Epik has been a pioneer in the area of developing domain names into income-producing intellectual property assets — a role which continues to this day and which has been chronicled both on this blog and elsewhere. Now that summer has ended, it seems an appropriate time for a review of our continuing efforts to develop tools and solutions that will help customers get more out of their domain name investments. We call this comprehensive platform approach Domain Name Asset Management.
Domain Names Continue To Be An Exciting Asset Class
As the Internet continues to evolve, I grow ever more enthusiastic about the future of the Internet in general, and in Domain Names in particular. The KKR-led deal to acquire GoDaddy, ICANN’s planned expansion of gTLDs, and rising Internet penetration rates worldwide all point to the continued relevance and primacy of domain names as the addressing and navigation standard by which we’ll navigate the Internet for the foreseeable future. The parallel growth of mobile apps and text messaging, particularly among youth, is symptomatic of an always-on connected culture that has cut the cord and is abandoning mainstream media. Twitter and Facebook should be viewed not as competitive to stand-alone websites but rather as on-ramps for developing new publishers on the web. Just as AOL produced, and subsequently lost, a generation of web content consumers, Facebook has produced a generation of web content producers. Sooner or later, this new generation of web producers will leave the Facebook reservation and explore new ways to develop their online brand identity. Many of these future content producers will choose to publish on their own domains, particularly as the tools for doing so become easier and as the professional services for site development continue to become cheaper.
Epik’s Integrated Approach: Acquire, Build, Manage, Sell
Domain Names have a lifecycle. If you understand that lifecycle and its implications, and if you have the right management tools, you can maximize the productive use of that asset. At the 2010 Epik Developer Conference, we proposed four stages of the Domain Lifecycle: Acquire, Build, Manage and Sell. Then as now, that lifecycle drives our development roadmap. Whether you own one domain or ten thousand, Epik will provide the tools and services necessary to simply and cost-effectively maximize the value of those domain names. Managing your domain portfolio will eventually be as easy as trading stocks or ordering a pizza online.
Acquire: Full Service Domain Registrar Services
In July 2011, Epik acquired the registrar operations of Intrust Domains. It should be noted, for those who follow the domain industry closely, that Epik did not acquire Intrust’s brokerage and marketing operations, only an accredited registrar, software, customers, and technical personnel. Consolidation of these registrar operations, along with several other strategic moves, has quickly given us critical mass. Today, Epik is a fast-growing and ICANN-accredited registrar serving more than 50,000 customers with domain name management services.
The Intrust acquisition instantly added a high level of competency in domain name registrar management, including domain dropcatching. Additionally, the injection of engineering talent allowed us to expand our overall development capacity, enabling us to accelerate our plans to provide an industry-leading platform for Domain Name Asset Management.
We continue to get stronger as a registrar. Indeed, one unique but vital aspect of the Epik culture is that every member of the Epik team, from the most junior staffer to myself (the CEO) — everyone — is actively involved in our customer support function. While a casual observer might question whether this is an efficient use of management time, we all believe that this daily interaction with our customers and our products is absolutely invaluable. I knew from past experience in building successful businesses, that there is no substitute for (1) knowing the customer, and (2) knowing the product. You can well imagine that if the head of development is personally helping customers deal with a problem area in our system, that the issue gets resolved pronto. The time that the senior management team spends on the front lines each day helps to ensure that we focus our efforts on the areas that most directly impact you, the customer. It is a discipline that we consider critical to our design success, and to providing industry-leading customer satisfaction.
Build: Cost Effective Solutions for Turning Domains into Websites
Unless you plan to just park your domains indefinitely, then you will eventually need to develop your domain name into a site. Epik offers a broad suite of solutions for developers. The common theme of these solutions is that they are cost-effective to build and operate, typically requiring only a one-time setup fee as hosting is included with custom sites. Our all-inclusive approach to development reduces development risk and simplifies budgeting. Equally important is the scalability of these solutions: whether you have one domain or a thousand, you can easily and cost-effectively build and manage your domains at whatever scale you require. Solutions are available for Commerce, Directory, Lead Generation, Job Boards, and Video Hosting, with even more vertical solutions under development.
For those who prefer to build their own solutions, Epik offers competitive solutions for Web and Email hosting with full cPanel access. And for those who lack the development expertise to realize their unique requirements, we also offer Custom Development services.
Manage: Centralized Tracking and Optimization of Your Portfolio
With most registrars, managing a single domain is relatively easy. However, many domain owners own more than one domain. To compound the problem, many of these domains are often spread across more than one registrar, often using multiple hosting providers. Managing domains across multiple registrars, as well as managing multiple websites across multiple hosting providers, can quickly become, well, unmanageable. To solve this problem, Epik allows customers the unique ability to manage all domains across all registrars through one simple interface, effectively creating the virtual consolidation of their domain portfolio. In fact, customers can track all of their domains on Epik, and can even do this at no cost. Free is a pretty good deal.
Epik’s integrated approach means that hosting assets associated with a domain can be accessed with one click. Reporting of revenue and traffic are aggregated and reported centrally, including activity from major parking partners that have provided Epik with API-level access. As part of ongoing domain name management, Epik also offers the use of our Parking Optimization services with 100% revenue share paid out to the customer. The result is a consolidated and managed view of all domain-related assets and single-sign-on into the management of any related sites.
Sell: A Better Way to Buy and Sell Domains and Websites
Our patent-pending online marketplace enables customers to instantly buy, sell or lease domains and websites commission-free and even tax-free. In a market where competitors charges between 15% and 30% commission, this represents unmatched value for money.
Domains are delivered instantly to the buyer at time of purchase which avoids the need for a separate escrow process. The marketplace is further enhanced via integration with Sedo MLS and very shortly the Afternic MLS. Buyers of domains and websites have the added advantage of knowing that the traffic and revenue data being asserted by the seller has been independently verified by Epik. Also, if there are related assets such as historical metrics or hosting assets, these elements can in many cases be automatically transferred in the same purchase transaction. In other words, buying and selling entire websites becomes about as simple as buying and selling raw domains.
What else can you expect from Epik?
- Legendary Customer Service – Most domain investors are aware of the deplorable state of customer service in the domain industry. Epik is committed to providing industry-leading service, not just by doing what is expected, but also by doing what is needed, adapting the solution to the unique needs of the individual customer, and sticking with an issue until it is solved even if that means corralling 3rd parties
- Reliability and Ease of Use – Epik’s ongoing investment in software development is among the largest in the industry. In fact, Product Development is our single largest category of personnel. Why? For one thing, as much as we delight in providing exemplary customer service, we also believe that a great product is so intuitive and reliable that it rarely needs customer support. After all, when was the last time anyone called Apple or Amazon for help.
- Leadership – During October, I will attend my first ICANN meeting. This is part of a broader commitment from Epik to engage in the dialog around the future of Domain Names as an asset class and the governance of thereof. Moreover, while we have historically focused on .COM and .NET for our own portfolio, we plan on actively embracing selected gTLDs in our capacity as registrar and marketing partner.
In short, the Epik journey continues. Historically, Domain Name Asset Management solutions were available to only the very largest players in the industry. Today, by integrating registrar solutions with portfolio management, and by ensuring that it is scalable, cost effective, and easy to use, Epik is providing all domain investors advanced tools for maximizing the value of the domain name investment.
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