How We Got Sal (KhanAcademy.org) ConAcademy.com

But why ConAcademy.com?
According to the Whois info, ConAcademy.com was registered October 28, 2010. That’s only a few weeks after Google announced a $2M prize to Khan Academy as part of their Project 10^100 and about a month and half after Sal’s Fortune article.

Update: 5/25/12 (HatTip to domainnamewire.com) Oversee and NameKing are being sued by(pdf) jeweler Tocari for exactly what I describe in this post.

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Note: The views expressed here are my own and not those of Khan Academy for whom I freely volunteered my time.
Long story short in case you’re in a hurry. Discovering that ConAcademy.com was registered led me once again down the back alleys of behind-the-scenes domaining. This time the owner turned out to be Oversee.net, who own upwards of a million domains. I’m happy to say that eventually Oversee gave us the domain, no charge, and without legal wrangling apart from my emails. It’s a little more complicated than that, if you’re curious read on.

In our last episode, I’d helped (with help from Andrew Warner) Sal and KhanAcademy.org acquire their dot com. We traveled down a murky road that left a lot of basic questions unanswered. We discovered a web of companies inside of companies that led back to Demand Media (DMD) and wondered if the IPO had anything to do with how “only solid six figure offers” suddenly turned into an auction at Namejet where we won KhanAcademy.com for $2,988.

In the Ustream chat of Sal’s This Week In Startups interview with Jason Calacanis, someone asked if it was spelled ConAcademy and I was shocked to realize I’d never checked the obvious typo! ConAcademy.org was available, but the .com led me down another path I’m happy to share with you today.

conAcademy.com20101119.jpg

This is a classic example of ‘parked’ page. The owner of this domain is hoping someone who had typed conacademy.com into their browser bar, not finding what they were looking for, will then click on one of the links. When that happens, the owner of the domain will earn a rev share of whatever the advertiser is paying for a click. Seeing as this (online education) market is quite competitive, a click (there may be a secondary click required after this first one) can cost an advertiser anywhere from $3-$20 for some of the keywords listed on this page. Usually the clicks are monetized through Google or Bing. The business model has been very lucrative. While parking income is ‘down’, it’s probably the main reason we have large, publicly traded companies owning hundreds of thousands of domains. Not to mention individual domainers with 10s of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of domain names. I should mention now that I don’t have a problem with parking per se. If you were early enough and clever enough to register valuable generic keyword domains when that was still a risky business model, congratulations. (I will say though how grateful I am for my AdBlockPlus plugin.)

In fact ConAcademy.com was owned by Oversee.net.

Oversee.net owns one of the largest portfolios of domain names in the world–more than 1 million names.
Monetizing domain “real-estate”
For owners seeking ways to monetize undeveloped domain “real-estate”, Oversee is a pioneer in offering landing page optimization technology that renders highly relevant keywords, PPC ads, and layout configurations customized for each domain.

Oversee’s entire business model is built around technology that populates domain landing pages with ads to click on. They also own a registrar- Moniker.com,  a domain buy-sell auction platform- SnapNames.com [update: Oversee sold both Moniker and Snapnames to KeyDrive in early 2012], and run an annual high-ticket domain auction conference called DomainFest. They are a major player in the world of domaining.

But why ConAcademy.com?
According to the Whois info, ConAcademy.com was registered October 28, 2010. That’s only a few weeks after Google announced a $2M prize to Khan Academy as part of their Project 10^100 and about a month and half after Sal’s Fortune article.

The registrar for ConAcademy listed on the Whois, was NameKing.com. NameKing is a landing page for domain inquiries. The form led eventually to a quote from someone at Moniker who informed me that the ‘owner’ was willing to except an offer of $2500 for the domain name.

In our previous example, KhanAcademy.com, there was the possibility that a prior customer had registered KhanAcademy.com, that it had eventually dropped, that Enom noticed the traffic, and so rather than releasing it, they kept it for themselves. But in this case ConAcademy.com was registered after a lot of attention was being paid to Sal and KhanAcademy.org. So it makes me wonder if some of this “optimization technology” Oversee is talking about isn’t actually programmed to find available misspelled dot com domains of trending searches and register them! [This just in 4/18/11! Recent UDRP decision confirms Oversee using automated domain registration process! Story from DomainNameWire, WIPO decision. That Oversee is ALSO auto-registering typos of trending search terms wasn’t mentioned in the WIPO decision.]

So there’s the why of it, sort of.  It’s profitable to own these kind of typo domains where type-in traffic generates income through clicks on ads. This, in the case of ConAcademy.com, in my layman’s opinion, was a classic example of typosquatting – benefiting financially from misspellings of someone else’s brand. IF a case could be made that ConAcademy had ANY generic value, I would be forced to concede that Oversee had every right to own it and offer it for sale. But it’s ONLY value derives from Sal’s IP. So I determined I would fight for this one.

I worked on this for months. People were busy, out of town, the conference, the wrong person, that person lost my email, and forwarded it to her who passed it on to legal who wanted documentation of the Trademark etc. Sometimes I knew the person’s name and other times it was ‘Admin’. My point here is that there was obviously no point-person to handle this kind of situation. I was trying to be patient, but when weeks went by without a response I decided to see if I couldn’t acquire some leverage, in a way I knew these people would understand. I was surprised to see, considering they own over a million domains, that OverseeSucks.com was available. With that in my subject line, someone got back to my email within a day and things started to move in earnest.

Let me state here- I do not hate Oversee (and want to thank Howard for his help). I do not think that automated registration algorithms are necessarily evil. I AM saying that if you’re going to own a million names you better have a system in place for promptly giving back domains you have no business owning! It took me FIVE MONTHS to get ConAcademy. Meanwhile Sal spoke at TED and the press hit the fan.

I think my mission is mostly accomplished now. KhanAcademy.com, ConAcademy.org, and ConAcademy.com all point to KhanAcademy.org. We now pass the ‘radio test’.  It’s a pleasure to have been of service to such a great cause. Go Sal!

 

Flickr + RSS = Flickrss

ccBicycles From Flickr

Hear me out now. Sure, one of the most obvious mistakes a domain noob can make is registering domains that include trademarks. And certainly Flickr has a trademark. So what am I doing these years later registering a trademark domain? Learning another lesson?  The hard way? Perhaps, so let me state this up front. If you’re the domain police from Yahoo… I can explain everything. First of all, you’re welcome to the domain. Just show me your badge and I’ll hand it over.  But, here’s what I was thinking.

I want to, but can’t, put an advanced search into Flickr, find Creative Commons images around a keyword, and get an RSS feed of the results. Kind of obvious, but you can’t do it.  I’ve fooled around with Yahoo Pipes but I don’t have the coding chops to make it happen. I registered the domain and put this post up to try to attract a developer for the project. For the right guy this is probably a few hours work.

But too: Flickr champions homemade apps by users. Check out the App Garden.  A lot of the apps have the word flickr in them. Some of those even charge. I have to assume that Yahoo has a pretty lax attitude towards the Flickr mark.

Typosquatting, at least the way I think of it, is where domainers register typos of known marks for the purpose of profiting from error traffic (kind of like Verizon and OpenDns). An 8 for an i, a 5 for an r and suddenly you’re on a page of ads.  This is what typosquatting / cybersquatting domains look like. But wait a second… isn’t Flickr derivative of Flicker? Weird. Check out the numbers the Flicker.com guy has posted there – 3.6 Million visits a year! No ads. Hmm. With all that traffic spilling over from Flickr you’d think he’d have some ads there. But checking “flicker” in a Google search I see all the results are related to Flickr. No ads at all! Could it be that Yahoo would come after him if he did have ads there? Checking the Whois, I’m seeing that Flicker.com was registered in 1998, flickr.com in 2003. Complicated. It does get complicated. [Update: 20100614 Looks like Flickr parent owner Yahoo bought Flicker.com.]

Anyway, if you’re a developer and you can build Flickrss I’ve got the domain ready to go. Drop me a line.

Good Domainer / Bad Domainer

Domaining ethics? Do I hear you laughing? See a lot of strange, creepy, domaining going on? This post will offer a suggestion for how we can make a positive contribution as well. But first…

I’m always shocked when I hear about giant corporate brands not ‘getting’ domain names–spending huge dollars advertising billboard slogans they haven’t even registered as domain names. We read about it in a blog or Forum post, often from the domainer who registered the slogan. I don’t have a problem with this if the slogan or phrase commandeered for the advertising campaign comes out of the public space. If the advertiser has taken the time and expense to develop their own slogan, then they should have had the sense to register the domain. Some do.

Personally, I would register a last OR first name (for ultimate sale to an end user), but not a first-last personal name. Holding personal names hostage with $2k price tags seems kind of creepy to me. Are people making money doing that? Personal names are protected from cybersquatting.

And of course, the darker side of domaining–typosquatting.
I know I made a few Trademark blunders right off the bat. But after reading about URDP decisions and getting it drilled into us from every corner of the Domainosphere we figure it out. I guess there must be money in it. Plug any brand name into DomainTool’s typo-checker and you discover domainers with hundreds or thousands of domains. Have a look.

And what about domainers that register and park .com versions of well-known non-profits with .org domains? Isn’t that sleezy?

Then there’s the ambulance chasers. Just to see, I looked into what was available the morning after that kid died from suicide online a few weeks ago (November 2008). Wow! Everything I could think of related to OnlineSuicide was gone. (What’s the business model there again?)
ERROR: ONLINESUICIDE.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: SUICIDEONLINE.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: SUICIDELIVE.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: DEADCAM.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: WEBICIDE.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: WEBSUICIDE.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: INTERNETSUICIDE.COM is unavailable and has been removed.

I do think that great domain names can bubble out of the news. But trying to figure out how to profit from other people’s tragedy is exactly the kind of behavior that makes domainers look bad.

Making a positive contribution as a domainer?
Here’s an example. I’m not meaning to blow my own horn here. I really just wanted to help the guy out, and the reason I’m writing about it is because I think it might be a way for domainers to generate some good will.
The thing is, after all your reading and research, you, as a domainer, have a valuable set of skills that can easily and affordably be used to do good.
In this case, I was listening to a podcast, KUSC’s Weekly Signals. An interview with Tyler BoudreauTyler Boudreau's Packing Inferno, twelve-year veteran of the Marine Corps infantry, on the subject of his new book, Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine. It’s a fascinating story…

Boudreau is a twelve-year veteran of the Marine Corps infantry. He trained and committed himself physically and intellectually to the military life. Then his intense devotion began to disintegrate, bit by bit, during his final mission in Iraq. After returning home, he discovered a turmoil developing in his mind, estranging him from his loved ones and the bill of goods he eagerly purchased as a marine officer.

I couldn’t help but notice that at the end of the interview Tyler could barely remember his own blog URL. I only found it when I got home because I had written it down. http://www.deeperthanwars.blogspot.com/. I also checked out the url for his non-profit http://collaborativerevolution.org/ It turned out to be parked. So I decided to do a bit of pro-active domaining on behalf of Tyler.

I bought him PackingInferno.com and also CollaborativeRevolution.com. My thinking was that I could make a much larger impact with a $15 donation in the form of domain names. I did it first and then sent him an email about my donation afterwards.

Hi Tyler,
I listened to your interview on WeeklySignals. I heard it as a podcast just yesterday.
As someone who spends a lot of time looking at/for domain names I couldn’t help
but notice that you had a little trouble with your blog URL on the air. Then when
I got home I checked out CollaborativeRevolution.org and found a parked page, i.e.
you bought the domain name but don’t have any content there yet (so what we see
is the ads the registrar puts there in the meantime).
I also found that PackingInferno.com and CollaborativeRevolution.com were available.
I purchased both those domain names and offer them to you as a donation. Right
now I have them pointing to your deeperthanwars blog. If anyone types either URL
into their browser they will end up at your blog.
If you would feel better actually owning the domains I’m happy to transfer them to
you. That would be to a GoDaddy account, as that’s where I have them registered.
If you open a (free to open) account there I can easily ‘push’ them to you without
any money having to be spent.
I just thought you had a very compelling story and hope that a lot of people hear it.
I’m thinking that being able to tell people to go to PackingInferno.com will make it
easier for them to find you.

Tyler wrote back and was very grateful…
“Thank you for your interest and your help. Above and beyond! Excellent.”
It turned out that in the meantime Tyler had picked up tylerboudreau.comhe was on the case! Not the easiest domain to spell, but between us I think we have it covered now. Tyler’s doing a lot of readings and planning a summer bicycle book tour. Tyler has an important message. I’m just happy to be able to help make it a little easier for people to connect to.

Do you have a favorite charity, cause, or non-profit? Check out their domains. You might be able to easily help them out with .com purchase for their .org. You might see an obvious domain acquisition that would get them some organic traffic. Leverage your domaining skills to help spread a message you care about.

P.S. Do you have a philanthropic domaining story? Please feel free to post it in the comments or send me an email and I’ll be happy to post it on the blog.

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