Thursday, April 24, 2008

A solution to domain names

Domain names are broken. Squatters abound. Registration is ridiculous. I vented a bit about this on twitter, and @fredwilson asked for a solution. This got me thinking.

If search were good enough, "I'm feeling lucky" could replace the need for domain names. URLs are meant to be read by machines anyway. Enter something into the URL bar. If it is a cut & paste URL, it takes you there. If not, you're sent to the first search result. Google should weight “I’m feeling lucky” to return the top N search results if the top result isn’t sufficiently higher relevance than the rest.

Links would still work - they would just have IPs.

A forward naming scheme to get a short description of the IP would remove all naming exclusivity. You could even expand this to tagging. could map to tipjoy. It could also map to "free culture” and “make money blogging”. and could each map to "sex". Content and pagerank would determine which gets listed higher in search engines.

The only problem with this scheme is the search component. It needs to be good enough so a good description of a particular web page will result in a successful search.

This isn't a perfect solution, but squatting would be completely eliminated. Naming a company wouldn't be a matter of getting the domain name. People could focus on making something people want.

UPDATE: any issues around things that utilize DNS could just start using a domain numbering service layer. Anything that doesn't tie the character string to something people associate with the site. That doesn't scale.


At April 24, 2008 at 6:02 PM , Blogger fred said...

that's ideal in theory but i am not sure we are yet at a place where names are unecessary. i still think domains such as etsy and twitter are valuable brands. they might not be as strong brands if they were just ip addresses

At April 24, 2008 at 6:16 PM , Blogger Josh said...

You're basically talking about AOL keywords. The main issue with this idea is, who decides what page ranks for what keyword? Will I have to pay so my site is #1? What if I don't rank for my phrase on Google?

I think the keyword thing is a good idea, it's just that it won't replace domains. As fred said, domain are a very valuable piece of branding.

You can be 99% sure when you say go to they're going to get your site. But could you really be sure that you be #1 when you told someone to search for twitter on google? (Think more obscure than twitter for a better example)

And finally linking by IP won't work because of shared hosting. There could 1000 sites on single ip...which site do you want?

At April 24, 2008 at 6:27 PM , Blogger AFS said...

this is already used in japan to a large extent, see

At April 24, 2008 at 6:47 PM , Blogger Ivan said...

Etsy and Twitter would still be the brands Fred -- just like company names were brands before domain names. They would certainly be the first hits on a search anyway.

Josh, these aren't AOL keywords because the owner of the IP would claim a name. It would partly be an SEO process and partly a branding process. Both are just positioning in a marketing sense anyway.

The search engines of choice controls things. Let's not have any illusions about that. They determine how much traffic you get. Things wouldn't be too different in this scheme.

Shared hosting is certainly an issue today. Unless I'm mistaken, IPv6 could solve this with unique IPs per share.

Also, DNS-like layer on top of the IP layer would also work. But here, a number of would map to another number, and there wouldn't be a squatting issue.

afs: yeah, I saw that Japan reference recently too. It makes sense.

At April 24, 2008 at 6:56 PM , Blogger Richard said...

I'm feeling luck would basically hand over control of Internet traffic entirely to google (coz they don't control enough of it already).

The only web sites that would get any visits would be the ones at the top of the search results for a given keyword.

How, for example would we find your blog?

How could the world ever find anything past wikipedia? :)


At April 24, 2008 at 7:15 PM , Blogger Ivan said...

Richard, you invalidate your own point.

How did you find this blog? Either through twitter, hacker news, or somewhere on When did you have to enter the url?

Links are often the way people find things.

Also, Google controls things already. I'm sure the vast majority of people never go the the second page. That's why I mentioned the need for better "lucky" settings. It should be "gimme the best result if it's obviously the best"

At April 24, 2008 at 7:46 PM , Blogger mchristoff said...

Easier solution: Domains now cost $100 a piece.

Not a perfect solution, but it would certainly make it less economical to squat.

At April 24, 2008 at 8:22 PM , Blogger Ivan said...

@mchristoff - good domain names cost thousands, but you're right. If you want less of something, tax it.

At April 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would just make it all that much more important to scam search engines to be the top result.

The problem is that the barrier to entry is too low... too cheap. Domain "tasting" made it even worse, since squatters could just register hundreds of thousands of domain names, monitor the traffic for a week, and return the duds. Thankfully ICANN is putting an end to domain tasting.

The better solution, I believe, is to require a person or company demonstrate a legitimate use for the domain name. Acquiring a domain name should be like registering a trademark.

At April 25, 2008 at 5:55 AM , Blogger John Lucas said...

This is an excellent idea. The trouble at the moment is that people are free to register whatever domain names they want, and (as we all know) freedom inevitably leads to anarchy and evil. So what we need to do is take the freedom away, and hand control to a corporation. Or the US government - I rather like tlrobinson's idea of letting the powers that be decide whose websites are "legitimate" and whose are undesirable or subversive. It's an uncertain world out there, and the old liberal idea that people should be 'free' to publish whatever information they want is well past its sell by date.

At April 25, 2008 at 3:00 PM , Blogger Nick August said...

open-source pagerank with integrated user voting system. please and thankyou.

At May 25, 2008 at 2:46 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

FYI -- I just did an analysis of Tipjoy located at

Ya'll can flame me if you want--it's not terribly possitive. But doesn't appear the company is going anywhere and I'd love it if ya'll were successful. (I'm a blogger and this is something I want to see succeed)

At May 25, 2008 at 6:33 PM , Blogger bucabay said...

Keywords for domains - isn't that what bookmarks are for.

I wonder if someone can predict when all the good domain names are going to run out. That would be interesting..

At June 3, 2009 at 11:31 PM , Blogger prasanna said...

Thats a good post. made me think out of the box, and ask WHY NOT? i have 4 web sites and maintining it through
tucktail domain for the past 5 years, now a days i can really feel the pinch of domain name ( perfect) finding for my new ventures.let me brain storm this out.

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