The Interesting World of Domain Names

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Domain names are extremely powerful in many ways, but I would estimate the single most powerful aspect of domain names is the fact that they direct anybody in the world at any time to one location. That is not easy to do! On top of that, they are accessible 24/7/365 and each one is totally unique.

Similar to the once-powerful telephone number, but with way more options and actionable solutions with a simple website attached to the domain name than a phone number could ever be.

Anybody can register or buy a domain name and you are not limited to how many you can own.

Interestingly, there are over 350 million different domain names registered all over the world. The single highest ownership by one private entity are two brothers from Colorado. They own about 4.3 million domain names. That’s a staggering number really. Even if the domain names cost $8 annually to renew, that’s $34 million dollars per year, without taking into account any acquisition or operations costs.

Companies like Microsoft own a lot of corporate domain names, to the tune of around 70,000. Amazon owns over 35,000 and many more companies own tens of thousands of domain names. Some of these domains can cost millions of dollars each, some hundreds of thousands or less. Other individual domain investors and domain investment companies own hundreds of thousands of domain names each.

Domain names live a life cycle that repeats on an annual basis. Either they are renewed by the past owner, or they are not. If they are not, the domain name can be auctioned as an “expired” domain name with a registrar partner, internal auction service or removed from the registry. The life cycle begins again with a new owner and future or sits available for someone at a later time. Of course, you can renew your domains for up to 10 years in advance.

From a branding aspect, domain names are often a company’s most valuable asset. It’s the way for anyone to navigate to them, the trusted doorman welcoming them in and the recognizable name in communication and brand awareness that triggers a user to click a link or type the domain into the address bar of a web browser.

On the other hand, many people do not even know what a domain name is. That’s crazy to me because I deal with them every day, but a lot of people do not even know what a domain name is, yet they likely visit them daily in their everyday life.

One domain name may be seemingly worthless to one individual, yet priceless to another. It’s something I didn’t understand in 2006 but better understand today. Everybody is different. Different cultures, languages, ideas, thoughts, awareness, and budgets. Demand, timing, and budget will always reflect in domain name sales prices. The perfect storm happens a decent amount. The seller isn’t interested in selling and the buyer really wants it and isn’t going to allow money to be the deciding factor of them not getting the domain.

If you really want or need something and there is only one existing in the world, as the buyer, you have limited options. You can get creative but the domain owner certainly sits in the driver seat. After doing this for so many years, I can say that you should be happy when you see a domain name up for sale because the alternative often results without a change of ownership, often no matter the budget size.

Ownership can get tricky and so can contacting the owner of a domain name. Businesses are bought and sold all the time and in the shuffle, domain names are often forgotten, held onto by founders or folded into the buying company, while retaining old ownership details. WHOIS privacy can add to problems finding the owner. It’s pretty easy for a digital asset to be forgotten about since domain names can be registered for up to 10 years in advance, which can leave that one of a kind asset in limbo for what seems like an eternity.

The world of domain names is interesting indeed. Domains are used much more than just for "websites". Every domain buying experience or related questions I’m asked about domains have been unique, just like the domain owners, and the domain name itself.


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