Branding With Available Domain Names – A Case Study

Photo by Michal Osmenda

When you have a ‘great’ idea, one of the first-actions you can take is to register the best domains you can find to brand the idea.

Even if you don’t execute, the perfect domain name may turn out to have some value later when someone else discovers the idea and decides they want to build a business around it.

Domainers have a phrase, ‘category killer’, they use to describe a top tier name that exact matches a search term, especially when it’s higher up on the search chain–like Shoes.com. The ‘long tail’ version would be domains like RedSpikedHeels.com.
Category killer generic domains are long gone. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to new idea websites. If the idea is fresh enough, you can create the category killer name for it.

It gets a little subjective at this point, but what I look for first of all is a domain name that is easy to remember but that also conveys the purpose of the site. Ask.com, eHow,com, Savings.com are good examples of almost perfect domain names.

While the internet may be young in many respects, with over 113M active domains currently registered, I can assure you that domain names have been pretty much picked clean.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a decent domain name available for registration prices. I am saying you’re going to have to work very hard to find one (or hire me to do the looking for you). Most likely you’re going to be better off having a budget set aside to buy a decent domain name. While a ‘category killer’ might cost you hundreds of thousands or more, for $2-5k you can often find a great domain.

The rest of this article is going to show you how I went about branding an idea for a new site. The idea is for an online tip jar service. Authors would create an account, paste a little code into their site, and users would donate with a single click. Pretty obvious idea right? I don’t understand why it hasn’t been implemented at the web 2.0 level. Let’s get started.

[Update July 8, 2010: Flattr is doing just this – an all-internet tip jar. Wishing them the best of luck with it.]

TipJar.com Originally registered in 1996 as a place for members of a small organization to pay dues. It’s the category killer domain name for this idea. At least it hasn’t been developed, although the owner appears to have ideas for it. This domain might be available for the right price.

iTip.com Doesn’t resolve. Whois shows a 2000 registration. iMac was introduced in 1998 so it’s likely that by 2000 people were starting to buy up every iDomain that was available. This is another domain I’d make an offer on if I were a startup with some funding.

eTip.com Doesn’t resolve either. Whois shows a 1997 registrations. Another candidate for a purchase offer.

And here’s a list of other unavailable domains, going farther and farther away from the perfect domain as we go down the list.

TIPPER.COM
TIPPED.COM
2CENTS.COM
ITIPPED.COM
TIPR.COM
HATTIP.COM
TIPWIDGET.COM
ISPONSOR.COM
ISUPPORT.COM
TIPTO.COM
TIP2.COM
TIPOUT.COM
TINYTIP.COM
TIPTIP.COM
TIP.ME
CHIP.IN
OPENWALLET.COM
TIPD.COM
HATTIPS.COM

If you want to see the entire list (if only to know what kind of crap is already registered) have a look here.

So what did I find available that wasn’t horrible?
HATPASS.COM
PASSTHEHATAROUND.COM
TIPAPPS.COM
TIPGADGET.COM
TIPGADGETS.COM
OPENTIPJAR.COM
EKICKIN.COM
IKICKIN.COM
ICHIPPEDIN.COM
ICHIPPED.IN

Did I actually buy any of them? Yes, and why.
HATPASS.COM  As in, Pass the hat. Sounds good out loud. Also I like the word ‘pass’ as in ‘season’s pass’. Try this on for a tag line, “Get a HatPass”. It’s short, associates well with the idea and is somewhat memorable. TipJar it’s not. But it’s okay.

So, for reals?
I would be building, testing, and talking about HatPass.com. It would be my working title. But if/when/as attention built, I would be looking for a little Angel money to go shopping. And when I actually launched I’d have one of these: TipJar, iTip, or eTip. Something like…

TipJar.com
Saving the internet. One ad at a time.

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.

A Great Domain Name Is a “Signal of Quality”

Again from ThisWeekInStartups.com, the Jason Calacanis ustream.tv show. It’s a great show, and the experience of watching it live has turned out to be a little bit addictive. Check out #TWIST on Twitter. Jason is simply Twitter.com/Jason.

In this audio clip from ‘Jason’s Shark Tank’, Jason tells caller/developer Kevin, of pikk.com what he likes about what Kevin’s created so far.

Signals of Quality

Jason Calacanis: Everyone should follow you on Twitter obviously, Pikk. You have that up and running, and you have a four letter domain name. These are, again, signals of quality for me. You have a decent domain name decent web design. I’m  not crazy about your web design, to be totally honest with you I think it’s a 7 or 8 out of 10 but, listen, Mahalo was a 6 out of 10 at one point, now it’s a 10 out of 10, so, it’s progress you know, and I can appreciate that. Smart enough to pick a four letter domain, great – how did you get the domain was that available or you bought it.
Kevin: I bought it.
Jason: Yeah, how much did that cost you?
Kevin: Ah, I’ve been told I got the bargain of the century, this cost me about twenty-five hundred dollars.
Jason: That’s a great deal.
Kamran Pourzanjani: Yeah.
Jason: For a four letter domain…