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Throwback Thursday – One Commenter’s Cogent Corrective To A Blogger’s ‘Cybersquatter’ Rant

May 14, 2015

While cleaning out an inbox the other day I somehow came across a link to a blog post from four years ago, titled, Domain-squatter parasites not interested in haggling, apparently.

As you might have guessed already, the author relates the story of how he woke up one day deciding he’d like to own a particular domain name, contacted the seller, but were unwilling to entertain their asking price, and proceeded to call them out as a “cybersquatter”.

Reading through the comments I found the reason for bookmarking the article. In it, a commenter going by the name ‘Donnacha of WordSkill’, gives what I thought was an articulate series of responses to the blog’s author and subsequent commenters who were all on the bandwagon attacking the domain aftermarket.

I’ve excerpted a portion of those replies below. You can follow the above link to the article if you’d like to read them in full along with all of the other comments to give it more context.

It’s rather long, but contains a lot of great points. You may not agree with everything the commenter says, but regardless, it is nice to see when someone is willing to go against the herd and try to present well-reasoned counter arguments into such discussions that are often brimming with invective.

Most half-decent domains were registered back in the mid to late Nineties, at the then normal price of around $100 per year, renewal prices only came down to their current levels a few years layer. Pretty much any decent domain registered in the past ten years would have been acquired through a drop-catching service for at least $69, probably much more if more than one person wanted it and an auction ensued.

When you come up with a great name for your business, it is natural to be disappointed when you discover that someone thought of it before you and registered the .COM.

It is, however, a sign of stupidity to then allow your disappointment to grow into anger and decide that the owner is a squatter, to allow your anger to distort reality.

.COM domains have always been first-come-first-served, so, by definition, a domain owner cannot be squatting a domain unless someone has a trademark that pre-dates the domain registration.

Many .COM domains are openly offered for lower prices on any of the hundreds of online marketplaces but if a domain has NOT been listed for sale and you want that one specific domain, you want someone else to give you their property which they have been renewing for years, a low-ball offer like $250 is ridiculous.

Think about it: most domain were originally registered, purchased or bought at auction for a lot of money because someone, much like yourself, had an idea for it. Like most ideas, it didn’t happen but the owner continued paying the annual renewals, aware that the name had value. The chances are that the owner has been paying annual renewals on at least a few dozen names, because most idea guys have dozens of ideas over the years.

Now, in mid-2011, you come along, all excited because the same idea has now occurred to you ten years later, and you say “Gee, thanks for keeping this lovely domain for me, here’s a couple of hundred bucks, bye!”.

If he doesn’t jump at the chance to let you cherry-pick the best of his domains for probably less than he originally paid, he’s suddenly a “domain-squatting parasite”?

…..

I never suggested the anger was about me or reflective of my importance, I clearly state that the anger is against domain owners who got there first – not one of you care about the actual people behind the domains, about how they might have come to own a particular domain years before it ever occurred to you, you merely know that you WANT their property and, if you are not given it, you throw a tantrum. It is pretty clear who is being self-entitled and self-important here.

…..

I am not denying that there are a lot of people registering domains with no intention of ever using them for a “proper” website (whatever YOU define as proper, bearing in mind that domains existed long before websites and that many would dispute your contention that advertising does not add any value to the economy) but, unfortunately, there is no simple online mechanism to discern a registrant’s intentions – if you decide that the failure to instantly create a website = guilt, you are going to be slandering a lot of innocent people too.

Here is a thought – if you got the real names of all the people bitching about domain “squatters”, I bet that every single one of them has at least one domain that they haven’t yet created a website for, and not one of them would just give it to some stranger who emailed them asking for it.

…..

No, I did NOT imply that the system is right, I actually think it is deeply flawed and was quite deliberately designed that way.

What I object to is the lazy tendency of people, who find that the domain they want is already registered, to denounce the owners as squatters. It is childish, unrealistic and, in most cases, hypocritical because pretty much all of those complaining own at least one domain which they have not yet gotten around to building a site for – in some other idiot’s eyes THEY are the squatter!

What I see is that most decent non-trademark .COM names were registered or bought, often for quite a lot of money, by the previous generation of idea guys who, like all of you now, believed that they would get around to launching their ideas.

Most people did not realise how valuable the domain itself would become and they could have lost that value at any time, but some owners continued to pay the renewals every year.

Most of those domains will never sell at a profit, some will. In a few cases, the owner will be handsomely rewarded for having been the first to identify a great name, for putting actual money down and for having made the bet that the Internet would continue to thrive.

That is just life. The owners are not at fault, the system is. It is lazy, wrong and hypocritical to attack the owners simply because it feels more natural to personalise attacks.

…..

You are wrong on the history. Domains originally cost nothing, you simply requested whatever domains you wanted, no justification was required. As you suggest, most Internet users at that time did not abuse that, but some undeniably did.

In 1995 a private commercial vehicle was formed to take over responsibility for domain registrations, the form of which was decided by politicians but with a major input by corporate lobbyists. The resulting business was then sold by the government, for pittance, to a military contractor, SAIC, and, a few months later, they started charging.

The system was designed to allow anyone to buy any available domain without the need to prove their entitlement to that name. This low barrier ensured maximum sales at minimum operating cost to the corporation, the responsibility and cost of trademark enforcement was simply shifted elsewhere. This low-friction model produced a massive windfall for the corporation and, in 2000 the monopoly was sold on to Verisign for $20bn.

The majority of domains do NOT have websites and the majority of the ongoing river of profits come from annual renewal of those domains. When the major registries started selling “dropping” domains, something that was never intended when the system was created, they could have stopped it but did not, for one simple reason: they like it that someone, anyone at all, continues to pay that yearly renewal. It is all about the bottom line.

I don’t like the system but I see it clearly for what it is, and that is the very opposite of delusional. The delusion is when people like you react to the frustration of not being given everything you want by projecting blame upon the people who happen to have been ahead of you in the queue, who happened to have had an idea before you.

When guys like yourself talk about “Internet scum lords” and the Internet’s “intended purpose”, what you really mean is that you would like one of two things:

1. That you would like the .COM of a domain you want for a REALLY AWESOME idea you just had to be available, because it would be SO frickin’ awesome and, God, the scumbag who currently owns it isn’t even doing anything with it, it should be given to me! (but, funnily enough, the idea is rarely sufficiently awesome to justify offering the owner a couple of grand).

… OR …

2. That you in fact want some complicated system whereby, instead of first-come-first-served, domains are handed out to people with ideas that are judged to be worthy of the domain. Luckily, in that fantasy vision, no-one else has, in the past twenty years, put forward an idea worthy of your preferred domain, it is just sitting there, waiting for you, nervously adjusting its mini-skirt.

So …

… unless you actually have a solution to the fact that the domain system was thrown like a bone to the corporate masters of your elected representatives, have a little class and don’t lash out at people who were working hard, thinking up ideas and names while you were blowing your teens on video games and porn.

 

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