Domain DevelopmentDomain NamesSemantic web

Domain Development – the real reasons why minisites are not the answer

By September 19, 2009 8 Comments

There has been increased public debate about the various approaches to domain development. As a category, Minisites in particular, took a drubbing this week.  Part of the problem here is self-inflicted. A quick search on Google for the term “minisites” reveals a litany of get rich quick schemes when in reality developing worthwhile and differentiated user experiences is actually hard work.

I have been working full-time on domain development projects for the past 2 years. My first real exposure was the opportunity to work with the team as the Founding Chairman. A few months later, I had the opportunity to co-found and, as part of my role as investor and advisor to Internet Real Estate Group. Around the same time, in late 2007, I became the first outside investor in what is known today as I was then, and remain today, a big believer in the idea of “domains as an asset class” and that domains are “the raw land of the internet” .

In early 2009, I came to the conclusion that there was an opportunity to do domain development on a much larger scale.  This conclusion was partly informed by my ongoing interaction with a number of domainers who had significant portfolios and had either been unsuccessful in their own domain developments, or were reluctant to take the plunge because they lacked the requisite development skills. I also was astounded by the success of Demand Media in attracting vast amounts of institutional private equity with which to fund acquisitions and what Richard Rosenblatt refers to as Mixology.

With regards to minisites, my conclusion is that in the vast majority of cases the economics simply don’t work unless it is being done with the specific plan of taking a new site to the next level, and in the very near future.  It can be viewed as a kick-start while more comprehensive development is being completed. Unfortunately, most minisites are not produced within the context of a forward-looking vision for the site. So, instead of jump-starting a novel  web property, a domainer might spend $300-1000 to produce a site that will be irrelevant shortly after the day it is launched.

One of the biggest differences in Epik’s approach is that we are focused on (1) creating an interconnected ecosystem, and (2) managing the resulting content using a platform-driven approach.

By ecosystem, I am referring to the notion of mutual interdependence across a federated network of properties.  Indeed, the emergence of the semantic web is an enabler for this network, as is the emergence of portable identity. There is also a tremendous amount of content and intellectual property available for cost-effective licensing.  Yet with all this abundance, there is still a need for an intuitive navigation framework. Domains have an important role here.

By platform-driven, I am referring to software that allows best practices to be systematically deployed across a plurality of sites. For example,,,, and all share a common codebase. In the coming weeks we’ll release,,, and, all using this unified architecture.  Moreover, by using a platform approach, we can cross-link these vertical directories to a network of local geo domains thereby creating an intersection of vertical subject matter with local interest. We are building more platforms.

So, my advice to domainers is not to bother with minisites. You will more than likely not recoup your investment. Instead, figure out ways to occupy what I call “chokepoints on the ecosystem”, which is to say to occupy nodes in the network so that as the network takes form, your domains are positioned for long-term relevance.  If you have not submitted your domains to the Epik network, I encourage you to do so soon. Worst-case, you will get free content and free advice on how to add value to your undeveloped domains.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Chris says:

    What rules are sites not only with unique, handwritten content ( and for doing this you have to know your market, at least that market where you are operating in ) but also with related content people out there is looking for. I find that your offer to submit domains to your directory is a interesting service, does that also apply to developed sites?

    • admin says:


      Thanks for the comment.

      As for securing a significant amount of original content, I am actually intrigued by the work of Wikipedia, Hubpages and Squidoo. What most of these writers receive in return is limited to some professional acknowledgment using a public stage. The actual revenue shares from the likes of Hubpages and Squidoo are almost insignificant and I am pretty sure does not even back into the statutory minimum wage! Mahalo is also experimenting in this arena and from what I can tell there are not many takers. Associated Content has an interesting model that actually takes the step of syndicating the content, and providing a revenue share. However, as with the others, the revenue shares are relatively insignificant and the author earns only a piece of the advertising revenue, and does not participate in any of the intangible value associated with being a magnet for new traffic. Said another way, these freelance writers are getting used. The web is smart enough, and so these economic models will evolve or die.

      My personal view is that there is a better way and that domainers have one enormous advantage to bring to the table. A domain — and even a sub-domain — makes it possible to sell the entire website, complete with content, and to share the proceeds with the people who contributed to it pro rata to their relative contributions. By the same token, if you look at the typical annual revenue of a domain from advertising, it is insignificant when compared to the revenue that can be derived from selling the website to the logical steward of this (semi-developed) web property. In other words, there is a compelling win-win partnership between domainers, content contributors, and entrepreneurs who would choose to acquire these websites in order to take them to the next level. However, for this to work, domainers need to take the first step by making their domains part of the index called the semantic web. Connecting domainers to the emerging semantic web is the role that Epik is playing. We have a significant head-start, in part thanks to our exclusive partnership with

      As for taking on developed websites, it is absolutely possible. In fact, there is no single template for how websites should look like — a tribute site for AC/DC should probably not look similar to profiles of models. So, these templates will evolve both in terms of their appearance, but also in terms of adapting the user experience to the tastes and preferences of the individual user. That’s why we developed a proprietary frame work for portable identity.

      Looking ahead, I expect that Epik will continue to build, partner and acquire in order to continue the current trajectory of building out the world’s largest direct navigation network. I absolutely believe that developed sites are part of the equation. In fact I believe that most of the content and functionality required to build all of Epik already exists in abundance. What I believe is still needed in the next phase of the web’s evolution is to organize the content so that it becomes more intuitive to discover — preferably using domain names as the enabling vehicle for direct navigation both by content producers and content consumers.

      I hope that helps. Feel free to send me a direct email to discuss inclusion of your developed website(s). You can reach me at rob (at)

  • Ritz says:

    can i have your thoughts on
    part of


    • Rob Monster says:

      Hey Ritz,

      Thanks for the comment about your Polling domains.

      In my past life, I spent 7 years building a polling company called Global Market Insite (GMI). The consumer facing polling portal is called, and it is still one of the largest online polling portals in the world. However, the world changed and has become far more real-time.

      Polling remains an interesting space. Automattic (parent of WordPress) acquired PollDaddy. PollMonkey was part of SurveyMonkey which was recently acquired by Spectrum in what is rumored to have been a $60 million cash purchase. So, polling is still interesting as a category and I continue to watch it closely and also own a number of polling domains (example:

      As of this moment, I have not deployed a polling platform. However, Epik has the domain name, in part because we have a desire to acquire or partner with a polling platform. We continue to be on the lookout for what’s next in polling in terms of a technology platform that can powered a federated approach to polling. is one example but it is Web 1.0 or Web 1.5 in its architecture.

      The guys that I think are working on something interesting are These guys produce ugly looking polls but what they understand is virality. They have a network of followers on Twitter and have proven that polling can be viral. We have a trial poll scheduled with them for this week on (a basic celeb site).

      Another thing to study is widgets. It turns out that widgets are one of the most impactful SEO levers available, and also have plenty of potential for virality. For example, we recently secured the domain for co-development. In studying the competitive field, we came across which nets some 120,000 daily uniques, of which more than half is attributable to widgets. Ka-ching!

      So, to answer your question, I would focus on (1) building a platform that can be re-used many times around the “best this-or-that” theme, and (2) I would study how to maximize virality from the resulting content so that like-minded people help you spread your footprint.

      As for the domain names, they are not particularly strong, because they are long, hard to remember, and have little or no natural search volume. There is plenty of search volume on shorter terms like “Best Vodka”. You might want to monitor the drop lists since these names get dropped regularly. I even own a few myself like or (no TM, fyi).

  • That’s true, minisites are just a temporary solution to the domaining crisis. However, I’m hoping that it could be a medium term solution so that while bigger projects are still under development, I would have revenues and SEO.

    btw love the site. I think what you’ve guys done is great, reusing codes but different contents.

  • Brad Pit says:

    Itz true, minisites are just a temporary solution to the domaining crisis. Parking continues to fall as domainers bounce from one parking company.

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