UpName is a domain name search engine and comparison shopping site, launched in 2010 by John Armonk and Sam Rosen.
John and Sam aspired to bring badly-needed transparency and efficiency to the domain aftermarket. With dozens of domain marketplaces, from small brochureware sites to giants like eBay and GoDaddy, they found it painful to find that special domain name with both brand appeal and the semantic relevance necessary for top search engine ranking.
“To make things worse”, Sam noted, “ domain marketplaces have their own sales policy, business focus and terminology, making it hard for casual domain buyers to make informed decisions.” Domains auctions, buy-now listing, negotiable offers, pre-ordering, expired & deleted domains – searching across all these offers and display a homogeneous and coherent set of search results was a major goal for UpName from the outset. “Even eBay makes it very difficult to read through their domain listing”, john added while showing a screenshot of the domain name category page from the largest online marketplaces. “They list domain names the same way they would disposable diapers or carpet cleaners!” he joked.
Sam is a long-time online marketer, with hundred of web sites under his belt. Until recently he was mostly registering freely available domains, but that has become harder with all good names already registered. “The secondary market has really become the primary market”, Sam concluded. Yet the aftermarket is still in the ice-age when it comes to bringing end-user friendly tools and reliable processes. “Even in 2010, the majority of aftermarket domains name sales are brokered and transferred manually. This is both inefficient and hugely expensive”
A self-proclaimed “geek with a passion for clean and elegant user-interfaces”, John jumped on the problem right away. He first got interested in domain names for parking, meaning to monetize its natural traffic using highly targeted pages full of Ads. In 2008 parking revenue started decreasing rapidly, prompting John to sell more domains. He quickly realized how unnecessary complex the domain aftermarket was.
In late 2009, the two of them set-up shop in their parent’s garage, following a long established tradition of silicon valley entrepreneurs, and started working on a new product that will compile domain listing from all sources, augment them with relevant sales & marketing information for domain buyers, and display the results in such way they can be scanned and understood rapidly even by first-time domain buyers.
“The search algorithm was the tougher nut to crack” said john with a smile, suddenly jumping back into the discussion. “Domain name parsing is too specific for using off-the-shelf search technology, so we ended up building a semantic analyzer from the ground up, with a behavioral feedback loop”. And it had to work fast, as domain buyers want to scan through hundreds of possible domains very rapidly. “Frankly, we would never have been able to deliver the level of performance or scalability we needed without cloud computing” concluded John. He then went on to describe how UpName is using on-the-fly virtual machines from Amazon, created at night when spot-prices per CPU cycle are rock bottom to power the crawler and indexers that will analyze hundreds of thousands of domain name newly listed for sale.
When asked what was the biggest challenge, Sam hesitated a few seconds. “I expected collecting marketing data about domains to be the hardest, like number of linked sites, search engine ranking and existing traffic”. Most turned out to be readily available, albeit compute intensive. “The most difficult piece of information to gather turned out to be historical domain sales, as if these domain marketplaces wanted to keep the cloud of secrecy over the whole domain sales industry”.
By early 2010 UpName.com was live, and the two have great expectation for the service. “I am an online marketer and John a part-time domain trader, so if we build a product both of us would use, it should help lots of people” concluded Sam obviously excited. Judge by yourself and pay a visit to upname.com.