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Why He’s A Domainer

I know a guy… he says he’s a domainer. He has about 3200 domains registered. It is like a collection. He collects domains. Not killer domains, just unique, probably-would-still-be-available-if-he-hand-not-reserved-them domains.

Now I am not new to domaining. It is big business, and a very strategic part of web publishing. But time and again I meet self-described domainers who “own” collections of domains like this, for investment purposes. The only problem with it I see is the domains are not worth very much. In fact, I doubt they are worth the registration fee. I refer to them as bottom tier domains, the ones at the bottom level of the value scale.

But it’s his collection of domains, not mine, so I don’t want to be judgmental. I don’t own any really big-time valuable domains myself. And to be honest, one or two of his choices may someday have real value. At less than $10 cost per year per domain, only a relatively small percentage need to achieve thousand dollar value to justify the endeavor from a financial perspective. But again, that’s not the point.

I always wondered why people become bottom-tier domainers. I think I’ve discovered why, after talking tonight with him about his domaining.

Before domaining, he had a computer and AOL Internet service and loved it. Then he got off AOL and onto “the real Internet”. But he didn’t do anything with it. He didn’t know how to use it, didn’t know where to go to do anything meaningful. He thought it was awesome every time someone sent him to a new, cool site. He had a few sites he loved to monitor, and he used Yahoo finance for checking stocks. He read the New York Times online. But he wanted to participate, not just read. He wanted to play a role in this cool new revolution called the Internet.

He tried blogging once.. it was a Blogger disaster. He was his only known reader. He tried to have a website made, but had nothing to put onto it and the designer gave up out of frustration (he says she’s still waiting for his content… 3 years later). He invested in a small web business with a neighbor, but lost his money on web development and no site ever materialized.

But he says that when he registered his first domain name he felt a real sense of accomplishment. It was satisfying, like a successful shopping trip. Different though, in that he now had something no one else could also have — a unique domain name no one else had yet “invented”. He invented another. And then another. He told me that in the beginning, he got an idea for a business printing official ownership certificates for registered domains, sort of like those wall plaques you get for approved patents or gold records. He said he would have paid well to get one for each new domain he invented and registered.

Now, 3000 or so domains later, he uses the Internet every day for Facebook, and to check on his domains and renew them. He owns a piece of the web, he says. And he has lots of development ideas, for later, and for discussing over beers at meetings and during Internet Entrepreneuring seminar coffee breaks (he goes to a lot of entrepreneur and business networking meetings, looking for the right partners for future projects).

So domaining was his entry into participating in the web. I don’t think it even matters what domains he started with… he just needed to start, and domaining provided the avenue for his successful independent foray into material participation on the Internet. Funny how he didn’t have Facebook back then. Listening to him speak about his experience, I suspect that if he had Facebook then, he would have found the same satisfaction, without registering domains.

Now he’s facing a new dilemma… he has almost 300 domains up for renewal each month, and doesn’t have a way to fund his domaining “business” anymore. It’s not an easy problem to solve, because he doesn’t want to give away any of his inventions.Would you?


  1. Adam wrote:

    A bottom tier domainer eh John ? Some would call that a bit redundant ;)

    Friday, August 13, 2010 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  2. Fellow Dreamer wrote:

    It’s like a story out of the Twilight Zone, a strange twisted battle between dreams, practicality, reality, business and a brief moment of inner joy. I would love to see those domains, email them to me if you can. That’s somewhere between 25-30k invested, 2-3k a month in renewals, take just a small hand full of those “inventions” and invest in them (you can even pay for content to be created) or one or a small few of new “solid inventions” and he may be much closer to calling a truce to this twisted battle or not, in the [URL=””]Domainer Zone[/URL]

    Friday, August 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  3. Kathy wrote:

    You are kidding about this guy right? You should re-nickname your friend Captain Insano. Talk about a worthless investment……..

    If he is buying tons of hyphenated domains, somebody should really clue him in on the fact that he could easily register almost any one of them when the time comes to actually launch a site. If he wanted to collect real value, he should go over to and pick up a nice 15 year old domain with some history to it. That would be a real shopping trip. He would be like a kid in a candy store. Don’t you think?

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 3:56 am | Permalink
  4. Funny story. I work for a hostingcompany myself and we’ve got tools that make it really easy to order domains. I can definitely understand the situation you’re describing. It’s easy to register domains. They’re cheap. And since the good ones are scarce it’s kinda like a treasure hunt to find the good ones that are still available. I do however think that for every successful domainer there’s probably ten unsuccessful ones…

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink
  5. Gareth James wrote:

    The problem is unless they are premium domain names, they are pretty hard to sell. People also underestimate the time/money to develop domains. I’ve just let 200 expire for this exact reason…but you live and learn.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 1:22 am | Permalink
  6. Dana wrote:

    At $30,000 per year, there is no way this guy will ever make back his investment. The only people making money squatting this kind of name are running them all on an MFA platform, with a good set of content and keywords relevant to each domain so that they get enough ad revenue to pay for the renewals. Godaddy parks and shares some revenue, but it doesn’t pay well. Google parks and runs ads, but then doesn’t list the site in search, so you only get paid when someone actually types your URL directly into their browser.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink
  7. I would definitely dump domains if I could not use them at the time. I’ve killed a ton of them already because it just was not financially justifiable.

    I think if you are going to own a domaining type business, the goal should be to at least be able to pay for the hosting/registration costs on each domain.

    3000 domains is A LOT of fees every year, especially if they are all just sitting.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 6:30 am | Permalink