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08|24|2008 02:34 pm EDT

Political Domain Name History and The Obama-Biden Campaign

by Adam Strong in Categories: Featured

Barack Obama announces his running-mate, Joe Biden

Barack Obama discusses why he chose Joe Biden as his running-mate.

With yesterday’s announcement of the Barack Obama and Joe Biden ticket, Domain Name News has launched into full election year campaign coverage. We were at the announcement at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, to see what the Senator from Illinois would tell us about his choice for a new domain name.

Obama refused to comment on why his campaign is not using .mobi *. He refused to comment on whether he’ll be bidding on the ebay auction for ObamaBiden.org . . . . Well alright, he didn’t really refuse. He just couldn’t hear me shouting 25 feet away from him in a sea of his chanting supporters. :) Obviously, there wasn’t any chance I was going to do any talking to Obama, especially about domain names. In all seriousness though, if you are interested, I was actually at the event. Here’s my Obama-Biden campaign pictures.

Back to politics, domain names and Obama-Biden. CNN focused some attention to some of the more obvious choices for domain names for the newly announced Democratic Presidential ticket. ObamaBiden.com would be the obvious choice for the campaign, but before we discuss the Obama-Biden campaign and their domain name strategy, we thought we’d give you a little domain name history from past Presidential winners and hopefuls, a little law tidbit and then a snippet of domain history behind the Barack Obama campaign.

Thinking Ahead
One of the earliest political domain name stories I’ve heard is recalled in David Kesmodel’s Domain Game book. Kesmodel tells the story of watermelon farmer Scott Day who owned the domain name GeorgeBush.com. In 1999 Day, a Bush fan, donated the domain name to then Governor of Texas George Bush. The man responsible for the acquisition was reportedly Karl Rove. According to Kesmodel:

Rove read about domain speculators and decided to grab any names he could think of related to Bush before others could get them. Rove helped the Bush campaign snag about two hundred, including dubya.net bushsucks.com, bushblows.com. Like many early domain name investors, the man later called “Bush’s Brain” showed a flair for anticipating his competition.

Registering domain names ahead of your competition is a strategy seen in campaigns as close to home as local mayoral or city council races, and it’s not just going on in the United States. Some politicians take it a step further and register their opponents’ domain names and some go even further and use domains for “E-mudslinging” In an article from the Denver Post on the topic of registering rival candidate domain names consultant Phil Noble with PoliticsOnline was quoted as saying,

“national candidates tend to be more savvy and lock up their domain names early. But candidates “down the food chain” in state and local races can still overlook the need to lay claim to their name on the Web and the different Web addresses for it”

MarkMonitor’s Frederick Felman stated in the same article

“Savvy, forward-thinking public figures generally have gotten ahead of this and own (Web sites) associated with their public person. They either bought it early before they were famous, or later negotiated to buy it.”

Preventing “Political Cyberfraud”
According to the Post article, California enacted a law called the Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act that is designed to prevent people from registering political candidate domains. Idaho also made an attempt to pass a similar act, but it was stalled in the House.

The California act states :

(b) It is unlawful for a person, with intent to mislead, deceive,
or defraud, to commit an act of political cyberfraud.
(c) As used in this section:
(1) “Political cyberfraud” means a knowing and willful act
concerning a political Web site that is committed with the intent to deny a person access to a political Web site, deny a person the opportunity to register a domain name for a political Web site, or cause a person reasonably to believe that a political Web site has been posted by a person other than the person who posted the Web site, and would cause a reasonable person, after reading the Web site, to believe the site actually represents the views of the proponent or opponent of a ballot measure.

That’s My Name
In the 2004 election, it was clear that the Democratic campaign wasn’t so lucky. The Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards weren’t faced with a political rival beating them to the punch, and it wasn’t that they weren’t savvy or that someone was committing “cyberfraud”. It turned out that there was actually someone whose first and last name was Kerry Edwards. He was the owner of the desirable KerryEdwards.com domain name and all eyes seemed to turn to him. Edwards turned down initial offers “in the five figures” and rushed to put the domain name up for auction on Sedo. CNET reported

In the days after Kerry announced his running mate, Edwards fielded 40 to 50 offers for his domain name, starting at $1,000 and going into five figures. Traffic to his Web site also jumped to 400,000 in three weeks, compared with his usual three hits a month.

Sedo claims in the CNET article that the high bidder at $150,000 pulled out. Kerry Edwards of Indianapolis still owns the domain name and has no regrets. It is after all his name. Kerry told us “I was contacted by someone representing the Kerry campaign the day after they announced Edwards was going to join the ticket. . . they asked me if I was interested in loaning or donating the domain to the campaign. I told them no and that I had been offered $10,000 for the domain already (which I had). The conversation ended and I never heard from them again.” Kerry who was surprised about the power of a domain name that received type-in traffic has since started investing in domain names himself and frequents domain name forums as user “Duceman”

The Kerry-Edwards campaign signs noticeably missing a domain name

The Kerry-Edwards campaign signs noticeably missing a domain name

The Kerry-Edwards campaign moved on without the KerryEdwards.com. Rather than using that domain they continued referencing JohnKerry.com on some of it’s marketing materials, but they noticeably left a domain name off of much of their political signage distributed that year, opting for the tag “A Stronger America” instead. Meanwhile their Republican opponents included the GeorgeWBush.com domain name with nearly all of their political paraphernalia. BushCheney.com was owned by a domain investor and


Obama’s Record on Domain Names
Many do not know that the Obama campaign already has a history with domain name related issues. First, Barack Obama doesn’t own Obama.com. In an age when even a Presidential candidate becomes a brand (consider “W” from the 2000 and 2004 election), the brand of Obama permeates. Supporters at the Springfield campaign stop chanted “O” from one side to a reply of “Bama” from the other. The Obama.com domain name would have been a nice feather in the hat for the campaign. However, this desirable domain name resolves to a Japanese landing page. Whether Obama attempted to acquire the domain or not is unclear, but it is clear that users are going to this address. According to Compete.com, the Obama.com domain gets around 50,000 uniques a month currently with peaks as high as 150,000 in past months. Slate.com also points out “commenters on online forums frequently implore fellow readers to “Go to Obama.com”.

Without the Obama.com domain name, the campaign moved forward with the domain name that Obama used during his bid for Senator, BarackObama.com. However, this might have not been the case if it weren’t for a generous Canadian company. In March 2005, the BarackObama.com domain name expired. Fortunately for Obama, expiring domain name auction service Pool.com was able to acquire the deleted domain name. Pool.com went out of their way to recapture the expired domain name, contact the Senator’s staff and return the name to him. In an article in the Canadian Corporate News about the issue, Obama was quoted as saying,

“Websites are important vehicles to provide information to constituents and to boost participation in the political process,” Obama said. “In the wrong hands, a web address can be used to mislead and misrepresent a public official’s record. That is why I am extremely grateful that Pool.com allowed me the opportunity to renew my domain and ensure that the information on the page reflects my values and beliefs.”

Even though he did let his domain name expire, Obama obviously knows a bit about the importance of his domain.

History Repeats Itself
Today’s announcement of Obama and Biden as running-mates has suddenly put Lyle Dean in the same hot seat that Kerry Edwards faced in 2004, only Lyle Dean is obviously not named Obama Biden. Dean, the owner of ObamaBiden.com, will be getting similar phone calls this weekend, maybe even from Obama’s Republican rivals.

The Obama Biden Campaign Signage Continues to Use the BarackObama.com Domain Name

The Obama-Biden campaign signage continues to use the BarackObama.com Domain Name

It seems to be a common trend however for a campaign to continue to use the Presidential nominees current domain name in marketing materials rather than a domain name incorporating both candidates. After making their VP picks, Bush continued to push GeorgeWBush.com and Kerry continued with JohnKerry.com. For now it appears that Barack Obama will continue to use BarackObama.com.

The Obama-Biden campaign has already made a decision to move forward with the BarackObama.com domain. Campaign signs, stickers and buttons are already in circulation with BarackObama.com underneath or above the “Obama Biden”. One would think, however, that it can’t hurt to have the more obvious domain name for the 2008 Democratic candidates and use both in an effective manner.

If anything can be learned from this history of domain names and politics, Obama’s staff might consider taking a page out of Rove’s manual and act quickly on acquiring the domain name anyway. Acquiring the domain name might prove to be fairly easy for the campaign, as Dean claims in the CNN piece to be an “enthusiastic supporter” of the campaign.

Dean has a decision to make in the coming days and he might wish to study the law books and this history in making his choice. Since he appears to be a California resident, he may want to consult with an attorney on any possible issues that his owning ObamaBiden.com might have with regard to the Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act. Whatever Dean decides to do with the domain, history will repeat itself. Dean might best choose to learn from that history, ignoring thoughts of selling the domain name and instead follow in the footsteps of domain pioneer Scott Day and donate the name to the Obama-Biden campaign.

*Obama uses ObamaMobile.mobi for his mobile campaign. . . Back down .mobi lovers. It was a joke

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  • http://www.domainnamewire.com andrew

    Look out Adam! You’re about to get yelled at by all of those .mobi supporters who point out that Obama is using ObamaMobile.mobi!

  • http://www.pastorpaul.blogspot.com Paul Kuzma

    Here’s an interesting twist …. check out http://pastorpaul.blogspot.com/2008/08/obama-biden-mccain-vp-political.html for a good chuckle, and maybe some news.

  • Adam Strong

    Thanks for the tips. I added the .mobi bit.
    Paul thanks too. . . Looks like JosephBiden.com is for sale too. :)

  • BarackSMS.com

    I won a small handful of txt/sms Barack Obama names because of the importance of text messaging marketing.
    Although we will consider offers we are planning to put up a McCain sms service within the next couple of days.
    Stay tuned.

    *** DOMAIN SPAM REMOVED ***

  • http://www.chevron.com Brian Benko

    I do not care which domain Obama uses. Choosing another old guy with grey hair that has been hanging around Capitol Hill for 30 years to be Vice President is the last thing this country needs.

    Politics as usual, I guess…..

    Unless this old guy can be taught new tricks, I see very little difference between the Right and the Left this time around.

    Just what our country needs….. A little less hope during rough times.

    With respect to the article:

    As with most businesses: The domain is meaningless for real success. Neither party is going to win or lose based on their domain name.

    Hillary Lost because she did not have a facebook founder / executive running her online strategy.

  • http://www.websitedestination.com Sergio

    Very good and interesting article.
    As for Karl Rove, he’s always been very savvy with domain names, as you point out, and he continues to do so to this day: He opted for the shorter and more memorable Rove.com for his official site.
    I also agree with Brian (above), Obama has given the Republican Party a special gift by picking Joe “Gaffe” Biden over Hillary or even other contenders – it goes smack against his whole “change” gimmick. In fact, CNN has just announced (http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/08/24/election.2008.poll/index.html)that the selection of Biden for VP has set back the Obama campaign a few percentage points and is now tied with McCain in a time when he should be way ahead of him due to the unpopularity of Republicans. Apparently, the only change that Obama wants is the change from other people’s pockets, in the form of online donations.
    Cheers.

  • http://www.domainnamewire.com andrew

    Brian, you say “Politics as usual, I guess

  • Adam Strong

    I should have know this would happen. I’ve received 2 emails offering me the exclusive story of some other great domain names for sale with Obama in them. Come on people! Read the story. KerryEdwards.com didn’t even sell during the election. Your domains aren’t going to sell for $1m or even $10 and that includes you BarackSMS.com guy.

  • http://FrankieSaysImpeach.com Drew

    WASTE OF MONEY. BarackSMS.COM

    Lemme guess – you own lots of .mobis as well, and you used to have a huge portfolio of *3g and 3g* names, right?

  • http://FrankieSaysImpeach.com Drew

    >Unless this old guy can be taught new tricks, I see very little difference between the Right and the Left this time
    >around.

    I think someone’s been watching too much Fox “News”. There’s a world of difference between them.

  • http://www.chevron.com Brian Benko

    I think someone is confused by what politicians speak about during the election and what actually gets done while in office.

    Joseph Biden has done nothing special other than maintain a good reputation while in office as a

  • http://www.obamabiden08.org Eric

    A friend and I bought ObamaBiden08.org back in January 08. It’s hard to tell what if any value it has. I started a wordpress blog to redirect ObamaBiden08.org to. It gets mild traffic. 3000 hits was the biggest day after the Aug. 23 announcement. Since then traffic has tailed off to 800 hits a day.

    The site does have a high 1st page rank for Google searches: “Obama Biden 08″ “Biden VP” and “Vice President Biden” thanks to posts on the subject back in January. We have had a hard time determining value and don’t want to sell to some for “E-Mudslinging” but we are both fairly poor and could use whatever cash we could get. A weird dilemma for a couple Obama supporters.

  • Nick Doherty

    I have the domain name listed below for sale. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing it.

    *** DOMAIN SPAM REMOVED ***

  • Adam Strong

    Nick.
    First, this isn’t a place for you to spam your domain.
    Second, did you bother to read the article?
    Third, Domains like these don’t sell.

  • http://www.domainnamewire.com andrew

    Adam, I have the following domains for sale:

    ObamaIs2coolforschool.com
    McCainSMXTXT.mobi
    ObamaBiden2008rockon.us

    I’m asking $100,000. Please contact me if interested.

    :)

    Andrew, don’t make me come over to your site and litter your comments. :) . . I know this is a late reply but look below to see what you continued :) – Editor

  • Adam Strong

    Don’t make me close the comments :)
    btw I’m the exclusive broker of ZerObama.com and McCains7Houses.com

  • http://www.barack-obama-president.com Sheldon

    Very informative article on political domain names. It will be interesting to see what happens to the value of good Obama domains, should he be elected president. Unlike McCain, Obama is very popular globally, so that may factor into the valuation of Obama domain names after the election.

  • Steve Opara

    Shortly before midnight Friday (the 22nd) I saw that some company in Kansas printed lots of Obama/Bayh bumper stickers. I got the bright idea and registered obamabaynow.com. $10 wasted. Of course, CNN broke the story shortly after midnight about Biden and I registered obamabiden.ws. I have no idea what to do with it, since your article seemed to indicate there isn’t much of a market for these type domains. There was a huge adrenalin rush, however, and, indeed, (2) variations of ObamaBiden disappeared even while I was on GoDaddy. Seeing the Sarah Palin is a hot Republican choice I have been tempted to grab something like McCainPalin.whatever, but, I think that’s enough adrenalin for one week. Since I am not a domain name speculator, I got the “bug”, so I am glad I found this DNN site.

  • Andreas Brekken

    Great article!

    Andreas Brekken

  • Mike

    Hard to believe how far we’ve come from 1995 when domain cost $70 to register and so much was available to the point where a political campaign is a lameduck if they don’t secure their party leader’s name.

  • S

    what about ObamasDream.com amd ObamasPresidency.com Anyone have any thoughts on usage and valuation?

    What about them ? Use ‘em for a site. Be creative, but please don’t bother posting the domains here. This is not a site about valuing domains or informing you on what to do with your domains – Editor

  • ShANE

    ObamasDream.com
    ObamasDream.org
    HistoryOfObama.com
    ObamasPolicies.com

    FirstBlackPresidency.com

    any ideas or interests?

    I have an idea, post your domains on another site. This is a news site. If you don’t have anything to add that is oriented toward the story than don’t post – Editor

  • Adam Strong

    COMMENTS CLOSED thanks to the inconsiderate spammers.
    In the future please show some respect and courtesy and don’t spam/post your unimaginative, squatting and over-all worthless domains on this site.

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