So you want to be a domain-name millionaire? Now's the time. The obscure California nonprofit that controls the domain names of the world--known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN--is about to authorize an unlimited number of new suffixes.
An "Internet land rush" is on, according to a conference starting tomorrow in San Francisco devoted to the goings on at ICANN. Seattleite Jothan Frakes is one of the organizers of the conference, called ".nxt."
Frakes (pictured) got in early on the domain-name business back in 1997, when he co-founded a firm called enic that sold addresses with the "cc" suffix. (See SW's piece from 2000 on enic co-founder Brian Cartmell.) After selling the firm, Frakes became a consultant. Here are his top tips for entrepreneurs looking for domain-name gold.
1. Be prepared to spend a lot to acquire a suffix. ICANN's application fee for a new suffix is $185,000. As The Washington Post reported yesterday, that's a cost that critics say "cuts out many smaller grass-roots organizations, developing countries, or dreamers." Frakes, however, says that number is merely a starting point. "You're going to need consultants, technical help, legal help," he says. "You should budget for three-quarter million dollars."
2. Then spend even more money to market it. Frakes says a company in the country of Columbia spent upwards of $1 million last year to market the suffix ".co." And that's a suffix with a huge running start. Companies in the U.K. and elsewhere already used ".co" as a so-called secondary suffix (say britishfashion.com.co) and were eager to streamline their addresses with a simple ".co." A entrepreneur looking to make a fortune on quirkier suffixes might have to spend more.
3. Be realistic. The company marketing ".co" sold 500,000 addresses in just a year. The group that manages ".museum," on the other hand, has just 500 entities signed up, according to Frakes. It doesn't necessarily follow that if you build it, they will come.
4. Be stealthy. Al Gore and Mikhail Gorbachev are already competing over the suffix ".eco." What if Starbucks announces that it wants to apply for the suffix ".coffee" and thereby prompts a number of other companies to do the same? The fear of competition is causing many firms to keep their plans to themselves. That's why Frakes says he can't reveal the name of the several Seattle companies at the conference, including one that he's consulting with. Nor will he talk about the two suffixes that he himself plans to apply for.