Domain Industry Tsunami
In 2004, Thailand, Indonesia, and nine other countries suffered one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, when a tsunami killed well over 200,000 people. Thousands of tourists and other people in the area were killed when an unexpected giant wave quickly swept onto land and through their villages. There were just a few seconds available to decide whether to climb a tree, enter a building with a solid foundation, or run as fast as possible to beat the wave. Many who made the wrong decision died while trying to survive. It was a terrible tragedy, and the affected areas are still in the process of recovering three years later.
An interesting thing happened just moments before the tsunami reached land that saved countless lives. As the ocean began to recede, many natives who saw this began running in the opposite direction. They grabbed their children, warned their friends, and they booked it as fast as they could run, leaving most of their possessions behind. They knew that a receding ocean meant a tsunami was about to devastate their area, and they didn’t stick around to see what would happen. They grabbed what they could and took cover as far away as their legs could take them in the five minutes they had.
While changes to the domain industry certainly are not a life and death situation, they could be deadly to the industry. With the looming Snowe legislation that was recently proposed, our industry is in peril. Numerous people have been posting about the pending changes for many months now – well before the Snowe legislation was introduced. The most prolific person to issue many warnings was Rick Schwartz.
For as long as I’ve known Rick, he has been telling people that others want our domain names. We are a relatively small industry, and because of that, better funded, larger corporations will have an easier time taking our domain names using various tactics. Rick warned us that people were out there looking for ways to make taking domain names easier, and we need to organize and build a defense against this. That has come, and we aren’t much better than we were before Rick started warning us – practically YELLING to us with his CAPITALIZED and bolded typeface. Many people thought Rick was crazy and only self-interested.
Rick is now running for the hills. He isn’t sticking around to give warnings anymore. He is taking what he can, selling what he doesn’t need and going to safer ground. Rick is done giving his warnings, and now we are looking at each other, many shrugging shoulders asking what this all means. Rick could have almost certainly tried to sell Widgets.com at TRAFFIC, but he decided to sell it in the venue that would raise the most awareness. He didn’t privately sell for what he could. Instead, I interpret this as one last warning for us all. I don’t ever remember Rick looking to sell a name, and with all his contacts, he chooses the one venue that would raise the most questions. Everything Rick does has a meaning, and I look at this sale as a warning to us.
While some of us are mounting a defense with the Internet Commerce Association, many people seem to think the big guys should shoulder the burden of raising money – they argue that the big guys have more money to lose. Guess what – the big guys also have more money to defend their assets if it comes to that. They might not have wanted to worry about developing their names, but they don’t have a whole lot of choices right now. The good news for them is that they can pay to develop their names into businesses which may shield them more than others. Maybe this isn’t 100% accurate, but a developed website is probably going to be harder to take than a parked domain name.
Most of the industry leaders are developing their domain names now – or at least looking at ways to develop them. Some are doing it quietly, but I think most are doing what they can to fortify their positions. Unfortunately for many people in the industry who think others will burden the load, when they try to get into the shelters to weather the storm, they will find that the shelters are full. Warnings have been issued, and there probably won’t be any more warnings.
As the saying goes, you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. The Internet Commerce Association is mounting a defense for us domain registrants. It’s not too late to contribute to their lobbying efforts. As of this moment, most domain investors are exposed to the storm that is brewing just off the coast. Warnings have been issued. How safe are your domain investments?
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