63
52 Comments

F**k Domain Parkers

Did you come up with a great name for your new business? Did you choose a domain? Great, what is it? Actually, don't even tell me, I already know: It's taken.

Because everything is f***ing taken. Domain-parking has been a 6.5 Billion industry this year. The way this works is simple: Whenever a new term is coined ("SaaS", "Bitcoin", "AI"), domain parkers register a dictionary worth of adjacent terms as domain names. Once someone actually wants to use a domain, they resell it to them for anywhere between 5k to multiple 100k.

So what's the problem, isn't this a legitimate business? On its face, yes - but it is value-destructive as hell. Generally speaking, the vast bulk of economic activity is value-creating. Thanks to Uber you now can seamlessly hail a ride to wherever you are. Thanks to AirBnB you now have a great alternative to hotels. Thanks to Amazon you can have every item on the planet cheaply shipped to your doorstep. The world is better for these companies' existence.

Domain-Parking is nothing like that. If it wasn't for domain parkers, you'd still get your domain - just for 10$, rather than 10.000$. Even worse, domain parkers cash in when companies need money the most: at the very beginning. $10k buys you three months of rent and ramen noodles which might be enough to get your project off the ground and make the world a startup richer, but if these 10k go towards a domain name, that might never happen.

What really pi**es me of though is, that I see more and more developers engage in this practice. Yes, you have the technical knowledge to trade domains, but I'm begging you - use your talents to create great solutions that make the world richer, rather than blocking the global domain namespace and sucking money out of companies that haven't made a single cent yet.

  1. 7

    I'd say that many developers also buy domain names because they have ideas that they want to work on in the future. They see a great domain name, they imagine how awesome it would be to turn their idea using that domain name and then boom, the impulse buying kicks in (I'm certainly guilty of that).

    1. 3

      I was in exactly that position, with a half-dozen domains, so I created https://www.domaindrain.com/

      1. 2

        I like it! Add it to your profile?

  2. 6

    I feel bad because I'm in it too.

    Or at least starting out in this space.

    But I won't be just listing out names, I'll actually be making logos and include some brand assets available for $250, as opposed to the usual $1000+ for similar names.

    For anyone interested it's here domains.thenetly.com (it's the first-ever time I'm sharing this). These are domains from my portfolio, I have been building this site for the past three days. Made it live today.

    My idea is naming anyway is a clear pain, so I'm taking that out and bundling it with branding assets. By doing this I'm increasing the overall value because just to get a proper style guide itself it'll cost around $100. So hopefully my service is not something you'll hate.

    In the future, I plan to write terms like "you can't resell domains brought through us for 8 months" or something like that. So that no one buys it for less only to park it for $13728.

    -------------- (coming back to your frustration)

    All that said, I buy great domains whenever I see and stock them for later. I don't add anything to the site and leave it blank (like this sleia.com).

    These are brandable and in their most generic form making them suitable for a wide range of projects.

    Whenever I have a project, I'll pick one domain from my personal portfolio and get going with the project instead of being stuck with selecting the name.

    1. 6

      Adding a logo for me doesn't make it "ok". I understand you want to add value but what if I don't want that extra value? This is like kidnapping someone and saying "If you pay I will give it back but hey, I will apply make up on him, you can't be mad!".

      It would be OK if you would sell me the domain name for the price you paid if I dont want any of the extras. That would be at least a bit more honest...

      1. 5

        I can relate but I have a different opinion.

        Realtors buy land for less build on them or makeover them or wait for the prices to go up and sell them. You can't blame them even if they did nothing and yet sold for a higher price, right?

        Of course, I can sell you the land for the price that I bought it. But why do that when someone is valuing it for more? I don't see the reason unless this is an important person, a friend, family member, or maybe a charity.

        Domain names are like the real estate of the internet. Great pieces of land (great names) come with higher prices and land from an unreachable site (low quality names) are sold for less or even unregistered.

        The problem is many beginners think a domain name like gearrr.com has higher value and list them out for $1000. In the end, when we actually need them it kind of becomes unreasonable.

        Good example on the kidnap btw

        Cc: @g33kidd

      2. 2

        Totally agree, countless times I've had an idea for a project and couldn't really do much because I needed that piece of the product's identity.

    2. 3

      the real value that your company is creating are logos.

      now ask yourself: what is the reason people are buying your product ? is it the logos ? or is it the domains?

      if it is the logos, stop buying domains and make this step optional. if ppl like your logo you can offer to manage the domains for them, as additional service.

      if it is the domains, ask yourself how much you like those people buying new nvidia graphics cards and selling for 3x the price and imagine you need a new one for work since you are a video cutter. Are you okay with this feeling or not?

      i mean if you are not buying those domains, some others will, and always will be. it is just your choice if you wanna be part of that culture or not :)

      1. 1

        I'm sorry but I think both the domain and the brand assets including the logo have value. Apart from creating brand assets, I'm also taking out the pain of finding a new name. One can literally visit the site and get a name along with the design assets they need.

        I actually thought of having two variants (domain only) and (domain + brand assets) but if they select the "domain only" package then I'm left out with the brand assets.

        Anyway, hink of the real estate example I shared above. Is it the land that has value or the building that's built on it?

        Both. Right?

        You can't go to a house owner and say I'll pay the value of the house but not of the land.

        Graphics card makers have to sell them for higher prices because there's an awful amount of demand for them caused by market conditions. They simply can't sell them $1 when someone is asking the same for $100.

        As you said, if I don't someone else is going to buy the domain and list only the domain for $1000+ and cash out. I'm at least stepping up to change the way it works hoping others will follow.

        1. 2

          It is not the Graphics Card Makers i blame, it is the people buying ALL graphics cards when they are in stock, and reselling them on ebay for 3x the price. Which is the current state of GPUs, you are not able to buy one from an official vendor.

          Well if the Logo is the House on the land or more the Sign in front of it, might be another discussion but i get your point and i guess we both just have different opinions on that :)

          Anyways i wish you the best with your store! Bootstrapping this in 3 days is pretty remarkable :)

    3. 1

      This looks very interesting, love that it's not just a name but also logo & market ideas! Looking forward to see if you can get traction for this.

      It touches on my favourite aspect of domain names, (at least for me) it's easy to be inspired by a name, and it even gives you a bit of branding for free.

      1. 1

        Glad you like my work!

        I'm trying to add as much value as possible.

        If there's a particular category you're interested in then let me know. I'll research and add names for that category and list them.

  3. 4

    Where there's pain there is opportunity so what are some ideas for a solution?

    1. 5

      I bet between most of us on IH we own thousands of domains that we bought for a genuine project which then got shelved. We need a Domain Club where we can list them and buy and sell for “virtually cost price” - perhaps have an agreed formula that everyone agrees to for pricing our domains on the basis of just covering costs, etc.

      1. 2

        https://www.domaindrain.com/

        Would a $300-$100 slide work better than the current $999-$100?

        I'm concerned that I would just get a fraction of the sellers.

        1. 1

          fascinating idea. but I am always too scared in auctions - would be a bad poker player. if I want to sell it at $900 then see it tumble to $100 ... as a seller I'd try to pull it.

          I'd much rather a simple listing site where I put a "reasonable" asking price and just wait. but that's just me, I'm not really into the idea of gamifying everything.

        2. 1

          Really smart idea. For the drain metaphor to hold I think the lower price should be closer to reg fee, but the concept is really good. I also wonder if allowing a more arbitrary time limit (let the seller define) would create more diversity of pricing, especially in the short term.

          I'm curious to know if you have some form of mechanism in place to stop sellers pulling out if the price goes down to a level they're not happy with? Do you act as a form of escrow who holds the domains or is it based on some kind of honour system?

    2. 1

      Don't use .com. There are 700+ other domain extensions with plenty of single-word domains available. It's also an opportunity for branding, e.g. like crisp.chat, frame.work, magic.link or remove.bg.

      Plug for my current project: https://domain.garden - a fast search & categorisation of these new domain extensions.

  4. 3

    this is basically scalping. just like what is happening with all the GPUs right now and this is shit. the problem: this is always happening when a market contains only a limited amount of something. like some rare coins. it might me an old 2 euro coin that is worth 2 euro. but since its rare, they trade it for 1000 euro. same with domains.
    but why is this a problem with gpus, domains, etc but not with coins?
    cause there are people that actually need those not because they need a rare item, because they need it to work with.
    i could just use another 2 euro coin to buy some toast, i don't f** care about the rare one. but i need a damn gpu to play my games!

    all i can say is: just leave this market! take a domain that is cheap and 3 characters longer, if your product is awesome, customers wont care. why? have you ever entered a full domain yourself ? nope you didn't!
    you either find it through google -> customers clicks on it
    or navigate to it with a bookmark
    or if you have to type it in the search bar, you will use the auto completion after 3 or 4 characters anyways.

    yes, i feel you, this is bullshit, and all people participating in that aren't adding ANY value to society, but just move on, ignore that market, do your thing, do it well, and no one will care about a domain name.

  5. 3

    I don't see how this is any different than literally any other business out there.
    You have an opportunity, you take a risk and you hope it pays off.

    Your not going through with your business idea because a domain name is taken? Think about that reason for a second.

    Also genuinely interested - can you explain what a software as a service as a service is? Just not connecting the dots at all.
    "saas as a service idea"

    1. 2

      These are some really good points. Here's my thoughts on each:

      • the risk argument does not really apply here. If you buy land or real estate you pay the current market value and speculate on it going up. If that doesn't happen you loose money. If you are an ICANN registered domain trader, you get the domains pretty much for free (1.90$ a year I believe). So you're just buying as many as possible and wait for a small subset of them to be sold. If you put some advertisement on the sites you run the whole thing pretty much risk free.

      • no way - of course I'm doing it :-) This was just a rant born from a frustration that all good domain names were taken without any having a site on them.

      • the idea of SaaS as a Service is to provide all the generic building blocks for SaaS out of the box (think Signup/Login, User-Self Admin, Payment Provider Integration, Plans, Analytics etc.). It gives you beautifully designed, fully customizable UI components that you can just plunk into your project and get on with focusing on the core business value your offering provides.

      I've done two companies with a SaaS/IaaS model before. DeepstreamHub - a realtime data play that tried to compete with Firebase and Arcentry, a Cloud Architecture Diagramming Tool - for both of these we spent ungodly amounts of time, building generic functionality. "Forgot password workflow", "User wants to change the billing address on their invoices and download them again", "have a graph of user signup vs upgrade to paid, organized by cohort". I would have loved to have a high level offering that just takes care of these, rather than a number of low level ones (Stripe API, AWS cognito/Auth 0 etc.) that I need to integrate and built UI for myself - so I'm building one.

      Curious about your thoughts on this idea.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the thoughts :)

        Good point on the low / no risk approach. I thought this through from more of myself - buying domains at like 10 bucks a pop or more and paying for them for years. Didn't even know about the registered domain trader stuff.

        Yes! Happy to hear your not letting a small roadblock stop you. For the record, this really grinds my gears as well.

        Okay, that makes sense. Is there a better way you can phrase that instead of Saas as a service? That might be the best way, just isn't clear what you are doing at a first glance.

        Totally get where you are coming from with this idea. I primarily work with early sage seed founders up to series A, and the amount of times I have built the above is just ridiculous. I literally now have entire components and shells saved in GitHub of exactly those :)

        I think where this gets interested is even say with no code, you are still often stitching together a number of services to get an mvp. If you could provide basically a drop your data / users here type of approach - that solves a number of problems.

        I kind of view this as going one of two ways:

        1. You sell this entire shell as is for a fixed amount - kind of like a template - then say adios and the user does what they want with it.
        2. You provide the shell as some sort of subscription - but you own the source and its abstracted somehow

        Where I think it might be a tough sell is say I want to move away from you - I now have to re engineer that entire wrapper.

        Another thing to think about, which you already may have is how to handle each customers in relation to all of the third party services. Do you create a new account on their behalf (say for stripe) or do you somehow process them under your org umbrella? What do you do when they want ownership of that?

        1. 1

          These are some really good points - thanks so much.

          In terms of business model, I intend it to be completely as a service. We host your user accounts (probably backed by AWS Cognito to get their security standards out of the box) and provide the server side infrastructure to power the UI components (as well as an API so users can mix and match between our GUI and theirs).

          Pricing will be based on the number of users registered per month. It will be fairly cheap at just 1 cent per registered user and month with the first 100 users free.

          My hope is that the real money will come through a market place of integrations with everything from third party analytics, to customer support to CRM systems etc. where we take a 20% share.

          The reason to do it this way is to avoid the early Shopify scenario in which Shopify took a percentage of the transaction volume going through its platform and quickly got to a point where it was cheaper for their customers to rip them out and built it themselves.

          I feel with the above model our incentives are aligned with the customers. As they grow their userbase, our base offering stays cheap enough to keep, but we sell easy access for the tooling larger SaaS needs and so provide more value the bigger the customer gets.

  6. 3

    Blame me! In 1999 domains cost hundreds of dollars/pounds. I spotted a market and in Sep 1999 launched Easily.co.uk, selling the world's first domains for under £10.

    They were the gold rush days, so within months we were selling a total of 2,000 per day, with some people buying dozens if not hundreds at a time.

    The most fun conversation was "oh should I get the .co.uk or the com or the net or org", and our reply was always "oooh you must get all of them, make sure you protect your brand".

    Silly times and yes it kicked off a bonkers secondary market which I totally dislike too. But I think a lot of the "investors" will come unstuck. When there were only a few TLD's they could hold a business over a barrel. But now there are hundreds of really cool TLD's I really don't care if someone has the .com because actually there are some tld's that make even more sense.

    Top tip: check out .ec at www.name.com (I have no connection apart from as a customer). EC is a very unknown tld because a lot of domain companies don't offer it. You can get some amazing single word domains.

  7. 3

    I agree. And it seems like ads are what makes that whole business viable, which I didn't expect at all: https://www.namepros.com/threads/how-much-do-you-make-on-a-parked-premium-domain.1072350/

    A guy buys a domain, puts it for sale on a parking site, then ads make him a monthly return, plus he may score a domain sale from time to time.
    Some guys are reporting 2000-3000$/month from ads, for one domain. For a 65k$ investment, it's more lucrative than real estate.

    Solution? Advertisers should refuse to pay for ads displayed on bogus parked domain websites.
    Google could remove parked domains from its index, because they offer no value for search. But I guess it means Google is actually a major actor in the parked domain industry, and a reason why domains are parked.

  8. 2

    (unpopular opinion) Doesn't it just make more sense to change the name of your website to something different? I mean no one really uses a product, service, or website for the name, do they? You only recognize / think the name of a thing is cool AFTER you think the thing is cool. Or am I alone on this? It might be frustrating if shortcoolname.com is taken, but if changing to longcoolname.com or shortcoolname.io really affects your success, maybe the service/app wasn't so appealing after all? 🤷‍♂️

  9. 2

    I agree 100% with everything you said, and I've felt the frustration of seeing dozens of ideas squashed because of domain squatters. It's nothing more than scalping.

    But, I want to throw this out there: If they didn't exist, your domains would still be taken. They'd just be in the hands of side-projectors who never complete their projects, or grab a domain, only to use it for something that stagnates and dies.

    Arguably that would be a step forward. Easier to contact and negotiate a reasonable price.

    What's really going to solve the problem is the proliferation of obscure TLDs outside of the .com space.

    Scalping is easy when supply is limited. Impossible when a tiny bit of creativity and a slightly unpopular TLD come together to form a great domain, and people start building well-known businesses around them.

    I'm building all my projects on one-word, obscure TLD names. SO, DO, TO, IS, AM, etc.

    A few big companies are normalizing the practice. Give it a few years and the premium should start to fall on .COM.

  10. 2

    Agree that this is draining a lot of value.

    Partial common ownership could be a solution to the problem.

  11. 1

    This really is a question more of timing, than the valuation in my opinion. I'd like to have bought BTC back in the early days, but I didn't/couldn't/insert reason here. I'd like to have bought real-estate in the UK, Gold, Apple Stock, asset class, asset class, etc earlier but I didn't. The next time related factor, will be how many years .com remains king, or wether the general public can learn more readily to accept and utilise other gTLD's just as readily and herein might still provide a substantial opportunity for an entrepreneur to solve, perhaps somewhat just like Mike Carson and the team at Park.io

  12. 1

    There are so many TLDs like .so .ai .app and etc. Maybe you could try find something similar but with an available TLD. There are many successful apps that are using this and it works 👍

  13. 1

    I feel you.
    Worst thing for me was when I got in the mood to make such contact with a domain squatter. I traced them back to their company in Cyprus.

    They never replied to me and I never understood why. No matter how many times I contacted them.
    I started doing my investigation on them when the WHOIS records weren't as private as they are now and contacted them from all possible paths I could find (search linkedin, related companies, etc.).

    They usually redirect their parked domains to a news portal website focused on Cyprus (maybe for SEO reasons).
    The one domain I've been bugging them for the past 6+ years to sell me, is not redirecting anywhere the past few years.

    I suspect they recently tried to build something of their own on that domain name, but I can't say for sure.
    What would be someone's best course of action for such situations?

  14. 1

    It's a top-down problem. The registrars and even ICANN are corrupt and loosely-regulated. Evidence suggests that many of the top registrars "purchase" some domains automatically based off searches and purchases on their platform so they can sell the "premium" or parked domain.

  15. 1

    I am completely agree. I own quite a bit. Full.dev instaexam.com superreact.com

  16. 1

    True and very frustrating.

    This is one the reasons that stopped me to answer when someone needed help on IH when looking for a name...

    I remember coming up with qanda.com once, and it was free, after a while it was gone.

    I even got an email from someone on the forum...talking about it and then posting here....

    And guess what? Is friggin parked.....

  17. 1

    This has been a really interesting reaction. I posted this as a rant after closing two domain negotiations unsuccessfully and generally running into dead ends everywhere, trying to find a name for my upcoming saas as a service idea. (saasdrive, saaskit, saasengine, saascraft, saasware, saasaas, saasboost etc... all taken, none have an actual site or product).

    What I found though - both here as well as when my rant hit the Hackernews Frontpage - was a deep and nuanced discussion about governance, incentive structures, tragedy of the commons and much more. Bottom line: Yes, it is broken, but there is a surprising amount of depth to it.

    1. 2

      Interesting side note: I posted it on HN with a title of F**k Domainparkers - and it automatically got changed to Fuck Domainparkers. Hackernews has automatic uncensoring - somehow that makes me really happy.

  18. 1

    Side note- $10k only gets you three months of rent + ramen noodles? Only if you're living some place really $$$. You can easily get 6+ months from $10k...

  19. 1

    The person who owns songbox.com wants $6000 dollars for it and I would just never EVER pay that. Even if I could easily afford it.

  20. 1

    they resell it to them for anywhere between 5k to multiple 100k.

    I’m not questioning this but is there any empirical data to support this claim? I find it hard to believe that in 2021 people are still paying 6 figures for domains.

    I mean I get it if you’re a mega corp and $300,000 is chump change to you. That must be the extreme minority though.

    1. 1

      The most trusted resource in the domaining world for validating this, is Domain Name Journal. Their weekly sales report would show you this: https://www.dnjournal.com/domainsales.htm

      I'd also recommend the aggregator domaining.com, and namebio.com

  21. 1

    This is really annoying coz I never get the domain name I want or it is listed for insane price...

  22. 1

    Ohh I for sure know the frustration. But I also think it is two fold.

    I understand the want to make some money off a good domain name, but I also think people shouldn't have to spend 3 months of rent/mortgage to get the domain name they really like/want for their project or company.

    We need some sort of ethical non-predatory domain name marketplace that sets a cap on the listing price that people can try to sell a domain for. But still understanding that certain domains are going to be worth more than others.

    For example, a 4 letter .com that is a single word like "drip.com" is obviously going to be worth more than the alternative of "getdrip.com"

  23. 1

    Yeah I agree with you, but what are we supposed to do? Let BigCos and businesses register our possible project names?

    I's an all around shitty situation. One way to mitigate this is to implement some kind of cap on domain sale. $10k+ for a domain is fucking ridiculous. Maybe a cap of $1k, or even $500 is something I can stomach.

  24. 1

    Twist your target name with extension. I've created 3sname.com to find a good name

  25. 1

    Tell me about it...

    I've just offered $2k for a domain name that hasn't been active in years (or maybe ever). They want $10k, so I'm waiting for a "no".

    Now I'm thinking to myself, what the hell am I doing...

  26. 1

    I think if you really get economics you'd get that there is value in that activity even if I initially it seems predetory
    And if it's overdone to a point of detrement the easy solution would just be to raise registration and renewal prices... Domains used to be 10x the price at the start, also some TLD are way more expensive than others or have special condition like residency or type of official organisation

  27. 1

    I always had similar thoughts. Domain squatters provide no value to society, just leech on others that actually build things.

    Luckily, these days there are a lot more TLDs, so one doesn't have to pay the ransom.

  28. 1

    Let's play a game. Suppose we had completely pure intentions. You discover "coolnameofcompany.com" - and you are sure it will be a cool thing when the person holding that domain ever gets around to using it. So, since you want to know as soon as it turns into something amazing, you list it on a service that checks for you, every so often, to see if that website has finally become the thing you were hoping it would become.

    Let's say there are a lot of people registering similar websites. So, many times a day, this service checks, maybe even in a distributed fashion, across different users' computers - like a chrome plugin perhaps. Maybe users can even share "check lists" - because, hey, sharing is caring and someone else's computer can check for you while you are sleeping!

    These URLs get "checked on". A few hundred checks here, a few hundred checks there. And all this positivity in the world, you are sending lots of strong signals that there's interest in this domain that currently doesn't have anything.

    Now, hopefully, the owner will realize the chance they have and make something great! If they don't, it is possible that ad companies might get annoyed at spending money on parked domains getting disappointed visitors. It could be servers hosting these parked sites get annoyed at a lot of DNS traffic from disappointed visitors. It could be large search companies start to register these domains as low-value URLs. It could be global spam lists start to register these domains, effectively burning them from ever being used again.

    Let's say you had such a nice plugin to help encourage the world to be a better place by checking on these sites. What would be a good name? Check? Check Mate? Let me go see if the .com is available.

  29. 0

    If I had capital I'd surely go and park a few thousand domains after reading this.

    A startup shouldn't rely on its name as a first step. Shouldn't spent that 10K on a domain before getting first a few paying customers. It's nice to have not a must imho.

    Perceive domains as investments, whenever a project reaches to good spot. Whenever spending 10K would bring more, it's the time looking for a new cool domain. Till then it shouldn't matter.

    If there weren't brokers I'd be sharing cat pictures on 4 char .com domains. It's about demand, we can blame Google if we want for prioritizing .com's. There are tons of extensions available out there yet we have to get .com. Why?

    BTW it pisses me off too.

  30. 1

    This comment was deleted a month ago.

Trending on Indie Hackers
Launched 3d Ago → 120k unique visitors, ~6k sign-ups, Product Hunt #2 of Week, Hacker News Front Page 21 comments I've earned $100,000 on a portfolio of products as a solopreneur. AMA! 20 comments I got 1400% traffic, 950% sign-ups, Product Hunt #2 and only 1 SALE! What do I do now? 17 comments Happy to receive feedback about my new landing page 15 comments I am building the first side project in public - The Struggle of Idea 9 comments 14 eBook pre-orders in the last 48 hours! 5 comments