Despite Web's brief lull, domain names still remain hot

Registrations are at an all-time high. Our tech columnist talks with Web.com CEO Will Pemble.

The domain name business is hot. So much for the dot-com downturn.
Total domain name registrations reached an all-time high of 60 million, growing 16 percent in 2003. Just during the last three months of 2003, 1.7 million more domains were registered.

The scramble for the most popular type of domain – one ending with either .com or .net – comprises 52 percent of all registrations. When you account for the other four top choices – .org, .info, .biz and .us – you’ll find that 37 million domains have been registered with the popular extensions.

Web.com is one of the worlds top domain registrars – and no doubt the one with the best domain name for themselves.

Web.com has more than 300,000 customers providing domain names, e-mail service, Web hosting and e-commerce solutions. They were a recent pick by TopHost.com and got top rating at CNET. Web.com CEO Will Pemble took a few minutes to share his thoughts on his company and the industry.

Q: What is Web.com’s history and what do you do?

Pemble: Web.com began over five years ago as a domain name company. Specifically, we began offering “web.com” domain names, which are sub domains of the web.com second level domain. For example, if you went to Network Solutions and tried to register “jewelry.com”, chances are it was already taken. We identified early on a need for good, short, easy-to-remember domain names that would work exactly the same way as any dot-com name. Following that analogy, if “jewelry.com” was taken, chances are that “jewelry.web.com” might still be available. We essentially doubled the inventory for good, easy-to-remember domains.

Back in the day, very few people understood how the Internet works. The dot-net top level domain was useless for the average consumer. People understood dot-com, as in “I work for a dot-com.” Dot-web-dot-com still brought with it the “Internet feeling,” if you will. We began offering this back in the late 90’s as a free service and really quickly registered well in excess of 100,000 web.com domains. We supported those with advertising. We’ve now changed our business model – we still offer the dot-web-dot-com.

Q: Has your core business changed?

Pemble: We are, according to just about any Web hosting review sites – TopHosts.com, WebHostDirectory.com – in the Top Ten, in some cases number one, Web hosting provider in the world. We came about that business in response to requests from customers: “Dear Web.com, I just bought a domain name and now would like a place to host it.” At the beginning, when we were just a few guys with offices in someone’s fourth bedroom, we would refer the hosting to web hosting companies. With service to the customer being our core value, we found ourselves supporting Web hosting customers of other companies. We slowly came around to the realization that if we were going to provide support to them on an on-going basis, it probably made a lot of sense for us to be collecting the monthly Web hosting fees rather than just the one-time affiliate fee.

Q: I notice you offer domain name registration for $6.95 per year. That seems to be the lowest price I’ve found.

Pemble: I think I read somewhere that there are as many as 60,000 domain name companies online. I’m not sure if there is a lower price. Web.com is one of the 15 largest domain name registrars on the planet. We register tens of thousands of domains per month. Of those we consider our competitors, we offer the most competitive price and we add value to each domain name by providing customers with a completely free one-page Website that they can use as a sort of online business card.

Q: This past week you announced a new partnership. Can you tell us about that?

Pemble: Yes, with Name Intelligence (www.nameintelligence.com) located in Seattle. They collect, parse, sort and understand super deep information about how the domain name business and landscape functions on an all-day, everyday basis. A Website that Name Intelligence runs is www.whois.sc, which is one of the 600 busiest sites on the Internet. You would go to Whois to look up domains names to see what’s available and see alternatives. Name Intelligence knows what the ranks of all domain names registrars are on a daily basis.

Q: What is your partnership going to entail?

Pemble: We, along with several of the ten biggest registrars on the planet, use Name Intelligence to power look-ups, for statistics and for data mining. Any company that is serious about being in the domain name business is partners with Name Intelligence on some level. We use them to power our look-ups. If you go to Web.com, type in “Webtalk.com” and click “search,” the results you will see are powered by Name Intelligence.

Q: What are you seeing in terms of new domain registrations? Is that market growing fast?

Pemble: In 2001-2002, domain registration started to drop off a little bit. Fewer people we’re renewing domains or registering new ones. This was part and parcel of the burst of the bubble. As a whole, there was sort of a lull, but the domain name business is alive and well. People are registering tens of thousands of domains per day all over the planet. New businesses pop up every single day. The Internet is a key piece of any new business. If you have a business, you need a Website. At the very least, just a catalog Website or e-mail – and in most cases you need some sort of e-commerce presence. All of that sits on top of your domain name.

Q: I think there are 37 million domain names currently registered. I would think we’d start to run out of usable domain names.

Pemble: Somewhere in excess of 95 percent of all the words in the English dictionary are already registered as dot-coms. On the flip side, something like 95 percent of all the words in the English dictionary are available as dot-web-dot-com, so there’s tremendous opportunity for Web.com and its customers.

The full audio interview with Will Pemble is available at WebTalkRadio.com.
Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.

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