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Domain names can be viewed as either a product or a service. In the product model, a potential purchaser browses available names, selecting one that is a good match.

Seen as a service, the domain expert works with a client to identify aspects of an optimum name, and then helps them secure a name, irrespective of current owner. Pre-purchase and post-purchase support is provided.

Of course, it is possible to offer a hybrid, with some combination of product and service aspects. Under the hybrid model, a portfolio of names is presented, along with personalized naming and branding consultation.

In this article, I explore how domain investors might incorporate additional value-added service aspects, along with some of the challenges of the service model.

The term as a service has come to mean delivery of products and services via cloud computing. Common examples include Software As A Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS). Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of the many as a service possibilities.

Is there an opportunity to offer Naming As A Service as a cloud-based automated intelligent service? What would be the implications for domain name investors?


Naming As A Service: User View

Let’s start from the viewpoint of a client seeking a new name for a business, organization, product, app, show, campaign, etc. The following is a list of services they might potentially need as part of the naming process, although not all would apply to any one situation.
  1. General information on what makes a good name.
  2. Explanation of how the domain name system works.
  3. Overview of how names can be created through word combinations, creative spellings, synthesis of words, acronyms, etc.
  4. Analysis of existing names in the niche or application.
  5. Information on domain name limitations, such as special characters, length, etc.
  6. Generation of a list of possible names available to hand register.
  7. Survey of relevant aftermarket domain names currently available for sale.
  8. After narrowing the possible names list, a look at registered trademarks, and, depending on the type of product being named, copyrights or patents.
  9. Whether registered trademarks exist or not, a look at how the potential name is used around the world.
  10. In the case of aftermarket listings, a look at past use of the domain names.
  11. General guidance on price ranges for names of different types.
  12. A look at what a proposed name means in different languages, in history or mythology, urban or slang use, etc.
  13. Linguistic aspects of the name.
  14. As appropriate, emotions associated with the sound of the name, or the psychology of colors in brands.
  15. The visual look of the potential domain names, both in print and in a logo.
  16. Alerts for possible misinterpretation, for example by breaking the name in a different way, or unintended negative connotations.
  17. Information on the extension, such as usage, registration base, registry information, history, major companies, if any, that currently use the extension, etc.
  18. Focus group testing of a short list of domain names looking at positive feel, unanticipated meanings, reactions to visual and oral presentations, memorability, etc.
  19. Social media handle availability.
  20. Information on the domain transfer process.
  21. Payment or rental plan options. Possible assistance with sales agreements.
  22. How escrow-type processes work, including options.
  23. Renewal fees associated with the name.
  24. Some sort of reliable third party, automated or human, fair market retail price range, so that the purchaser can feel they are getting good value.
  25. Again related to fair value expectation, a list of comparator retail sales.
  26. Negotiation of an aftermarket purchase.
  27. Advice on choosing a registrar.
  28. Assistance with the transfer of ownership.
  29. Assistance with finding trademark or business name registration services, along how to document use of the name in commerce.
  30. Possible help with incorporation, seed financing, development support, etc.
  31. Post-sale assistance with selecting a web host, DNS settings, security certificates, email configuration, etc.
  32. Options for online marketing of the product or service.
  33. Assistance, as relevant, with content management services, online stores, payment systems, databases, apps, email distribution lists, WordPress or other setup, etc.
  34. Subsidiary names for marketing campaigns or other uses, along with defensive registrations.
  35. Monitoring global use of variants of the name. General information on the UDRP process, when needed.
  36. Longer term follow-up contact with respect to any questions, as well as feedback on the name acquisition process.
Of course numerous naming and branding companies exist that provide a number of these services. Domain brokers who handle name acquisitions, routinely assist in some of these. Some of the brandable marketplaces already offer several of the services mentioned.


Challenges of the Service Model

There are numerous challenges to the service model for domain investors who operate as a one-person business.
  • There is no guarantee the service offering will increase number of clients, and may simply detract time from other domain activities.
  • Most service industries count on repeat customer loyalty, but often a client for a domain name will only make a single purchase ever.
  • Loyalty is more readily established and maintained with direct personal connections, but unless you sell geo domain names, odds are your customers will not live in your area.
  • With almost 16 million .com domain names currently for sale, it is likely that the best name will not be one from your own portfolio. We need a finder fee system that adequately compensates those who match buyers and sellers.
  • A vast array of skills would be required to offer most of the types of service listed above.
  • It is important to stress that one is not giving legal advice, but even with that caveat, potential risks may be associated with giving information.
The current climate may represent an opportunity for using solutions such as Zoom to offer pre-purchase and post-purchase service that is low cost, effective and personalized.

If one is recommending products that you truly believe offer good service and value, and disclose any affiliate relationships, there are possible additional revenue streams from a service oriented model.


Cloud Based Service for Domainers

Let’s now look from a domainer perspective at something closer to the conventional meaning of Naming As A Service, that is cloud based offering of services on a subscription model.

Many of the tools we use as domainers are already offered on the cloud, either as free services or as subscriptions. Is there benefit to packaging of some key services under an umbrella subscription? Are there key tools which are not being met by current online offerings?

In the latter category, I can see some sort of low cost, online focus group to test out names might be worthwhile. It would have to operate with confidentiality assurances and have quality respondents.


Cloud Based Service for End Users

What about Naming As A Service for end users? The big registrars already offer web hosting and other services, along with their aftermarket and registration activities. Many have name suggestion tools, and some include automated appraisals or an agent acquisition service.

But is there space for a cloud-based naming service that is independent of any one registrar or marketplace? It would need to have authority and impartiality, not trivial to maintain along with financial viability. While an encyclopedia of articles on different topics would be easiest to create, I think some sort of query-driven system would be more user friendly.

The current marketplace name search tools produce long list results, containing a mix of relevant and irrelevant names for most searches. What about a different approach, where the person seeking a name provides an open format description such as the following.
I want to name a new app that will provide travel advice in Canada. I would like a name that feels fresh and modern, and a little quirky.
Surely even the current state of artificial intelligence should be able to interpret the request and generate a list of possibilities.

A key aspect would be asking the user to rate the possibilities and then refine the list using feedback. Reinforcement learning is one of the major trends in artificial intelligence, and is well suited to this problem.

Imagine, integrated with the service, the possibility to get human focus group testing of the short list? And along with that information on costs, both acquisition and holding, history of use, search volumes, similar names in use, social media handle availability, and so on, all presented in one user friendly place.

Or the system should be able to interpret requests like the following.
I live in England. What are the steps for registering my business name, and seeking a trademark?

Or offering impartial advice on a question like this.
I am considering Word1Word2.com or Word1.app, the first available for $$$$ on the aftermarket, and the second is a premium at $$$. Tell me some advantages/disadvantages of each, and my 10 year costs.


Share Your Opinions

So what do you think, is there room for increasing the service component in the domain business?
  • Do you currently offer pre-purchase or after-sale service with your domain names?
  • What is the one new cloud-based service that you really want as a domainer?
  • If someone offered domainer tools under a single umbrellas subscription service, what tools would you like to see in the package?
  • What are your thoughts on adequate finder fees for those who match buyers and sellers?
  • Do you think that an artificial intelligence enabled, cloud-delivered, service is feasible. Could it incorporate most of the services sought by those naming a product, business or organization?

Many domain investors have built up a superb set of related skills. The essential question is whether there is a way to better share this expertise to the advantage of both the domain investor and the client.

In case you were wondering, NamingAsAService.com was registered in April 2017, while NamesAsAService.com has been registered since January 2016. NAAS.com is taken in 77 different extensions. That acronym is conventionally used for Network As A Service.



Thanks to Dofo.com for tools that I used in researching several aspects of this article.
 
The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.

BradWilson

Established Member
Impact
1,715
Well, let me be the first(?) to vote and comment for the 4th option "Something else".

At least I think it's something else as my main focus atm is developing an app to use as a domainer. I'll need to post the details about it where appropriate but pretty much ALL my domain purchases are to test or use as examples for my tool and if I sell any that's gravy.

Update: Well after reading your article in more detail, I have to say I didn't know you could read my mind so well :)

And of course my app just broke UGH!
 
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Somertonian

Established Member
Impact
226
Bob,
A very thorough and interesting post as usual. I voted 1 as this matches my current strategy at the moment and my knowledge. I definitely think there is a place for a service akin to what you have explained but at the moment most domainers are focused on their portfolio's and most end users are unaware of the benefits a service could provide. If a service was to be offered then a healthy education budget would be needed to get the message out. A few of the big domain players may be interested in some sort of service but i think it would need a lot of capital up front and in these uncertain times that is unlikely to be forth coming.
 
Impact
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didn't know you could read my mind so well :)
Sorry about that:xf.cool: - best wishes with your app project, and look forward to learning more at the appropriate time for release.

but i think it would need a lot of capital up front
I agree. The query-based intelligence system, powered by some sort of machine learning / reinforcement learning would be a huge project requiring a strong commitment and long-term strategy. It probably would be most feasible if someone tried to develop a prototype with a much narrower focus, say only biotech and pharmaceutical naming, or something like that, since it is the breadth of naming anything that makes it so challenging. An organization like Google with all of AI expertise, deep pockets, domain interests and lots of data are in best position, although a GoDaddy could do it, or a smaller player bent on disrupting in a positive way. But I think a really smart startup could handle it.

The vote is so far, early hours, about what I would expect. Please vote if you have not already.

Bob
 
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Impact
2,007
@Bob Hawkes, thanks for the article. You are quite right in highlighting the point that advertising agencies and brokers offer some or many of the services you mentioned. This shows the advantages of domainers to reach out to Web and advertising agencies to partner with them. Businesses thrive through strategic partnerships in order to offer a broad range of services such as the ones you have listed. But, of course, a domainer should have a well built business site (i.e. portfolio or sales site) to be taken seriously.
 
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29,778
Just would like to point out that "as a service", means something else. Name as a service would entail offering naming service on subscription basis
I was partly playing on the wording to talk about the service component, although tools for naming, offered on a subscription model, do fit exactlty that meaning as I pointed out.
Let’s now look from a domainer perspective at something closer to the conventional meaning of Naming As A Service, that is cloud based offering of services on a subscription model.
Even for some end users, they might see frequent enough needs to name something, that naming as a service makes sense as a subscription. That is why I selected naming, not name or domain name, as the service.

In a reply on Twitter @MediaOptions pointed out that they trademarked the term Domain Names As A Service In 2015, and use it in their tag line as a central theme. I prefer the slightly broader term naming from the end user perspective. Here is a link to description of their word mark description at TESS. It is quite broad in the range of services.

This shows the advantages of domainers to reach out to Web and advertising agencies to partner with them.
I think this is a really valuable point, probably deserving of a blog post just on that topic. Certainly some do this well, but I am surprised at how separate the two communities seem at times.

Thanks again for valuable insights.

Bob
 
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HotKey

Made in Canada
Impact
9,603
Love your detailed breakdowns, as always, and a great read.

It would be a huge endeavor for a single entity to be able to provide a one-stop naming service imo, because it would have to specialize in so many areas. Even if they could pull it off, to have it run flawlessly in tandem would be a massive feat as there are so many nuances in the naming industry. The expectation would also be to service what you sell, as customers expect it when something goes wrong.

Wonder if a naming solution like this might shut out a lot of smaller entrepreneurs too, those whom don't have the ability to be "found" or make a big enough splash to be noticed.
 

karmaco

Top Contributor
Impact
10,453
There are many branding agencies and brand consultants out there that work on these very things. While I think a good domainer could make a good brand consultant and some do so its not for everyone and is alot of work to try to focus on several types of business models at once.

I prefer to stick with the names. Its hard enough to do one thing with expertise that sets you above the competitors. The branding space is also like domaining— very competitive. Some people love to wear many hats while others do better with one.
 

3sixty

Established Member
Impact
349
Really good post Bob.

Naming and Domaining are two ends of a very long stick. The difference is both have to be looked at with a different mindset. To create the best name brands you have to (initially) forget about domain names and to find the highest quality domains you need to forget about name branding (initially) and start with the domain.

That is the difficulty in converging both for the domainer.

One creates Super Mario. The other Fat Plumber.
 
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Just had a memory pop up & will check ltr - but I think Andrew R has been using that "slogan"?
Yes I commented on that above, well not naming as a service, but domain names ...
In a reply on Twitter @MediaOptions pointed out that they trademarked the term Domain Names As A Service In 2015, and use it in their tag line as a central theme. I prefer the slightly broader term naming from the end user perspective. Here is a link to description of their word mark description at TESS. It is quite broad in the range of services.
 
Impact
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I would say Great minds
Yes, not sure if I felt good when reminded that one of the world's greatest domain seller operation used the phrase and that sort of validated the idea, or was sorry that they got a word mark on it 5 years ago. Some minds think much faster than mine, obviously. :xf.eek: It is interesting that although they got the wordmark, as I read it it does not really talk about services along the subscription cloud model of AAS services. But yes, they do use the phrase to cover many service aspects of choosing and securing a great name.

Maybe I will share a bit of history of this article. I had been thinking for a long time of writing something on the service end of domain investing. Essentially whether there are feasible things an individual investor could contribute beyond selling great names. Originally, just planned to call it something like serving customers, not simply selling names.

More recently I thought of (I think after the IAAS .org sale this year) why not tie into all the as a service excitement , and use that in the title, even though much of the content is not about a cloud subscription model. I am sure I had seen the MediaOptions phrase, at the bottom of their page where you go for links and contact, many times, but until they pointed it out after this article came out, I honestly had totally forgotten they used Domain Names As A Service (TM).

In finishing the article, I increasingly thought about whether there is a way to do some sort of cloud subscription model that would disrupt the business, either as an umbrella for the existing services we use as domainers, or as a subscription service for end users that would provide naming advice, domain name acquisition, business aspects of using a name, etc. I am not sure. So it became partly an article about more than just selling names, and also part about disruptive model possibilities along the as a service theme. Agree with those who expressed the view it is a huge undertaking, and one that would require a strong business. And it might be bad, or good, for domainers.

Back to your great minds, I guess we should feel good that an entity as great as @MediaOptions had the idea, but also realize they had the idea 5 years ago!

Bob
 
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Elsupremo

Established Member
Impact
22
I have bought domain names with the sole intent of being able to sell into the branding market. Your domain is your business. Being able to let customers know what you have to offer by your domain is a head start over a generic name that kind of describes what you are about.
Who has the best succes rate on selling name's in 2020 ?
 
Impact
162
Been a long time since I’ve actually logged in to Name Pros. I love your observations and writing Bob! About 2 years ago Victor Pitts and I launched NameYourStartup.com with a lot of those items mentioned being offered. Alas, we didn’t move forward much and now are selling the name 🤗 keep up your great writing Bib 😉
 
Impact
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I voted 'something else'.

While I do sell names, I frame my portfolio as 'TV Channel and Media Properties and Programs'. While I often 'sell the program' before the domain. I find there is a broader market for services than for a domain. As selling names is like selling potential movie titles. It goes better, and pays more, with content / a script.

So while 'naming as a service' is the cover shot, name content as-a-service gets gigs. Be it Drone TV, Crystals TV, Species TV or other TV.coms feeding prospect newsletters, sites & pages. Linking their goods & services on the channels, or creating video & media content for them. As-a-service has value.

Beyond the name's content 'as-a-service' (side-gig) income model, the property's value add, beyond being prospect-pegs, includes getting domains in the index... making making them even more attractive to prospects, while improving the rep and value of an industry parked in the doghouse.

In this light, the irony of some domainers fronting a moral high ground by not registering coronavirus related domains is striking. The 'as-a-service' domainer mindset understands words have meaning, and that they are in business of registering the best words to best serve, especially in a crises.

For example, my current name-as-a-service domain content campaign is ProfitinPlaceTV.com. It seeks to turn 'Shelter in Place' into a sustainable 'Safer at Home' business model to best stop the Covid spread.

 
Impact
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Great article as always @Bob Hawkes

I still didn't read the full article but when thinking about a service in domaining I immediately think about domaining as SEO service, which is mainly about finding expired names with good backlinks and high DA, this is not easy task and there are some paid softwares/services for that.
 
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