Register That Domain

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(This is step 1 of 25 Steps to Build Your Own Micro ISV)

Registering a domain

This is a fairly hefty milestone all by itself. I'd guess that ninety percent of good product ideas never get this far.

Here's my basic tips:

  • until you've secured a domain name, don't commit to a product name
  • don't expect to secure the perfect name
  • register the product name, not the company name (that can come much later)

I'll go through those three in order

until you've secured a domain name, don't commit to a product name

At some point in the distant past, perhaps one thousand years ago, there was the time of the cyber squatters. I don't know who these mythical people were, but I know that they are generally blamed for the following sad fact:

99 out of Every 100 domain names you can dream up are already taken.

All sorts of dumb names have been taken, probably including that hot little product name you had your eyes on all this time.

If you're an idiot you can waste your energy chasing that domain name; sending emails to the people who've taken in, you can try to talk them into selling it to you, you can send lawyers after it, you can really get nasty about the whole thing. Or worse still, you can stick with your product name, but choose a different domain name.

But if you're sensible, you'll start making a big list of ugly useless names. Use a thesaurus. Name-storming is fun. Turn off the inner-critic.

  • Make a big list of names. Twenty five or more is good.
  • Sort them from most desired to least desired.
  • For each name:
    • Google it:
      • Already used in prior-art? Discard it.
      • Turns up as a swear word in spanish? Discard it.
      • Anything else funny turns up on the web? Discard it.
    • Perform a 'WhoIs' search. (use the "internic", "", "godaddy", whoever you want). The name is taken? Discard it.
    • If it's available then buy it.
    • Stop there. Throw away the rest of the list.

Now, you've got to fall in love with the name you ended up with.

You've got no choice. You're stuck with it now, so you'd better treat it with respect.

And you're done. Easy wasn't it.

What? You're still there? You think I've got more strongly-felt opinions on this topic? You bet I do.

Buying is a minefield...

I use goDaddy for purchasing websites, because they're very very cheap. And I like an essay written by Bob Parsons, the go daddy himself. However.

These guys are masters at up selling. As you make your way to the checkout, they try to push dozens of other products into your shopping cart. All of which are totally overpriced crap. So make sure you buy only what you want -- a domain name for a year (maybe two) just for the domain you're after. Nothing else.

You can get a 10% discount (or more) if you find a discount voucher for Go Daddy. Google for 'godaddy voucher'. Didn't work for me, but ymmv.

Dot Com is All That Matters

Go for ".com". Don't mess around with ".net", ".biz" or any others. And don't waste your time on ones that relate to your country of origin, e.g. "", "" unless your product will only ever be sold in that country. These cost more, involve more hoops, and are less memorable. The Coca-colonisation of the world is a big force, and I'm not going to try and slow it ;-)

Accept that there are no perfect product names.

Names can be cute, glib, memorable, descriptive, inspiring -- all kinds of things, but they can't necessarily be all of these things at once. It's very easy to over-constrain the name you want. The less rules you impose on the name, the better chance you have of coming up with a useable name.

Impose too many rules on the name results in an impossible equation. For example, say you have these two rules:

x + 1 = 2
x - 1 = 2 
What is x?

In this case, x is unsolvable: there's simple no value for x that will satisfy both constraints. The only thing to do is to have less constraints. The same applies with choosing a name. You need less constraints: so few constraints that you'll be able to find the required twenty-five possible values, before you go searching the internet for availability.

Actually, Product Names Hardly Matter At All

Take Ebay, Google and Amazon as examples. These are well recognised brand names, that evoke the right reaction from millions of customers. But that recognition has been hard won by the companies and the products -- not by the choice of name. There's nothing great about any of these names. They tell you nothing about what the product does, nor what differentiates them from their competitors. But they're undeniably successful names.

Don't Be Too Specific

Okay -- even though 'Product Names Hardly Matter At All' there are still some terrible names out there, and perhaps even a few good ones.

Obviously, avoid offensive names. I went to uni with a guy who gave his engineering-thesis the acronym "S.H.I.T.S." I sh*t you not. This meant that everyone who reviewed his work had a negative perception before they'd even read the precis. Avoid causing offense, even mild offense.

Personally, I think it's bad to have an overly 'specific' name. An example of a specific name is a local company I know of who call themselves "Just Stumps". The idea is that they are focused on stump grinding. I've seen there name in a local newspaper and it's always bugged me. I rang them up one day and asked them, "Hey, i've got a tree that needs to be cut down. Do you do that?" Guess what! They do! "Oh, and I've got a concrete slab that needs to be removed, can you help with that?" Of course they can. Similarly "Just Jeans" don't just sell Jeans. "Roses Only" don't just sell roses, and in fact, every 'specific' name is a just a big lie. So don't turn yourself into a liar: avoid 'specific' names.

Did you run out of names before you found a good one?

An old trick is to mis-spell a word, creating a clever juxtaposition of two ideas. 'Beatles' for example. The advantage to this trick is that it creates new words (thus no prior art), that are short and will (eventually) be memorable.

(This article originated with my blogpost at, 'Step 1 of 25 to Building a Micro-ISV: Register a Domain' )

This step 1 of 25 Steps to Build Your Own Micro ISV