.Mobi – A Tower of Cards Waiting to Fall

November 21, 2007 · Print This Article


One of the main stories circling that domainersphere right now is Rick’s explanation of the real story behind the flowers.mobi purchase. In his blog post, Rick gives some excellent pointers about investing in domains and then shows how his purchase of flowers.mobi, and investments in (quality) .mobi domains in general, meet these criteria. But is investing in .mobi wise? Or is it simply a tower of cards waiting to fall?

What is .Mobi?

.Mobi is a newer extension that was launched on September 26, 2006 by dotMobi. The purpose behind the .mobi extension is to provide an extension for the mobile web. It has been branded as the TLD that will work on your cellphone, and brings the world “Mobile content for the mobile context”.

Websites (and even parking pages) on .mobi domains are required to meet certain requirements to be mobile accessible, and in fact, the registry can even cancel a registration if this is not done. To further the development of the .mobi space, the registry has launched a wide variety of tools to aid in the development of a mobile website.

.Mobi has seen one of the largest marketing pushes of all new TLDs. It obtained the backing of a good number of large corporations , including Google, Microsoft, Vodafone, Nokia, Samsung, T-Mobile, Visa, Ericsson, Sony, and Telecom Italia, who were expected to help promote the extension in consumers minds. As well, a dotMobi Advisory Group (MAG) was formed to ensure “that the dotMobi Top Level Domain (.mobi) is operated in the best interests of the global dotMobi community and the Internet at large.” The MAG includes many other large companies, such as Godaddy, Carlson Marketing, Millenial Media, Sony, Firstserver, ooober, Instant Access Technologies, Bango, Telecom Italia, and Nubiq. Additionally, unlike most of the domain registries, the .mobi registry marketed heavily directly to domainers, including the sponsoring of domainer conferences.

You can find out more about dotMobi in this interview by Jon Briggs of Neil Edwards, CEO of dotMobi:

What Proponents of .Mobi Say:

1. Follow the Money. This argument is best summarized by Rick:

In anything. ALWAYS….follow the money. I did the same with .mobi. What caught MY attention were the companies backing it. Why would they do that?

Well, maybe they would do that because they were interested in the mobile internet, and wanted to have all of their bases covered. Since the launch of .mobi, the backers actually haven’t done much to encourage consumers to think .mobi

2. Mobile Devices Are Becoming Popular. True dat. There are apparently 1.6 billion internet-ready mobile phone around the world. But so what? As I’ll discuss below in more detail, the mobile internet doesn’t require .mobi to function.

3. Big Aftermarket Sales. There have been some extremely good aftermarket sales of .mobi domains. The Flowers.mobi sale is the best known one for $200,000. Sportsbook.mobi sold for $129,800. You could sense the excitement in the room when Fun.mobi sold at auction for $100,000:

The argument basically goes: big aftermarket sales are proof that people see a bright future in .mobi. I have to admit that the amount of money people are paying for .mobi’s is incredible, especially given what seems to me to be the uncertain outlook for the extension. The problem here is that the sales are primarily to other domain speculators – and not to end users. That’s why I believe that the whole extension is just a tower of cards waiting to fall down.

4. You’ve Come A Long Way Baby. Just over a year old, and already ringing up six figure sales. By May 2007, already 500,000 .mobi domains registered. Several major corporations, such as Weather.mobi and Time.mobi have bought and set up .mobi domains. Not bad, eh? Especially since no one is making the argument that .mobi is an alternative to .com.

Well, not so good either. The fact is a lot of these transactions are domainer to domainer and not end user – again a house of cards. And while some corporations are using these domains, it is really a small number in the scheme of things. Further, the names the corporations are choosing are trademarked terms – not ones that will benefit domainers holding .mobi’s.

Why .Mobi Sucks

1. Follow the Money. Like what Rick says, one of the best things to do when investing in domains is to follow the money. But what is the smart money in domaining saying about .mobi?

(a) Frank Schilling is perhaps the best known and one of the most successful domainers there is. What does he say about the .mobi?

I own no .mobi names. If it were possible to own a negative number of domain names to further distance yourself from the name space, I would probably own “negative thousands”

(b) Sahar Sarid is another very successful domainer. Here’s what he has to say about .mobi:

.Mobi sucks. That is plan and simple. Rick can tell you all day long about the black or brown shoes and that you should sell both if there’s money in both, but while there may be money in both, it is your DUTY to question what is going on. Frank rightfully stated few days ago he questions the validity of .Mobi sales. Yesterday Jay at DomainTools Blog also raises some important questions ,and word is Greg M. of Webmagic, one of the three heavyweights in the first .Mobi auction, is dumping and taking losses (see comment area here). How promising is that?

Here’s another question to ask yourself: What is the story of .mobi? How did it start? Why did it start? It really goes back to a “crowd mentality” issue and other interests you likely do not know about, will never know. There’s this saying “Assumptions is the mother of all f#$^#@s”. If you cannot understand the investment, my advice is to stay out of it. In professional boxing, unless you’re Leland Hardy, it is better to watch from the sidelines then be in the ring. The boxer may win big, but he also may get injured badly. In investments I do believe in taking calculated risks but I don’t believe in “risky investments”.

(c) Dominik Mueller is a domain broker for exclusive domains. Here’s what he has to say about .mobi:

Although mobile web surfing is on the increase, I don’t really like .mobi. This is mainly because one doesn’t need an additional extension for surfing on the web using a mobile device. Current smartphones can open “normal” websites already, and the iPhone even has a .com button.

Personally, I don’t own any .mobi domains, but it is still too early to say where this TLD will go in the end. There have been some good .mobi domain sales in the past year and one-word domains under .mobi will presumably find buyers at relatively high prices in the upcoming auctions again. It’s just that I don’t think they’re worth that much, but as said, it’s too early to give a definite answer.

(d) Owen Frager is a thought leader in the industry. What does he have to say about .mobi?

CNN announces 90 million susbcribers to CNN Mobile ….NO MOBI extension REQUIRED (or even acknowledged). ….
And now here comes Ask Mobile GPS� AGAIN IAC is oblivious to dotMOB’s very existance and they have the 270 MILLION eyeballs!
As you can see from the full page “m” (before the) DOT brand ad in USA Today, the mobile branding being engrained in the public eye is just not the one everyone hoped for. Don’t shoot the messenger. If you have an investment you should be on the MOBI people who took your money to promote and advertise the cause. Hate them, not me.

(e) Elliott Silver of Top Notch Domains, LLC is a leading voice in the domainersphere. What does he have to say about .mobi?

Do Frank and Sahar know and understand domains as well as Google, etc? I’m betting that they do, because they live and breathe this stuff all day every day, whereas for the large corporations, this is simply ancillary to their main operations.

Well said, Elliott. It’s good to follow the money, but better still to follow the knowledgeable money.

2. The iPhone Challenge. The basic need for a mobile web boils down to the technological limitations of mobile devices: most importantly, their displays are not big enough to browse standard web sites properly. But what if there were a mobile device that displays web sites as they were meant to be seen? Oh shoot, it has already happened: the Apple iPhone.

Will the iPhone obviate the need for the mobile web? Well, time will tell, but I’m guessing that people are going to be unhappy with limited content on the mobile internet and simply switch to mobile devices that allow them normal internet access. The purpose behind .mobi may be it’s ultimate demise: there may be no need for a mobile web.

3. M.Domain.com Rules. As Owen Frager pointed out about CNN, many companies are opting to go the route of branding mobile version of their .com – by using m.domain.com – rather than branding a .mobi.

4. .Mobi Is Unnecessary. It’s a relatively trivial task for a website to determine whether a visitor is using a mobile connection – in which case, a mobile version of your website can be displayed. As Andrew Johnson says:

Web sites can automatically detect what platform a visitor is accessing the site through. Go to facebook.com on your phone, you end up at m.facebook.com. Its hassle-free to the end user.

A website and browser should work together to present web content optimized for whatever device is being used. As Opera CEO Jon S. von Tetzchner states:

“There should be one Internet,” he says. “What if you’re using another device? Should we have .gameconsole? .car? .fridge? .plane? We don’t need .mobi at all.” Besides, he says, “There are capabilities for sites to query the browser to figure out exactly what you’re using. That’s a much more elegant solution than having the user choose which site to go to.”

.fridge eh? I like that one. I think I need to figure out how to get a trademark on food.fridge so I can beat the landrush.

5. Businesses Are Risk Averse. Let’s face it, what incentive does a business have to gamble on a .mobi when a .com is a pretty sure thing. Smaller businesses need to work hard to establish credibility – why would they make life more difficult than necessary for themselves by going with .mobi. Larger businesses tend to be inherently conservative and resistant to change. Sure, there may be marketplace pressure to bring about these changes one day, but it’s not there yet.

6. No End User Sales. So far, most if not all of the large .mobi sales have been domainer to domainer. End users simply aren’t going into the market yet and buying .mobi’s in large numbers. The extension is really a house of cards – one domainer selling to another domainer selling to another domainer – with no chance of finally cashing out to an end user who wants to use the domain.

Conclusion

I have to say that from everything I’ve seen, .mobi is the best marketed domain extension out there. I think that other domain registries should take a few pages out of the dotMobi playbook. Unfortunately, that’s simply not enough to save this domain extension, whose whole purpose of being is inherently flawed and which shows no consumer or end user adoption.

Of course, no one can say for sure what the future of .mobi is. One thing seems to be certain though: .mobi is a highly speculative investment. Certainly the extension should not play a major part in any domainer’s portfolio, particularly when there are much more solid alternatives available (for instance, good .com’s). However, if you have the urge to buy lottery tickets or go to Vegas, putting that money in .mobi’s will likely yield a higher ROI.

Further references

Dotmobiz
Pinkard Brand
How to Get Started As A Domainer
dotMobi Blog
Interview with Pinkard Brand
Inside Domaining
Willswideweb
Mobility.mobi Forum
Domainstate .Mobi Forum
DNForum .Mobi Forum
NamePros .Mobi Forum
Pointless .Mobi Landrush Launched
Why .Mobi Makes Sense
.Mobi Madness .Mobi Sickness
Should You .Mobi Your Blog

Comments

20 Responses to “.Mobi – A Tower of Cards Waiting to Fall”

  1. Domain Bits: .Mobi - A Tower of Cards Waiting to Fall at THE CONCEP’TUALIST on November 21st, 2007 5:39 pm

    […] In-depth look at .mobi: I have to say that from everything I’ve seen, .mobi is the best marketed domain extension out there. I think that other domain registries should take a few pages out of the dotMobi playbook. Unfortunately, that’s simply not enough to save this domain extension, whose whole purpose of being is inherently flawed and which shows no consumer or end user adoption. […]

  2. Ken on November 21st, 2007 6:01 pm

    Yawn….. next.

  3. Gary on November 21st, 2007 8:37 pm

    Yeh, right!

    & the earth stopped spinning, everything stopped in it’s tracks and the internet stopped evolving away from large screen devices.
    No-one ever started a new business, no-one required a new domain name other than .com because it is just so easy to register any .com name you want so you can put an M. in front of it….

    aww shucks, did someone forget to mention how many internet enabled SMALL screen devices there will be by 2010….
    Wow, what did you say? How many was that??? 😉

    What do you mean iphone? Hell, I want a machine to carry around in my pocket… still the iphone may account for about 1% of the mobile phone market (if it hits all its targets)….

    The internet mobile is not internet desk-top.
    It will run & evolve side by side with the web as we know it today….

    .mobi is to .com what emails are to SMS, what scanners are to photocopiers, what mopeds are to cars, what a sandwich is to dinner….. shoving .com onto a 3″ screen is like putting your hot meat & two veg into a lunch box (don’t spill that gravy!!!)

    Yes, existing sites will use m.domain.com but only where they have an existing customer base & only where they are fortunate enough to own a decent domain…..

    .mobi = huge marketing opportunity to the worlds brands (& competitors) to the worlds marketeers & advertising agencies & to those who are forward thinking enough to grasp what .mobi is all about…

    Those big names from the .com domainers world are at the top of their game….. in .coms!!!!

    Soon to be also rans… enjoy your retirement guys! 😉

    Mobi is here to stay..

  4. .pH on November 21st, 2007 8:49 pm

    Isn’t it odd…the only ones that this seems to be an issue with is domainers.

    Sahar, Frank, Owen…one over-riding theme…I don’t like mobi.

    So that’s it? That is the death of mobi? The domain gods have declared, “I don’t like .mobi therefore it should not exist. Amen.”

    There are 6.5 billion people in the world. How many, what small fraction of that number are domainers? How many of that population have heard of or can name these domain gurus?

    The point is no one really cares about .mobi other than domainers. And in the grand scheme of things when it comes to global economics and global economies, marketing, and commerce we, domainers, don’t really matter.

    Because we, domainers, and the dot com gurus do not sit on the boards of Fortune 100 companies, do not make strategic marketing plans for the Fortune 500 companies, and really have no voice. No one cares what we think. Yet we think, and even sometimes insist, that they do and should care about what we think.

    I am already prepared to proclaim mobi a dismal failure and forget it even existed if one person can come up with one and ONLY ONE extension, prefix, suffix…and implement that as the ONLY way to access the mobile internet and make every company, individual, and country adopt this one extension. All else is not necessary and needs to be abandoned. Period.

    I am looking at 3.5 billion cellular subscribers in the world growing to an estimated 7 billion by 2010. I, and the rest of the world, want to hear from the dot com gods what shall be and what shall not be used for accessing the mobile internet.

    Please, I beg of you. DO NOT make us wait. We have waited too long.

    Yes, melodrama…just like the anti-mobi sentiment. No rationale, no reasoning, simply emotions.

    I do not like it, I do not want it, I am not buying it, therefore it shall not be allowed to exist.

    Yeah, makes sense to me.

  5. Bill on November 21st, 2007 8:50 pm

    The one-year-old .mobi extension has shaken up the domainer community and has drawn much interest from many and disdain and vitriol from others. Established .com/.net domainers with many thousands of dollars or even millions of dollars invested in those extensions have a lot to lose if they have to share the spotlight with other extensions (at auctions, on the forums, and new reg money) and potentially lose click revenue later as websites get built out on the new extension domains.

    The expert domainers you quote have done well for themselves through hard work, smart moves, and good timing. The mobile internet presents a new marketing world, where some of what has worked in the past on the “old internet” will carryover and some will not. Opportunity often lies where the masses who are so used to doing a certain way refuse to look.

    This is a new blog started with the purported goal of teaching new domainers how to do it right. So instead of nailing down a lot of basics, one of your first posts goes out its way to bash .mobi – THE new kid on the block. No real comparison to any other non-.com extensions in terms of acceptance or potential. So one might naturally question if there is a hidden agenda to a blog article like this.

    So, in the interest of full disclosure for your readers, can you please answer a few questions? How long have you been domaining? Do you do this full time? Are you making a living at it? What is the makeup of your domain portfolio? Any non-.com/.net domains? Do you have any .biz, .info, .cc, .tv, .ws, or any CCtlds? Do you have any .mobis?

    Best of luck with your new blog.

  6. Frank Schilli on November 21st, 2007 8:58 pm

    Consumers should have a choice, and its not that crazy that they can use the domain to indicate that choice.

    Been to an airline web site on your iPhone recently? It works perfectly. You can read about their new flat beds. You can read about their co-branded credit card. You can read the history of the airline company. All beautifully draped with dreamy cloud backdrops and slick menus.

    Right. But youre mobile. Youre probably in a hurry. Lets face it, you are only really looking for the flight status of the plane youre rushing to catch. The fact youve gone to the effort of navigating to this companys site on your mobile suggests that you are on a mission.

    In other words, multi-site site design is essential. Not because the browser on the phone is challenged in any way (although of course they still are right now). But because theres a human being on the other side of that screen who is in an entirely different context to those sat at a PC – and who deserves to have, by default, the functionality most suited to his or her mobility.

    So it makes a lot of sense to have both .com and .mobi sites. The former is still available to all – including those mobile users (presumably with time to kill) who really *do* want to read about the new flat beds. But the latter provides, by default, a slick, efficient, well-crafted set of services relevant to the users very specific mobile usage context.

  7. .pH on November 22nd, 2007 5:08 am

    PLEASE HURRY!

    We need a decision. Make a decision.

    I read:
    “M.Domain.com Rules. As Owen Frager pointed out about CNN, many companies are opting to go the route of branding mobile version of their .com – by using m.domain.com – rather than branding a .mobi.”

    But AOL just doesn’t get it. The are using http://wap.aol.com/uk.

    Please, someone hurry up and mandate what the world is to use. And determine who rules the roost over the mobile internet.

    I (we) don’t have much time left. The mobile internet is here and waiting on one of the dot com gods to pass judgment on the masses.

  8. Martin on November 22nd, 2007 9:17 am

    And again I laugh…

    I have never used a .tv. Never bought one…don’t care about it…and never bashed one. Nor do I bash the buyers of that extension. I they can make money with them. I wish them good luck…i hope they will make te money. .
    I don’t understand this .mobi bashing. If you don’t like the extension. So what. Let people buy, develop and trade them. Let them believe in the extension..
    What’s the problem with you guys ? Missed the boat ?

    Martin

  9. admin on November 22nd, 2007 8:44 pm

    @Martin – It’s not about bashing anyone. I thought that my post was pretty level headed. I tried to present a reasoned argument rather than an emotional or hateful one.

    However, a lot of newbies are going to lose a lot of money in .mobi. That’s not only going to make .mobi look bad – it’s going to make domaining as a whole look bad. I think that protecting these newbies and the reputation of the industry is important, hence the post.

  10. Mikal Sevanski on November 22nd, 2007 11:28 pm

    I have nothing against any extension. A server can distinguish whether a page needs to be displayed to a desktop or mobile. So why would I need a .mobi? Any .com site can accomodate a mobile format. You just have to create it. To the masses .com means internet, not TLD extension.

  11. Alexander Marshall on November 23rd, 2007 12:50 pm

    Hey Admin, I’m a veteran who has been domaining since October 1999. Bought only dotcoms until .mobi LandRush in 9/2006.

    Why do you arrogantly assume only rookies are buying dotMobi property?

    I suggest you get off your ivory tower and try to persuade the below Fortune 500 executives in giving up their well-crafted dotMobi marketing campaigns….

    Why are these big Brands buying and marketing their MobileWeb sites using dotMobi? Why are more companies increasingly launching and advertising their MobileWeb sites using the dotMobi extension?

    BANKING:
    BofA.mobi (Bank of America)
    Deutsche-Bank.mobi
    Wachovia.mobi
    Barclays.mobi

    INSURANCE:
    Ing.mobi
    StateFarm.mobi
    AXA.mobi
    Allstate.mobi

    HOTELS:
    Marriott.mobi
    Hilton.mobi

    CAR MANUFACTURERS:
    Ferrari.mobi
    BMW.mobi
    Rolls-Royce.mobi
    FordCA.mobi (Ford Canada)

    TRANSPORTATION:
    Amtrak.mobi
    AAA.mobi (American Automobile Association)

    SPORTS:
    ESPN.mobi
    NBA.mobi
    WNBA.mobi

    MAGAZINES:
    Time.mobi (Time Magazine)
    BusinessWeek.mobi
    CNNMoney.mobi

    ALCOHOL:
    Smirnoff.mobi

    INTERNET:
    MSN.mobi
    GoDaddy.mobi / TDNAM.mobi
    Netsol.mobi (Network Solutions)

    TECHNOLOGY:
    Cisco.mobi

    NEWS:
    FoxNews.mobi
    AlJazeera.mobi
    ABCNews.mobi
    TBS.mobi

    NEWSPAPERS:
    TheSun.mobi

    GUIDES:
    Zagat.mobi

    MOBILE OPERATORS:
    T-Mobile.mobi
    Three.mobi
    Vodafone.mobi
    TIM.mobi
    Orange.mobi

    MOBILE MANUFACTURERS:
    Nokia.mobi
    SonyEricsson.mobi

    TELECOMMUNICATIONS:
    Ericsson.mobi
    3Skype.mobi
    3Next.mobi

    WEATHER:
    Weather.mobi (The Weather Channel)

    DISNEY:
    HSM2.mobi (High School Musical) via commercials

    CITIES:
    Helsinki.mobi

    AIRLINES:
    SAS.mobi
    Spanair.mobi

    CLOTHING:
    Polo.mobi
    Quikstore.mobi (Quiksilver)
    BenettonPress.mobi (United Colors of Benetton)

    AIRPORTS:
    Schiphol.mobi (Amsterdam)

  12. .ph on November 24th, 2007 6:48 am

    @admin:

    So all the newbies regging crap .com’s and everything else doesn’t make .com look bad?

    All the domainers rushing to reg tragedy domains like Virginia Tech does not make the industry look bad?

    Domainers now wanting millions of dollars for generics does not make domaining look bad?

    Story after story after story of the “cybersquatters” does not make domaining look bad?

    You know, there has already been a lot of talk about the .mobi junk dump. Needless to say there will still be, on any given day, thousands and thousands of .com, .net, .org and thousands of other domains dumped daily. But we won’t discuss that, will we. Oh, who may be doing that? Why, it would be the very NOOB’s that you refer to wanting to cash in on the domain pot of gold.

    I am anticipating with much joy the junk dump. I really want to see how many typos of the thousands and thousands of mdotdomain.com are listed. Surely you remember this? As soon as a couple of larger sites started directing traffic to a site like m.google.com or the like, thousands of NOOB’s and seasoned pros declared the pre-mature death of mobi and registered everything they could find (blatant TM violations included) with the prefix letter “m”.

    No offense, admin. But if you are going to preach protecting the flock, perhaps the good shepherd needs to tend the flock as there are wolves in your own pasture.

    Did I leave anything out?

  13. admin on November 24th, 2007 1:35 pm

    @.ph – I actually agree with a lot of what you say – there are lots of other problems with the domaining industry. I plan to cover some of these topics in future posts.

  14. Greg on January 7th, 2008 3:47 pm

    I read claims in the ‘Why Mobi Sucks’ section that Ive been dumping .mobi names, some of them for quite a loss. As common on the Internet, dont believe everything you read.

    The comment should have read selling a number of .mobi names, some of them for quite a profit My private transactions have all been profitable, as have my public ones (ie: mortgages.mobi $25k)

    I’ve bought some cheap and some expensive .mobi names, and I’ve sold some cheap and some expensive .mobi names. There are a good number of .mobi domains that Im not selling.

    Over the last 11 years, Ive divested off a number of .com, .org, .net, and now .mobi domains. The names Ive gotten rid of just dont fit my particular business plans moving forward. Ive always been an atypical domainer in that Im not interested in keeping domains around just because I could. Instead I keep just select names Im building businesses on, usually names that are amongst the most impressive single word dictionary domains around.

    Since .mobi markets themselves as THE solution to a problem that has multiple legitimate solutions (including solutions that didn’t require a new TLD), it has been easy to critique. That doesn’t mean that the TLD is going away. It will be of service to many english and non-english speaking companies in the future even if it doesn’t live up to .mobi’s marketing hype.

    .mobi domains are not conservative investments. The risk is already priced into the domains though. There are not many major TLDs where one can purchase key one-word dictionary terms for under US$5k or a gem like ‘mortgages’ for only $25k.

  15. admin on January 7th, 2008 8:55 pm

    Hi Greg – thanks for sharing your thoughts. Congrats on your successful sales. I’m sure that a lot of people will make money on .mobi – I’m afraid that a lot of people will get hurt too. I like your thought that the risk is already priced into the domains – will need to think the implications of that through a bit more. And coming from an SEO background, I appreciate the value of good keywords in a domain – I think many domainers don’t quite appreciate this.

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  19. awaysbeen last on July 22nd, 2009 12:10 am

    Good post. Has the author of this post changed his thoughts
    as of july, 2009. I was going to buy a few .mobi, but i am
    a still new to this speculation.

  20. faithful on August 30th, 2009 1:27 pm

    It now seems MTLD, having rebranded themselves as Dotmobi, had to give up on promising that .mobi domains would deliver mobile content. Why? Were not enough using the domains, or was it too much to ask people to actually use them for mobile content? Anyway, that Trustmark which was supposed to be the Unique Selling Point of .mobi is gone, so what is left?

    Registrations are down and Dotmobi lost money in 2008 and may in 2009, so be sure to follow the news on the mobility.mobi forum and at Gomonews.com http://www.gomonews.com/trouble-in-dotmobi-paradise/

    And look for the public announcement from Dotmobi that you can use a .mobi domain for anything you like.