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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Domain Names As Phone Numbers?

By Duane J. Higgins, ceo
Are "Phonames" next?

There is an interesting news piece that appeared in media outlets around the Internet on January 30, 2014 titled:
"U.S. Seeks trials to test transition to digital phone networks"

The news article talks about how "U.S. wireless providers like AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc on Thursday received a nod from regulators to test a transition of the telephone industry away from traditional analog networks to digital ones."

(also how)

"The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted in favor of trials, in which telecommunications companies would test switching telephone services from existing circuit-switch technology to an alternative Internet protocol-based one to see how the change may affect consumers."

Now what does that article have to do with Internet domain names you might ask?

The answer may be in my blog post dated May 16, 2013 titled:

"Alternative Uses For Internet Domain Names"

In that (May 2013) blog post I'm referring to a 2006 prospectus that I wrote and remains on file at the University of Maines' Target Technology Incubator. The prospectus is in regards to a project describing utilizing Internet domain names for VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) over the DNS (Domain Name System):

Two excerpts from that (May 2013) blog (that are actually from my 2006 prospectus) are here:

...the establishment of a private, secure, proprietary 1.) Domain Name Registry 2.) VOIP Communications and 3.) Mobile Platform Network that is a new use for existing technologies that will be widely adopted and allow for tight integration of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and DNS (Domain Name System) technologies. This will be a closed private network utilizing proprietary domain name system and registry technologies and proprietary mobile platform that will be VOIP enabled.

Rather than using telephone numbers, it will capitalize on a private (domain name) registry that provides a proprietary/private domain extension. The user will select an alpha numeric (domain name) that will replace the telephone number and be used on the secure network. The user will be able to select their own personalized (domain name) that will ultimately become as popular as email addresses and telephone numbers. The proprietary mobile platform and domain name registry (with proprietary extension) will also be available for license to cellphone/mobile providers.

So, back to the aforementioned article regarding a transition from traditional analog networks to digital (Internet) networks.

Did Federal regulators just move us all one step closer to my 2006 prediction of VOIP communicatons over the DNS (Domain Name System) and using domain names as phone numbers?

As I have mentioned before, I am not a technologist, programmer, IT specialist or anything of the like. So I really don't have the slightest idea how the technology aspect would work in the real world. Some people would say that I know just enough to be dangerous. However, I did find at least one person who was thinking along similar lines. This was posted on another site two weeks ago regarding the next step technology to pull this off.

The post is titled "Domain Names As Phone Numbers":

Also, if any of you are thinking at this point that this is all pure craziness -I wanted to mention that this (VOICE over DNS) has all been done experimentally before. You will find some of that information here:

In closing, I would add that there are likely still some regulatory hurdles to overcome regarding my 2006 prediction of using Internet domain names as phone numbers. In fact, the last I knew using VOIP over the DNS would be frowned upon by the FCC. However, the new FCC trials regarding potentially switching to digital (Internet Protocol) telephone networks may be more of a harbinger of things to come than anyone can imagine.

That is until now.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Did the Trademark Clearinghouse Commit a Faux Pas?

Duane J. Higgins, ceo

I was roaming around the Internet the other day and discovered an interesting occurrence as far as potential trademark infringement goes. There is an organization called "The Clearinghouse" that has apparently functioned in some capacity since 1853. According to their website they are involved in financial payment systems and "The Clearing House payment systems clear and settle more than 65 million transactions with a total value of $2 trillion each day." The organization uses the domain name as their website address. 

So, as many know there is also (ICANNs) Trademark Clearinghouse which (according to their website) is designed to accomplish the following:

The Trademark Clearinghouse is a one-stop-solution for protecting your brand in the new gTLD era. This centralized database of verified trademarks connects to every of the more than 1,000 new TLDs that will be launching, to protect your brand...

You can of course read all of the information that your like on the TMCH website which they advertise is located at

So what caught my attention with the potential trademark infringement by the (ICANNs) Trademark Clearinghouse is that they have also purchased and are using the following domain name to promote their (TMCH) website:

So is this trademark infringement?  Is the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH)  infringing on the long established usage (trademark) of "The Clearinghouse" that processes financial payments?

The strongest argument is that the competing domain names (usages) are very similar. See below for  comparison:

I certainly don't have the answers as far as any real potential legal (infringement) issues go. 

Maybe it was just a slow day in the blogosphere for me.

However, I did find this interesting.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Great Domain Flood of 2014.

By Duane J. Higgins, ceo

Will (ICANNs) pouring of upwards of 1300 new gTLDs (domain name extensions) onto the open marketplace have the effect of devaluing domain names? Will the billions of new domain name possibilities available disincentivize domain name investing? Those are two big questions that domain name investors and buyers and sellers alike have been wrestling with as we witness this massive/unprecedented expansion of the domain name system.

ICANN's main argument for flooding the marketplace with the new domain name extensions (to upwards of 1300 new extensions this round) from the current 22 was to create more choice for consumers of domain names. To make domain name ownership more accessible. More available. More reasonably priced. The common argument had to do with all of the good domain names (of existing extensions) already being taken.

However, as if often the case some funny things happen along the way of the path to good intentions. I had already started writing this blog post when another blog post appeared today titled:

"What if Domain Investors Buy the Good gTLD domain names?" 

It's a good article and I think that Mr. Silver is probably right.

It is likely true that most of the good domain names of the new extensions will be taken by investors, and trademark and tradename owners. That will still leave alot of names. However, ICANN could end up in the exact same situation that they started before the onslaught of new extensions. With limited choice of freely available names for domain name buyers as time goes on. And so goes the law of supply and demand and the prices of the good names (with the new gTLDs) will go up, and up and up over time.

I have a few other points that I would like to make. I did hear an argument early on that ICANN was hoping to a "dis-incentivize" domain investing or even de-value domain names to a certain extent. The analogy would be to make the commodity of domain names similar to vanity telephone numbers or vanity license plate numbers. Where you might be a slight increase in cost for preferred combinations, however not that exorbitant prices that have been attached to alot of domain name sales to date.

There are a few other interesting things happening along with the release of the gTLDs that I wanted to mention.

First of all the prices of the existing gTLDs  and ccTLDs are basically holding up. I don't have numbers to back that up. However I base that on observation. There are still a significant number of 5 and 6 figure sales of existing gTLDs each week. Values (prices) are not going down. If so, not much.

If anyone thought that the process of "flooding the market" with the new domain extensions would devalue the existing extensions or the new extensions that does not appear to be happening either. If any intention was to dis-incentivize investors from investing in domain names (such as the new extensions) that is not happening. If devaluation does happen, the normal economic process if that even if the values/prices do go down temporarily they are likely to go back up over time. That is the law of supply and demand. Look at land values over time in just about any location throughout the world. Too much land and the prices go down. As demand increases the prices go up. That will happen to nearly all of the new (and old) gTLDs that survive.

The prices of all of the new gTLDs that survive will likely go up over time and likely from the starting levels. People buy what they want to buy and they pay what they want to pay. This is happening in the housing market right now and the prices are going up. Everytime that someone overpays for a particularly domain name that they want the overall market (for that extension) will rise and the values of many other domain names will go up as well.

So I do agree with Mr. Silver and his article that domain name investors are going to take the day when it comes to the new gTLDs.  Domain names are basically low hanging fruit. Domain name investing is too temping with the prospect of registering a domain name for a relatively small amount with the potential for significant appreciation and sometimes wild appreciation of the asset.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The New gTLDs: Individualization vs. Industrialization.

By Duane J. Higgins, ceo

There are countless prevailing factors that are going to influence the relative success or failure of the new domain name extensions that are being rolled out over the next few years. I would like to focus on one of the key trends trends that I think will develop and that is the idea of individualization vs. industrialization.  The definitions I would like to use are the following:

to make individual or distinctive; give an individual or distinctive character to.

Industrialization: the large-scale introduction of manufacturing, advanced technical enterprises, and other productive economic activity into an area, society, country, etc.
To illustrate my point I would like to take a look at the  early stage success of the .guru extension which I believe could foreshadow a  major trend that will develop over the  next few years.  First of all, .guru has potentially large market to start. That is a head start for the domain extension. Several other names will have the same promise such as .mail, .web and .free and many others.

We do have .guru which is being viewed by many as a very successful launch already with over 30,000   registrations and counting in the first days of the it's existence. Dozens of other extensions have been released as well (such as .ventures and .holdings) to somewhat lesser degrees of success to date.

First of all, the .guru extension is relatively short.  I believe you will see this trend continue as the new gTLD extensions are rolled out. Of course, short (second level) domain names have always been preferred by the masses.  But what we have now with all of the new top level extensions is that many of them are not as short as previously released extensions which have generally remained between two and four characters. We now have the .events, .cruises, .flights, .rentals, .partners .ventures,.holdings etc, etc,. etc, which many of the 1300 new extensions are longer than the 2-4 characters. This is an attempt to change the paradigm of the public's relationship to domain names that the public may be less interested in. As I mentioned, shorter second level (names) have always been preferred and the new longer extensions are going to make is more difficult to use the same types of names (that people like) with the new longer extensions as the overall names will be longer. I have found that people like short personalized domain names but not generally too short. They want room to express themselves. To the left of the dot. Short extensions best allow for this so the overall name doesn't become too long. 

The complicating factor for the new (longer) extensions is that for the most part, the domain name on the left side of the dot (second level domain) has been more important to the public than the name on the right side of the dot.  The reason is of course that the name to the left of the dot is the primary "identifier" for the user. The name on the left of the dot of course is created by the user. The name to the right is not.

See definition below:


An identifier is a name that identifies (that is, labels the identity of) either a unique object or a unique class of objects.

People/companies/entitites identify with the name that they create. With the name of their company, enterprise or website. The name is them. They are the name. The name is special. The name is individual. Very personal.  The name to the left of the dot. 

It's the artists' brush vs. the palette. 

It's the artist vs. the medium. 

Which is more important?

So what about the right of the dot you ask?

First of all let me ask you. Is the right of the dot personal?

No, the right of the dot is categorical. The right of the dot is industrial. "an advanced technological enterprise" from my definition above. Not very personal.

The right of the dot is the secondary identifier.  The right of the dot is not individualized or personalized. The right of the dot represents a category of sites or names. The right side of the dot represents a commodity. The right side of the dot represents the industrialization of the Internet.

Not very romantic if you ask me. 

If my theory is correct. The short domain extensions that have wider potential target market (for example  .book, .blog, .free, .shop, .mail, .web and a few others) have the best chance of success and widespread usage.

Longer domain extensions with more limited target markets may struggle as they have a double whammy. 

Double whammy: An English expression meaning multiple (or a combination of) negative circumstances, events, or effects.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Dot Com Firewall.

By Duane J. Higgins, ceo

In computing terms, firewall has many definitions. In history, the term firewall originally referred to a wall intended to confine a fire or potential fire within a building. In domaining terms, what I'm referring to is the practice of registering the .com version of a domain name which can effectively quash incentive for anyone to register any other version of that particular name.

The fact is that there are several practical advantages and inherent rights protections that are in play that are built into the fabric of owning and using a .com domain name for business purposes.

Is owning the .com version (and using the name in commerce) of a particular domain name a rights protection strategy unto itself that you could employ. Even possibly equal to or better than a registered trademark?

First of all, as far as your intellectual property rights are concerned. If you own a .com domain name and you use it in commerce you have very likely established common law trademark rights to that name.

According the the USPTO- "businesses automatically receive common law trademark rights in the normal course of commerce."

Common law trademarks are something that I like to call a "usemarks."


The term "common law" indicates that the trademark rights that are developed through use are not governed by statute. Instead, common law trademark rights have been developed under a judicially created scheme of rights governed by state law. Federal registration, a system created by federal statute, is not required to establish common law rights in a mark, nor is it required to begin use of a mark.

Now if course, registered trademarks are usually more powerful than common law trademarks. However, not necessarily and there is case law to prove that.

My main point has to do with the inherent value of owning the .com version of your domain name or website.

First of all this is the definition of "inherent" from
[in-heer-uhnt, -her-] Show IPA
existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute: an inherent distrust of strangers.

Here are a few related points: If you own the .com version of a name, the name is not likely (highly unlikely) trademarked by another party. The reasons are that if the name were trademarked by another entity you likely would have never been able to register it- or you would have already been asked to cease using it. Either by court order or less formally. Either way you would know that there is an issue with the use of the name. There are too many rights protections mechanisms in place with the domain registries and with ICANN right off the bat. (see Trademark Clearinghouse) for one. Also, you would have likely gotten tripped up with improper usage of the name if there were any conflicts. The high likelihood is that the business that owns the registered trademark would also have likely already purchased the .com version of the name.

If you use the name for trade/commerce then you have likely already engendered "common law" trademark rights which are actually significant. However, not likely as powerful as a State or Federally (USPTO) registered trademark. However, the "common law" mark could trump them all based on prior use and if it is a "strong" mark. (see usemarks)

The fact is that if you own the .com version of a domain name, no other party is likely to register the name with another extension and use it for business purposes. Let me give you an example. Lets say you own the domain name Just made that domain name up and it is currently unregistered. So for my example, what if someone registered that domain name and used it for commerce. They would likely have soon established common law trademark rights as well as developed a business brand with that name. What if the chance of someone then going out and registering say or Trinexia.anything and trying to use it for businesss? They would be foolish to use that name. They may infringe your common law trademark. They may create a confusingly similar business name which is no benefit to them.

So part of the inherent value of owning the .com version of your domain name is that it effectively can serve as an unofficial "trademark block" of sorts to further registrations. Why would someone else waste their good money on another extension when you own the .com? They might and you might sue them. They might register another version of your .com name and if they use the name in commerce (in violation of your common law trademark) they will probably send traffic and customers to your site business. They might try to trademark the name after you are already using the .com version in commerce and they will lose in arbitration.

So back to my main point regarding the value of owning the .com version of a good domain name that doesn't infringe on another parties registered trademark, trade name or usemark. You can take the dot whatever. I'll take my .com domain name into battle any day of the week.

I call that my firewall.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Rebirth of of Dot Biz. (Part I)

By Duane J. Higgins, ceo

There is a massively underutilized resource that has been languishing in the back alleys of the Internet for the last 13 years. That resource is the .biz top-level domain name extension and it may be poised for explosive growth (finally). 

Below is a small chart of registered top-level domain names to date:

From dated Feb. 1, 2014

TLD Overview for February 01, 2014

All New Deleted Transferred TLD
148,562,332 131,782 111,530 216,922 All TLDs
112,561,214 98,361 80,458 176,743 .COM
15,234,841 12,745 11,598 15,966 .NET
10,419,443 8,509 6,603 9,465 .ORG
5,826,055 7,059 9,023 9,869 .INFO
2,660,044 2,948 2,200 3,307 .BIZ
1,860,735 2,160 1,648 1,572 .US

 Just to summarize. That's 2.5 million .biz registrations compared to 112 million .com registrations.  Or just over 2% percent for .biz compared to the .com giant. In other words, there are millions and millions of good .biz domain names unregistered and there for the picking if someone were to find a use for them. The same can not be said for any of the other TLD extensions. Dot info (.info) is the closest you will get with the same low numbers however .info clearly has an established target market or brand identity (information).

There's a famous saying that goes something like "what's new is old and whats old is new."  I have heard this phrase many times however never expected to see it come to roost squartly on the shoulders of the domain name industry.  Especially, with the impending release of upwards of 1000 new domain extensions onto the global marketplace. What would you say if I told you that very possibly the next blockbuster domain extension has been in existence since  2001. That the next wildly successful domain extension has been sitting nearly idly with no significant identity or branding success since 2001.

Of all the previously released top level domain extensions- .biz is probably the one that has been the most battered and bruised. If you listen to many of the prognosticators you will likely conclude that .biz is undoubtedly on life support if not already deceased. This extension has actually been lingering around the Internet since 2001 with very little fanfare or attention.

What if I told you that I had three words could launch the .biz extension to a rebirth and possibly even a prominent role in the Internet  economy?

What if I told you that the three words are "mobile based business."

With the rebranding of .biz to the home/mobile based business extension.  I'll post the remarkably simple formula here:

Low End Phones +Handsets + Low End Tablets+ Home/Mobile/Based Business opportunities+ .Biz extension= An Internet Revolution?

So, why .biz?

1.) Because its a relatively unused and untapped resource (many good domain names left).
2.) Dot biz is an established extension. Infrastructure and registrars are fully in place. Just underutilized.
3.) The extension is a natural for this use. (short, memorable and already established).
3.) The extension really doesn't have a specific brand established. Narrowing the focus (to this unlimited market or mobile based business) could have immediate and revolutionary results. Rebranding .biz as the mobile based business extension would be an easy coup for the registry.

By the way, I have read recently that we now have more mobile devices connected to the Internet than we have people in the world. Or we very soon will. (I don't have an exact count). That's a pretty large target market.

How could the next Behemoth (i.e. monster) domain extension be sitting so quietly and innocently on the shelf right in front of our eyes? The answer is simple. The timing has not been right. That is until now.

First of all here are the catalysts for this new domain extension boom.

1.) The mobilization of the masses across the globe. From Tokyo to Timbucktu everyone is getting online. There is now an ease of entry to almost anyone to get online, get engaged and make money. All you need is a handset. That's a low barrier.

2.) Low end mobile devices are taking the world by storm. Take a look at all of the mobile companies. From Google to Nokia to Samsung and even Blackberry. They are all getting on board in a big way with low end phones, smartphones and tablets. The potential target markets are massive, profitable and easily cultivated through viral marketing.

3.) Business opportunity models that capitalize on these trends (of everyone owning a mobile device and being connected to the Internet) are in a position to dictate another wave of Internet engagement and commerce. In a way that hasn't been done before.

Mobile Based Business can be the great equalizer for economic inequality in our society.

Are you listening Mr. Obama?

The ventures/companies/organizations that capitalize on these trends will be big winners.

If your are curious yourself you might try a quick search at for the term "low end phones." There are 90 news stories/results today regarding all of the major handset makers focusing on the low end phones. That isn't to even mention low end handsets and tablets.

That is not just a trend. That is an avalanche. It is really a revolution. All of the (handset) makers have noticed. It's now up to the individuals to devise ways to capitalize on the proliferation of the low end devices and provide opportunities for the users.

I say that "mobile based business" is the way to go. Stay tuned for some projects that I am co-developing in this space. There are some specific strategies that I believe will be key in propogating this Mobile Based (.biz) model. As is often the case, there are likely just one or two key "distinctions" that will be key.