Domains in Asia

Last week I visited the beautiful country Thailand, from Koh Pi Pi (island in the south) via Bangkok to Chang Mai and Pai (up north in the jungle) back to Bangkok: a huge city that spans as far as the eye can see from the 84th floor of the highest building.

Bangkok @ 84th floor

Thai are overall very friendly and enthusiastic people, which provides a nice break from European so-called ‘hospitality’ (be careful for the elephants though!).

Hungry elephant


Next to a great experience of a first time in Asia, I’ve had to post something on what’ve experienced about domains in this non-english country. Although only a limited group of Thai are able to read, write and talk in English all website references go to english / ASCII characters .com (or .th)-domains. Not only companies servicing foreigners in tourism and transportation but also (local) governmental sites refer to .com-domains on billboards while the description is fully in the Thai language.
For me this emphasizes that although the number of domain top-level names will be increased significant soon and IDNs are targeted at a big portion of the web from Asia, a “ascii-domain.com” is strong and widely used even on the other side of the world.


PS: I wish I had taken some pictures as examples, but l had to pretend I had no work on my mind to my girlfriend.
PS2: Get a blue-ray player and buy the “Planet Earth” documentary from the BBC. 550 minutes of jaw-dropping entertainment.

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No civilization will last forever

While watching BBC’s Earth: The Power of the Planet I was pleasantly surprised I wasn't confronted with the typical nature show patronizing speech on how our actions have caused global warming (or cooling? Lets say climate change) and how very bad we are in using (fossil) energy. Instead of all this, the TV series presenter ended with a very insightful speech which I feel captures the whole ‘we should all save the planet’ debate into what it really is all about:

Our planet is really tough and there is nothing to suggest that it is going to change anytime soon in the long run. Earth can cope with anything we can throw at it.

We could clear all the jungles, but a jungle can regrow over a few thousand years. We could burn all earths’ fossil fuels, flooding the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. But even then, it will take the planet only a million years or so for the atmosphere to recover.

Even the animals we are wiping out will eventually be replaced by others equally rich in diversity. As a relentless work of evolution continues, it’s only a question of time. The earth will be just fine.

It’s not to say rapid changes we force on earth don’t matter, that is because humans operate on a different time scale. We have evolved to life in a world as it is now.
So in changing this world, we are altering the environment that has allowed the human race to thrive. We could be creating conditions that threaten that long term survival of our civilization.

So all this stuff about saving planet earth, well that is not the problem. Planet earth doesn't need saving - earth is a great survivor - it’s not the planet we should be worrying about, it’s us.

(transcribed: Dr Iain Stewart )

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How is the domain market different from any other bubble?

An overview of the current domain name market.

We’ve had the Dutch Tulip Bubble (1673), South Sea Bubble (1720), Industrial Bubble (1929), Internet Company Bubble (2000), and the recent Sub prime Mortgage/US Housing Bubble where the asset in the form of a tulip bulb, property or stock price has risen to extremes in a short period while imploding in an even shorter period of time.

Exploding (stock) prices - thus short term profits - attract people of all classes wanting to ‘invest’ and join in the profits. This creates a price of the asset based on what someone else would pay for it, without having a realistic view on the real tangible asset (the company) providing the equity holder profits on dividends and/or long term investments growth. The huge investment demand led to 159 dotcom IPO’s in the first quarter of 2000: all companies were not making any profit, but their stock sold as if it was given away free.

Only a small bump in the road could cause for the market bubble to implode. No new buyers were found for the current price, and people sold, sold and sold, just because everybody sold. And the realisation of the bubble came in too late.

Strengthed by derivatives where margin calls enhanced its initial price dropping effect. This ‘side-effect resulted in multi-billions dollar write-offs on their imploded assets by the worlds biggest banks, hedge funds and insurance companies.

Since a few months a market has proven to be booming and very liquid with huge profits: this is the domain name market. Although domains have a value of around $8/year (bulk only $5). Their after-market value shows profits of over 20,000% on e.g. English dictionary words with the .com extension.

Here is a short list of recent domains sold over 1 million dollars on the domain after-market:

[ See recent sales on sedo.com ]

A domain auction in June ‘07 sold 16 domains of over $100,000 and this October 12 domains sold for over a $100,000. For example CarSales.com sold for $400,000 where obvious a intermediar company could sell cars. More questionable in future value is CrosswordPuzzles.com that was auctioned for $210,000.
Remember this price is payed for the domain name only. Without any content, website, marketing, or company. Just a domain name.

How come have these prices exploded? It seems that the market has saturated, where all ‘good’ names are already owned by someone. And it is a important issue, because people expected domain names to have limited value (not exceeding the price of a new domain) because you just bought a domain that was still available. But prices are exploding, build on a fundamental economic basis: something is only worth something if its availability is limited. Gold and diamonds have value, because it’s limited available.
Domains names were unlimited, millions of (real) combinations are possible, but it seems that now every dotcom domain name is owned making the the non-after market limited in availability.

In mid-2007 there were 138 million top level domain names active according to VeriSign. The domain market has a large percent of individuals holding a (one-domain to large) portfolio of names, where each name represents only an $8 investment. In the second quarter of 2007, 14.5 million new registrations were made.

The market is now flooded with buyers: companies starting a web company, individuals who want a website/weblog with a catchy name, large portfolio holders, and gold-seekers buying domains hoping to sell them for more.
As a multi-million Widget producing company, owning widget.com and widgets.com is some prime real-estate/asset. A good real life example is vodka.com ($3,000,000) sold to a Russian vodka company, and beer.com ($7,000,000) sold to a Belgium brewer. With search engine ranking being highly volatile this is a sound long-term investment where you don’t need to be dependent on any company (like Google).

But we shouldn’t underestimate the value of the domain itself. Its value is in the steady stream of type in traffic. The domain could be a prime online real-estate where people looking for ‘widget’, go online to ‘widget.com’ as URL (the “.com” extension has been promoted so much, it’s the first thing on peoples mind).
Arriving on the widget.com page, domain owners set up a landing pages showing usually relevant (to ‘widget’!) advertisements only. With current cost-per-click prices in niche markets over $2, a few clicks to an advertiser on the landing page could earn back the yearly costs of the domain, and not very uncommon by pass this break even point. And now the most interesting part is, what if you have $10/month revenue domain times 2,000 domain names? This would result in $20.000 revenue/month with over a 99% profit margin because the domain owner doesn’t have to make any costs beyond the domain price to make a turnover.
And it’s a win-win-win situation. The visitor eventually lands on the highest-paying relevant advertiser page, the advertiser has a relevant to their product potential customer and the domain owner has made a few cents without any promotion (costs).

This all making domains a very attractive asset due to its stream of income for an unlimited period, and it’s possible after-market value.

But you are too late*, as I said before; the good names are already taken. Pre 1999 almost all dictionary words were gone, and in 2001 after the internet bubble many quality domain names became publicly available again but grabbed again for 8$ within seconds. Between 2001 and 2005 all valuable widgetwidget.com were sold (the value of the domain is not in its shortness, but in what it describes) leaving only overpriced domains relative to the initial price.

So we see a huge market growth. But the main question is. Is the domain market a bubble waiting to implode?

The resemblance of all previous bubbles is that the market is flooded with buyers wanting to make short term profit, the general media is joining the craze, lousy domains (assets) are sold in the after-market for 1000% profit, and joining in now won’t make you rich.

More buyers attracting more money providing a self fulfilling prophecy on the price, until ... but the inferred question: Are domain names a long term business opportunity?

There are many uncertainties*, to many to discuss here, but can we assume that the basis of all of this is on if people keep typing in these domains? And, will there be growth in these numbers of visitors and CPC? Is it a long term growth business providing a landing page with ads only?

Update: when I say “you are too late”, I don’t refer to new business ideas or unique/niche domain profiles… of course you can make money if you are entrepreneur I just want to warn you that you might enter a ‘bubble’ due to little knowledge of the market and blindness of the success stories.

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Plug-and-Play YouTube videos

YouTube released a new data API a few weeks ago based on Google’s gdata. Reading through the docs to implement it into my YouTube search, I found the option for JSON (in script). With the JSON function you can grab youtube’s videos without having to use a local proxy for AJAX request. The local proxy is needed due to javascript security settings blocking request to other domains, but usually slows the process a lot. Also using server side scripting where the data is grabbed, HTMLized and included is usually to difficult for implementing if you just want to add a few vids somewhere.

I wrote a plug-and-play script to include YouTube videos in your site instantly without having to use local proxies, flash, or any other work around. All you need is to include the javascript and where ever you want to add a few videos - to for example a blog post - you add this code:

How it works

  • you start a function with several settings like the search query, or a username
  • the function loads the JSON from YouTube and executes a script that shows all thumbs in the layer specified
  • you can have the video play as an overlay or redirect to the youtube site

Instructions and examples are on this page. It’s a very early release so options like sorting are not functioning yet.

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Please no more Digg Traffic!!!

List of most digged domains in 2007

Interesting news last week where populair blogs lifehacker and gizmodo announce that they prefer people from not digging every article anymore. An surprising post ofcourse resulting in mass diggs, because if the digg community loves something, that would be talking about themself…

Their reasons to stop digging their website include the following:

  • Prefer people to click their banners, instead of digging.
  • Don’t want to keep adding servers every week.
  • They want to be viewed as profesional journalist, instead of link bait writers.
  • And many other reasons we common people will never understand…

But lets see how many frontpage stories these and other sites actually get. With the Digg API I grabbed the data from 01 Feb 2007 to 15 June 2007, and counted what domains got the most stories made populair (the notorious frontpage). A quick sort of the array created a list that show 3,033 unique domains getting 13,091 frontpage listings in the last five and a half months. On average there are 90 frontpage stories from 20 sources (domains) per day.

[...]
treehugger.com (74)
metacafe.com (82)
flickr.com (84)
lifehacker.com (87)
thinkprogress.org (95)
reuters.com (104)
destructoid.com (105)
msn.com (105)
google.com (107)
rawstory.com (110)
crooksandliars.com (111)
washingtonpost.com (112)
consumerist.com (116)
break.com (119)
go.com (126)
wired.com (152)
nytimes.com (179)
blogspot.com (188) - various blogs
cnn.com (188)
gizmodo.com (194)
yahoo.com (206)
engadget.com (302)
arstechnica.com (395)
co.uk (469) - various sites
youtube.com (1249)

Although Gizmodo.com got 194 frontpage stories, and Lifehacker.com 87, YouTube should have been the one complaining with over 1,249 stories (well videos in this case)! Surprisingly only 3,000 unique domains have ever been on the digg homepage: I thought the internet was bigger?!

So if this list teaches us one thing, that would be that expanding digg’s horizon beyond the current 3,000 websites might not be such a really bad idea because the ‘top’ sites don’t appreciate it anyway,!

PS: See this page for the complete list of frontpage domains.

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WordPress Theme Generator

Because I “do stuff-with-internet” I am frequently asked if I can create a blog for friends. Eventually I always end up with the same default theme (Kubrick). Just because I don’t have time to make a unique theme every time.
Somehow nobody ever created a theme generator where you click & try a few colors, a nice layout, tabs, titles, logo, and end up with something nice!

So here we are many hours later: WordPress Theme Generator.
It lets you design a complete theme (with widget support), save to a .zip file, extract and upload. Easy & Fast. No need for CSS or PHP knowledge. Let me know your comments, so I can improve (if needed).

Few Simple Examples:

imageimageimage image image

So, if you want to create a WordPress theme fast & easy: Try it out.

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Awareness Project

Today the website millionsoulsaware.org has been launched. Millionsoulsaware.org is a not for profit project that has the mission to raise awareness by featuring an article on an important topic that needs attention. Millionsoulsaware.org doesn’t ask for donations, but asks you to spread the word. The millionsoulsaware.org goal is to get one million souls aware on the current subject: Refugee camps worldwide.

millionsoulsaware.org

The upcoming weeks I will be promoting this in the web community and hope to reach the goal of a million souls aware within several weeks. I’ve added ‘ads’ of the project to my adsense alternate ad code, and ask websites that are reading this to look at it and try it out: help raise awareness on a important topic and no more blank ads on your site. If you have a blog you might wanna try writing about something actual important.

If you have time to read this, make some time to also read the article. Awareness is the starting point for a better world. Thank you.

UPDATE 21 April 2007: Millionsoulsaware.org is going at a good pace! The counter is over 11,000 souls aware after three weeks, but we already reached a 1 million goal because the banner (above) is being downloaded almost 1 million times a day (!). With help of my lyrics site friends. Click through rate is low, but we’ll get there…

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R.I.P. - A tribute to web 1.0

A millennium ago the web was made of static websites with flashy ‘ Click Here ’ .gif files optimized for windows 95 on a 36k modem. These sites had no AJAX techniques, profiles, blogs, let alone an option to comment. The internet was a place to look around, instead of interaction.

Now – a whopping 61,352 hours later – it’s hard to believe on how we could spend our time online without updating our profiles, downloading the newest Prison Break episode, uploading Flickr photo’s, filling our iPod with iTunes songs and reading the latest Google news.

Let’s go back into history and check out what happened to the websites that were ‘hot’ back then. Are there still pieces alive of the old web, or have these sites become an useless appendix?

In ’95 Hotmail was introduced: the first place to get a free email address, disconnected from an ISP.

Hotmail was properly the first contact with the powers of the internet for many novice web users: communicating by email. Four years later after its launch 30 million people worldwide were exchanging @hotmail email addresses. At some point Hotmail was almost thought to be the only way to ‘email’ by n00bs.

Hotmail was bought by Microsoft in 1998 for just 400 million dollars, a bargain for pre-internet bubble standards.

Now in 2007 the end of Hotmail is near – although the @hotmail.com won’t go anywhere- since its transformation to “Live” mail to become an integrated part of the Microsoft’s “Live” family.

geocities

Geocities was the most popular place where you could create your own free homepage on the web.

In 1997 Geocities was the fifth most popular website, with over 500,000 homepages created. Yahoo bought Geocities two years later for $3.57 billion dollars. And started to actively commercialize the homepages with various advertising types that resulted in their death sentence. With ‘real’ web hosting becoming affordable for anybody, the need for free homepages in this form vanished. Geocities accounts are now only used for outdated information, and to upload/download illegal mp3 files from...

Altavista

Search engine Altavista was the Google of the previous millennium. The first real effort to index the World Wide Web. It was popular because it was one of the few search engines that actually came up with good search results.

But Altavista had a hard time fighting spam listings in their results.

While spam grew logarithmic in Altavista, some company named Google found a way to prioritize web pages more intelligently, and thus keep spam out better.

When people tried Google and compared it was Altavista, it became an easy switch. Since then their market share in the industry dropped to almost nothing, with only visitors from old bookmarks. Altavista never (tried to) recover. Yahoo! is now the proud owner of this piece of history.

ICQ

ICQ – for the younger people a abbreviation of “I seek you” – created in 1996 was an easy to use instant messenger program where you could add friends to your list, see if they were online and chat. Doesn't sound new at all, but back then it was revolutionary for the masses and it became the ‘application’ everybody had installed.

ICQ was acquired by AOL in June 1998 for a whopping $287 million plus contingent payments of up to $120 million over three years based on growth performance levels.

What went wrong? Eventually the program got too many additional features that made the application heavy and unorganized. While competition of AOL IM, Yahoo IM, and MSN Messenger increased, and friends on your ICQ-list left the application. Eventually resulting in a mass abandoning of the network.

Netscape

Netscape, now only famous for the oldschool “optimized for Netscape” on outdated webpages, has dropped from a browser share of over 50% in ’98 to less than 1% now.

What went wrong? Netscape was ‘victim’ of Microsoft’s notorious ways of dealing with competitors. But in the end most blame lies with Netscape self, due to lack of innovation and inability to tie customers to their product. The netscape browser was good in the beginning but got slowwww, buggy, and had an (even more) ugly layout compared to Internet Explorer.

Struggling to survive Netscape became in 2006 a non-innovative boring web portal, waiting to completely disappear into the history books.

Realplayer

Bringing a online standard in streaming audio since ’95. The first audio from the web was transmitted in the Realplayer format. This was in a time of .wav files and slow 36k modems: not a good combination. Real had created the solution with their applications, and (live) internet broadcasts was born.

But what went wrong? The Realplayer audio format – and player - became obsolete due to - locally savable - small sized mp3 files, and Windows Media Player – distributed standard on all pc’s. Yes, the death story resembles Netscape Vs. Internet Explorer. Also the program became too commercial with annoying ‘buy pro version’ pop-ups every 10 minutes.

Network Solutions

The web hasn’t always been on ‘open’ place. In the previous millennium there was only one company available where you could buy a .com, .net or .org domain.

For the small price of 100 dollars and a two year minimum, you would get your own domain name. But back then there was still a big chance you would be able to buy a dictionary word as .com.

It took until the beginning of 2000 until they lost the monopoly position and domain prices dropped over 95%.

Since then innovation halted and Network Solutions became one of the thousands anonymous domain registrars.

If you believe some critical websites or information are missing. Drop me a message, so I can complete this tribute to something maybe useful.

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8 questions about the web you always wanted answers to

The most popular 10,000 websites analyzed - 8 Questions & Answers

Last week I had the urge to do some real quantitative data analysis. After several days of programming data collection scripts, I compiled a huge database of data. If you want to see the source of my results check the raw outcomes on this page. In this post I’ll answer the most interesting frequently asked questions about the web (NSFNN* alert):

Is porn dominating the web?

From the 10,000 most popular websites, 10% is marked as adult oriented. Sounds like a lot, but the total reach of these sites are a mere 5%. So the answer is no, the web isn’t all 18+

Interesting is the fact that The Netherlands (population 16M) is 3rd in owning adult websites. As they say: where a small country, can be big. The USA is of course number one and China doesn’t even appear in the list although they own 10% of the websites.

Is China taking over the web?

Luckily the answer is short: No. The USA owns 44% of all websites, but China is coming second with 9%. That is less than the number of European websites with 16%. But in reach Europe loses from China with respectively 7% against 9%. Conclusion is that Chinese language courses aren’t necessary yet.

Hola, 你好, Konnichi-wa – excuse me, what language?

Although one might argue that my data is off (more people understand Chinese and Spanish than English ). A majority (55%) of the websites are English. Chinese takes second place, and third is Spanish. Arabic is also well represented with 3,3%. All the other languages don’t take a significant part of the web. Sorry French people.

Are all websites made in Silicon Valley?

This is actually more or less true. From all US states California (37% reach) has a significant advantage over any other state, it actually owns 7% off all the identified websites in the top 10,000. Second comes New York in number of websites but Washington has a higher reach (22%).

I was already link building my Geocities.com account!

Maybe link popularity wasn’t a hype in the early days of the web. But the data does show that geocities.com deserves that pagerank of 10/10 because it has over eight times more incoming links than google.com (2nd). So link building might not be very hip and trendy as you would expect.

The most linked list continues with the usual suspects like Adobe, Amazon, Microsoft, Wikipedia and Apple. I don’t know why, but third - with 260,000 incoming links - is some Chinese website (http://miibeian.gov.cn). Does anybody know what it is? Update: explained

Is it true that Yahoo and MSN are more used than Google?

The statistics are ambiguous on this. But going from my data Google actually has the biggest reach (9%) if you add all 72 local domains together. In number of views Google loses from Yahoo! that has 12% (!) of the total views. (Damn you, Yahoo! Games)

About MSN: I personally only happen to land there if I mistype a domain, or check my spam (hotmail) but they still seem to take 4% of the total reach-pie.

Has the web evolved to web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is hard to measure (Maybe because it doesn’t exist). But I’ve tried by location RSS feeds and stylesheets. And the results are actually quite surprising. 10% of all the homepages provide an RSS feed (If people actually use these RSS feed is of course a different analysis).

And 58% use stylesheets on their homepage for layout.

So maybe we can conclude there is actually some evolving going on, and ’s aren’t dominating design style anymore.

Why do I always see ‘ads by Goooooogle’?

I’ll tell you why: 6% of the homepages contain Google ads! That is a 55% reach of all advertising networks identified. And it gets even better. If you add the Google ads on the Google search engine they have a total 12% reach. The Doubleclick network has a reach of 7% with 403 websites. This is - more or less – also nice.

*NSFNN: not safe for NOT nerds

*** For comments drop an email to the address on the right.

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Why Can't I Change?

some thoughts on change

It’s in our human psychology to keep the status quo: we prefer going the route we were going all along. The opposite of the status quo is change. Humans are very bad in initiating change. Change means that you have to put effort, it’s unpredictable, creates risk, and worst of all: means that we were wrong before.

Changes are often wanted to improve a current situation. At a certain point you have to decide to change while the option to continue is still open. Visualize this as a crossroad where you can continue, but also change, and turn. Wanting to change rarely succeeds.

Most changes made in our lives are forced changes:

  • Forced into change: at some point you are at a “T” intersection, forced to make a decision because continuing is no option. The change is often postponed as long as possible.
  • Gradually change: at some point you are at a “Y” intersection, where continuing straight on is no option, but a decisions (thus change) has to be made.
Our day-to-day decisions are made unconsciously through use of heuristics. It’s too complicated for our brains to think everything over. Change has to be initiated by our conscious mind because our unconsciousness will prefer status quo and heuristics. These separated parts of our brain don’t work well together. And the old heuristics conflict with the change wanted by our consciousness.

E.g. smoking
Although all signs and information are indicating that people should stop smoking because it makes them sick, of all the millions of people that smoke, around 70% of them want to stop. To quit smoking is one of those changes you have to decide upon, put effort into, and you would have to do on your own. But only few (6% actually succeeds) are able to succeed to change (stop) without having to have a doctor telling them that it is quit or die (“T” intersection).

Question
Think about it:What have you ever consciously changed in your life?

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