DomainTools CEO Comments on Pricing Changes | DomainInvesting.com
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DomainTools CEO Comments on Pricing Changes

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I use DomainTools’ portfolio of domain name tools daily. DomainTools offers an unrivaled Whois history tool coupled with outstanding domain name monitoring tools. There are other domain name tools out there, but my job as a domain industry publisher is greatly aided by DomainTools, as evidenced by the hundreds of references peppered throughout this website.

Earlier today, DomainTools announced a change to its pricing and membership structure that will increase the membership cost. According to the email a few people sent me, “The price for Personal membership is $99/month or $995/year.” This is significantly higher than most domain industry customers have been paying for many years. The company provided a discount code for customers for the first year, but the price is still considerably higher.

Having known DomainTools CEO Tim Chen for many years, I reached out to him and asked if he could comment on the change. Here’s what Tim told me today:

“DomainTools’ business has changed dramatically over the last few years. In response to enterprise customer demand we have pivoted very heavily towards data and tools for cybersecurity threat intelligence and incident response. Make no mistake, we value our individual domain professional customers and each year of the 7 years I have been here we have opted *not* to affect any legacy membership types, in some cases honoring Silver Members paying $12 a month for nearly unlimited access to our data. But the complexity of managing a multi-tiered retail model with disparate membership types dating back to 2001 had become challenging. And the data systems we run today are more costly than 5 or 10 years ago. So we made the very very difficult decision to create a singular individual membership type that we felt we could support and at a price point that we could stick to for many years to come.”

As a publisher with a relationship to DomainTools for many years, I am fortunate to have complimentary access to DomainTools. As such, I don’t think it would be fair to opine about whether or not others should continue to use the service once these changes are implemented.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (51)

    Andrea Paladini

    Laughable greedy, silly strategy … sounds like their underlying business model is weak, that’s why they need to go this way …
    They have lost another customer, we are not using it anymore …
    Plus they should keep free Whois lookup, for people using it only, since Whois data are free, publicly accessible data.
    One month ago, after a clash with DT support, I wrote an email to Ammar (Kubba) about it, see an extract below.
    We are suggesting all our clients and contacts to avoid using DomainTools.
    I think they will lose a LOT of customers from now on …

    “I’ve been using DomainTools for my Whois lookups since 2010, with a personal account.
    After using it for 6 years without any particolar issue, at the beginning of March 2016 I noticed that they put the Lookup limit to just a few ones on my account.
    Please note that I’ve always used it only for lookups, while I’ve never used any of their other services, and that Whois data are free public data, publicly accessibile without charge.
    In the meantime they totally disabled the option to open a “free” account, forcing people to pay at least 99$/month even for just doing a few Whois lookups.
    In the last few days I talked to their Support, and their reply was suggesting me to use a different Whois data provider and cancelling my account.
    I’m used to pay for all useful services which are not freely and publicly accessibile (public resources).
    That said, IMHO, charging 99$/month for providing free public Whois data is “legalized extortion”.
    They should keep Whois lookups free, while charging users for all their other services, that would make more sense.
    Otherwise, if you need to force people to pay for free Whois lookups, that means that your other services you are offering are not so useful or attractive to end users, which means that your business model is weak, with no competitive advantages, probably doomed to fail.
    Unless they change this silly way of doing business, we are going to suggest all our many business contacts not to use their services.”

    April 25th, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Jaybuk

    My “membership” WAS due for renewal next month. I decided to make it easier on their accounting department and just cancelled it altogether. Bye bye DomainTools. 7 years as a paying customer by the way.

    April 25th, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Tim

    It’s one thing to raise prices and move everything to one tier. They drastically reduced the number of searches they give you every single month and all of their services. I would need to purchase 5 or 6 memberships at $99 per month and I still wouldn’t have as many domain monitors as I had before. This is just a money grab and a dishonest excuse from Chen.

    April 25th, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    John

    Simple business decision, make more profit from less customers while reducing operating cost.

    I appreciate DomainTools keeping the original membership fee for so many years.

    April 25th, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Josh

    He’s full of it, greedy and or stupid, already have 15-20 other domainers cancel their membership today so far, sad case of greed. Charge me 400% more when you factor reduced searches, ya sure where do you want me to bend over and should I pay for the jelly too?

    It’s the number 1 most disgusting event a domain tool has done to the community, he should be ashamed.

    Very very very hard decision LOL He just made our decision real easy.

    April 25th, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Josh

      His linkedIn states “Worked on the spin-off of DomainTools LLC, raised outside capital on the independent entity, and transitioned into the CEO role there.”

      THIS is why revenue needs to increase, no harm in a price increase if reasonable, no harm in making money or even more money but the equivalent to 400% on grandfathered accounts ,200% on those there after and reducing searches on newer members already paying $90…. Likely the biggest gouge in the history of our industry by what was a liked domain tool. I don’t blame Tim Chen personally he just needs to cover all that debt he took on for them.

      In reply to Josh | April 25th, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      Andrea Paladini

      We have just started the LinkedIn “BOYCOTT DomainTools” campaign! :)
      Check it out!

      In reply to Josh | April 25th, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    mike

    I’m sure they have their reasons for doing this, and I have always found them good to deal with. Compete.com is also very expensive.

    I have to say that $4 for every whois history lookup is a little hard to understand. You only get 25 a month for $99? I can’t imagine a whois history lookup is that big of a drain on their resources. I hope they condsider bumping that number up a little (60) = 2 a day.

    April 25th, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Josh

    2? LOL should be 25!

    April 25th, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    Steven

    Whois history is the only reason I’ve had a paid domaintools account for over 10 years, and they want to change it from unlimited at $12/month to 25 per month at $99/month. Ludicrous. If you want to raise the price, so be it, but at least increase the whois history limit to 1,000 per month so people can consider staying on at $99/mth.

    April 25th, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      nm

      It’s not about resources – they are just milking the lack of competition.
      And they clearly want to get rid of the lower paying customers.

      In reply to Steven | April 26th, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Reality

    I have a $49.95/month Professional Account and I currently use 10 registrant monitors. Apparently I’m going to be “upgraded” to a limit of only 3 registrant monitors for an extra $50/month. In fact, all the limits are significantly decreased for twice the price! I’m cancelling my account.

    April 25th, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    web muzer

    Sounds like a golden oppty for network solutions, or godaddy.

    There has to be a db of ‘ long ago, and far away’ reg history out there that is available to search for more reasonable cost; even if the provider subsidizes it by cross selling other services of interest to the domain industry.
    HINT HINT 😉 GoDaddy

    April 25th, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    DonnyM

    Yeah lot of stuff out there for free for domain history. You can also do domainhistory.net if you needed some basic history look up. You get free look-up but also unlimited if you need it. I mean you can’t charge 1200 for this stuff.

    Hope this helps you all! I have no affiliation with this site just thought is seemed like a fair deal.

    Donny M

    April 25th, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      John

      Thanks, never knew about that one.

      In reply to DonnyM | April 26th, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Jay

    Subscription FAIL.

    Domaintools, you tossed your primary user base instead of branching into 2 services.

    BTW: Domaintools’ value and only strength has been historical data. Bad guys jump from ISP to ISP and I’ve found that Domaintools can take more than a day to catch up with the current hosting for a website. Domaintools is unreliable for live lookups. I don’t know how that makes it a tool for real-time security issues, but it is not one of my go-to websites for investigations.

    Domaintools is a database. It’s only as good as the last crawl and as good as the source it crawled. For IP addresses, the authority is the RIR that issued it. For domain registration, the authority is Whois engine the ccTLD. Can you lookup a .eu registrant on Domaintools? No, because even at $49/mo. Domaintools doesn’t do that. Dumbing down dumb data is not cyber security. It’s alarming.

    Legacy pricing is a fail model. But the real fail here is tossing out the market that built the service. Look in the mirror, Domaintools. You’re a database, not a real-time cyber security tool.

    April 25th, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Andrea Paladini

    Mr Chen commented on DT blog: http://blog.domaintools.com/2016/04/domaintools-membership-evolution/

    This is my reply:
    Offering just one package to retail clients IMHO is a totally wrong approach, it’s like “forcing” people in a “take or leave” situation.
    Typical strategy of companies who don’t care about their clients … I’ve seen many, also in the Financial industry …
    Way better would have been segmenting your customers, offering Scalable Packages, where a client can add or remove individual services depending on his/her specific needs.
    Basically it’s the ability to create Personalized Packages.
    It’s paying only for the services you need.
    Tech-speaking, that’s not a big burden.
    And keep in mind that current Whois data (not Historic Whois) are a free of charge, publicly accessible data, so charging $99/month for it it’s “legalized extortion”.
    Furthermore, your pricing is inconsistent and exorbitant for some user profiles.
    That, together with your slashing on services offered while raising their price tags makes your change as totally unacceptable.
    Your services are not irreplaceable, we can find way cheaper options elsewhere, and some features are even free, so your “It’s clear DomainTools is a critical resource for our customers.” is just a wishful thinking, that’s why you acted so arrogantly and greedily.
    Wrong bet indeed …

    April 25th, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Josh

    I threw up in my mouth when I read their tweet about increasing prices while hacking back services and it received 2 likes!?!?!

    Honestly if this was a purposeful change to drive away customers then Mr. Chen has done his job well. If it wasn’t and he honestly believed this was a great strategy to increase revenue he is lucky to keep a job. It reeks of greed and arrogance and I would be shocked if he didn’t need to get approval first.

    Raise prices XXX% and cut services dramatically, who runs this company Martin Shkreli ?

    Time will tell, did they mean to get rid of domainer’s?

    April 25th, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Kevin

    “”Raise prices XXX% and cut services dramatically, who runs this company…””

    They must have quietly gone public, as this is typical corporation takeover “it’s all about stock price’ Modus Operandi.” Sad.

    April 25th, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    Ron

    8 year membership cancelled today. Found another service for a better price, domain tools is slow to update some whois updates at times, not a true premium service. Won’t miss it, just needed a push to move on.

    Thank You Timmy

    April 26th, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Garth

    I don’t understand how this firm is allowed to profit from stored whois records anyway?

    ICANN whois terms:

    “You agree to use this data only for lawful purposes and further agree not to use this data (i) to allow, enable, or otherwise support the transmission by email, telephone, or facsimile of mass unsolicited, commercial advertising, or (ii) to enable high volume, automated, electronic processes to collect or compile this data for any purpose, including without limitation mining this data for your own personal or commercial purposes.”

    April 26th, 2016 at 12:22 am

      Josh

      I am sure someone on domainnamewire could answer that…I will pose the Q there as well.

      In reply to Garth | April 26th, 2016 at 12:37 am

      Garth

      As it seems they are pivoting away from public (free) tools to commercial walled product. ICANN may be less lenient than in the past. I personally would like to opt out from them storing my domains that I own. They are breaching whois terms in doing so.

      In reply to Josh | April 26th, 2016 at 12:56 am

      Josh

      I wonder what the loop hole is, if it was as straight forward as you shall not collect and resale, ICANN could easily stop them, sue and cripple them for millions, perhaps 10’s of millions or more. We must be missing something…

      In reply to Garth | April 26th, 2016 at 1:01 am

      Andrea Paladini

      “I don’t understand how this firm is allowed to profit from stored whois records anyway?”
      This is the first question which came to my mind when we started having issues with DomainTools, over 1 months ago …
      Keep in mind that Whois data are free public data, publicly accessible without charge.
      Let’s dig deeper into that … :)

      In reply to Garth | April 26th, 2016 at 1:21 am

      Garth

      Their business is built on data they don’t own. Most Registries have a copyright footnote in the whois output.

      In reply to Josh | April 26th, 2016 at 1:37 am

      Garth

      Registries maybe selling them this data, but that would be rather disappointing for Registrants privacy.

      In reply to Garth | April 26th, 2016 at 2:12 am

      Meyer

      The scraping of free whois data by DT who sold it has been complained about for 13 yrs (or longer). Why hasn’t Icann done anything about the scraping of whois data? There is nothing in it for them. Years ago, some of the registrars complained but nothing came of it because they did not have Icann support even though it violated Icann terms of use.

      For the past couple years, Icann requires all registrars to supply updated whois information weekly(?) to Iron Mountain. It is stored for emergency use only like – registrar meltdown, terrorist attack to global electronic infrastructure, etc.

      In reply to Josh | April 26th, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Michael

    Membership cancelled after many, many years. What is the best alternative service out there?

    April 26th, 2016 at 12:37 am

      David Yang

      I am looking for. Sounds like DomainIQ is a new option but I don’t it’s better than previous DomainTools.

      In reply to Michael | April 26th, 2016 at 2:35 am

      Reality

      I’ve just signed up to DomainIQ and it’s pretty good! A little slower on some report generation, but otherwise it has some nice features. The interface seems pretty intuitive, whois history is adequate. Definitely worth a look at $25.

      In reply to Michael | April 26th, 2016 at 3:45 am

      David

      I don’t have any reasons under current situation not to purchase such service from DomainIQ instead of DomainTools.

      In reply to Reality | April 26th, 2016 at 4:11 am

    EdG

    Cancelling my account, as I would have to upgrade to an Enterprise account to get the same services as I have now.
    Well done Tim Chen!

    April 26th, 2016 at 1:58 am

    Michael

    Thanks @David Yang and @Reality

    DomainIQ is worth looking into. Has anyone tried using Whoisology for an extended period. It is free if you use is once in a while, but I am worried their whois history is not that extensive.

    April 26th, 2016 at 4:28 am

      jZ

      whoisologys whois history is pretty basic, it only goes back a few years and you can only see one history every few months, not every change like at domaintools. is domainiq better for whois history? i’ve never used them before.

      In reply to Michael | April 26th, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Josh

    Another sad part if this most d not realize. Over the last decade+ I have helped recover at least 100’s and hundreds of stolen domains. The whois history plays an extremely crucial role it making time lines, contact rightful owners, evidence for rar’s to return names etc. I never charged anyone who asked me for help it is something I enjoyed doing.

    If I were to want to continue that the cost would be very large to me now or I would have to charge for the service.

    Seeing as I cannot justify a renewal then this guy is done recovering stolen names for people.

    This is not to mention the fact that it is now more risky for new domainers then it already was and for us old pro’s to do due diligence.

    Thanks domaintools your price change and service claw back will lead to MORE crime and victims, security company LOL

    And Elliot you cannot deny this man, history was an important tool for keeping us safe as we bought and helping victims.

    April 26th, 2016 at 8:04 am

      Garth

      ICANN should be archiving Registrant records, not left to some commercial third party who merely scrapes that data.

      In reply to Josh | April 26th, 2016 at 8:15 am

      Super Villain

      How much money did you make “helping” recover all these stolen domains ?
      I’m sure that money could pay for a couple subscriptions.

      In reply to Josh | April 28th, 2016 at 10:39 am

    JZ

    the funny thing about this is that there wasn’t much outcry until they decided to take away the grandfathered pricing. its been over a month since they have restricted access to the free users.

    April 26th, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Dan

    Got a reply back from Whoisology regarding switching over and any discounts they might have for switchers:

    We will likely be releasing promotional pricing tomorrow.

    Keep an eye on our twitter account https://twitter.com/whoisology

    Besides this one and DomainIQ are there any other providers?

    April 26th, 2016 at 9:00 am

    thelegendaryjp

    Funny how when you peeve off the base, long time clients and jack the price XXX% while taking away tools that are essential how that happens.

    April 26th, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Dan

    Here is the reply from DomainIQ:

    Thank you for the email. The problem is twofold: a) we have no way to verify who is a Domain Tools customer or not and it would not be fair for our current customers if we ended up with a blanket discount which is inevitably where this would lead; b) we already charge considerably less than Domain Tools.

    So a possible discount from Whoisology and no discount from DomainIQ. A lost opportunity to get unhappy customers in mass to move over from your competitor.

    Hope this info helps everyone!

    April 26th, 2016 at 9:11 am

      David Yang

      I don’t care about how much the service will be charged but I do care about why I am forced to agree with a unfair change from one side.

      In reply to Dan | April 26th, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Ivan Rasskazov

    Hello Everyone,

    If you have any questions regarding domainIQ, please feel free to open a support ticket and we will be happy to respond:

    https://www.domainiq.com/contact

    Thank you,

    Ivan

    April 26th, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Josh

      Ivan, any way to work on getting whois history earlier than 2008?

      In reply to Ivan Rasskazov | April 26th, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Ivan Rasskazov

      Hi Josh,

      We are always looking for ways to improve historical data and current services. Please check in periodically on the site and we will be happy to update you.

      Regards,

      Ivan

      In reply to Josh | April 26th, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Josh

    Thank you Ivan, I joined today with a Pro account and am quite impressed. Later whois history data would be excellent if obtainable, all the best.

    April 26th, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    John

    I was turned off the first time they switched to paid mode because even though I had paid a time or two short term before, they never gave me an opportunity to come in at the grandfathered price others had when they did that. That was a total turn off.

    Sure wish there was more competition in the market. I do miss what was still free up until a just a few weeks ago.

    April 26th, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Raymond

    Looks like bad decision for Domain Tools….
    I hardly use it because I don’t like to log in all the time even it’s free…..I use others because I don’t need to log-in every time I use……..

    April 27th, 2016 at 12:42 am

      Garth

      Forcing log-on means they can track/log what the account does/uses.

      In reply to Raymond | April 27th, 2016 at 2:58 am

    David Iwanow

    I think the pricing shift is a joke, I can’t understand how any company can say their data systems are most costly than they were 5 to 10 years ago. I could have understood a price rise by 733% is a joke for long time leagcy customers.

    You had many more customers who would have told you the leagcy pricing was worth a magnitude more. It seems it was a poorly executed strategy by DomainTools team where a handful of heavy users were grouped with personal users that used the service within fair and reasonable use.

    Servers have far higher utilization now with technologies like cloud hosting/virtual servers etc… so they can deliver more bandwidth and doesn’t cost more money. Other factors such as denser, faster ports that cuts costs of bandwidth.

    As companies grow they get economies of scale… so their costs should actually be far lower compared to 5 to 10 years ago.

    They have used personal accounts to fund a large portion of the resources used to scrape whois data and now selling it to enterprise customers.

    I have already cancelled my membership after 8.5 years as a paying customer!
    There are several alternative platforms that people should consider using instead of DomainTools platform!

    May 13th, 2016 at 6:55 pm

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