Saturday, July 14, 2007

Business 2.0 on domainers


The June 2007 issue of Business 2.0 had a startling cover story, “The Man Who Owns the Internet”. That’s owns, not invents, so he’s not Al Gore. The title continues “Kevin Ham is the most powerful dotcom mogul you’ve never heard of. Here’s how the master of Web domains built at $300 million empire.” The article, on p. 69, is by Paul Sloan, and illustrated by Michael Llewellyn. The link is here:

A blog by Jay Westerdal claims that Ham’s fortune is even greater than reported in the mag, link here:

Ham is a medical doctor, living in Vancouver (aka Smallville, of course). But rather than medicine (this is single payer Canada, after all, in Michael Moore land) he decided he could make his fortune on the domain name business – as a big league “domainer.” This is all the software and infrastructure that generates synonym spelling names (parked domains) with advertising links. The article talks about Cameroon, the tld .cm, and the master site agoga.com. The article mentions some other moguls, like Yun Ye, Garry Chernoof, Craig Lovik, and Scott Day.

One operator even did a .org park on my doaskdotell.com. I ignored it. It does seem to me that this sort of thing goes against the “good faith” practices of ICANN rules and might run into issues with the revised trademark law (going offshore makes it complicated). The article indicates that Lam kept a low profile because of the ambiguities. Sometimes there is a tradeoff between making money and enjoying the limelight, I guess.

The blogosphere, not being particularly moralistic, tends to like what he did. It’s innovative, and the money he makes will eventually do good. I don’t pass judgment. I’ve had people ask me about this, and no, I wouldn’t want to. I’d rather create content and be publicly known for it and be read about in literature anthologies a half century after I’m gone in high school English (not high school musicals with Zac Efron clones).

Until August 2005 I had a lot of my content on hppub.com, which was supposed to be contraction for "High Productivity Publishing." Because I no longer was really selling books myself, I didn't think it was kosher to keep a name like this, and moved everything to doaskdotell.com, based on the title of my first 1997 book. A casino company took it over. A woman called me in a couple weeks and asked me to sign it over (I thought if I didn't pay Network Solutions for the renewal, I had no rights) and offered $50 at Paypal, but I took no money, as I had relinquished the domain.

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