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Feburary 2004

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Domain Names and Party Games part II

October 2001

<<< Part I - Where to Start

Important note: a fully revised version of this document can be found here - Dynamoo.com - Choosing a Domain Name.
Note: an updated version of this article can be found here.


  New TLDs  Picking a name  Still Trying?  Doing the Dirty 

New Top Level Domains
One of the recent developments in domain names has been the opening up of several new top-level domains (TLDs), such as .info and .biz.

At the time of writing, only .info sites are currently active (editors note - as of June 2002 .biz is active too along with other TLDs). These domain names are available for sites carrying information, essentially on a first-come-first-served basis. However, most of the .info names have been snapped up, but it is at least possible now to find reasonably good domain names with a little effort. Most registrars will be able to do this for you. Dynamoo uses Total Registrations, but it always pays to shop around. See the list of approved registrars here.

Although .info is an up-and-coming domain name, the TLD most respected by the public at large is still .com and is likely to remain that way. A long session with Dynamoo's crystal ball indicates that .info will probably be the number 2 name, ahead of .org, .net and the myriad of other names.

Picking a Name
Thinking up a new domain name is a difficult creative process, and you'll find that all but the most creative have been snapped up. So does this mean that they are all active web sites?

The answer is "no" - most .com domain names were bought up speculatively to make a quick profit - and then the bottom dropped out of the market. Dynamoo discussed this back in April 2001, and the situation hasn't changed that much since except the price for AmericaC.com has dropped from $100,000 to $12,000 (which is still about $11,990 more than it's worth).

A little digging may find out some more information. If you actually visit the site it may be for sale, and the registration itself may just be to a placeholder - for example Udderwise.com is for sale at GreatDomains, although you might not be able to tell this when you try to register. Still, a thousand bucks is a lot for a domain name, and if you're a small-time webmaster it's a lot more than you can really afford.

The most likely domains still to be unregistered are compound words, for example CreepyGuy. Stick with .com if you possibly can though. Remember, the shorter the better, try to avoid mispellings, hyphens, numbers and difficult words.

Still Trying?
So.. you're still searching for a domain name. You have a large mug of coffee and a pile of cookies to sustain you through the creative process of thinking up names. You hit on the perfect domain name, try to register it and whoops.. already gone. Let's say you want Udderwise.com really badly, but don't have the $1000 being asked for. Or the site doesn't respond when you try to visit, or it hasn't been updated for a few years or some such.

One key thing to do is check up on the domain name using a WHOIS service. There are lots of these, but Allwhois.com is a good one. Type in the domain name (e.g. udderwise.com) and you'll get the registration details for the site. Somewhere in the details you'll see an entry like this:

   Record updated on 12/06/2001
   Record expires on 24/11/2001
   Record created on 24/11/2000

The key date here is the expiry date - 24th November 2001 in this case. If the expiry date is not far off you may like to consider buying it if or when it expires for a more reasonable fee, assuming that it is not renewed. Many domain names that were bought in the great domain name boom won't be renewed, and there are a lot of sites lying around derelict too.

This is where a shortcut comes in.. it's now possible to use a service such as Snapnames.com which effectively allows you to back-order domain names. It does this by monitoring the names on a 24/7 basis, so you don't have to.

SnapNames: Back-Order the name you always wanted but couldn't get.
Which one do you want?
The registration process is unusual - you deposit $69 to put a reservation on a domain name, in advance. If you change your mind, or the domain is renewed you get the deposit back as a credit to use against another reservation. You can use the deposit for a year. $69 is a little pricey for a domain name, but it sure beats the thousands of dollars quoted.

Even so, you may not get your first choice, and you have to wait between 30 and 90 days after the domain expires to get hold of it - this is due to the amount of time the delete cycle takes with the registrar, in fact the whole delete cycle is nicely documented at Snapnames and is well worth a look. Snapnames.com only allows one reservation per name to prevent conflicts, so you may find the name is already gone. Still, this gets a recommendation from Dynamoo as being a very cool service indeed.

You can also use Snapnames.com to protect your own domain names against poaching - that $69 in advance means that you won't forget - and if you do have a decent amount of traffic you will get the domain turned into a porn site which will be very, very expensive to buy back.

Doing the Dirty
Let's assume you are thinking about moving into a domain that isn't quite empty yet. We're talking about a domain that has been developed but possibly not updated for a long time, or if you fancy really upsetting someone, you could try and poach a domain from someone else. Bear in mind that lawyers get rich quick from this sort of thing, so make sure you're not infringing any trademarks or other legally-protected rights to the domain name. Don't try and pass yourself off as the previous owner of the domain either.

You stand to inherit more than a domain name - you stand to inherit all the inbound links and references too. This can lead to a huge amount of traffic from the word go, and if your new domain has similar content to the old one you could be looking at a very good situation indeed.

You can judge the amount of traffic a site might be getting at Alexa which will give you some idea of the site's rank. It's not the most accurate set of stastics in the world however, but it's a useful indicator. Also, you need to check out the number of inbound links to a site - Google is good at this, you can try the following syntax to get an idea:


You can also use a good metasearch engine such as Vivísimo to get an idea of the number of inbound links and where they are. The basic rule is more links equal more traffic, and in the case of Google, this means a higher ranking in the search engine. Also remember, if the site is listed in Yahoo!, that's worth $299 to begin with.

Your mission is now to "scoop up" as much of the old traffic as you can. Either determine which were the most popular inbound links, or better still, customise those 404 Not Found messages, maybe using an .htaccess file. Talk to your hosting company about this (or read the manual!)

You'll need to think about the ethics of what you're doing as well. You might discover that the previous user of the domain will be quite upset if they find what has happened. Well, remember, nobody owns a domain, you merely purchase the right to use it. If you own the right to use a domain name, it's your responsibility to keep it up-to-date. If it's an active domain, register it for 10 years or use a service like Snapnames.com to protect it.

 <<< Part I - Where to Start


Recommended links:
Snapnames.com - back order and monitor domain names.
Alexa - work out the rank of a website
Google - probably the world's most comprehensive search engine
Vivísimo - probably the world's most useful metasearch engine
ICANN approved registrars





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