05|21|2008 01:00 pm EDT
I was really excited when I received an advanced author’s copy of The Domain Game, How People Get Rich From Internet Domains on Tuesday evening last week. The book is by author and Wall Street Journal reporter David Kesmodel. I was done reading it by Wednesday. Obviously, The Domain Game was a book I couldn’t easily put down. I’m not a fast reader. I wouldn’t even really consider myself a book reader. I guess I read childrens books like my mom’s Where Do Angels Sleep to my toddler all the time, but I can’t recall the last actual business book I read. I skimmed The Search. I skimmed Built From Scratch. I did not skim The Domain Game. I will most likely have to read it a couple more times to let it all sink in. Keep reading for the details on the book, the author and my review of the book as a “must read”. About a year ago I “met” David Kesmodel over the phone. He had been given my name as a potential source for a story on expired domains. Worried that I’d misspeak or that he would paint a picture that was unflattering, I turned down his request for an interview. When he called me back last year to talk about a book he was writing about the domain space, The Domain Game, I was leery but at the same time excited about the possibilities.
There really hasn’t been a book published about the current domain space before now. Sure, John and Sean wrote good ebooks about flipping domains and starting out and Marc Ostrofsky published Get Rich Click. There were even a few books published in the late 90s about domain names, that I have skimmed at Barnes and Noble with a chuckle and a grin. On the domain name history time-line, you might call the late 90s the “dawn of domains”. Obviously, a lot has changed since 1997. The business of domain name monetization and pay per click ads have changed the “domain game” dramatically.
David Kesmodel wrote a few pieces on the domain space as a WSJ reporter and became intrigued by the players. He credits a discussion that he had with Michael Berkens for picking his interest in the space. Kesmodel quit his job with the Wall Street Journal and dedicated over a year of his life to writing what I’d say is now “the book” on the domain name business. His book deal was axed by the publisher in 2007, months before it was to be published, but he further proved his dedication to getting The Domain Game out by self-publishing with xlibris.com.
The book was very thorough and well researched. The five pages of Endnotes are testament to that. Kesmodel also states in his Notes on Sources that he interviewed “more than a hundred people intimately familiar with the domain marketing . .. investors, Internet advertising executives, intellectual-property lawyers, Wall Street analysts, and current and former employees of Internet registrars and registries.” He also makes mention of the unwillingness of domainers to speak about the space “because of the secrecy of the industry and the sensitivity surrounding certain subjects, some sources only spoke on condition of anonymity. When I chose to use information from such sources, I contacted other sources for corroboration.” I would imagine the task of getting domainers to “open up” wasn’t very easy. Kesmodel recounts a party where he is introduced to a San Francisco domainer who upon figuring out he’s speaking with a journalists who is writing a book he says, “OK, then I’m Bob”.
The “stars” of the book are former watermelon farmer, Scott Day, former electrician, Garry Chernoff and a college dropout entrepreneurial dabbler, Frank Schilling. Three domainers, who as John Berryhill so elequoently puts it, “are not the people who went to the right schools, who had the right social connections”. A cast of hundreds including Rick Schwartz, Yun Ye, and Marc Ostrofsky are also covered in the book, but Kesmodel focused on these three, who probably were the most willing to talk “on the record”. Kesmodel’s approach to writing the book focuses on the stories of these individual domain investors while at the same time he sets the backdrop for their rise to internet moguls.
The book covers these individual stories as well as the history of the domain space from the early expiring domain name game in the late 90s to where these indvidials are today and everything in between. From the multi-million dollar portfolio sales to domain tasting and cybersquatting, Kesmodel covers the ins and outs of the domain name monetization business and the players involved, warts and all. I’ve spoken to a handful of people who are nervous about the “warts” or wish to finally have someone write about the real issues. I believe Kesmodel does a good job pointing out the facts, while avoiding accusations. The problems associated with squatting and tasting are well-known and most of the players are as well. He points out some of the embarrassing incidents with companies like iREIT and Dotster being sued over trademark domains but in my view he does it in a way that avoids judgment.
It should be noted, this isn’t necessarily a step-by-step how-to get rich on domain names book. The subtitle of the book, How People Get Rich From Internet Domain Names, really speaks more to the stories behind these three “average guys,” the other individual domain investors and the companies that have made a mark in the domain space over the last decade. There’s no step-by-step directions in the book but Kesmodel devotes a whole chapter to “The Future” of the domain name space giving the reader interested in the space ideas and background on what the future holds for domain name investors and how to become involved.
The Domain Game tells a classic story of a little-known business that rose up to become a billion dollar industry. The stories of passionate risk taking and boot-strap innovation by the creative entrepreneurs who become millionaires from the “game” will resonate with any reader regardless of their prior knowledge of domain names. Without a doubt, if you are investing in domain names, this book is a must read. Even if you have been involved in the domain space for years, you are sure to pick up information that you might not already know.
You can order the book online for $29.99 as a hardcover or for $19.99 as a paperback.