I register a lot of domain names. Chances are if you’re reading this, you probably have at least a few yourself. Only a handful of mine are in active use. All the others represent a good intention I had to make an awesome website.
The domains all start innocently enough: it could be a funny turn of phrase I hear while out with some friends; an overheard quip from a television in background; a little burning ember of an idea that keeps coming back to me. There was the one where I would interview people about their most prized possession, or the single-serving site about alternatives to using Helvetica. The list goes on and on.
Around this time of year a bunch of my domain names come up for renewal—likely registered after nights out with friends around the holidays. When they came up for renewal this time, I had to stop and think for a minute. What the hell am I doing? Why do I keep renewing these domains when I will probably never get around to doing anything with them.
This is a domain affliction. It feels encoded in any of us working on the web; we register domains at the drop of a hat. Not because we’re looking for a future pay day, but because we’re in constant conflict with the evil domain squatters.
In recent years, the internet has self-corrected the domain squatter problem. There are many viable TLDs available beyond the workhorse .com, from .co, .io, .is, .me, and so many more. But the big change here is that URLs just aren’t that important anymore. It’s still nice to have a short and memorable domain, but the means to get to a site is more important than ever: links. It doesn’t matter how long or weird your URL is, just link someone to it.
Maybe it’s time I got rid of those extra domains.
Years ago I mused that it would be fun to hold a poker game and use domains as the chips. Though, that could actually mean walking away with more domains than you arrived with. Ugh!
More recently I thought it could be fun to have a site (hey, I could get another domain!) where people could list domains for others to claim. But with a catch to keep the domain from just languishing on someone else’s shelf: they’d have a month or so to make a site that uses the domain before it would be transferred to them.
But that seems silly too. Almost like instead of collecting domains I’m collecting ideas to offload domains. Honestly, if I haven't followed through on the idea behind a domain by now, I'm just wasting money on them. Money that could be going to a charity or at the very least, not down the drain. And some non-domain-squatter might have a better idea for that domain anyway.
I think as my unused domains come up for renewal I’m just going to let them go, or offer them to folks who might use them. There was a time when a domain represented a placeholder for an idea to me. And worse yet, buying the domain gave me a feeling of accomplishment that took the pressure off of having to finish anything more. Now they’ve just become a neglected to-do list (and I have some of those too).
If all those domains went away tomorrow, I would still have the ideas. Those creative impulses can be just a list or a scribble in a sketchbook, until they actually need to be something more. There will be plenty of domains.