Squatters

Last night I was at the University of Chicago working with an entrepreneurship class.  One of the things that came up was domain names.  They are a total pain.

Y Combinator’s Paul Graham opined on having a .com versus having something else.  Here is the beginning and end of his post, but you can read the whole thing.

If you have a US startup called X and you don’t have x.com, you should probably change your name.

The reason is not just that people can’t find you. For companies with mobile apps, especially, having the right domain name is not as critical as it used to be for getting users. The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness. Unless you’re so big that your reputation precedes you, a marginal domain suggests you’re a marginal company. Whereas (as Stripe shows) having x.com strength even if it has no relation to what you do.

Even good founders can be in denial about this. Their denial derives from two very powerful forces: identity, and lack of imagination.

X is what we are, founders think. There’s no other name as good. Both of which are false.

100% of the top 20 YC companies by valuation have the .com of their name. 94% of the top 50 do. But only 66% of companies in the current batch have the .com of their name. Which suggests there are lessons ahead for most of the rest, one way or another

But, the domain process is a mess.  Squatters go out and register names and wait.  When a business starts up and tries to get it, they extort them.  It’s a game that is as old as the internet, and it needs to stop.

I don’t mind someone having a business idea and reserving a name.  But, if there is no commerce being done under that name they should have to release it.  They shouldn’t be able to simply squat on it and use it as an intellectual property asset.  There is nothing intellectual about it.