Mike Mann is rethinking domain tasting. He’s the founder of BuyDomains.com and now works as a VC for WashingtonVC. Domain tasting,
or front running*, is the act of registering a domain name which you know somebody else is intending to register. Earlier, we reported that Network Solutions automatically registered domain names that people checked for its availability and that Google would make it harder for domain tasting companies to show up in the search results.
So Mann is rethinking a rather touchy subject. In an email he send to his personal mailing list, he said that ‘domain tasting is indiscriminate and buyers end up having their robots purchase other peoples’ clear trademarks, as well as a lot of lewdly suggestive names, or names that once resolved to questionable content. So it’s nothing I’d want my team to take part in’.
Yet that’s where the rethinking begins. And then Mann changes his mind:
In the past I thought nobody should do it. Today I think it should actually be done by others carefully for one simple reason: It’s good for the economy. People are typing in and clicking on legacy domain links for expired domains, and if they get a 404 error it’s a waste of time, energy and bandwidth – and nobody gets paid, however if it lands on a tasting speculators PPC page or monetizable site then someone is getting paid, and they can pay their employees, taxes, and tips at the local restaurant, etc. So domain tasting while lame in most respects is still good for the economy.
At first you might think: he’s right! But then, you hopefully realize that it’s just a justification thing for what his fellow domain traders do. Domain tasting isn’t good for economy, it hurts the ecomony. Why? For a number of reasons:
- Imagine somebody wants to start a new site with a name he absolutely loves, then it turns out that this domain is registered by a domain tasting company. That probably scares him off, so domain tasting actually blocks creativity and entrepreneurship;
- People lose their faith in the Internet, since the domain tasting pages are nothing more than a collection of sponsored links. Some even use pop-ups, automatic bookmark scripts or whatnot. When people don’t trust the web anymore, they will spend less time and less money online;
- Those ‘monetizable sites’ clutter the web and make it harder for users to find what they’re actually looking for.
Please Mr. Mann, start rethinking your thinking on domain tasting again.
* Update: Eric Litman provided some definitions of domain tasting and front running in the comments.