I own many domain names (with “many” being clearly a subjective term).
It’s not that unusual for “entrepreneurs” to have many domains. Entrepreneurs, or maybe more precisely, some entrepreneurs, tend to have many ideas, and many of them think/hope that they might need certain domains in the future. It’s not that they will start 100 different businesses. The problem is that they don’t really know which one (or, two or a few) of those 100 business ideas they will end up pursuing (now or in the future).
Owning domains like this is not cybersquatting. Virtually every domain I own has no real value (to other people). It’s highly unlikely that I can sell any of the domains for more than I already paid/currently pay to the domain registrars. These domains are just for me.
So, you might ask: If your domains are not that valuable then why buy them now rather than just wait until you really need them. I can give you many different answers, but you may or may not see the way I see (or, the way some entrepreneurs see). The first and probably most practical answer is to protect yourself from cybersquatters. When it comes to dot com domains, virtually all conceivable English word combinations are already taken. It’s practically impossible to register two word domain names. It’s not easy these days to register even three word domain names. Millions and millions of domain names have been registered by cybersquatters whose main objectives are to resell those domains to the people who might really need them some day. It’s a very low probability game like gambling. But, if you buy enough number of domains (I mean, a large number of domains), then your chance of hitting one “big one” goes up, and it can presumably become a lucrative business. I hear that there are businesses which buy a large number of lottery tickets from all around the world (because the odds constantly vary and, at some point, the expectation value can be actually positive). This is a similar idea. There are probably numerous small cybersquatters as well, but I don’t know what percentage of domains are owned by professional cybersquatters and what percentage are owned by “hobby” cyersquatters.
The second answer to the earlier question is, (some) people buy domain names in order to use them as “reminders” to themselves. It may sound strange, but I know I’m not the only one. You think of a business idea, and come up with a domain name. (Again, finding an available domain name which reflects your business idea and which you like is an extremely difficult task since all good names (e.g., short and memorable names) are already taken.) You may not pursue the business idea right away (which is highly probable since this is only one of many of your ideas), but owning a domain is a constant reminder of that idea. Whenever you see that domain name you own, you think about that business idea. I know, as I said, this seems kind of weird, but all I can say is, you should give it a try. :) There are many other answers to this question (which may or may not apply to me directly), but we are way off topic here.
When you buy a domain only (e.g., without web hosting), the domain registrars typically put up their own ad pages as place holders (because the domain owners have not set up their own web sites and hence the domains are not being “used”), which are essentially spam pages. Since the domain registrars serve a large (I mean, large) number of domains, and many of them are not being used, I presume this becomes a numbers game, and even spam pages like these can generate a certain level of ad/affiliate revenue for them. I’m just guessing. But, I know this is a very important part of their revenue streams for some (small) registrars.
Recently, I’ve decided to set up Google Apps for some of the domains I own. There are many reasons why I want to, or need to, do this, but I’ll include two in this post.
Second, and probably more importantly, I need to use Google Apps for setting up custom domains for my Web applications. I develop my applications on Google App Engine (GAE, not to be confused with Google Apps). In case you are not familiar, it is a cloud-based app hosting service. It is often categorized as PaaS (Platform as a Service) as opposed to IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). There are many IaaS providers including Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, etc. PaaS is not as commonplace. GAE used to be the only one, AFAIK. Now, there are many other PaaS providers (even IaaS providers support some kind of “platforms” these days), but still GAE is the best one available, in my view.
PaaS services are generally very convenient (compared to using IaaS or managing your own servers). The problem with PaaS including GAE is, however, that you are limited by the services they support. If they do not support certain services or functionalities, then in many cases you are out of luck. Even when they provide certain functionalites, you can only do certain things in certain ways, etc.
GAE does not support DNS. This is an extra layer to them. Guido, the creator of the programming language Python, explicitly stated on a public forum that they had no intention of supporting DNS. I don’t think that’s GAE team’s official view, but considering the seniority of Guido in the GAE team, we can still assume that this “policy” will not change any time soon.
Currently, if you want to use a custom domain on Google App Engine, then you HAVE TO set up Google Apps and use their DNS service. This is very inconvenient, to say the least. Setting up a Google Apps is rather time consuming. In many cases, I don’t really need Google Apps. I just need to use custom domain for my web application, which has nothing to do with Google Apps. Unfortunately, Google (I say, Google, not GAE team) appears to have no plan to support DNS for GAE outside Google Apps, and this is the only “official” way of setting up custom domains for your apps running on Google App Engine. (BTW, it should be noted that there are no maximum number of Google Apps a user/company can have, as far as I know. Considering that this is the only way in which we can use custom domains for GAE apps, I highly doubt that there is such a fixed/hard limit.)
I develop many different apps. For now, these are all “test” apps (until I find the ONE, which I can focus my energy on). I do a lot of “experimentation” and just “release” them (although nobody, I mean NOBODY, else uses them but me). These apps require (or, I prefer to have) custom domains, just in case, that is, just in case somebody finds them on the net and start using them.
Due to the inconvenience of setting up custom domains through Google Apps, I sometimes spend a bit of time, once in a while, just to set up Google Apps for certain domains which I may or may not need in the near future. (It’s like a “game” for me :), and I can do it under 12 mins these days including all “preliminary” work. See below.) As I stated, it serves dual purposes (among other things). I can place my own place-holder page for that domain, if nothing else, and I don’t have to waste my time when I really, or urgently, need to have custom domain set up for my Web applications.
I recently started thinking of delegating some of my day-to-day work to “virtual workers”, as you can see from my previous posts (and, I’m writing more regarding my first experience with these freelancer services). I started interviewing some “contractors”, and for me this task of setting up Google Apps seemed like an excellent trial task for the candidates.
There was this person I liked. She had, at least on paper and according to her claims, the best qualifications for the job I was hiring for (at the time). I offered a trial task with 10 repetitions of setting up Google Apps. I got positive response. Initially, I thought she accepted the offer (being new to that freelancer site), but after I sent her email regarding the task of setting up Goolge Apps for 10 domains, she stopped responding to my messages and email. It was very puzzling to me. The funny thing was, the way the service was set up, I could not even cancel or withdraw the offer because she somehow “semi accepted” it. Apparently, we were in some kind of a limbo state where we’re still “negotiating” the terms. The only way I could cancel the offer at that point seemed like to open a ticket (how inconvenient).
(BTW, the real irony is that, in my original job posting, I emphasized the importance of good communications. Not to be too cynical, but there are good people and there are bad people, in my world. Good people are generally “good communicators”. Please read my previous post.)
After two days, and after I let her know that I would withdraw the offer for the trial task, I finally got a short response. Her response was that she would not feel comfortable dong the task of creating spam accounts, or “mak[ing] up accounts to spam traffic” in her own words. (Just to be fair, I clearly implied that there might be more than 10 domains, with each task including creating a separate email/blog accounts tailored to the specific domain, etc.) Regardless of whether it was a valid concern for her, I am not sure why she could not raise her concerns to me earlier. At first, I was kind of upset, because I thought, Who are you to “judge” me? I am not a “spammer” and I have no intention of becoming one. Neither do I have a plan to build a Demand Media. But, even if I did, why is that her business? It’s not like I was asking her to do anything illegal or even remotely questionable, except for her pre-judgement regarding creating multiple Web accounts. If every worker was as “righteous” as her, then we would not have big corporations. No Enron, No AT&T. No Comcast. Not even Apple. You name it. (BTW, it was just a “trial” to find out more about each other…) Anyways, she does not know me, and I don’t expect her to. The most disappointing part is that she decided not to communicate for two days (less than 48 hours, but nonetheless 2 calendar days). At least, I appreciate her last minute honesty, at this point.
So, to answer the question, “Why do I need so many Google Apps?”…
The answer is, BECAUSE I DO.
Postscript: I forwarded a link to this blog post to her. I thought the “tone” of this post was a bit harsh (so, I was a bit hesitant), but nevertheless I thought it reflected my honest sentiment. She was gracious, and we agreed that it was a bit of misunderstanding. I was clearly a bit too quick to judge her as well. Mea culpa.