This is a great start. I built Instant Domain Search (IDS) almost 7 years ago, and have learnt a lot from the experience. Some quick thoughts:
1. There are no margins in the domain industry. Start thinking about building a hosting company. Your site is cool, but weebly.com and heroku.com are real businesses. I work full-time for Facebook, not IDS. (BTW, Facebook is hiring people like you, message me at http://www.facebook.com/beau if you're interested.)
3. You should search names listed in the aftermarket and include them in your results. I've worked with http://www.buydomains.com/ for several years, and am happy with them. I can make an intro if you'd like.
Hey Beau, thanks for the feedback. I've always admired your work with Instant Domain Search and appreciate you taking the time to give me feedback on this.
When you say "there are no margins in the domain industry", I assume you're talking about registrars and how domain names don't make them money, hosting and other services do, yes? LDS is not a registrar; revenue is purely through the affiliate links. Assuming people use them, the margin on this should be decent. It's no Heroku or Weebly, but that's not necessarily the goal either.
There's definitely room for speed improvements; I'll be work on that over the next few weeks.
I'm not sure I want to partner with any of the aftermarkets just yet, but that's not a bad idea long term. And I definitely want to add thesaurus results.
I was recently at a talk where someone rallied against this whole "just a feature" argument. They made a compelling argument that there's a fairly natural evolution you see many start-ups go through from feature -> product -> business.
The rationale being that you initially build some specific functionality you can't find in the market (feature), over time rounding this out into a product and finally evolving into a business as you understand how to monetize it and where opportunity for growth lies.
You don't need to have your business totally conceived on day one. And in fact, finding where the business lies (or whether you even want to grow your idea into a business) is something you'll have a much better understanding of after a few months of being out there.
Personally (disclaimer: I run the domain search site Domize - http://domize.com) I think it's wonderful we can launch these "just a feature" websites and evolve them into products or businesses over time (or not). These 'better mouse-trap' sites are a fantastic, low-risk way of generating passive income and if you can string a few together you can potentially get to a stage where you can live off them. At the very least, you've demonstrated the kind of initiative and creativity that will provide you with a great talking point on your resume.
Let's not forget, both YouTube (embeddable video for eBay auctions) and Twitter (group SMS updates) started as "just a feature" and evolved into billion dollar businesses.
I don't disagree. I probably should have been more precise than "its a feature". My real point was more "protect the real revenue stream". Doing all the hard work to find leads, qualify them, get the lead interested in converting and then handing it off to a registrar for a one time bounty is selling the potential short. There are a ton of ways this "feature" could be launched with a fully-realized revenue stream - just simply tossing it out back-ended by an affiliate program does a lot more for Godaddy than it would do for the OP.
I guess if I had a summary point it would be "don't be so quick to give away your customers..."
I see what you're saying, but there's a big issue in doing this with domain names - the margins are slim to none (at least they are if you want to be price competitive).
Whereas registrars are paying 10%-20% on sales affiliates generate.
You need to think about whether you can actually beat this margin on your own, taking into account overheads like payment processing fees, customer support, billing issues & fraud etc. Not to mention the hassle of it all.
That's why Beau talks about branching out into hosting below.
GoDaddy make money off domains because they have massive scale, recurring billing, and a hell of a knack for in-cart up-selling.
Personally, I don't want to get my hands dirty with any of that!
I run a profitable registrar at scale and can appreciate the comments about low margin, costs, competition, etc.
My point is simply this: don't underestimate the value of a recurring revenue stream vs. a one-time payout to your business.
With a strong product and good customer service, you can count on a customer relationship for a number of years allowing you to amortize your customer acquisition costs over a much longer term than an affiliate relationship permits.
That said, if you've got the stomach for arbitrage, then go for it - there's a lot of potential for the right business to strictly focus on lead gen and delivery. However, I don't get the sense that this is in the OP's wheelhouse. I have a bias that those with a product focus tend to operate with fatter and more sustainable margins on the basis that its necessary to support their development of the product. Marketing organizations OTOH would never start with a comment like "look at the product I built on the weekend, what kind of a business can we build with it..."
If you want to build a business that focuses on affiliate lead-gen, then this prototype is the wrong place to start. I mean, you might get there accidentally, but its definitely the long way home.
"a) build it so that you can license the technology to people that have made a company "
Better yet a white label website that refers business back to the reseller or registrar and can be operated as a subdomain to the resellers or registrars main website ie suggest.registrarname.com. Do this on a monthly fee basis that is reasonable not per name registered.
"b) become a reseller or registrar so that you can fully deliver the service and collect the recurring revenue."
Reseller makes sense. Becoming a registrar doesn't. Using this as the cornerstone of an idea will never result in enough to cover the ongoing costs.
Sell advertising. The registrars will bid each other up to get first crack at the registration business. Other providers (hosting, developers, designers) will also be interested in your traffic.
GoDaddy et al might replicate your functionality. But they won't replicate a look at the competition for the business.
Better yet, be a brokerage portal. Get registrars to bid directly for the work. You also provided curated search on "best registrar" questions -- fastest, reliablest, fewest / most stolen domain problems.
If you can work out some means of obtaining good names held by squatters, that's better still -- and a real value add that would be harder to replicate. (I actually have some idea along this line.)
Why try to run a registration business when you're already good at generating traffic?
they are definitely pursuing a business model in a pretty logical fashion, so I'd easily go with company.
relying on the affiliate model feels like a betrayal in the UX and it essentially hands over one of the most obvious ongoing revenue streams to the registrar. Why not take that margin and recurring revenue for yourself? Its not like its hard nowadays to set up as a reseller - getting accredited is slightly more complicated, but it you can make it as a reseller, then even that hurdle becomes pretty achievable.
About three years ago I built and launched Domain Pigeon, a web app that listed available web 2.0-style domain names each day . The site did fairly well, but it was my first foray into web apps and I lacked the experience to grow it into something bigger. Eventually I moved on to other projects and closed Domain Pigeon down, which has been one of my biggest regrets.
My original vision for Domain Pigeon is what Lean Domain Search now is: you type in a search phrase and the app would pair it with hundreds (in this case 1,000) keywords to generate domain names and show you which were available. I lacked the technical skills back then to do bulk domain search quickly, which is why I settled on simply generating web 2.0-style domain names. Fast forward a few years and I've picked up those skills so I decided to take some time off my other apps and finally build this tool.
Hope you guys like it. Let me know how I can make it better.
How are you bulk checking now? I've been in the industry a long time and it's always been a pain in the ass to do anything in bulk. I've had lists so big registrars didn't want to run them for me :( Using APIs really isn't an option when you have a million names and 1 per second limit. Automating a bulk checker, most of them disable/play with it after a certain number of times (so even at let's say 500, i might be able to get 20 tries in there before they mess with it).
The best solution I've found is checking against the zone file, but I am curious what you're doing.
Based on a few tests, I think he's just doing DNS queries and assuming any NXDOMAIN response means a domain is unregistered, which is not always the case. Sure, users figure out the domain isn't available once they try to register it, but by then you've already dashed their hopes.
It's fine to use DNS queries as part of the checking process, but if you get a NXDOMAIN, you need to follow that up with some kind of check against a WHOIS server or root zone file (which is slower and harder to work with).
I'm guessing zone files. If you load zone files into something quick to search like an indexed DB table, memcache, etc they are super fast. They are also inaccurate and give you false positives since a domain can be out of the zone for a multitude of reasons.
You can do the initial search in the zone file and then if it doesn't appear there you hit the Verisign registry whois (for .com and .net). The amount of times the domain doesn't appear in the zone file is nominal.
Good answer, don't give away your secret sauce.
Having said that, your magic isn't working too well. I searched for http://www.leandomainsearch.com/search?q=apps
and literally EVERY SINGLE GREEN hit isn't really available after double-checking it. Seems like you'd need a 2nd secret sauce to further distill whatever the 1st run returned.
Domain Pigeon was a brilliant site, I mourned its loss. It's wonderful to see that you've built a new site.
The execution is simple and easy to use. I'd be conservative when it comes to adding features or futzing too much with the UX. I find the color scheme very readable, although of course that might be different for some people. Thumbs up from me.
A post-search filtering mechanism might be useful, although of course you'll want to balance the benefit of a feature like that with the impact it would have on the elegance and simplicity of the design.
I've considered adding Domain Pigeon-style domain names to a separate section of Lean Domain Search, but as you note there's also a lot of value it keeping it simple ("do one thing well"). So we'll see what people want.
Agreed on the post-search filtering. Other than alphabetical and by length, is there any other way you'd like to filter it?
I'm a fan of the filters that NXDom provides: http://www.nxdom.com/
I suppose it's as much about sorting as it is about filtering, actually. I particularly like their ability to sort by length and readability.
Suggestions (I may be wrong):
1) I don't like very dark sites, yours look nice, but anyways...
2) I have no idea how you check the domains, but: In case you get your results one by one, you should display them while they were loaded (instead of that "loading" screen)
Sorry to worry you, I darkened the sidebars so as to suggest that they are a bit "loud" compared to the primary content. They only contain tertiary tasks, though I suppose that's arguable for the legend.
I like BustAName's AJAX-powered containment of the features, though a redesign is in order.
Aside from design considerations, you may want to look at how you can point users in the right direction before they arrive at the results page and then have to starting filtering or start over to achieve more desirable results.
For example, you could offer corrections to potential typos. If a typo is not detected (or disregarded), provide some likely criteria for the eventual results, starting with common scope limiters for domain names.
I acknowledge that your product name is "lean" but there are possibilities for domains that I can safely opine that a significant majority of users will be uninterested in, and I'm not sure from the results page effectively communicates whether those have been sifted out or not.
Seems there is still demand, and room, for simplified domain search. Cheers!
One comment I have on your site is that you give to many choices (it's not lean) on one page and there is no organization to the choices. Also similar to what others do there should be a way to enter a secondary characteristic.
Oh, here's a bonus benefit to your site that I just noticed and a new place to market using the site.
The ratio of red-registered to green-available is helpful in determining how valuable or in vogue a domain name is that contains a particular word. I would compute a ratio of green to red.
(see as a test "search" or "social" vs. some other less popular word like "opthamology")
Also you don't appear to be checking the actual word that is entered to see if that is available. And you aren't indicating which TLD's so I'm assuming all your suggestions are in .com
Example: "Found 1000 available domains containing "ycombinator""
I am relying on affiliate revenue for income and like it or not, GoDaddy is the largest registrar in the world. That doesn't mean its inclusion is automatic, but IMO GoDaddy is not evil enough to warrant removing it. Thoughts?
Perhaps adding a couple other options so that GoDaddy isn't so prominent.
With only GoDaddy and NameCheap (who I love, btw), it's likely to give a lot of business to GoDaddy from people who don't really have a preference or know much about them.
I understand your point about affiliate revenue, whatever my personal opinion about GoDaddy might be. Personally, I do think they're evil enough to warrant removal, but I'm just one person, and it's your site.
Adding more registrars might be a reasonable compromise.
Some searches only result in a few available domain names. There's not much I can do about that other than generate and check more domain names (which I will in the future). It's the nature of whatever you're searching for; commerce (and most other money-related searches) will be saturated.
As others have stated, it seems to be much more than 1%... and it absolutely must be zero if the service is to have any credibility.
Anyone can make a list of words: that's the trivial part. What you are "selling" (even if for free) is the capability to verify availability fast; you need to deliver on that promise for the whole thing to have any value.
I'd say the value is even negative when registered domains are shown as available, because then it's wasting users' time.
(Sorry to be blunt but I don't know how else to put it).
I'm not affiliated with IDS at all, I just like their interface much more than any other domain name search tool I've ever tried including the OP. Yes IDS is a GoDaddy affiliate marketer but that doesn't mean I can't use their search function and then go register with whoever I want.
Wow, those were quick changes, I'm already using it again.
Another thing that crossed my mind you might want to think about. When I go to alot of sites, I wonder if they're one of the offenders that steal people's searches (by tracking which generated domain they click on how many times), and then go register the domain behind the persons back after a few hours if they don't do it right away... only to make it available for sale at a profit.
Maybe a clear definition of "How we make money" is a good idea. Maybe it's just me, but I think that might not be the case.
I just did a search for $string and it returned 1000 available domain names that were all $something+$string or $string+$something. However, ($string).com was not returned as an option even though it is available!
I think I may have found a bug - either that, or I don't understand what this site is meant to do. I searched 'media' and one of the available domains it found was 'medialounge.com'. Thinking, 'holy crap, that sounds like the kind of domain that I would like', I took a trip over to my registrar. Turns out that that domain is not actually available. Let me know if you need some system info and I can email it to you....
Nice tool, although the results seem to be a bit incorrect in some situations. I've searched for "hotel" and got a nice list of "available" domains, but some of them were already registered (eg. hotelbit.com, hotelartist.com, buzzhotel.com)
Good thing is I also got some very interesting domain names which were indeed available, so kudos for the nice work.
I searched out Code (http://www.leandomainsearch.com/search?q=Code) and tried to register codejet.com ,which was shown available by you , but, it was already registered. Similarly, I tried to get Codehit and again, it failed. Could you please explain?
This is a case of his fast, DNS-based checking method not providing accurate results. You can see the difference by running nslookup and whois on the domain. Nslookup just uses DNS, whereas whois goes to the registrar/internic.
$ nslookup codejet.com
server can't find codejet.com: NXDOMAIN
$ whois codejet.com
Whois Server Version 2.0
Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
for detailed information.
I like this. It's really cool. One idea that could be really beneficial is if you crawl auction sites/domain selling sites, and create a subcategory for domains that are for trying to be sold. You've got the registared domains already, but it would be so helpful to see which of those are "available to be had" so to speak.
Overall, nice execution. I tested a couple nouns and I could definitely see myself using this in the feature.
I do think the mass of green at the top of the results is a little... too stunning. Do you think the same thing could be achieved with colored text and/or colored borders for each div and/or something else along those lines?
I agree the black on bright green text is intense and not very readable. I like the idea but I think you need to tweak the design a little. The layout is pretty good just need to play around with the colors a little bit.
Does this work? My search for my new recipe site noshpoop.com turned up 1000 variations but noshpoop.com was not one of them. It is clearly available though - though I am sure hacker grabbed it by now ;) Seriously though, the results didn't show my request as the 1st option.
I'm not sure what your backend looks like but I wrote this python script that uses a thesaurus lookup to find similar words for further name inspiration. It also has support for dropping vowels if the user wants.
Pass me your email address if you'd like a copy, I'm not doing anything with it.
With regard to being a viable business not sure, but on a personal note, I really like it. Very impressed by the speed. I don't mind that it's not 100% correct. It's a great tool to get your creative juices flowing when looking for an available domain.
Wow, this is the most useful startup I've seen in a while. Bookmarking it. The only issue I encountered was that your domain search is not real-time, so some of domains under the 'social' search have already been taken!
the quality of the names it comes up with seems pretty meh. there is a lot of room for improvement.
for example, use tricks from poetry: assonance, consonance, alternate spellings, break the provided words into syllables and return names with multiple words that overlap on the last syllable one word and the first syllable of the next, do connotation analysis
I shut it down for a few reasons, primarily because Preceden (http://www.preceden.com), the tool I built after it, was doing quite well and I wasn't disciplined enough at the time to run two sites at once. Live and learn.
The results are much poorer on Domain Tools, and other TLDs are generally worth less than .com's. Since your tool is called LEAN domain search. I would assume its for .com's which is mostly what 90% of the community looks for when looking for a domain. Otherwise they wouldn't turn to a tool like yours for help in finding a domain. Thus the whole comment that he made is mostly irrelevant. I think your tool does an extremely good job of displaying a lot of good names at a very fast pace. I wouldn't clutter down and slow the results with other TLDs.
"Doesn't stack up well" and "get your tool as good as that" aren't very constructive phrases, as feedback goes.
What goals do you have for a tool that others meet, and this one does not? Where do you see Lean Domain Search falling short? How are the others better, specifically?
I just tried the name spinner you linked to, and while it has some features that LDS lacks, it seemed to focus more on synonyms and similarities than actually including my keyword or string in the domain. I especially disliked the "show more results" link, which left me unclear on how many results were really available. I don't want to spend my time clicking blindly in hopes of finding something, I'd rather just see the full list.
The multiple TLD availability is an extra feature LDS doesn't have, but not one I'd find useful. Personally, if it's not a .com, I'm not interested. That could just be me, though.
I much prefer the simple and elegant approach LDS has taken.
Better is subjective. As such, I'd say its valuable feedback to know that even after seeing this tool, if I were looking for a new domain today, I'd still use the domaintools tool over this one. Remember, just because this is a startup community, we shouldn't hold back from giving negative feedback or pointing out existing products that are better. It's a first cut, so it's not expected to be perfect. Reading the author's comment on mine, you can see that he understands that.
For me, I'd rather see synonyms for the words I include than random words tacked on to either side of it. I also want to see all the tld variants of the name itself.
When I'm searching for a name for a new product, I'm in a flexible frame of mind, and the words I toss out for suggestions are not carved in stone. I expect them to be sent through a thesaurus and given back to me in every conceivable combination. Usually one of those unexpected combos ends up being the one I go with.