December 24, 2011

Owning My Own Name

It’s finally mine! I have my own name dot com!

Shortly after graduating from college, I decided I wanted to register my name as a domain name. Up until that point I had been using a pseudonym online. I was proud of my accomplishments and wanted a more professional presence online. At the time, the only combination of my name not available was “styler.com”. After debating about it for a few days, I went with sktyler.com, since I always use my middle initial and my school email address was ‘skt’. 18 Months later, I decided I wanted sarahtyler.com as well, but it was already gone! 18 months was all it took.

About a year ago I noticed the other Sarah Tyler was letting the domain name expire. I decided I wouldn’t let the opportunity to register it pass me by again. Exactly one year ago, Domingo and I set up a backorder (a service that tries to grab expiring domain names immediately as they expire). Apparently I was being naïve.

There’s only a small subset of people who would be interested in a domain name like sarahtyler.com, however both the .info and .net were already registered. Thus, from a speculator’s standpoint, it seems like a desirable domain name. After all, at least two people out there would probably register the dotcom given the opportunity. Someone may be willing to pay a premium for the domain name. As a result, one of those automatic domain resellers who specialize in acquiring and reselling expiring domains grabbed at it to, and was able to register it before we could. They were happy to sell it to me, for the $400!

Well there was no way I was going to pay that much so we thought we’d wait it out, hoping the automatic domain reseller would either let it go, or reduce the price. Afterall, there aren’t that many Sarah Tyler’s out there! I tried to be sneaky, never visiting the domain directly or giving any hint of my interest by searching for it. I’d visit the reseller’s website and do a series of searches, always trying to hide my true objective. I’d search for ‘sara’ rather than ‘sarahtyler’, and scan the results to see if the price change. (If the reseller knows someone wanted the domain, they have no incentive to lower the price, so I couldn’t just search for ‘sarahtyler’!)

Perhaps I wasn’t as sneaky as I thought, or maybe someone else was eyeing the domain name too. The next thing I knew the price climbed all the way to just shy of $1000! At that point I decided to let it go. I wasn’t willing to pay $400, and I certainly wasn’t willing to pay $1000!

Well, this past week I decided I’d give it one more shot. The price had dropped to $100. It was time to strike. All total with the back order, I spent $120 acquiring the name. Had I registered it in 2004 when it was available, I would have paid roughly $80 over the years, so at least my mistake isn’t costing me too much extra money. Could I have let it go and tried to get a lower price? Sure, but at some point I would have run the risk of another Sarah Tyler wanting it, and then I would be back in the same spot I was in seven years ago.

I also have two ‘lessons learned’ from the experience, if you’re in the market for acquiring domains:

(1) Backordering can be pretty worthless. I’ve had success, and heard of success from others, when the company being used for the backordering is also the same company the domain is registered through. In thesis instances, the register typically does not release the domain, just changes the registry information. Otherwise, domain resellers and squatters typically win backordering attempts, as they have more machines and more resources dedicated to acquiring a domain the millisecond it becomes available.

(2) If the domain is available, and you think you might want it either now or in the future, register it! It really should have occurred to me to register SarahTyler.com when I saw it was available. $10 a year is not that much in the grand scheme of things, and once you’re domain is registered there’s no guarantee the other person will ever be willing to part with it!

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