What's in a name? Is it worth money, or should I just pick another?
September 3, 2009 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I have a product I'm building and I found a great name for it - but the .com is taken. Is it worth purchasing, or should I just come up with something else?

In your experience - has it been worthwhile to purchase a great name, or am I better off coming up with something else? I've had a really hard time coming up with a name. I'm also stuck on this idea in my head that the name needs to be simple and make sense, especially due to my imagination of literal "word of mouth" spreading of the name in conversations.

I'm currently in email contact with the owner of a domain name I really like, and feel is appropriate to the product I'm building. My initial offer of $145 for the domain - which is what was quoted by dnscoop.com as its value - was politely rejected with "could you give me some more time to think about it? I thought it was worth more than that..."

It has been a week and a half now, and I want to follow up with him, but I'm not sure what to offer. To be clear, in his "defense" - he doesn't seem to be a domain squatter. He bought the domain to do something vaguely related to what I want to do - he just hasn't gotten around to it, so the domain has been unused for the few years he's had it.

The most I can afford to pay is a few hundred dollars - for all I know he'll reject that too, but I don't want to waste my time with the offer if people feel pretty strongly that the name doesn't matter that much.
posted by twiggy to Technology (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Naming is paramount. Get the name – offer more if necessary. $145 is nothing...
A vendor of mine was just offered $400,000 for his domain from an insurance company. He took it.
Also, check out this site: http://domai.nr/
posted by pmaxwell at 9:00 AM on September 3, 2009

If you haven't bought the .net/.org, it's probably too late. But on the amazing chance it isn't too late, do so. Now. It's cheap. It's not like he doesn't know you want the .com now.

Back yet? Good. Now you have negotiating power. The more you try to contact this person, the higher his price may go, as you are clearly demonstrating demand. How close are to you to launch? Can you afford to wait?

As to whether or not the name matters, that kinda depends--but in general--yes, names aren't as important as they used to be. sometimes they're valuable for keyword/SEO purposes, I understand, although that's not my area of expertise.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:00 AM on September 3, 2009

Come up with something else. Creativity is as endless as numbers. Let go of this one and start brainstorming. You'll look back and laugh that you wanted it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:03 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

$145 strikes me as a bit low.

Try this: offer to cover the registration fees since he's owned it (based on whatever the current fees are for his registrar), plus an additional lump sum -- so he walks away with a small profit and gets to feel like he didn't waste that domain.

I suspect that explicitly taking this approach (ie., not just adding $) will make him far more likely to sell, because he won't see himself as having lost money. He'll be more likely to feel like he isn't "wasting" the name, because you've openly arranged the pricing such that he makes a profit. Even if he would have made a profit otherwise, being up-front about covering his "loss" might help things along.

IMHO & YMMV. I'm not a pro at this -- I've only sold one domain, but it was for vastly more money than you're talking about & the new owner never did anything with it either. I own several pointless domains, and I probably wouldn't bother answering an email for $150. If someone wants to buy one of my domains, it's because they have a commercial purpose in mind, not because they're a hobbyist. If they have a commercial purpose, then they'd best be prepared to pay commercial rates.

If you can't afford commercial rates, then you need a new name. There are an awful lot of names in the world, after all.
posted by aramaic at 9:08 AM on September 3, 2009

Despite the confusing label, dnscoop.com isn't really a measure of the name's value: it evaluates it as a website. A domain that has never had a public website, for example, will come out with a "value" of zero from dnscoop.

I say if it's worth $140 to you, then yes, it's worth $300 or $500.

Offer the maximum you can actually afford, and if he refuses, forget it and move on.
posted by rokusan at 9:08 AM on September 3, 2009

Thanks for the replies so far... total opposite ends of the spectrum, but useful nonetheless.. ;-)

The .org is still open. The .net is not - though it's not taken by the owner of the .com - it's taken by someone else.

Is it really worth grabbing the .org? I can't fathom ever using that. Maybe i'm old school, but something seems sketchy about putting a for-profit (even if intentionally modest profit) product on a .org
posted by twiggy at 9:09 AM on September 3, 2009

First, it's very difficult to answer your question without knowing what the name is. And the apparent fact that someone has registered this domain name before you did suggests that your intended product name may be an ordinary English word or term. IANYA, and this is not legal advice, but if the general nature of your product is described by this word or term then it is quite possible that this desired product name may not be a registerable U.S. trademark. Nonetheless, this domain name might be worth buying depending on your answer to the following question: Would your target audience naturally search for this term or word when seeking a product such as yours?
posted by applemeat at 9:11 AM on September 3, 2009

Also, to respond to those who say "if you can't afford it, come up with something else..."

I have had a lot of trouble coming up with names. I even used wordoid.com and couldn't find anything I liked.

Any suggestions for a good way to come up with something?

If it helps, it will be a service that caters to small independent bands/musicians, allowing them to very easily build a website, and do lots and lots of other stuff way beyond that to help promote themselves (I'd prefer not to get into the details in public until it's built)...
posted by twiggy at 9:12 AM on September 3, 2009

If the .net is taken I'd just use a different name. You're gonna want all three domains.
posted by Sufi at 9:14 AM on September 3, 2009

I don't think you're really understanding the wider scope of how this works.

A good .com is worth it's weight in gold, because for an online app or for any product sold direct to consumers online, it IS your brand. You want the .com. Then, you want the .net and the .org in order to protect your brand. At a very minimum, if you can buy the .com then get the .org as well.

Offer him $250 and be prepared to got to $500. In the world of domain name sales, it's honestly nothing. If you're happy with the name, it's a bargain.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:17 AM on September 3, 2009

applemeat: I've mefi-mailed you the name. Anyone else who wants to know it just MeFi mail me and ask - I'll share it there.. prefer not to post it here just yet.

Sufi: Why would I want all 3 domains? In my mind, the .com is really the only one that matters - it's the first thing people try if they can't remember the suffix, and the default one people think of...
posted by twiggy at 9:17 AM on September 3, 2009

DarlingBri: I agree a good .com is worth a lot.... I just have no idea how good this .com really is...
posted by twiggy at 9:18 AM on September 3, 2009

Thesaurus might help you in coming up with an alternate name.
posted by backwards guitar at 9:31 AM on September 3, 2009

As DarlingBri said, you want to reserve all three domains to protect your brand. Do you really want another company, whether it offers the same service or not, to share a name with you?

You should also consider copyrighting whichever name you choose. My friend's father recently ran into trouble when someone copyrighted a name he had been using for his company for the past 30 years..
posted by Sufi at 9:32 AM on September 3, 2009

You should also consider copyrighting whichever name you choose. My friend's father recently ran into trouble when someone copyrighted a name he had been using for his company for the past 30 years..

Your father might mean 'trademarking', as this isn't how copyright works.
posted by Jairus at 9:39 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW: I just did a trademark search, and the name is not trademarked.
posted by twiggy at 9:40 AM on September 3, 2009

A good .com is worth it's weight in gold, because for an online app or for any product sold direct to consumers online, it IS your brand.

This is only meaningful once it exists. Until the domain name IS associated with your brand, it's worth nothing.

The argument above speaks to spending a lot to maintain and defend and extend a brand, if you already use the brand, into internet space. When you are starting from scratch, unusedfoo.com and unusedbar.com are identically unknown.

Since you are starting from scratch, a new name is probably fine. The lack of "good" available names is how we got crazy names like, you know, Flikr and Twitter and Google, anyway.
posted by rokusan at 9:41 AM on September 3, 2009

Having all three domains made sense back when they were the only ones widely available but IMO unless you really have a big marketing organization that's going to do constant vigilance as new TLDs appear it doesn't make so much sense any more, at least not in the general case. What about .us or .co.uk or .int or .info or .biz? Much less all the other aspects of branding beyond domain names. Think about all the angles but balance investment of both time and money against risk.

Also, Sufi - I think you're referring to a trademark. You can't copyright a single word or even a phrase. Note also that unlike copyright a trademark only applies within a single industry/market - that's why there's both an Apple Records and an Apple Computer. (But it's still probably worth it to get the trademark on whatever name you choose because if you don't, a much newer company than yours can obtain it and in some cases even require your company to stop using the name even though you've been around longer.)

My personal feeling is just find another name. Go with something that just sounds cool, not necessarily having anything to do with what the product is or does (like "iPod"). But I should say I can imagine a specific name being worth it for a specific product or market.
posted by XMLicious at 10:01 AM on September 3, 2009

I bought a domain from someone for my company. I then got lucky and used SnapBack to get the .org and the .net. The only one that matters is the .com. The fact that the owner wrote you back is a good sign. You should have a limit, but I strongly, strongly urge you to get the .com. The .org is worthless to you without it (FAILblog is the only site that I can think of that does OK on the .org, and Ben would surely rather have the .com).

As to the trademark, what's the point? If you have the TM but not the .com, is your plan to try to steal the .com from the current owner? Let's be clear: trying to sue for it will be more expensive than whatever the current owner's asking price is.

E-mail the owner back, seeing if she's thought about it. Make it clear that you have an alternative (yeah, probably should find an alternative so you can do this with feeling), but that you'd prefer her name, but you don't have forever. This is your "give me your best and final offer" nudge. If you want to pre-emptively say "$250 is my best and final, and I need to know in a week so I can start printing business cards/whatever so that you get that this isn't an artificial deadline and you can't keep shopping it", go for it.
posted by sachinag at 10:19 AM on September 3, 2009

Just for a personal data point, you might ask JD over at getrichslowly.org - I know he posts here on mefi and may see this....

When I first started looking at personal finance blogs, I found his from a link inside another blog, but a few days/weeks later, if I thought about going there directly, I never could get there because I couldn't remember that it was .org instead of .com. It was confusing, I had plenty of other sites I could go to, and it wasn't worth it to me as a new reader to figure out where to find his specific blog. I had to find it via other blogs several more times before I realized it was something worthwhile that I wanted to to figure out, and now I don't forget it, but it took me a few weeks/months to care enough to do that.

I don't know if I'm the only one of JD's readers with that problem, and I don't know if your site would have that same type of scenario, I just want to point out that if your brand is that good, spend the money and get the .com.
posted by CathyG at 11:09 AM on September 3, 2009

Is there any way you could get a variation of the name? Like ideally you'd want xyz.com, but you could get xyz[something].com or [something]xyz.com instead? Where [something] is a verb or adjective that directly relates to the domain.

If you do that you could have the .org name forward to that domain or vice versa.
posted by Kimberly at 11:22 AM on September 3, 2009

Just to play devil's advocate here: domain names are less and less important. How many people are actually going to type your domain name? They'll click it, right?

Unless you're planning massive bus and billboard advertisements, you might not need to have exactly the right URL.

While it's definitely more professional to have your perfect domain name, anyone who doesn't find your domain by guessing will Google it, and will find you five seconds later.
posted by musofire at 1:42 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not sure how many people twiggy MeMailed but I gotta say, it's a pretty great domain name that is ideally descriptive of the product and nicely zingy. I would be very keen to get it.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 PM on September 3, 2009

I'd also try to grab the name on twitter, facebook, ... etc. Since you'll want to do that down the line for marketing purposes.
posted by o0o0o at 3:40 PM on September 3, 2009

Well, here's a follow-up:

At the advice of everyone here, I offered him more money ($250).. he said that wasn't enough, but didn't counter offer.

I asked what would be enough, and he responded:

"Haven't exactly decided (cannot make a counter offer), but I'd say for sure over $1,000."

Should I keep trying to negotiate or just forget it?
posted by twiggy at 5:14 PM on September 3, 2009


"The endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion) is a hypothesis that people value a good or service more once their property right to it has been established. In other words, people place a higher value on objects they own than objects that they do not."
posted by prak at 10:53 PM on September 3, 2009

Should I keep trying to negotiate or just forget it?

You can keep offering and he can keep refusing. At this point you're bidding against yourself. I think you're wasting time that could be spent on actually developing your brand. As other posters have said, hardly anyone actually types in domain names anymore. It's all search engines and links. Even if someone was going to type it in - how descriptive a name is Google? Amazon? Flickr? Facebook? Descriptiveness is vastly overrated.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 AM on September 5, 2009

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