Blogs about the domain industry and the various players and companies within it.

ICANN Los Angeles Wrap Up

ICANN Los Angeles Wrap Up

At long last I’ve finally returned from attending ICANN Los Angeles. So was the jetlag, long hours and sitting in a flying tin can for a day and half worth it?

I found that the main attraction for me was that there were a lot of domain owners at ICANN that were looking for a solution that ParkLogic provides. This was great news and we ended up doing a lot of business.

I spent the majority of my time either in meetings or hanging out in the lobby waiting for my next meeting. I think that we had about 30 scheduled meetings and many more that were impromptu while passing someone.

As always, I enjoyed catching up with the many, many friends that I’ve made over the years as well as making a bunch of new ones. Both Joe (from ParkLogic) and I have been working with many of the people that we met for years and putting a face to a skype voice was fantastic!

A real highlight for me was when a group of us hung around a fire pit at the Intercontinental hotel until about 2:30am. It was a chance to really get to know the .green team and hear about their passion for the extension. Dirk from .club was also there and it was great to hear his story and journey over the last few years. We sometimes forget that with all of these new gTLDs that there are real people with real lives behind them that have often put everything on the line to see the extension come alive.

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What was the ICA thinking?

What was the ICA thinking?

The Internet Commerce Association (ICA) has just altered its membership structure and the way that board members can be elected. I must admit that I applaud the efforts of the incumbent board in trying to juggle the various stakeholders but let’s try and unpack what they’ve actually changed.

There are four classes of membership:
Platinum - $25K/year and an automatic board seat.
Gold - $10 to 24,999/year
Silver - $5,000 to $9,999/year
Bronze - $1,000 to $4,999/year

What’s interesting is the way in which new board seats are awarded. For every $25,000 in revenue a new board seat is created and the gold silver and bronze class members can nominate a member or non-member to the position. There is an election where Gold members have 5 votes, silver members 3 votes and bronze members 1 vote.

From what I see of this structure is that it rewards those with the cash. If you have money then you can effectively buy a board seat at the platinum level. This works well for a commercial organisation that has profit as the motivation but I do not believe that it is healthy for a non-profit association.

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A Domain Name Association - part 6

I had an interesting question in one of the forums about the topic of a domain industry association. The question was, 'Why is Michael doing this?' This question really caused me to think why I was spending time thinking about a domain association and it justified an answer.

I looked at the two associations (thedna.org and ICA) and it was clear to me that they really didn't represent the interests of the typical domain owner in any way. For a start I have a real problem with any association where board seats can effectively be purchased. This is fine for companies where profit is the motive but in my opinion it is not OK for an association.

If an association is to truly represent members then EVERYONE needs to have an opportunity for a board seat....hence the concept of classes of members and an allocation of board seats per class that individuals could potentially win via an election in their class.

There also needed to be different fees per class (hence the financially modelling at the end of the presentation). The great majority of domain investors aren't able to afford $5K/year but many would put up their hand for $250/year.

Given the challenges I saw with the current associations I wanted to push the discussion forward in such a manner that it at least reached the two associations and a dialogue established at the domain investor level. So where am I at with my goals?

 

1. The ICA was represented by Andee Hill in the webinar (she is not a director of the ICA). The other directors of the ICA are trying to work out when they are able to jump on a call with me.....I think that many of them have been on vacation.
2. I have been contacted by the chairman of thedna.org and he is connecting me with the CEO. They are completely open to everything to embracing domain investors. This includes changing their constitution to ensure that domain investors have representation at the board level. It was actually a refreshing conversation with the chairman.

I find that the bigger challenge is to engage the domain investment community themselves. What has surprised me is the general apathy towards both associations and the discussion itself. There appears to be a disconnect in the VALUE provided by either association for domain investors. This could be a function of us tending to be "lone wolves" but I actually don't believe this is the cas e as domain communities do exist. Fundamentally I believe that both associations have failed to prove their value.....and more importantly for me.......I've failed in someway to proactively engage the community as well.

For example, out of the whole industry about 9 people said they would attend the webinar.....6 turned up. I've run webinars before on topics such as selling domains and had 18 people say they would turn up and 18 did. Just for the record I think that anything over about 15 people can become quite unwieldy. What's interesting is that over 500 people have read each of the articles in the series on "A domain association". This tells me that the topic is important to people but they aren't willing to engage as yet.

I would be interested to know if I am interpreting this correctly. I would also like any ideas on how we, as a community, can engage more effectively on the topic. Or, maybe we shouldn't and just let the chips fall where they fall . Should I run another webinar? Is the time wrong etc. Any feedback would be well received.....can't promise that I can do something but I would like to do my best and try.

I liked the picture of the key for this article as it has two sides to it. If only one side was present then the key wouldn't work. What we really need is for domain investors to speak to complete their side of the key and get their point of view across to the associations.......and myself for that matter. It's through an engaging dialogue that a better outcome for us all can be achieved.

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Domain Association - Part 5

The reason why most people do not join an association is that they don’t clearly perceive what the benefits are for them. We could leave it as, “I feel all good about myself being part of an association” but that doesn’t really cut it from a business perspective.

So why would anyone join a domain industry association?

  1. An association can fight the fights that you just can’t fight yourself.For example, let’s imagine that a domainer found that a registrar was jumping the gun and changing the nameservers on domains prior to them expiring.  The risk for the domainer is that could be “punished” by the registrar if they kick up a fuss…..while if the association had a code of conduct for registrar’s then this issue could be addressed.
  2. There are many fights that you just don’t know about.Whether it be price increases on domains, changes to the UDRP process or net neutrality and liability. There are many issues that actually impact the domain investment industry that as individual domain owners we have little to no say over while as an association we could have a voice.
  3. More confidence in dealing with people of at least some integrity.If there is a “seal” of approval that can be applied to businesses and individuals that agree to abide by a code of conduct then it would provide external buyers/sellers with more confidence that they are working with “good” businesses. Anyone that knowingly transgresses the code could be “punished” by have the right to use the “seal” taken away from them.

    I personally believe that the fastest way that we can all increase the value of our domain portfolios is to behave in a transparent and ethical manner. If an investment firm is wanting to invest $100m in the domain industry then they need to have confidence that they are dealing with people of good standing. Having a “seal” doesn’t solve the problem but it heads us all in the right direction.

There are many other reasons why joining a domain industry association would be beneficial to your businesses. I’m sure that as it expanded there could be deals cut with conferences, parking companies and registrars for association members that would largely offset the cost of any fees…..but that is a little ways down the track.

I’ve had a number of people say that if a person they didn’t like was in the association then they wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Just consider where this line of thinking leads. If everyone thought this way then no one would be in the association because there is ALWAYS someone that has offended you in the past.

On the other hand, if a person is in the association and they agree to abide by a code then their behaviour will need to change or they are evicted. One is backward looking (I was hurt in the past by them) and the other is forward looking (give them a second chance but they must change).

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A Domain Name Association - part 4

Funding the Association

To be effective the association must have both a representative membership base and also the funds to fulfil the vision and direction provided by the board. There is little point in running an association that either prices itself out of its market or does not have the buy-in of the wider industry at large.

The proposed fee structure is to be based upon the Class and category of membership. Annual membership fees range from as low as $250 for a small individual domain owner doing less than $10K in sales per year up to $25K for a large company doing in excess of $5m in revenue.

By having the annual fees linked to a Class and category (eg. A, B or C) of membership means that the association is affordable to the broad spectrum of the industry. From the previous article I indicated that the members within each of the categories can also nominate for board election to represent their constituency.

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Domain Association - Part 3

The Chairmen, Treasurer, CEO and Taskforces
Over the years I’ve seen many organisations get confused over the rolls of the CEO, treasurer and chairman. Chairmen often try and be the CEO and treasurers try and control the association via the budget.

The facts are that each of the rolls are critical to the success of the association as long as those people in the positions clearly understands their tasks.

The Chairman
As well as representing the association to other organisations the chairmen:
1. Has a casting vote in the board meeting in the event of a tied vote.
2. Represents the association at events where the membership is present (eg. AGM).
3. The most critical role is often to provide support for the CEO and help navigate any internal or external political issues so that the job of the association can get done.

In my time as the vice-chairmen of the Australian Internet Industry Association I often found myself talking to the CEO and providing another perspective in deliberations. This then sometimes came to offering personal support as the role of the CEO can be personally taxing. To this day I have a great friendship with the former CEO and a huge amount of respect for what he helped accomplish during his tenure.

The Treasurer
This is often a thankless task but one that is vital to get in the hands of a competent person. People often think that the treasurer’s job is to “do the financial books”. In some cases this may be true but it’s often better that a book-keeper actually prepares the finances and reports back to the treasurer. The treasurer can then report on the financial position of the association to the board and to the members at the AGM.

In my experience as a treasurer I found it useful to establish a finance committee where the CEO, two other board members and I were in attendance. We met on a phone call once per month to review the figures and to ensure that they were within expectations.

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A Domain Name Association - part 2

This is the second in a multi-part series on how I would approach the establishment of a Domain Name Association. I must say that the feedback has been fantastic to date and that the discussion has been really valuable. I would encourage everyone to take part in the discussion.

The role of the board is to monitor the progress of the association so that it is in line with the guiding principles and vision. The following diagram illustrates the position of the board with respect to the principles and membership.

The board has 3 primary responsibilities:
1. Financial prudence and good governance to ensure that the organisation is solvent.
2. Fulfilling the vision via policies that benefit the different membership classes (more on this later).
3. Empower the executive with the necessary resources to meet the policy objectives

Members of the board may be part of a subcommittee that is involved in management tasks but when they report back to the board they need to act as directors.

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Domain Association - Part 1

Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the topic of establishing a domain industry association for everyone. The domain industry is being rocked by forces that as individuals we have little control over but as a corporate body we could directly influence.

In the following series of articles I would like to tackle the topic in the following manner:
1.    The associations vision and overarching principles
2.    Constitution, board and elections
3.    Purpose of the executive
4.    Benefits to members

I welcome any and all feedback on the topic as I personally believe that it is critical that we work together to achieve a better outcome for us all. I should also state up front that I don’t believe that I have all of the answers but that I am prepared to kick the ball into play.

Principles and Vision

When you think of successful associations they have a number of guiding principles that underpin the ethos of how the organisation functions, makes decisions and interacts with members. The following are proposed as the principles that should be central to a domain association:
1.    Inclusive
2.    Representative
3.    Transparent

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Why I'm not buying into the new gTLDs

Why I'm not buying into the new gTLDs

With the all-pervasive hysteria about the new gTLDs I feel like I’m going a bit against the flow. So why aren’t I getting into a buying frenzy and forking out wads of cash?

In a previous blog I talked about having a business model for each domain name that I own, the problem is I can’t see a business model with the new gTLDs.

Let’s just think about it for a second; they won’t have any traffic, with the glut of opportunities available they won’t really be that sellable and I don’t need another domain to build into business (I’ve got enough to last a lifetime!). Hmmm…..so what is the business model? How am I going to get my return on my investment? I’m not…plain and simple.

On top of there not being a business model I find that it’s also all about focus. Since 2014 started ParkLogic is has been going through a massive growth spurt and we’re in the middle of a major developmental project. We hope to have this ready for release at DomainFest at the end of March. I don’t want to lose my focus from ParkLogic on something that is more of a gamble playing the lottery.

So when you place your hard earned cash on the table ask yourself two simple questions:
1.    What is my return on my investment?
2.    When will this happen?

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Donna Takes the Plunge!

Donna Takes the Plunge!

Donna Mahony has made the big decision to leap into the world of blogging. For those of you that don’t know, Donna is the queen of the domain forums and has run domainboardroom.com for many, many years.

DomainBoardroom.com is a closed forum that is only accessible by applicants being approved by the entire community. It’s amazing to see competitors, domain owners and other industry professionals discussing domain topics and working together for the betterment of the industry.

I know that Donna has a huge amount of expertise in the domain industry and as she says on her very first blog…..she’s going to bring her own point of view to the articles that she writes. So get ready for some great reading!

I would like to wish Donna good luck and every success and would highly recommend that you place her blog on your watch list!

You can visit Donna’s Blog at not surprisingly donnasblog.com

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