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Robert Whent

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Domain Names Are as Important as Your Children's

Posted: 03/17/2012 11:56 am

In 1991, I registered my multimedia company's URL, www.mcgill.com, with little issue or fanfare. The world's first URL was only registered six years earlier in 1985, and domain names were still fairly new. In fact, it wasn't until years later that I got an email from McGill University telling me I should give it up to them or else! I finally did (in 2008) and thus ended 17 years of me mistakenly getting emails from eager students-to-be from around the world wanting to come to my university. It was a bittersweet moment for me, but it proves the point that I am trying to make here: dot-com is still the domain to beat.

The "com" part of dot-com stands for "commercial," and it is referred to as a "Top Level Domain". In recent years, the internet powers that be have added numerous new domains to alleviate the shortage of names that could be registered. For example, .biz (business), .edu (education), .gov (government), .net (network).

It also added another layer of headaches (and expenses) for companies as they snapped up as many domains as they could to protect their brand. To make things even worse, Second Level Domains were also added: .co.uk (United Kingdom) and .com.cn (China). Even with all this going on, dot-com still rules supreme. If you don't have the dot-com, you seem somehow marginalized. Domains like .ca or .us just don't cut it. Dot-com is global -- anything else seems to put you in box.

Virtually every new business today tries to come up with a company name that will fit a dot-com domain name. Some of the new domain names work quite well -- like .org for governments, .edu for education and the newly minted ".xxx" for, well, you know. But businesses still love the dot-com.

When I incorporated my company, the Online Training & Education Portal, I went with www.otepinc.com because the dot-com wasn't taken. I also registered otep.ca, and otep.us.

I knew otep.com was taken but I didn't check to see who owned it. I should have. Otep.com was owned by a heavy metal band fronted by Otep Shamaya -- an award-winning musician, awesome poet, and super-activist, whose band has released 5 albums to date. Her Otep dot-com however, was less than parent friendly. Friends and colleagues that mistakenly ended up at her site instead of mine were in for quite a shock!

So it came as a big surprise to me when I got a call a few weeks back from someone claiming to be selling the otep.com domain, and asked what I would be willing to pay for it. I told them $1,000 was the highest I would pay, but I really didn't think this was a real opportunity. I get enough emails from people claiming to be holding $1 million dollars for me, and all I have to do is give them my credit card info, or send them $5,000 to be wary of unsolicited calls claiming to have something I want. But I have to admit, I was intrigued.

"What happened to Otep Shamaya" was my first thought. Why would she not want her domain anymore? Was she changing her name? She is very involved with helping young kids succeed, and I always thought I would meet her someday, and she could help me reach a whole new audience of kids that need help learning. But I digress....

Last week, I learned, the otep domain was going to auction. My, how far the internet has come. The domain name auction facilitates the buying, and selling of currently registered domain names, enabling individuals to purchase a previously registered domain that suits their needs from an owner wishing to sell.

But I wasn't looking to buy anything -- I was approached -- and by multiple people claiming to own the domain. And what a feeding frenzy it became. As the auction date drew closer, I was getting messages via Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Skype and cell phone from people claiming to have the inside track on the auction. This isn't how an auction is supposed to be. But then again, I have never bought a domain this way before. Once I decided that I was going to purchase the domain, I started doing my homework and finally found the real owner who assured me he was the real deal.

I made our transaction through www.escrow.com and today I am proud to say that I am the proud owner of www.otep.com. I still want to meet Ms. Shamaya however; maybe she will come to my site by mistake.

Rob Whent (rwhent@otepinc.com) is the President and CEO of OTEP Inc. and is the Entrepreneur in Residence at WEtech Alliance in Windsor, Ontario. OTEP (www.otep.com) is developing adaptive video game technology to assess and improve cognitive abilities in children with learning disabilities under the Think2Learn brand (www.think-2-learn.com).

 

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