January, 2000 Newsletter

Protecting and Using Your Domain Name

Your domain name is a valuable asset and must be maintained and protected. If you fail to pay the $35 annual fee, your service will stop and you could lose the rights to the domain name if someone else registers it while expired. Microsoft recently failed to pay the $35 renewal fee for passport.com and their site went inactive for a few hours. Will this happen to you?

Who owns your domain name? While this may seem to be a simple question, if your ISP or web designer registered your domain name, they could be the owner. Your domain was probably registered with Network Solutions, formerly Internic. You can to see who owns the domain by visiting www.networksolutions.com. It is difficult to change ownership and requires forms to be notarized and mailed to Network Solutions, and should be started immediately if necessary.

Every month we check all the links in the 4specs.com directory to ensure that they work. In the November 1999 check, 8 domain names were not working as the owner had not paid their $35 or were having other serious problems with their domain name. I suspect that either the billing contact email address was not working or the person who received the email said "What is this about?" and threw the invoice away as billing for unsolicited services. Make certain the billing email addressee understands the importance of the invoice.

Verify the administrative and billing contacts. These are needed to make changes to your records. I recommend that each contact has a different email address and that at least one contact has an email address that is not tied to the domain name or the ISP maintaining the domain. My brother's ISP went out of business and there was no working email address to make changes. It took two weeks of faxing forms to Internic to get the website back on line. I maintain one contact address using an AOL email address for just this reason.

Know when your domain names expire. Using the contact "handles" you can request a report for all the domains under that handle at www.networksolutions.com. As many domains were first registered for a 2-year period in 1997 and 1998, there will be many domains expiring in 2000, and could go inactive if not paid. Also, the payments are now on an annual basis, with more opportunities for missed payments.

Getting and maintaining multiple domain names. You are not limited to just one domain name, even if they all point to the same place. You should consider registering multiple domain names. Some ISP's will not charge you for maintaining additional names. My current ISP, pair.com, will permit a reasonable number of domains to be parked on one account for no additional charges.

Some of the 3,000+ domain names on our manufacturers list could be improved. Ours was one of them. I chose Specs-Online when we started in 1996, however, most domains do not use a "-" and it caused confusion with Specs Liquors in Houston which uses specsonline.com!

We changed to 4specs.com and added other names to increase the likelihood of people being to find us. Each of the 4specs.com email and web domain addresses point to the same place. (4specs.com, 4spec.com, forspecs.com, fourspecs.com and specs-online.com) You can do that or use the domain names for different purposes.

Ambico Doors uses doors-ambico.com. They could register ambicodoors.com as easier to remember and change over to the new address as they print new literature, maintaining both Internet addresses as valid. Several manufacturers changed domain names during 1999 and then failed to maintain the second domain and point the old address to the new address. They lost visitors who had the old address and did not know the new one.

A firm could use a long name for a web address and a short name for their email address. In a real example, Flack&Kurtz engineers has registered fk.com. They could use fk.com as the email address and have additional names registered for the web address such as flackkurtz.com, flack-kurtz.com, and flackandkurtz.com.

I recommend you register your trademarks as domain names to protect them. Thus will avoid any future legal problems in recovering a trademark that has been registered by a cyber squatter for ransom or their own nonconflicting use (different trademark classification).

Use your domain name for your email address.

Many manufacturers use email addresses using their ISP's domain (in the form of yourcompany@worldnet.com) and not their own sales@yourcompany.com. This is easy to set up and provides a more professional appearance. This also makes it easy to move Internet providers and not lose any email. There are several ways to do this, and the goal is to provide working email addresses for all employees that use email, and not just one email box for the entire company.

Are you planning further develop your website this year? Print out and review our WebFormattm proposal for standardized website designs for construction products. This proposal is online on our website. More about this in a future newsletter.

A big question for 2000 is whether commercial construction products can be sold directly over the Internet. There are several websites with major venture-capital investments that intend to try and become part of the sales chain and collect a percentage of the sales passing through their website. Some of these sites are just coming on line this winter. You can check out the latest list using the Internet Services link on the 4specs.com home page.

Here are my thoughts—I think that relationships, fast delivery from local inventory and local tech support for commercial construction products will be more important to generate sales than a possible lower cost advantage that may be achieved in selling products directly over the Internet. Are you willing to damage your current distribution network? The current buzzword is "channel conflict." Tell me what you think.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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