early domainers, were they lucky or smart

Was Rick Schwartz lucky, or was he a visionary? Was Yun Ye lucky, or was he smart? Some struggling domainers complain that the most successful icons in this industry are guys who got lucky because they were in the right place at the right time.

Being able to look ahead and see what others cannot or will not see is not luck, it’s foresight. Some of these top domainers are people who recognized the value and importance of domain names in the early years, way back in the early and mid 1990’s, when the rest of us were creating print ads, selling retail, buying real estate, or whatever. Or in my case, riding a bicycle.

Yes, that’s right. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I worked one odd job after another, from librarian to literacy tutor to electrical plant safety monitor. In 1992 I settled down in San Francisco and worked as a bike messenger. I was still in my 20’s and I loved the freedom and exhilaration of it. I lived in the YMCA and had a tiny room where I stashed my bike and my computer, my two most important possessions. But the computer was only for writing stories and my novel. I had never even heard of the internet at that point.

In 1994, still messengering, I made a delivery to a place called Organic Online. It took up the entire floor in a dilapidated building down on Third Street, south of Market, just above a sweatshop full of Chinese seamstresses. I walked into this huge, darkened room with workstations scattered across the floor and young people sitting in front of glowing monitors. “What do you people do here?” I asked. “Web design.” It looked fascinating and it sounded a chime in my brain, but I didn’t respond for another two years.

In 1995 I remember having a conversation with someone who told me about the internet. “What’s on it?” I asked. “Oh, not much,” he said. “A few discussion forums, and a few company websites that are just like brochures.”

“Doesn’t sound like much,” I said.

But by 1997 it was clear a revolution was taking place. So I went to the Software Training Group and studied web design. Since then I’ve mostly been self-employed though I was employed briefly as an internet researcher before the dot com crash, and then later in “media intelligence” – basically just a media clips service. In any case since 1997 my work has always involved the internet, whether it’s creating websites, blogging or buying and selling domain names. The internet has become a big part of my life and has enabled me to enjoy certain freedoms that I would not have had otherwise, and for that I’m grateful.

What about you? What were you doing in the mid 90’s? If you were registering premium dot com domain names, then hey, more power to you. I’ll never complain that you were just lucky, because I had the same opportunity you did, but I didn’t see it.

4 Comments to “The Early Years: What Were You Doing?”

  1. Sammy Ashouri | December 15th, 2007 at 7:00 am

    I was still in elementary school then. Kinda wish I was old enough to realize what was going on. I hit the net regularly in ’96, yet was still to young to “buy” domains.

    Lost opportunity… so I just save myself the headache and move on.

    What about today? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internationalized_domain_name :).

    I think IDNs are genius, so I’m not missing my chance again with domains.

  2. Peter @ Domainer's Gazette | December 15th, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    I actually tried to start a career in the movie industry, on the production side. Even moved to LA and worked at Paramount for a while.. Once I stumbled across the internet, though, I dropped everything and took a job at the first dot com I could..

  3. Bar @ Shycon Design | December 15th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    In the mid 90’s… I was in my early teens, so I wasn’t doing much in the way of registering domain names haha. But now that I look back, it’s actually funny because I was one of the earlier adopters of the computer in my class… and over time, I became pretty web savvy, and got into design. I saw people making money on the web, but, I never put 2 and 2 together. If I did, well, probably be retired by now.

    So I have to say that the big domainers of today had the foresight to see what was going on. Sure, some got lucky, and others bought domains without even knowing they would be worth a lot in the future, but the cream of the crop knew exactly what they were doing.

  4. John C @ DomainSEM | December 15th, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    hmmm in the mid 90’s is was working way too hard as a development manager and writing COBOL programs for a software house. Probably hardly used the internet back then, though wish I had …isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

    Suppose you should be very aware of current trends and attempt to guess where the industry will move in the future.

    Truely successful people *make* their own luck!



Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting

%d bloggers like this: