@Ev Paid $7500 for Twitter?

Tech Crunch ran a story today about Evan Williams paying $7500 for the Twitter domain name back in mid 2006. Thanks to tweets like these (@ev is the co-founder of Twitter he’s tweeting with Ed Shahzade @ed) people, are finally getting that it’s worth the money to acquire a good domain.

Tech Crunch ran a story today about Evan Williams paying $7500 for the Twitter domain name back in mid 2006. @ev is the co-founder of Twitter. He’s tweeting with Ed Shahzade @ed.

Evan Williams and Ed Shahzade Twitter Domain Thread
Evan Williams and Ed Shahzade Twitter Domain Thread

And   some Twitter history from LA Times.

Then when did the service’s name morph from “Status/Stat.us” to “twittr” to Twitter?

The working name was just “Status” for a while. It actually didn’t have a name. We were trying to name it, and mobile was a big aspect of the product early on … We liked the SMS aspect, and how you could update from anywhere and receive from anywhere.

We wanted to capture that in the name — we wanted to capture that feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket. It’s like buzzing all over the world. So we did a bunch of name-storming, and we came up with the word “twitch,” because the phone kind of vibrates when it moves. But “twitch” is not a good product name because it doesn’t bring up the right imagery. So we looked in the dictionary for words around it, and we came across the word “twitter,” and it was just perfect. The definition was “a short burst of inconsequential information,” and “chirps from birds.” And that’s exactly what the product was.

Startup Social Proof Number One – Your Domain Name!

Marco used credit cards to put 30% down on a $36,000 domain name. Financed at 6%, he used Moniker’s escrow service to purchase Thumbtack.com – before he even had a product!

Marco used credit cards to put 30% down on a $36,000 domain name. Financed at 6%, he used Moniker’s escrow service to purchase Thumbtack.com – before he even had a product!
Jason Calacanis tells you why it was a smart move in this discussion with local services hub Thumbtack.com’s Marco Zappacosta.
Excerpt from This Week In Startups #68.
(Click arrow to play audio clip) Domains as Social Proof.


Takeaways: People who know startups know domains well enough to have an idea of what you paid for it.
Save countless dollars and hours in branding/advertising costs by buying an easy-to-remember domain.
Some registrars (In this case Moniker) will finance your domain acquisition. If you’re not getting traction you can default on the purchase and only be out the down payment.

Naming Names – At $75k A Pop

Salon has a super-interesting article on the business of naming companies. It’s long and detailed with lots of quotes from main players in the industry. It’s a huge industry and people are charging a lot of money to help companies find that just right name for their business. At the end of the day they’re going to need a url.   You can find the article here: The Name Game by Ruth Shalit, but I want to share a few quotes to whet your appetite.

…eventually cost the client more than $1 million and involve up to 40 Landor executives around the globe. The first step was to interview key executives at the massive new entity, then known only by its code name of NewCo. After four months of this sort of intensive brand therapy, the group settled upon the only name capable of conveying such protean emotions — “Agilent.”

“The most namby-pamby, phonetically weak, light-in-its-shoes name in the entire history of naming,” declared Rick Bragdon, president of the naming firm Idiom. “It’s like a parody of a Landor name. It’s insipid. It’s ineptly rendered … It ought to be taken out back and shot.

“Steve Manning of A Hundred Monkeys, a San Francisco naming firm, was also appalled. “What a crummy name,” he says. “It sounds like a committee name. ‘Who’s your competition?’ ‘Lucent.’ ‘Well, we want to play off Lucent — only we’re agile. I mean, if you wanted a name like that, I could come up with that kind of name in about four seconds.”

Hey, those guys sound like they’ve been hanging out on the domain forums!
The Idiom url is actually idiomnaming.com! Idiom branding examples here: http://www.idiomnaming.com/credentials.html. A domainer at heart? Look where their hompage Idiom Naming Survey takes you: http://www.hugedomains.com HugeDomains.com, there’s a name for you. But where’s the survey?
A Hundred Monkeys at least owns their own domain and I do like a lot of these product names. A lot of their brand names leave everything up to the imagination, as far as what the company does, but as I’m beginning to understand, that’s often considered not a bad thing. I will definitely be checking out their website further. I want to know what people pay $65k for, and that’s before the domain name! (Well a few of the companies I checked had the domain name, but most were parked! What is this telling me?)

“I used to work by writing names on individual pieces of paper and sticking them up on the wall,” says Steve Manning of A Hundred Monkeys. “I don’t do that anymore.” The reason? “People were walking around the room with cameras, taking pictures of my names,” Manning says blearily. “It got a little creepy. I mean, this is Silicon Valley. People move around a lot … If they liked one of my names, they might be drawn to register it as a URL. And that would be very bad. Because, you know, I own those names.”

The monkeys don’t come cheap. “We charge $65,000 per name,” says Altman. “But we work with you for a month. And for that month, we are basically yours. It’s actually a much lower price point than many of our competitors.”

Consider Luxon Cara’s $70,000 “identity program” for US Air. The airline “wanted to be repositioned and perceived as a major U.S. airline…
“No, no,” Lagow says. “It’s been changed to US Airways.” “That’s it?” I asked.

If $70,000 seems like a hefty price for a word fragment, consider the chutzpah of Ira Bachrach. Several years ago, he charged Infiniti $75,000 for a single letter. Or, to be fair, two letters…
One model became the Infiniti J30, another the Q45.

Great article. I’m keeping a copy of it on my computer for the next time someone starts arguing about a $xxx price for what I know is a great domain name.

Could a New Name Fix a Company?
From Inc, 1984! Name-Calling Feature on Ira Bachrach and Name Lab.
How Did The Blackberry Get Its Name
Feature on Lexicon (url Lexicon-Branding.com A hyphen! They do own the non-hyphenated).
From Wired: How do they come up with names like Pentium and AirTouch?

See also:
The Name Inspector
The Naming Group
Good Domain Names Grow Scarce Inc. Magazine

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.


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?

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…

Saving the internet. One ad at a time.

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…

Domains Are Brands – Square Squareup.com Fever Feedafever.com

I wasn’t the only one scratching his head when I read the TechCrunch story announcing Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s new, very cool, credit card reading startup. It’s called ‘Square’. But the domain is squareup.com. Here’s Elliot Silver’s take (links to full post)

TechCrunch reported today that Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, has launched a mobile payment service called Square. While the actual product/service looks pretty cool, I am surprised that someone with the capital resources such as Dorsey would launch a new brand on a domain name that is different from the actual brand.The big problem for Square is that they are using the domain name SquareUp.com for their website. This really defies logic to me for a couple of big reasons…

Exactly! Can’t afford it? Not worth it? It’s just a domain name? But it is difficult to supply the facts that support our side of the argument. The best evidence I’ve come across that supports, with data, the efficacy of a great (generic) domain name comes from Edwin Hayward at MemorableDomains.co.uk with a report entitled Improving PPC Search Engine Campaign Results Using Generic Domain Names (check out Ed Keay-Smith’s OzDomainer podcast interview with Edwin where he explains the report!) Still, that makes sense for PPC and generic domain names. But is branding any different? How? I’ll leave that for the comments and for another post. In the meantime I’d like to focus on this aspect alone: Why call your company one thing, Square, but have a different URL? If you can’t afford the domain name, at least call the company after the domain you do own!

Here’s another case. I may come back to this over time. When I first heard about ‘Fever’ it sounded interesting (I’m into feeds and feed readers). But I couldn’t find it! I’d heard about it on a podcast. It literally took minutes to find. Fever.com is a parked page with illness related ads popping up. Hmm, just curious, how expensive would Fever.com be? But maybe a lot. Because a domainer could be holding out for a play from a big pharmaceutical. So ‘Fever’ uses the domain feedafever.com. Not bad. Reasonably memorable. So why not call the product that? As/if Fever continues to gain momentum, I’ll update the Compete pics. but check it out. Don’t the numbers seem to be indicating, that as momentum for Fever grows, more traffic is being sent to the parked Fever.com page?

November 2, 2009

A month later.

Doesn’t it look like for whatever reason, Fever.com is getting more traffic?
What do you think? Is that extra traffic likely to be people looking for ‘Fever’?
What makes me nervous about all this is thinking about what will happen to the price of the domain over time if/when Fever becomes very popular.
Like I mention in a previous post, $75,000 for Poken.com?!!!
Acquire your startup domain names early!
If you’re starting a company I’m happy to help brainstorm an available domain name or help you connect with a great domain at a fair price.

Domains ARE Brands!

I’ve been listening to a LOT of startup related podcasts. Especially ThisWeekInStartups.com mentioned earlier and Andrew Warner’s Mixergy.com. I’ve pretty much spent the last month going over every one of Andrew’s podcasts. It’s surprising how many startups miss the boat on domains and how that can impact marketing efforts. I think this clip from an interview Andrew did with Grasshopper.com founder Siamak Taghaddos pretty much sums up what I hear over and over again.

Siamak Taghaddos

Seems pretty obvious, right? But here’s an example (from another excellent Mixergy interview) of what so often happens.
Noah Kagan

Matt (WordPress / www.Ma.tt) had to get it. Would like to know more about that story.
Matt Mullenweg

Otis (of Goodreads.com) definitely gets it. Exactly, “a good domain will give you a 30% extra chance of success”.
Otis Chandler

Sure, domain names can be expensive. But the trouble is, the larger you grow your company, the more you
run the risk that someone is going to hold that domain name hostage (and why shouldn’t they, really?)
I guess my point is that getting the right domain name upfront will save you a lot of money in the long run.
If you would like help finding or acquiring a domain name for your startup please drop me a line. I love to
brainstorm domains and can help broker a deal for a domain that’s already owned.

In The News.
From: DomainNameWire.com

Social gadget company upgrades its domain name.
has brokered the sale of Poken.com for $75,000 to a company that bills itself as a mobile social business card.

According to the web site, “poken is your ‘social business card.’ it’s an easy way to share your contact details and online social networks in the real world. just hold two poken palms together – high4! – and you’re connected.”

The web site makes it look like a product primarily for teenagers. This domain is a big upgrade, as it appears the company has been using DoYouPoken.com as its web site.

From: DotWeekly.com

Ad.ly Purchases Adly.com Domain Name
Ad.ly is becoming a very popular in-stream advertising platform for Twitter.com users and they just purchased what would be considered a typo of their domain name, Adly.com for $6,000 at Sedo.com .

Adly.com was first registered in late 2001 and changed hands to Adly Inc. on 10-31-2009.

This is a very wise purchase for Adly Inc. because not only could the domain name be considered a typo of it’s Ad.ly domain, but it also matches the company name exactly.

I think Adly Inc. got a Great Deal on the new domain purchase, as Adly is a nice 4 letter brandable domain name… Just like Ad.ly decided to name their company!