Warning: This NPR Story About Domain Names Might Enrage You

Story labels domainers cybersquatters, and then some.

Don’t click through to this NPR Marketplace story if you’re agitated today. It will only flip you off the edge.

In a story today titled “Biz model for domain names to change”, things don’t start off well:

Ever wonder why the address for the photo-sharing website Flickr doesn’t have an E in it? It’s because — and this is a true story — the founder liked the name “flicker” — E, R — but couldn’t negotiate the rights to it. The guy who had it wouldn’t sell. So, she improvised and came up with the next best thing. Cyber-squatting, as it’s known, has led to a whole spate of oddly-spelled company names and web addresses.

The story then goes on to tell why the days of selling .com domain names for a lot of money are over, and interviews two people who don’t own a bunch of .com domains to find out why.

There’s David Sarno, who explains:

I don’t know any of my best friends’ phone numbers. That era is gone where you had to remember phone numbers. Now, you just pick out your phone and click on their name. So, it should be a similar thing with businesses and entities of all kinds, where all I have to do is remember your name, and I’ve searched for your name online and it takes me to your website.

His analogy is great, but not for what he’s trying to say. The analogy is that instead of remembering an IP address, you type in a domain name.

And how about this, from narrator Cash Davis:

A lot of times the domain isn’t even in use. Some greedy opportunist is just sitting on it, waiting for you to buy it from him at an inflated price. It’s sneaky and outrageous. Or, to put it another way, capitalism. Because a good domain name is vital part of your brand, though, this is a real problem.

OK, at least they admitted it’s capitalism.

But here’s the kicker:

But uh-oh, wait. If you add these new names, what happens to all those greedy opportunists who basically registered the entire thesaurus to make a fast buck? I do hope they’ll be OK and don’t lose all their money.

At least like many Marketplace stories it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

(Hat tip Nat Cohen)


  1. DR.DOMAIN says

    Too late.I heard it driving through the desert to Vegas from Cali.I alternated between incredulous guffaws and blistering condescension.Loud enough with each-that I probably awakened predator birds from their post-lunch nap.I guess you qualify to be a financial reporter when get passed over for the Stewie Griffin voiceover gig.

  2. says

    Cash Peters – you have a bedroom and computer that you are not using. According to your logic, this gives me permission to permanently take both, sans compensation.

  3. says

    “the whole system’s about to become freer and simpler.” ha. Right.

    It didn’t enrage me so much as make me chuckle. Marketplace gets it wrong once in a while and they got that one more wrong than most. Too bad.

  4. Joe Muggs says

    Let’s face it: DNS is an arcane and obsolete directory system. Names are, and will always be, valuable in the virtual world for the same ressons that they are in the real world. Pepsi, HP, McDonalds, and Kodak, Ford… come to mind. But I suspect that the crazy strings in your browser’s address bar will eventually be phased out in favor of something more akin to English. Dot-com will die, so the only question is “when”?

  5. says

    Apparently someone (like most) didn’t get the memo that we live in a capitalistic world. There is no difference from physical land property to internet virtual property. If you own a beach front property (kind of like santamonica.com) in Santa Monica, it will surely sell for millions. If you have property in bum fuck Idaho (bumfuckidaho.com) and acres of it (bumfuckidaho.net, bumfuckidaho.org), surely you can pick it up for next to nothing.

    Owning a “generic” name is kind of like physical property, first come first serve. They pay the price, manage the renewal fees and if they develop it out, its kind of like building a house on it. If a shed (landing page), a guest house (mini site), a full size house (full feature site), to even a mansion (facebook size site)…

    Wake up and smell the coffee you idiots. Thats all I have to say to people with such ignorance who don’t know how to monetize a domain let alone a microsoft stock from the 80’s.

  6. says

    Every now and then you have to shake your head at the collective ignorance in the world. It never goes away.

    The domain name industry defies conventional thinking and has become unlike nearly any other “opportunity” in history. People just cannot get their minds around its necessity or legitimacy. So ignorance and pettiness prevail, as usual … based on the envy of those who missed out.

    Also, domain names aren’t going away. Any more than we have a replacement for your social security number or your street address. A domain name is the shortest, most convenient, and most effective means of navigating the internet.

  7. says

    Their logic is not so far fetched. That kind of thinking is anti-capitalism. We are increasingly in a world were people want things for free and believe everyone and everything is equal. While I believe everyone has the capacity to be equal, personal decisions create different outcomes.

    When something is hard to attain and considered of value it makes those who do not have it want others to not have it. Those that can afford it will buy it at any cost. Problem is there are fewer people now with money to burn. Those that don’t have hope of excess money are in the majority and will vote for things to be free. Beware of exercises of speech that contain the phases “for the public good”. Those are the same people that will call the internet a “right” or a “utility”.

    In the end great domain names will have power and leverage. There are not many great ones when you consider how many people on this earth will need them. Everyone has the ability to create a success but no one can be successful if you believe someone else has robbed you of your opportunities. When I read comments like you have in this article it makes me realize how much more work we need to put into creating and developing the domains we have.

  8. says

    More venom from the left! I wonder, make that I hope they took time to say a prayer for the fallen soldiers that gave their own lives so that opinionated misguided (IMO) people like them could have rights like Free speech that we all enjoy in the good ole USA.

    Everyone has and is entitled to their opinion. The ssue is that with advances in technology and communication came the ability to spread mistruths nationally even globally in seconds.

    AS long as there is an Internet domain names will remain valuable. No matter how Internet surfers get there they will always need an address a location to arrive at and that location has is and will be domain names.

    My advice to domainers in stark opposition to the article aauthors is buy buy buy and hold!

    As the song says “Our day will come”

  9. stewart says

    and the perception the rest of us take away from what we have experienced just trying to obtain, secure, and maintain, even a single doamin name for our own purposes is less than a wholesome one.

  10. says

    Posted a famously verbose response on NPR. Hope I at least explained the basics to the poor uneducated listeners who may lose the chance to get a good domain by investing $10,000 in buying a newspaper display ad for their company, and watching the response from that ad diminish within 3 days.

  11. says

    That this Cash Peters is a poor and careless reporter, is not as important as the question of what these very vaguely described ICANN changes imply for us domainers in the future. As far as I can decipher them here’s a stab at some analysis, and please, if you have any clues yourself, chime in. Here goes: If private entities can buy the registration rights to their own domain TLD designations, then those will be controlled by private hands. In other words, if Nikon buys .camera, it’s only going to be used by Nikon, and Nikon won’t be licensing it out for the whole world of photography to use as well. Thus you won’t see canon.camera, olympus.camera or sony.camera if Nikon owns the .camera tld.
    Assuming it’s costly to register these pups (a Google search brings up an old 2008 article proposing the same idea at US$50,000 per) and available only by filing an application, then they’ll be costly and not casually created. On the other hand, if they’re as cheap and easy to create as current registrations, then this will only open up a whole new land-rush domain grab, ie: more chaotic plundering eventually ending up in the same constrictions as in the current domain marketplace.
    Other possibility is that solo entities register their TLDs, then sub-let or sell the extensions to others. In other words, I buy “.hamburger”, then let mcdonalds.hamburger, carlsjr.hamburger and burgerking.hamburger exist in my space for a steep fee. If that happens, then you’ll REALLY have fractured and extortionate private control of the internet domain name space. Malignant reportorial drivel and fluff is whatever it is — but please , lets hear your ideas of what these actutal changes are, and the implications. More .me, .net., .biz etc. B.S. to be met with a collective shrug by the world Internet community, or something different — which really changes the groun rules of the domaining space? … Please opine.

  12. says

    I have yet to read the article. However, I believed NPR to be one of the most fair and unbiased news organizations in the country. This makes me re-evaluate the position.

    Andrew, you are ever one of the deepest researchers and IMO at the top of the Domain news industry. Have you looked into the possibility NPR, the writer, or someone close to the writer didn’t negotiate a deal for themself and is using NPR as a launching pad for a personal tirade?

  13. sc says

    I do not get it….

    1>Internet created with .com instead of IP addresses to make it easy to use.

    2>All the .com are supposed to lay waiting on the “authorized” owner to appear and buy it.

    3> All other domain names should remain unused.

    4>All “unauthorized” domainers are cybersquatters.

    This was on NPR? It must have been a comedy show.

  14. says

    I think I figured out a little more of what they might intend here. Let’s say Coca Cola owns CocaCola.com . To protect its trademarked brand identity, its legal and IP staff must scour the registries for all 50(?) or so tld variants — cocacola.net, .biz, .mobi, .me etc. and hope to lock them all up, because every tld variant not in Coca Cola’s own hands is owned by a cut_and_dried cybersquatter (not so for soda.com, cola.com or maybe even coke.com — all generics).
    Now let’s say ICANN lets Coke buy up it own .cocacola tld, and the browsers as well as Google come up with some sort of direct navigation protocol which makes .cocacola superior to .com and all the other TLDs. I think that’s what’s under discussion here.

  15. says

    i read most of the comments on the story, and it looks like the author enjoyed a healthy intellectual throttling, if he read them at all

  16. Mike says

    I love these people. They think that because someone purchased a lot on what has become a busy street that they should just hand it over to some gas station who complains that they didnt get their first? F- that.

    THAT is the new society. THAT is the entitlement complex of today’s whacked out citizen, who would rather have the government wipe their asses and blow their noses for them — from the cradle to the grave.

    This nation is heading for a revolution and HOPEFULLY it is without bloodshed, but we can not go on split like this anymore. NPR, and the rest of the whacko media are to blame as much as those who elect these buffoons.

    Bottom line: you can not have my property no matter what you say or think or feel. I am not violating any trademark laws nor did I steal it from anyone. I got here first, DEAL WITH IT.

  17. says

    I like NPR and find them to be (usually) the real Fair and Balanced news source :) I was one of the first to post a rebuttal to their article and I simply chalk it up to ignorance on their part. They had a rep from ICANN and the tech editor from the LA Times. I’m sure they felt they had enough neutral “experts” to deliver a fair report. However, it amazes me how much ignorance is floating around out there. It’s 2010 and not a day passes where I have to explain to someone exactly what my brother I do with CCIN.

  18. Louise says

    @ Attila said: “There is no difference from physical land property to internet virtual property. If you own a beach front property (kind of like santamonica.com) in Santa Monica, it will surely sell for millions.”

    Exactly my thought! American domainers got in on the action, before the Chinese, or else you couldn’t negotiate a good domain in English. Yes, I am grateful to you [domainers]. If you think it couldn’t happen, watch cash buyouts of homes, monumenets, and skyscrapers during dips in US realestate.

    @ Michael Castillo, Hi, am a fan from a distance! You said: ‘Beware of exercises of speech that contain the phases “for the public good”. Those are the same people that will call the internet a “right” or a “utility”. ‘ Sorry, on this I disagree. The internet is a right and a utility. It was built using taxpayer dollars, both the research that went into it, and the infrastructure which is the backbone of the phone system, and as such, should be US-regulated. Not, “DOMAINS should be regulated, but the internet should be regulated, and law should govern domain assignment.

    Therefore, the Registrars who hang on to valuable domains instead of make them available are against the public interest, not domainers. The public has it wrong: Registars are the bad guys who hold most unbuilt domains, not domainers.

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