Friday, June 29, 2007

The End Of The Domain

TechCrunch posted a write up the other day entitled "Domain Sellers Party Like It's 1999". And it's true. The domain business is a big business right now.

From the TechCrunch post:

Last week some $10million changed hands at auction for domain sales, with 16 domains being sold for 6 figures. Free Credit & Credit sold together for $3million, although as the DomainTools Blog points out this was at a relatively low multiple of around 7x yearly earnings. sold for $1.8 million and even raised $135,000. The exuberance in the market even extends to the spam infested .info domain, with selling for $17,000.

I guess it's understandable. There's a limited supply of good domains out there, and getting one of them can drive a lot of traffic, which on the current predominantly ad-supported internet, equals profit. The thing is, that's all going to change.

The first steps are already taking place. The Web 2.0 "bubble" is generating tons and tons of new web based businesses and they all need domains. The thing is, there just aren't enough. And nobody is going to let the unavailability of a good domain name stop their "world changing" buzzword laden startup.

So people have started registering jibberish. See basically any real Web 2.0 site for examples of such nonsense-word names. Names that would never have been associated with respectable businesses are now receiving millions in VC on a daily basis. Surely, many would say, these names aren't the result of desperation, but instead new and hip, and thus, marketable.

I tend to disagree with this sentiment. These sorts of names only really became marketable once they were in widespread use, and honestly, I doubt very much that a jaiku or kiko is really very marketable to anyone but mindless Silicon Valley lemmings.

These names, unlike the names of Web 1.0, are certainly not the sort of thing that someone would type randomly into a web browser, like or, so they clearly don't add value by driving traffic that way. But really, the era of driving traffic with random direct URL entry was the first thing to go. Even the most internet illiterate are starting to get it through their heads that the internet is so big that guessing at URLs is not a very effective way to find useful or relevant websites.

There are really only a few reasonable entry points to the Web:
  • Google or other search engines (there are other search engines?)
  • RSS Readers
  • News syndication services like Slashdot, Digg, or any old blog
  • Social bookmark-sharing and discovery services like or Magnolia
  • Perhaps an email or IM conversation link
Both news syndication services and social bookmarking services boil down to rss feeds, so that can ideally all be handled by an RSS Reader. This means there's essentially 3 entry points to the web (somebody let me know if I'm missing one here): Search Engines, RSS Readers and Email/Chat.

Of course, Google just so happens to run the most popular web-based versions of all of these applications. And of course, they can all be embedded in a customized Google home page. So really, there's only one word that people ever need to type into their browser, and that's Google. Really, at this point, setting Google as a home page is obvious, because it is the only starting point.

I suppose that the only other possible entry point would be through a bookmark, handled by the Firefox extension ideally; no need to enter a domain name there.

So, there's no reason to enter a URL ever, or even see one, in order to start browsing the web. Of course, once browsing on the web, the way to get from place to place is via links. Period. Any movement over the web is done by accessing a link. No entering a domain name here either. Ever.

So, why again, do we even care about domain names at all? There's no need to enter them, and as a result, no need to ever even look at them, except maybe, to check for a .ru or .ro extension as a warning of a phishing attack (though that's slightly less of a concern with OpenDNS). Why is everyone shelling out millions of dollars for things that there is no reason to look at or care about?

Domains are an archaic and ugly branding method, a holdover from the early days of the internet. It's going to take a little while longer for it to happen, but in the not too distant future people are going to start to realize that domains are not only irrelevant: they're worthless.


Ryan S said...

A new type of portal to the web seems to be emerging, a mashup of other sites styled to be similar to a desktop or just an aggregator of other popular sites.

I think that the speed at which users connect to the internet will need to increase before they become popular, since these sites rely heavily on ajax calls in the background. When that happens, these sites will be able to run better on the average users computer.