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.


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, 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