Intermission: ICANN 57 – The lighter side!

This week I was in Hyderabad, India at ICANN 57 wading through the murky waters of ICANN with my fearless colleagues. ICANN meetings are filled with interesting people from all over the world. Attendees fight for power and position to forward their individual agendas, but ironically often work in groups to do so.

I have been attending ICANN meetings for several years now but for many of my colleagues it was their first experience at an ICANN meeting, and their first time in India (me as well).  Aside from the work, here are a few other things I learned by attending ICANN 57.

  • The people of India are gracious and accommodating. I will be back – thank you India for your hospitality.
  • In the transition of the often mundane sessions, auto-rickshaws (tuk-tuks) are a must form of travel in India and can make for interesting and needed mind-jolting transitions as you risk your life dodging oncoming traffic.
  • The constant eardrum stimulation of honking of horns may keep you up at night but it also saves your life when you are you are on the roads.
  • Always go with a brand name hotel chain…we didn’t and it was unsettling at times.  Luckily, we had each other to create enough levity to make it bearable, and without the option for hot showers, having cold showers does help wake you up after only 3 hours sleep each night.
  • Singing Happy Birthday to someone doesn’t make it their birthday no matter how many times you do it…but it is funny afterward watching others wish them ‘happy birthday’.
  • You can throw the biggest party you want but if you don’t have the right people there then it just isn’t a party. We managed to have all of the right people from the ICANN meeting at our launch party.
  • If it isn’t an acronym ICANN doesn’t use it. “I saw members of the GAC sitting with the GNSO talking about the IANA transition while the IETF  and SSAC listened in.” Rosetta Stone are missing a huge market.
  • Sleep is the only thing that is optional at ICANN.
  • Lastly, hugging is the ultimate form of comfort while watching US elections with US citizens (there is lots of room here in Canada!)

Looking forward to ICANN 58 in Copenhagen in March!

Why I joined Automattic – Part I of II

To answer this question, I must first explain how I fell into with the domain industry. This story begins in 2008 after spending the better part the previous 10+ years in and out of the internet space working for various companies from a hosting company in 1997 (the year Dreamweaver was released and long before Matt dreamt of Automattic) followed by IT consulting firms, to eventually becoming a partner in an email encryption start-up. After this company wrapped up (many lessons learned – we got into bed with the wrong VC) I consulted with start-ups in the Toronto area, writing business plans and go-to-market strategies while helping them raise seed capital. On an excitement scale, this was about an ‘hmm, it’s ok, I guess’ but I wasn’t inspired by any new technologies I saw, though some mobile apps did come close.

For anybody who has ever been at a professional crossroads in their life, start-up consulting was also my way of buying time as I contemplated my next move. Being single at the time I didn’t feel the responsibilities I have today – a wonderful wife and two beautiful young boys. Then an opportunity to work at Tucows came my way through my previous business partner who was consulting with them at the time. Being an early user of the internet I knew the brand Tucows but I didn’t ‘know’ Tucows. For me, it was a place where I downloaded ICQ and other free software in the late 1990’s, but I quickly learned Tucows later morphed into one of the world leaders in domains, email, and SSL. They were interested in my business development/sales background and I was interested in learning the inner workings of this well-respected internet pioneer. But as it turned out in 2007 the timing of their email product overhaul wasn’t quite right for me so I politely passed on the opportunity and turned back to consulting for another year, though I did keep in close contact with Tucows. Something about them, their culture and Elliot Noss’ vision of an open internet intrigued me.

Then in 2008, I was once again approached by Tucows to consider a new position they were thinking of experimenting with. Work with the largest clients, learn their respective businesses, consult with them on domains, email, and SSL, keep them abreast of Tucows’ product roadmap, garner feedback, and facilitate the regular day-to-day account management tasks. Career wise several close friends thought this was a step back but I realized I was presented a wonderful opportunity to learn. Email and SSL were quite familiar to me having spent many years working directly with those products, but looking back now domains were still a bit of an enigma. I registered many over the years, even back when we had to fax in orders and it took 10 – 14 business days to actually get it (.coms were also $100 / 2 years back then too). I am not an overly technical person so I didn’t fully understand the deeper inner workings of domains – name servers, DNS records, add grace periods, redemption periods, secondary market, drops, UDRPs, etc. But I was willing to learn.

I was given clients like Endurance International Group which at the time was a small representation of the hosting powerhouse it is today; VistaPrint, a billion dollar company that had just decided to move into the electronic services space; The Planet / EV1 before they were acquired by SoftLayer and now IBM; Media Temple before it was acquired by GoDaddy; soon afterward it was groups like 123-Reg and Fasthosts; until eventually new web-builders like Squarespace and Yola.

It was working with these groups when I actually developed a deep fondness for domains. I was intrigued how each company approached their end users so very differently despite having the same innate goal of selling them a domain, getting them online and up-selling them more ‘stuff’. Aside from the ccTLDs which were mainly getting their traction in Europe at the time, the other main TLDs were .com, .net, org .biz and .info and .me, to a certain extent. Others like .co, and .xxx were not yet commercially available. And name suggestion was very basic and certainly only utilized by a minute portion of the hosting industry.

I would try to educate clients on the importance of domain search and suggestion as an integral part of onboarding, reinforcing how relevant domain choices will lead to higher domains sales and subsequently the sale of more hosting products.  But at that time domains were less of a priority and unfortunately for most hosters, an afterthought. Registering a domain was often buried somewhere on a site between ‘now-that-we-have-your-credit-card’ and ‘did-I-mention-we-have-domains?’ Instead, hosting packages and all of their technical features are what was front and center.

Not long afterward .co and .xxx were introduced (re-introduced in the case of .co.  Over the course of those years the industry was shifting to website builders and ease-of-use web tools. Domains was a way to hook customers in. Blogging was also getting more popular. WordPress was becoming a staple in hoster’s offerings thanks to At the same time, the .com zone was getting more crowded by the minute. The domain space wasn’t progressing or innovating as fast as it should have been but rejuvenation was around the corner in the form of new TLDs.

Welcome to my new Blog!

It has been a long, long while since I have had a blog. I used to blog years ago but the primary reason was to feed the creative side of my brain while entertaining some friends – not much substance but plenty of laughs. Screenwriting overtook my blog as the creative outlet for many years, though that too has been a few years back (oh my, how time has passed). However, I am still proud to say I have written 9 screenplays, several with my friend and writing partner. Sadly, we never put them out there and so they are collecting digital dust on a jump drive in a box in my closet. Over the years I have blogged occasionally either under a pseudonym for some friend’s sites or for various companies during my employment with them.

Since joining Automattic a few months ago the itch to start a blog crept back within me like a friendly rain spider that never really went away but instead decided to camp out for a while in the dark, damp corner of my basement and not bother anybody…until now.

The difference this time around is that I have a wonderful new domain,, to go with a few less laughs but much more substance. My plan is to post with a new perspective on domains and cover the intricate or even sometimes the dark parts of the industry many people dare not go. But I will ease into it and relish every keystroke.

I hope you enjoy!