Hello there. My name is Michael Bonanno, although that is not important. The point is that I do not consider myself a member of the “domain name industry” even though my company owns several hundred domain names. However, as the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across our world, certain concerning trends have emerged that I would like to address. I do not often speak directly in this manner, so please take a minute.
The coronavirus has effectively shut the world down, and to most observers it is pretty clear that a new world
order will arise like a proverbial phoenix from the ashes. Many workers have been forced online and many more whose professions were permanently affected are no doubt considering plans for creating online income streams. All of this makes an excellent opportunity for those that have invested in the infrastructure of the internet, i.e. domain names. Yet the reaction from the domain community has been in exact opposition to anything that could be considered rational.
The truth is that domain investors are missing a massive opportunity right now. A seismic shift in the way the world does business, with that shift inevitably causing millions to either develop or rethink their online presence, might be the best opportunity for domain name investors in many, many years. Yet when I look around all I see is investors panicking, talking about selling low, and (worst of all) going out of their way to shame anybody that registers a coronavirus-related domain name.
And this reprehensible behavior by some of the most well-known individuals and companies in the industry is a black eye for everyone. Many hard-working investors have been complaining that domains having nothing to do with the coronavirus are being removed from sales platforms, swept up in some over-arching speech-restricting algorithm. Because that is what we really need right now, in addition to ICANN taking a giant shit on everyone on the planet, is to be applauding such indefensibly fascistic practices. Yet as usual, speech police are hiding behind the boorish and typical communist facade of good intentions.
No man, company, or government has the right to infringe upon the right of free speech. One cannot critically examine a situation if one is not allowed access to all of the underlying information and opinions, however unsavory or unsettling.
Whether knowingly or not, the self-appointed thought police often admit that the real goal is to stifle speech. Many uninformed newer investors follow the “big-name” faces and think these names are some sort of wise domain sages or something, but nothing could be further from the truth. Like last year when folks write things like “free speech has to be tempered with morality” and make other virtuous attacks on the Bill of Rights, be wary. The Bill of Rights is the most important document ever written, and no amount of virtue-tweeting and signaling is going to change that. And when you see tweets like this, at first glance it appears to just be someone trying to do their part during a crisis, but what do we have here? Elliot Silver faithfully reports CEO Reza Sardeha's opinion that:
“We believe that it’s morally unacceptable and this type of behavior from just a few makes domain investors look bad in general.”
I see. So the moral arbiters do not want good, hard-working domain investors to pick up the best names, instead presumably leaving them all to scammers and spammers? Should we not register any coronavirus domains because then I’m sure all the companies developing vaccines, cures, tests, etc. will wait until they have a fully developed product before registering the perfect name? I thought domain investors would be the last people on the planet to be espousing that absurd philosophy, but I'm not a domainer so what do I know?
Should domain investors just stop what they do because somebody might get their feelings hurt? That never stopped any of them before. As a matter of fact, domain investors are some of the only people on the planet whose livelihoods are mostly unaffected by the societal shutdown, and they have an incredible ability to create value from thin air and to then re-circulate it into the economy. I would think a reasonable person would want anyone to put money into the economy right now by any legal means possible, but at the same time that is coming from someone whose main concern in life is the well-being of Americans and I know not everyone subscribes to that ethos.
Indeed, to many of those with contrary opinions, their reasoning for attacking industry peers is simply that they themselves have spent so much time trying to convince others that domain investors are hard-working and industrious people (like everyone else that works for a living) that they don't want their efforts to be in vain. How selfless. Truly, I am really sorry those investors care so much about what others think of them. I am also really sorry that they believe their feelings are more important than the 1st Amendment. Just so I can get this straight: our grandfathers stormed the beaches of Normandy so you can tell me which domain names I am allowed to register? I believe that is a correct assessment of the situation, but if I am missing something let me know. Asperger’s.
My purpose is not to be entirely negative though: on the contrary I am extremely bullish on the American economy and I believe now is a perfect time for the domain industry to band together and do some good. And I’m not talking about the idiots that are recommending forwarding a good coronavirus-related domain to the WHO website. The WHO spouted nothing but communist propaganda for months, and it directly led to the preventable death of thousands. So no thanks on that. But there are so many spammers and scammers trying to take advantage of the situation that we could band together and start a campaign. Our lives exist on the internet now, so teaching people how to recognize the difference between a legitimate site and a scam/spam site should be the equivalent to teaching people to look both ways when crossing the street. I don't know who dropped the ball originally, but doing that would not only be a public service, it also would go a long way toward getting folks to understand the value and importance of domain names. Hint: that would be good for both domain investors and society as a whole, and far more productive than policing each others registrations. Just a suggestion that would work for everyone, nothing more.
This letter has been posted on a Cannabis-related website, so if you are new to all this and really want to understand the domain name industry, start by reading about cybersquatting. Then read as many domain industry blogs as you can, not just current posts, but go back years and follow the industry’s past and how those involved have processed the evolution of the industry from different viewpoints. Maybe even watch some videos, but keep in mind that many brains process the written word much faster. Pick a subject you know about or want to learn about, consult a lawyer or two, and if you have any ideas that are legal and viable and you are in a position to take a risk, then go for it. But don’t listen to people just because their face is on a screen. In fact, most people lie so often that it is more prudent to simply examine their actions. And if they are using their words to try to control you and yours, you should have alarm bells going off very loudly upstairs.
Most people go through life and never have the mental wherewithal to consider the extent to which words shape our entire existence. For the most part our minds cannot conceive of things that we do not have words for. This is why words fail us when we become highly emotional. This is why the great shamans, medicine men, and psychonauts have all come to the same realization: at a certain vibration, words will fail us despite the fact that they literally create our realities. Even if your mind temporarily grasps something profound about the universe, once you open your mouth to attempt to elucidate that epiphany, it vanishes. Our reality can never be explained, it is simply too much and we will never have the language to properly articulate the true wonder of our universe, or multiverse, or simulation, whatever it is.
If we do not have words, we have nothing. The Edibles Club is built entirely out of words. That's all it is. Maybe there are a couple thousand words in my various domain name accounts, certainly many thousands more across social media and to be posted on blogs. A few hundred thousand more of them in my forthcoming autobiography about a life in Cannabis. And maybe some surprises along the way. This is the closest I have come to bringing my company out of stealth, and I am extremely unhappy about having to post this. To stealth we will now return, and my advice, other than to never underestimate the power of words and to never espouse any philosophy that attempts to control them, is in the end no different than that of Voltaire: “we must learn to cultivate our own garden.”
As you were. Or weren’t, as it were.