, the way I see it.