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2021 has been a pretty incredible year in domain name investing. From big returns in ETH and meta names, to new marketplaces and landers. The .xyz extension was stronger than almost anyone predicted. There have been more million dollar .com sales than in recent years. Below I summarize some of the topics that caught my attention. Please add your own in the comments.

Big Sales Strong

Compared to the last few years, 2021 was very strong in high-value sales. At time of writing, the NameBio Top Sales of 2021 showed 12 sales above one million dollars. By comparison, there were just 3 sales above one million dollars in 2020, 6 in 2019, and 4 in 2018. These are reported sales. No doubt the full number is substantially more.

The top publicly released sale in 2021was hippo.com that sold for $3.3 million, followed by floor.com at $3.144 million, marketing.com at $2.5 million, and then NFT.com, angel.com and AFS.com at $2 million each.

NFTs Capture Domainer Attention

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, captured the spotlight in 2021. Many of the most successful domain investors engaged in buying, promoting and selling NFTs.

While the idea of NFTs to validate original creative works makes total sense, the rapid increase in prices surprised me. Each NFT art series is essentially a form of generative art, with similarities and differences between each work in the series.

I wrote an article on NFT’s back in March 2021 for the NamePros Blog, but the sector has changed a lot since that time.

OpenSea.io is the central marketplace for many NFT transactions.

Part of the allure of NFTs is that a club of owners interact on social media. This is particularly the case for the Bored Ape Yacht Club. There were 10,000 different apes created, with different facial expressions, features, clothing, etc. Generally speaking, apes with features that are less common sell for higher amounts. For example, one with gold fur recently sold for $3.4 million at Sotheby’s.

The floor price of a bored ape varies, but at time of writing was equivalent to about $200,000, although some go for millions. By mistake, someone sold a bored ape for $3000 this week. The intention had been $300,000.

Domain names related to NFTs sold for significant amounts. As noted earlier, NFT.com sold for $2 million in February. The next highest sale of the exact match acronym was NFT.app for $50,000 in March, followed by NFT.rentals at $8150 in November and NFT.ca for $6500 in October.

The impact of the shift in focus toward NFTs by so many major domain sellers is not clear to me. Will they use NFT profits to invest in domains, or shift some investments into NFTs?

ETH

NFTs, and an increasing number of other items, are priced in Ethereum. That has exploded value for domain names in ETH, including in extensions not normally supporting high valuations.

The eth.com name sold for $2 million back in 2017. In 2021 we saw sales of eth.co at $300,000, eth.club at $200,000, eth.paris and eth.website each at $50,000, eth.gg at $49,995, and eth.green at $45,000.

XYZ Surges

2021 has seen a rapid rise in sales numbers and prices in the .xyz extension. Even though the increase started in 2020, few predicted the dramatic interest in the extension that has happened this year. Already there are 481 .xyz sales listed in NameBio, with a sales volume of about $1.6 million so far.

The average .xyz sales price in 2021 is about $3300, although it should be kept in mind that is a mix of retail sales and wholesale acquisitions on venues such as Sav. The wholesale prices for .xyz have been strong, occasionally $1000 or more, whereas two years ago there was barely a wholesale market in the extension.

The top .xyz sales so far in 2021 were quest.xyz at $69,888, alliance.xyz at $50,000, nomad.xyz at $49,000, stir.xyz at $39,888 and collective.xyz at $37,000. Swetha @DNGear had 4 of the top 5 sales, with @Nikul Sanghvi at Hypernames the seller for nomad.xyz.

The story of @DNGear working tirelessly for almost 6 years daily scouring drop lists and growing a superb portfolio of more than 16,000 .xyz domain names is both inspirational and instructive. She put in the hard work, believed in her names by insisting on strong prices, listed them effectively across various marketplaces, and had patience.

In July I looked at what sells in the .xyz extension. Although the market has evolved even in the few months since then, I found that the majority of names were in use by early-stage startups in hot areas such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, fintech, NFTs, collaboration, and networks. Most of the .xyz names that sell at good prices are 9 letters or less, and are English language single words, both common and less common.

Security Issues

Many domain investors were impacted by the data hack at Epik announced on Sept 13, 2021 by Anonymous. Names, emails, passwords, contact information and payment details were accessed, and most publicly released. Some of the data goes back at least 10 years, so even those who had not used Epik for some time were potentially impacted. The 15 million figure sometimes quoted includes scraped Whois data. In the official data-breach notice Epik reported that 110,000 people had been impacted. In a press statement Epik indicated that payment information for 38,000 credit cards had been leaked. The issue was heatedly debated on NamePros. Epik has continued to fully operate throughout, although fast approval of domain transfers can now only be done through support.

On Nov 22, 2021 GoDaddy announced a breach for about 1.2 million customers of their Managed WordPress service, both direct customers and through resellers. Names, emails, passwords at time, and access details for sites were compromised. Note that this does not impact GoDaddy customers who do not use the Managed WordPress service. Read the details in their security release.

You can check if your email or phone have been in a data breach using HaveIBeenPWned.com. The service has investigated 569 breaches, resulting in more than 11 billion accounts with leaked information.

A different solid password at every site, along with 2-factor authorization and checking accounts regularly can help protect yourself. Some investors use virtual credit cards to isolate their payment information.

In 2021 there were also numerous denial of service attacks and outages for services used by domain investors.

Metaverse and Meta

2021 was the year many, both in general public and domain investors, began to talk about the metaverse. This accelerated in July when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be transformed into a metaverse company.

This summer, I published on the NamePros Blog What Is The Metaverse?, although a lot has happened in the few months since then.

On Oct 28, 2021 Facebook announced that Meta would be the new name of their overall social technology company.

Both before and after that, there has been intense activity in acquisition and promotion of meta names. In several cases meta names went from standard registration to 5-figure sales within weeks.

NameBio records show 9 meta exact name sales of $5000 or more in 2021, with meta.so at $149,000 and meta.io at $100,000 leading the list. Even extensions that have not typically sold for high amounts joined the party, with meta.monster selling for $19,000, meta.equipment at $14,000 and meta.best for $10,000. Undoubtedly there are many other meta sales that were not publicly disclosed.

More Lander Choices

In 2021 domain investors could use landers at Afternic that included the price and a buy-it-now button. Change your DNS settings to ns5, ns6 and make sure you have buy-it-now prices set in Afternic.

Dan also updated their landers, now offering default, standard, brandable and minimalistic options. For some styles, one can select colors and include a background image if desired.

In 2021 Dan and MediaOptions implemented an agreement where sellers who receive an offer through the Dan lander can have MediaOptions take over the negotiation. There is a higher commission charge, however.

Payment Plans

While domain name payment plans have been common for a number of years, the number of domain names sold under payment plans seems to have increased in 2021. Several registrars often used by domain investors, including Dynadot, NameSilo and Epik, all allow one to offer payment plan options. Payment plans have been available through Dan for some time.

Domain Talk on Clubhouse

While Clubhouse began as TalkShow in 2019, and was already quite popular by the last quarter of 2020, it was in the first half of 2021 that discussions around domain names on Clubhouse really took off. Some of the big names, as well as many new people, hosted or contributed to sessions, and numerous domain names were sold on the platform.

NameBio Without Delay

For years NameBio, the primary source for domain sales information, has accumulated sales throughout the day, but waited to release the information all at one time. Now, however, NameBio releases data throughout the day as they obtain it. This is of particular value to those who miss the end of an auction, as you can see what the name went for through NameBio. Keep in mind that anyone can report their sales to NameBio using this form and including a verification attachment.

A Hybrid Marketplace

In the past, we have had general purpose marketplaces, where almost any name could be listed, such as Sedo, Afternic and Dan. There are also curated brandable marketplaces, such as BrandBucket, SquadHelp Premium, and Brandpa, that select only certain names, and generally have higher commissions.

The style of presentation is also different, with the brandable places using logo presentation, while the general marketplaces use list presentation. The number of names on site is very different for the curated marketplaces, with about 120,000 names at each of BrandBucket and SquadHelp Premium, while Afternic has more than 21 million names listed.

While Alter was first announced in late 2020, early in 2021 Alter morphed into a hybrid marketplace. The presentation of domain names, and search optimization, remained similar to the brandable marketplaces, but it was no longer a curated market. They also accept a broader array of extensions than the brandable marketplaces. Founder @Deven Patel has interacted with NamePros members as the details of Alter have evolved. It will be interesting to see if the hybrid model gets emulated in another marketplace.

Namecheap Market

In case you missed it, Namecheap recently released their revised Namecheap Market, currently in beta.

The market has two parts, auction and fixed price. Namecheap has started auctioning their expiring domain names, rather than send them to the GoDaddy expiry stream. Since Namecheap is the world’s second largest registrar, there are a fair number of expiring domain names in auction at any one time, a few hundred thousand.

You can list domain names registered at Namecheap in the Buy Now section of the market. The process for listing is the same as for their previous marketplace, but the visual display is quite different. The Namecheap Market listing includes parameters such as domain age, search volume, extensions taken and number of backlinks. You can list domain names for up to 90 days. Each domain name has its own link with the format:
https://www.namecheap.com/market/example.com/.

Afternic Beta 2.0

If you haven’t already done so, check out the Afternic 2.0 Beta. There is a link on your dashboard, and you can readily switch back and forth between Afternic 2.0 and the legacy display. I find it is an easier interface to check and change prices. Also, if you click on the … on right and activate View Details Page, it shows information such as comparator sales.

Change in GoDaddy Closeout Pricing

Early in 2021 GoDaddy changed pricing on their closeouts. They now go through 5 days of decreasing prices, starting at $50, then $40, $30, $11 and $5, plus domain renewal fee.

A GEO Oriented Marketplace

In the last half of 2021 SquadHelp introduced a GEO-oriented domain name marketplace, currently in beta. You can read about the SquadHelp Geo Domains Marketplace here. The commission, and presentation style, is the same as for their ‘white label’ standard listings, 7.5%.

Handshake Domains

While decentralized naming systems have been around for some time, Handshake seemed to really take off this year. In a thread started by @Synozeer, he asks whether Is Handshake the Next Step? in domain names.

A few of the registrars have begun handling a selection of Handshake domains – for example here is a link to Handshake domains at Namecheap. The page also includes information on how to make your browser recognize Handshake domains, as well as a FAQ section.

Price Increases

A wholesale price increase of 7% for .com domain names came into effect in 2021, with similar increases scheduled for each of the coming three years.

There were wholesale price increases in a number of other extensions during 2021, and a major wholesale price increase in .io is taking effect at the end of 2021.

Social Media Limitations

In 2021, more realized how fragile dependence on a social media giant could be. That should help more businesses see how critical it is to have their own website, that they fully control, and also a quality domain name.

Alexa Termination

Amazon recently announced that they will be retiring Alexa.com services effective May 1, 2022. Since the Alexa 1M is a frequently used measure in evaluating real-world use of a domain extension, this will impact domain name analysis. Those with subscriptions will continue to have API access until later in 2022, when that too will be disabled. Note that this does not impact Alexa voice devices, which share the name, but are an entirely different branch.

Final Thoughts

No doubt this article has omitted some items that should have been included. Please add in the comments section below what you consider to have been important domain-related developments in 2021.

Early in 2022 I will publish in NamePros Blog a detailed analysis by extension of how 2021 compared to previous years. You can see the previous one outlining how 2020 compared to 2019 here.

About a year ago, I asked 55 people what they saw ahead in domain names in 2021. If you want to see if anyone predicted the year we actually had, read the predictions for 2021. While the short reply length was a limitation, a number did predict the very strong 2021 we witnessed, along with interest in crypto-related domain assets.

I plan to write an early 2022 NamePros Blog post with opinions on what 2022 may hold for domain name investing. Plesse go to the What Will 2022 Hold Request thread, vote in the poll, and leave your opinion in the form of a comment. Thank you in advance.
 
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redemo

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This is a good post, but what it doesn't cover is the end situation for the average domainer in 2021. Were they better off, the same or worse (profit wise)? It's all very well for a small group at the top to make a big profit but in my opinion the end goal should be everyone better off. Did the majority of domain name investors make any profit in 2021? I'm not being political but what have 99% of domainers gained from the domain name industry in 2021?
 
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hat it doesn't cover is the end situation for the average domainer in 2021. Were they better off, the same or worse (profit wise)?
It will not directly answer that, but the article I do near the beginning of January each year is closer to answering that question. It will show how number of sales, average prices and sales volumes varied by extension, and how they compared to previous years. While that will not say if a particular investor is profitable, it will give an indication if things are getting better or worse in the industry, and in what sectors.

It's all very well for a small group at the top to make a big profit but in my opinion the end goal should be everyone better off. Did the majority of domain name investors make any profit in 2021?
To answer the last question first, while I don't know a way to definitively answer it, a few years ago I tried to estimate that, and I am pretty sure it is true that more than 50% of domain investors lose money. Also many others are approximately break even. Much of the money is made by a few at the top, as you suggest. That said, there are people making good money, and not all in the same way. Some people do well with brandables, others with a small but great portfolio, others find a niche like .co or .xyz or .vc, others just are good at buying at good prices the two word .com that will sell and keep being profitable.

Thanks for your insightful post and questions. This article was meant to be a checklist of some new developments in 2021. It was not meant to try to answer the questions you ask, or even necessarily to answer what is most important, but rather what new trends and opportunities did we see in 2021.

Bob
 
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