My FIRST few days in Domains 1995-1996. Alone! Then the Domain Gold Rush of 1998

Morning Folks!!

My FIRST few days in Domains 1995-1996. It sure looked different back then. First of all NONE of you were there then. Well maybe 5 or 6 of you. Ari Goldberger was one. Chad Folkening to name another. Ted Lebowitz who got some great adult terms just weeks before me. Eli from Montreal. I would be hard pressed to name anyone else tho surely many were around.

I still look back when I got into this and it was a virtual ghost town. See I got into domains AFTER they were free. FREE!! All were free. I MISSED IT DAMN IT!!! And I had yet to meet somebody investing in domains at that point. I had only met techies that thought I was insane to spend $100 EACH after being FREE FREE FREE! And to buy 18 of them!! I had to have my head examined. $1800!! INSANE at that time. But what kept me going was knowing I was not alone even tho I was alone. I had one other person with me, whoever might own the domain I was looking for. Some registered YEARS before. But some registered MINUTES before. MINUTES!!! So I knew I was not alone even tho I was alone and nobody knew what the hell I was talking about.

Then something even more interesting happened. I started to see the same names over and over and over again. I was still alone. But there was a kindred spirit there and I knew it! We DO have a kindred spirit in this industry because there are still relatively few of us. But now we are connected. I saw law firms over and over again and I saw an adult company in New York City that had a shitload of great adult domains. So I knew some folks and names years before we ever met or even talked. But those FEW kept me going. I would guess there were a few dozen at that point.

So when I look up now and see this MAMMOTH of an industry that is here and still so small overall, it is sometimes overwhelming. I mean Godaddy has more employees taking a piss right now then there were domain investors in 1995. So my perspective will ALWAYS be different. My starting point was different. My aim was different. We just happen to intersect a lot! That's the nature of the business. All prospectors for gold go where the gold is. So you will likely stumble on the same people over and over again.

Of course that was during the GOLD RUSH DAYS of domaining. There was a gold rush. Some of you don't even know about this. 1998. Amazing!! Why? Because it just happened to be the 100 year anniversary of the Alaskan Gold Rush!! It coincided perfectly. And make no mistake, 1998 WAS without doubt THE YEAR of the domain gold rush. I had a Front Row Center seat to the event. I happened to be in Alaska at the time and did not even know until I got there. I knew about the domain gold rush, but I had no clue about the Alaskan gold rush.

I was on a cruise and the day before in each port we would hear "Bill Gates was here with Warren Buffet yesterday". That in and of itself was pretty amazing. I was doing EXACTLY what two of the richest men in the world were doing and at almost exactly the same time. in 1998 those two were the dynamic duo and not much has really changed. But that was not the highlight of the trip. That was only a memory.

What I have in front of me right now is the carry away. "The official Gold Rush Centennial Medallion" a silver coin minted by the state of Alaska. 1898-1998. Truly an enlightening trip. One I will never forget and just one of the reasons I am so certain and so focused on that "20 year" germinating process that we are now entering the gravitational pull of this NEW and exciting era.  We are there baby.....and this Labor Day is when the OFFICIAL gun goes off and the REAL RACE BEGINS. BEGINS!!!! Not ends. BEGINS! My mission was to hurdle over 20 years in spite of the laughs and the prods and all the rest that go with something folks don't understand so they just laugh at it and belittle you in the process as being unworthy of consideration.

And in the blurb below it goes on to describe new strikes for up to 8 years later let alone how long they each lasted.

Grush

I mean how many people on the planet even knew what a domain  name was in 1998? Or 1995?? Did you? Did your friends or family? I was not a techie. I could barely get online. I saw something bigger than anything I had ever seen in my lifetime and I knew at that time what it would become but it would take 20 years to hit a critical mass in the way other things in our history hit critical mass.

Folks did not even have an "Online strategy" until 10 years into it and still they were filled with doubt because of the "Fad". The doubt is over and it is now the lifeline!! The lifeline! Think about that.

Need, want, desire were words I never even used until a few years back. I simplified it all to that simple equation.

First you must have a NEED. You can't go to the guy that just came from an all you can eat buffet that is ready to explode and give him 50% off if he comes to your buffet RIGHT NOW and think that helps anyone. DUH! NO NEED, NO WANT, NO DESIRE. Compare that to the 350lb guy that is HUNGRY!! BIG DIFFERENCE! That is why "Timing" is the other element of the equation. Then of course we get to value.

Has the net changed me?

You bet.

While I am still the smiling guy you see in the photos, I also had to find that darker side that had to have thick skin, fight for what he believed and fight even harder to protect himself and many others in the process. There was no other protection. Law enforcement did not know what a domain name was let alone help you recover or it or go after the thief. It was not the FBI's radar screen. There truly was no enforcement other than your own preventative measures. I think half the people at Network Solutions did not know what a domain was nor the importance. So calling them for help is like calling help in the middle of the woods. I had so many cease and desist letters that I probably registered the first 3 word domain. lol, CeaseandDesist.com smack dab in the middle of that Gold Rush. July 1, 1998. I still have the file with HUNDREDS of these letters. EACH ONE trying to intimidate me and threaten me to STEAL or HIJACK what I rightfully owned. So did that make me a bit hardened? Yeah it did. When I find out the person or entity I am working with is a predator, I may as well be a can of raid to a cockroach.

And the choice was that or WHAT?? Let me help you. There was no choice. Wolves vs the hen-house. What more do you need to know? So we can Fast Forward to today and see we still have a very long way to go, but oh my, how far we have come. I have the benefit of a longer view and I always pay homage to the past while always focusing on the future. If you don't do that you can't check your navigation to make sure you are still on the right path. Yes, I know YOU have a GPS, but as an early explorer, I had to rely on the things like Christopher Columbus would have to rely on things or I would not and could not stay on the proper trail and land on the intended beach. London or Africa? Keeping that historic line in sight is the path to the future. That is why I talk about the history of domains as well as the history of business and society and civilization and buying power. And before some jerk-off has to be a jerk-off, No, I am not comparing myself to Christopher Columbus.  Just trying to illustrate that todays tools were not available back then and you would rely on different things to prove something one way or another.

What frustrates me the most to this very day is one thing leads to another and another and another and I am never done with the example. So let me explain it like this. Imagine a jig saw puzzle with 3000 pieces. They each fit somewhere perfectly to fit with the next That is how I see the evolution of the Internet and domains are a first tier beneficiary. And while I started with only a few pieces, just like the box it comes in, I always had a CRYSTAL CLEAR picture of what it would look like when each piece was filled in. So that puzzle is not done. It takes 20 years to finish. But it is taking shape and a picture is appearing and it gets a bit clearer every single day as one or more pieces get placed. And every once in a while a part of it will be all filled in and it can clearly be seen by all. It ain't easy to hold this steady for so long and not be deterred from what the completed puzzle looks like. And in that picture Domain Names would be a KEY piece of that puzzle. Smack dab in the middle of that puzzle and guess what, that is EXACTLY what is happening and the gTLD's PROVE the fact before it is a fact.

The day the bulb went off in 1996 was the day I KNEW that everything I had done prior to that point in life was simply an apprenticeship for this. Truly. A unique opportunity in time that dovetailed perfectly with everything I had learned and absorbed and became good at until that point. There was never a doubt. Never a second thought. Never. I just had to manage to survive for 20 years and all the answers that needed to be answered would be answered.

And I started writing that stuff down back then so I could leave a trail for others and be able to point to time stamped evidence of beliefs like a religion to me. I had to reach back to my days of writing either creatively or for a sales piece and that was perhaps what I was most rusty at. In 1996 people did not write like they do today. Of course much of that is morphing into dictation.

But as I look back, the greatest time stamp for me is the time and date on each domain name registered. They are only semi-accurate. Back in 1999 when I started moving my portfolio to Moniker, all of those domains show a 1999 date even tho I registered most of them in 1996-1997.

So a post like this just tries to put things in a historical perspective from my view. From where I sat. I can't speak for others. I can just share my story, warts and all. Life is great. Each day we get to wake up and start all over again!

Just a ramblin' Sunday Morning type post. I really feel bad for the folks that don't think the best is to come. When that puzzle is completely filled, the domain investors that are still domain investors are going to be very happy campers and there will be a sea of folks with deep regrets. Some may even take their regrets out on me or you. Why? Who knows, who cares, we have a future to harness and why allow distractions? Tuesday to me is the gun that starts the race. The DAY we truly enter the gravitational pull of that 20 year puzzle.

By the time the next President of the USA gets sworn in, we will have completed the journey. We will have arrived at the destination intended. And for the FIRST TIME many will finally see EXACTLY what it is that I have been seeing all these years. Let's face it, they already are. Maybe this ship will land on those shores just a tad early.

Rick Schwartz



34 thoughts on “My FIRST few days in Domains 1995-1996. Alone! Then the Domain Gold Rush of 1998

  1. Harry L Shields

    Morning Rick, I was one of the 5 or 6. I had a Florida company that licensed a technology from Los Alamos National Laboratory in late 1994. All of the engineers and tech people were sending something they called email over the wire, through computers? We bought a networked computer system that year and started sending and receiving emails from our contacts there. I even signed up fonet.com [gave it up several years later] for FONET, Inc [our corporation name] I even hired a lady to research selling books on this thing they called the Internet. The talk then was that no one would be able to sell anything over the Internet and certainly no one would ever think of giving out a credit card number to purchase something from an unknown person? We later went on to acquire several domains in 1994, 1995 with my best one in 1998, which I still have today. What if we all could have had just a small inkling of what was to come. You did, and I’m still trying hard a h…!

    Reply
  2. Privy Domains

    Hey Rick,

    Nice to read. I just completed my schooling at that time and didn’t even knew what was domain at that time. So hearing it from you gives an idea of that Gold Digging time.

    I am into multiple business like Logistics, Real Estate & StockMarket . Domain are not my main business but i am more confident every passing day that the more tld’s are introduced , the more confusion would be created and more valuable the .com would be.

    I meet so many people due to my businesses and none of them even know anything other than .com or .in (The ccTLD here in India)

    Just tell me one thing if possible , do blogging help you in your work anyways or you do it for pleasure as i am thinking of starting it myself :)

    Reply
  3. vinsdomains

    I knew what a domain name was back then and was lucky enough to have gotten some free names, although they were for my environmental businesses at the time. I remember those days and actually had a couple of free names early on. Here’s a screen shot of one of my early sites for my environmental firm at that time:
    http://web.archive.org/web/199903020…enyon.com/kei/

    The scrolling banner says we were online since 1992, which I remember being a typo we decided never to correct, but very positive it was actually 1993. We were told by Network Solutions that we were the 9th website in Rhode Island at that time. Not sure how they knew that.

    Reply
  4. Altaf

    Good Morning Rick,
    I started in 1997 when moved to Toronto. First knew about domains from late Corey Rudle before I reached you. Would you please say where from you got the idea for the first time? Was it your child brain or you got the knowledge from someone else? In fact I had everything from money to credit card, but did not understand its depth as my pc was 25k speed.
    Writing more will be much appreciated. Gratefully,
    Altaf

    Reply
  5. SA

    Jesus Rick, Rand McNally couldn’t have produced a clearer map to what is going on and what any reasonably clear thinking investor or entrepreneur can expect to experience as the new GTLD Internet era unfolds.
    “I was alone” resonates this person that has invested in over 400 keyword rich GTLD services dotcoms.
    Thanks for the great historical perspective about how things play out with a world changing event.
    Anyone that sees the continued interest in GTLD BY experienced entrepreneurs with deep pockets and reads this and can’t see the comparison to what happened with the birth of dotcom domains in late 1990s is brain dead IMO.

    Reply
  6. SA

    I wanted to add that while it is true to say that other communication and marketing channels have been introduced over the years that have some effect on the absolute need for domains it is also true to say that we are about to witness the release of entrepreneurial spirit from a new tech savvy generation looking that have been waiting for five years or more for a channel to release their energy, frustration, and creativity in search of financial and personal gain.

    I ask you What could be a more affordable, bigger and more timely opportunity for these entrepreneurs and investors than the GTLD program?

    Reply
  7. sam elliot

    the new gtlds are going down faster than the titanic. if you had gold.every new tld they wouldn’t be worth much. .com is king and always will be.

    Reply
  8. JBS

    “I ask you What could be a more affordable, bigger and more timely opportunity for these entrepreneurs and investors than the GTLD program?”

    I think you missed Rick’s point. The new gTLDS are NOT the new gold rush. They are the piece of the puzzle that helps fulfill the 20 year evolution of DOT COMS to the ultimate stature and worth that he foresaw.

    Reply
  9. JBS

    Rick, while many of us may have missed the gold rush in the mid-nineties, thanks to your passionate blogging (and others), we have since acquired our own gold nuggets that were first registered in that era. We just paid a “little more” than $100… LOL. I did not completely “get it” until reading your posts just 5 years ago, but your words were very timely for me at that time. And as you say, timing is everything…

    Reply
  10. Jonathan

    Many industrialized nation states still have have cultural inertia, the RS model can still be replicated.

    Reply
  11. SA

    JBS I hear and appreciate your comment and agree that the post is about Ricks plan, allow me to clarify and bring my points together as how the GTLD program might add interest necessary for his plans of more and higher dotcom sales to fruition. I own over 2700 dotcoms. Some since 1990’s. I agree that dotcom is king. I also agree however that there are forces like .co that will be heavily marketing their own registry and dots that belong to it. If you are invested solely in dotcom then you will benefit from the limelight to be shed on domain names in general but if you are not invested in any GTLD names either .whatever or in my case GTLD services dotcoms then you are leaving money on the table IMO How much? We don’t know yet. We do know that ICANN is sitting on 400 million of application fees and that is no amount to sneeze at and IMO portends investment opportunities and ROI to come for savvy domain investors that act now and not later when it is too late.

    Reply
  12. JBS

    SA – the new gTLDs might be worth spending slot machine money on, you know, the money you can afford / expect to lose, but I am leery about investing any serious cash. Rick said he has lost money on EVERY other extension but Dot Com. And those were heavily marketed, new extensions with little competition for their message at the time. I MIGHT try picking up a couple of top phrases if I can get them cheap but will not buy any new gTLDs that get bid up to real money.

    Reply
  13. Dave Wrixon

    Yes, but did anyone tell you that 12 of the New GTLDs are dot coms?

    No, you certainly did not read it here. And you are not being let in on the next big thing.

    Reply
  14. @domains

    The new gtlds still make me a little nervous, but lately the domain aftermarket has still been pretty good. Shows buyers aren’t sitting back and waiting for the new extensions.

    Reply
  15. Mike

    Greetings, King Rick:

    Awesome post!

    I’ve been GUESSING what a domain name is since 1995, when I registered my first one. It was a non dictionary word of my own invention that I soon lost to multinational boat builder, as I ignored I was supposed to renew its registration yearly. As a matter of fact, I started learning what a domain name REALLY is when I discovered your very blog, a few years ago. I keep learning from you every single day.

    Many thanks and hat off, Dotcom King!!!

    Reply
  16. UFO

    I knew what domains where in 1990/91 but I didn’t have the money and I don’t think there were any internet connections at the time where I was. An Apple 2e was a couple of grand to start with.

    As a small kid in Early 1980s I knew of the internet but to actually use it required BOOKING time on a communications satellite where I was living.

    Must admit in 1998 I was seriously thinking about getting a domain name to sell electronics on the web, but I went travelling instead… and missed the boat till 2003.

    And so 10 years after that.. Now in 2013 I am finally into selling electronics on the net. In some ways I’ve been lucky because paying 10k for a great .com in 2003 got me a domain that was a throw off the net crash and thus pre 2000.

    Good .com’s are still relatively cheap. Try leasing a poxy little shop for 50k a year before overheads and you’ll soon realise what a great .com is really worth. If you think logistics, efficiency and breath of market you can chase… then it ALL revolves around ecommerce. Most people now are using shops to test products before they buy it cheaper online.

    I think soon the major retailers will start buying out ecommerce sites, they’ll roll them all up into their online business expansion.

    Reply
  17. UFO

    With all these new .whatevers.

    I’d like to add my 2c worth.

    I don’t think they’ll ever take off. .net never has, so why suppose anything else will?

    See, there are billions and billions of advertising dollars spent that have the word .com on them (or the nation’s cctld). Consumers see, recollect and actually expect a decent matching domain name.

    400 million is NOTHING. Small individual firms will not wait for some shift in internet names, the only decision is whether they’ll change their name to a cheaper matching domain name or pay the market secondary market rate.

    Domains are like land, and commercial land at that. You can buy land very cheap in the middle of nowhere, but there’s a reason for that. It costs the same to build etc etc but consumers are king.

    Now, if some land in the middle of nowhere is to become popular then it needs developers (aka like Web developers) and all the domainers in the universe won’t make that happen, domainers are just stake claimers.

    Businesses have multiple opportunities to grow their business, and the price of a domain is relative to the ingoing investment. The only people that want cheap land in the middle of nowhere are shanty town poor people and they’ll never be spending plenty of advertising dollars.

    Any online activity that wants to look good in the eyes of its clients/customers will always migrate to a great .com or cctld (pref both) that’s relative to the scale of its business, they WON’T then get some crappy .whatever other than as testing advertising spend.

    Lastly, irrespective. The renewal costs on .whatever versus the risk of buying a decent .com will continue to favour the .com. The big money will always chase .com, these .whatevers are fools gold. Why lease for the same cost when you could have the .com for a bit of capital upfront? Proper businesses spend proper money when they are developing their business. .Whatever ONLY has an advantage on initial capital cost and that’s not an issue because decent .com’s are still CHEAP relative to the real costs of setting up and growing a proper business.

    Reply
  18. UFO

    Oh, my 3c worth is that ALL businesses worth their salt ALREADY have their stake in the internet via good/great domain names. Its only new businesses that will possibly consider these .whatevers. Now consider the relative scale of advertising they’ll engage in relative to the world wide spend on .com.

    Domainers spending cash on renewal fees of .whatevers defies logic, its like thinking that different languages around the world have an equal chance of becoming the global standard.

    Remember, .net and all the others had LESS competition in a high growth market to gain adoption and they did not, in a competitive market there will always be a flight to quality and when a domain name is one of the key attributes in internet commerce, then you’re best placed to have the best one you can afford.

    This is all basic business logic and people in business will follow basic logic.

    Anyway, any domainers buying these .whatever’s have been told, and we look forward to your recanting on this blog around renewal times.

    Reply
  19. BillW

    Never say never…how we search today is not how we will search in 5-10 years. In Japan, ‘bookmarking’ websites is said to be the most popular way to go. Voice recognition is certain to be part of future searches and the majority of computers will be smart phones.

    It is speculated that some of the .whatevers plan to give users ‘free’ domains addresses and perhaps even ‘free’ website tools and server space in exchange for using other ads and services they will market to you with compensation by 3rd party advertisers.

    Reply
  20. fizz

    >>Yes, but did anyone tell you that 12 of the New GTLDs are dot coms?

    No, you certainly did not read it here. And you are not being let in on the next big thing<<

    Dave, the longer it takes for the penny to drop, the better it is for us!

    Reply
  21. Anita

    Very interesting post Rick, especially your response to all the S&D letters. Could have been frightening for a weaker mortal. Looking back, I was in my 12th grade in 1995 so domains were unknown to me. Though I started my web design and development business at the end of 2000 it was just that one domain for a long time. You are majorly responsible for my interest in domains and in realizing their enormous potential. There are very few people who have been able to see into the future and you are one of them. On one side as your predictions unfold remember that .COM is stealing your title as the “Domain King” :-) Your drive to go on record always is so admirable. I’m still a bit frightened to start blogging thinking about the oddballs who eventually comes along to spoil your day with their finger pointing. Need a really thick skin for that, me think!

    Reply
  22. Todd Bernhard: NoTie (@ToddBernhard)

    I was there. In fact, you and I were both quoted in the same NY Times article, re my MEMO.COM sale (purchased in 1993)

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/15/technology/at-least-some-domain-names-draw-money-at-net-auctions.html

    Around that time, I wrote a program to check the dot com availability of dictionary words (with or without prefixes like e, i, and My) and AAAA through ZZZZ which is how I ended up with AAAB.com, AAAX.com, BYOI.com, BBYO.com, CDRO.com, EFRO.com, HINY.com, iGown.com, iMyself.com, MyExpenses.com, MyAlcohol.com, MyFudge.com, Uncouple.com (all of which are available) plus a bunch of others I’ve already sold!

    Reply
  23. UFO

    BillW

    Of course you’re correct, thats why any serious business protects their IP with trademarks etc.

    What you’re ultimately alluding to is the rise of private networks. All the big social media players definitely want that. The thing that I see stopping it all is that consumers don’t like being owned or controlled although so many people spend their time on so few sites they are effectively owned anyway… Hence less need for private networks.

    One thing that a lot of techies don’t understand is that technology faces off to law and business practices. Technology FACILITATES these not governs them. Without URLs then we are talking about ownership of actual words and that has major implications for IP, thats why things like .com will hang around because the cost of trying to move towards absolute technological efficiency is too high.

    Reply
  24. UFO

    BillW – Part 2.

    Nb: That’s why nominets proposal here in the UK to introduce a new .uk in addition to the .co.uk got kicked into touch. Technology does not over ride Intellectual property.

    Reply
  25. 1995

    I started in August 1995, when they were still free.

    By September they started charging. I had hundreds of domains before 1996 started.

    Yes, if you even waited a few minutes you could lose domains from someone else sniping them. By the end of 1995 most of the category killer domains were snagged up. From August to December there was a mad rush. I’d guess there were 50-75 people total going after domains based on how they were being bought up, but we will never really know.

    Reply
  26. steve jones

    Rick,
    Dean and I were here then, riding a different internet gold rush helping to monetize your 1996 domains :-) Not sure if we are in your 5 or 6. Nice trip down memory lane.cheers

    Reply
    1. Rick Schwartz

      Hey Steve!!
      You guys are responsible for loading the first cannon full of gold! The base camp to cash in traffic. Glad to be part of it!
      Hope you are well! Be great to hear from Dean!
      Cheers!

      Reply
  27. ddermott

    Rick, I registered my first domain name — my surname — in March 1995 while living in DC. Mostly men on the internet, with sports, pornography, and financial news where I saw the gold rush. By 1998, I tired of trying to convince Irish companies to get a website, so registered their company names. Maybe a smart move, but should have gone for generic industry/business domain names instead.

    Reply

My Blog is only as good as the Comments YOU post. Thank You!