When the idea of new TLDs was first announced publically by ICANN in 2011 and applications started to pour in thereafter, the industry held their breath with reserved optimism. At best, people approached it with trepidation, and rightly so. It was an unprecedented and bold initiative. Nobody knew what would happen but everyone seemed to have an opinion on the future of the domains industry.
Like many people, I too placed my guesses on which new TLDs would be popular amongst users, and several stood out to me. One of them was .blog. I remember being in a meeting with several people I highly respect from the industry. When the topic of new TLDs came up, almost instantaneously, these people shot down my position on .blog even though my position came with the caveat that only in the right hands could .blog be successful in changing the narrative around domains. Respectfully, I disagreed with the naysayers but decided to wait and see what happens since that meeting was sometime in 2012 when the idea of new TLDs was still being introduced.
The wholesale domains business is not unlike other areas of the hosting industry in that it is a long game. You make connections, network, pitch, develop relationships and stay in touch hoping that when the timing is right you are there to secure the business or at least be on the short list of potential partners. That is what I did with Automattic. After a colleague moved to another department within Tucows, I was handed Automattic as a long-term prospect for domains. This was a very exciting opportunity but I also knew it was a bit of a long shot. Domains are not part of their core business and so convincing a company like Automattic to invest time and resources to change domain suppliers without a compelling reason is quite rare. We kept in touch updating each other on our respective businesses and eventually the timing and circumstances were right for Automattic to make a change, though at the time I didn’t know it was due in part to .blog.
Once it was disclosed under an NDA that Automattic won the rights to operate .blog all of the pieces fell into place. My team and I worked getting the Automattic domain’s team familiarized with the platform and eventually set up on Tucows’ hosted registrar system (HRS). At the same time, I was at a crossroads in my career. I felt like I needed a new challenge. Tucows is a wonderful place to work and even though they offered me a vice president position I felt a change was what I needed to grow.
After entertaining several opportunities, all within the domains industry, and after taking a peek under the hood of a fully distributed company, I just could not shake the idea of working for Automattic to help them launch and grow .blog. So, before settling on any other opportunity I felt I owed it to myself to at least propose the idea to Automattic. It was well received but only after they fully understood my motivations for leaving Tucows. They would never poach from a partner. This level of integrity reinforced my desire to work for Automattic. I started as a contractor in March of this year and then as a full-time employee in June. But the rest isn’t history, as they say. We will be writing history through the power of .blog!