The following is the not-so-simple tale of how I finally came to own the domain name that many people thought I already owned.
Why did my blog even need a name?
When I started this site in 2004, it was out of a mutual challenge with Mike Duffy. We were reading a lot of blogs at the time and it felt like we needed a way to participate beyond comments. So, Mike started up Smarter Stuff and I named what had been the news section of my personal website Simplicity Rules.
Maybe it was because Mike had a catchy name for his, but I also think I felt like a blog needed a name. I didn’t want it to be just my name, but something that described my ethos. I’d always liked the dichotomy of the simple and complex:
- Simplicity can be the answer to complexity, like the old myth about the Russian space pen just being a pencil.
- Simplicity can also disguise complex inner workings, like what Google makes available in a single search box.
In either case, simplicity is amazing–it rules. And also, I decided, there must be some tenets to follow–rules of simplicity.
This blog was started to explore and celebrate simplicity, with a focus on the web in which I work.
Why didn’t I buy the domain from the start?
That’s the question I’ve asked myself for a long time. SimplicityRules.com was available when I started the blog. Apparently I thought the blog needed a name, but not its own URL. So, Simplicity Rules sat where it still does, at adamduvander.com.
Sometime in the months after I started this site someone else registered the domain, but he never put anything on it that I saw. It was just a parked page, with a cheesy graphic and spammy links. And that’s what I saw when I finally realized I’d missed my chance to register SimplicityRules.com. Over the years, I’ve received emails from friends telling me my site is down or parked. Here I had named my site something memorable and I didn’t own what turned out to be the domain people assumed I had.
Why didn’t I just pay the guy?
I figured with a parked domain that the owner would prefer to sell it to me than collect the pennies is may have been generating. His contact information was in the domain information, but I first decided to learn a bit more about him. It turned out there was quite the exposé in the newspaper asking Who is James Dicks?
I decided that I might not want to deal directly with him. So, I spent $69 to hire a reputable domain acquisition firm. Along with it came a free appraisal of the domain: $1,750. That was more than I was able to pay, but I proceeded with an offer of $500 from my representative.
Looking back, I think sending a third party sent the wrong sign. I let Mr. Dicks know how much I wanted it. He countered with $10,000.
That was the end of that.
Why did I register the trademark?
The attempted acquisition was in May, 2007. A year later I again found myself disturbed that the domain was in someone else’s hands. Still without 10K to blow on my personal blog, I set out with a new method. I’d learned there were rules in the domain world and one of them is that a trademark owner can obtain a domain that matches their mark. And since my first use of the term pre-dated the domain name, I felt like I was entitled to using this legal route.
In May, 2008, I registered the trademark. That October, it was granted. I could now write Simplicity Rules ®.
A funny thing happened around this same time. SimplicityRules.com went down. It was no longer parked with the cheesy graphic and spammy links. The domain was still registered, just not showing anything. I nevertheless continued with my plan and sent Mr. Dicks the following email:
I am the owner of the trademark Simplicity Rules. ICANN guards against
domains that infringe upon a trademark, so I would like to arrange to
have simplicityrules.com transfered to me.
Because I know this doesn’t come without hardship for you, I am
willing to offer the reasonable compensation of $200 US for the smooth
transfer of the domain.
It’s perhaps a bit presumptuous that someone who had counter-offered $10K and kept the domain for four years would roll over. He was cordial, but referenced an internal law firm that watches out for trademark issues. The domain had stopped resolving because that’s a loop-hole in the domain rules: if there’s no website, there’s no confusion in the market.
He was able to keep the domain even though I owned the trademark. Foiled! I probably deserved it–that was sneaky.
How did I finally get the domain?
Every January passed and as the domain expiration neared, the owner would re-register it for another year. In 2010, another friend emailed to tell me the domain wasn’t going anywhere. I sighed and replied back, “I don’t think SimplicityRules.com will ever be available.”
There’s a line at the beginning of Swingers where the main character is told the only way to get his ex-girlfriend back is to forget about her:
Rob: I mean at first you’re going to pretend to forget about her, you’ll not call her, I don’t know, whatever… but then eventually, you really will forget about her.
Mike: Well what if she comes back first?
Rob: Mmmm… see, that’s the thing, is somehow they know not to come back until you really forget.
Mike: There’s the rub.
So, I forgot about the domain. Until this April.
SnapNames sent me an email to let me know it had grabbed up the domain when it became available. At some point during this saga I had backordered SimplicityRules.com on the chance that it ever did go un-registered in all the future Januarys. Apparently it did in 2012.
Next I had to wait through an auction process, in case there was someone else who had backordered the domain. Thankfully, I was the only other person in the whole world who wanted SimplicityRules.com. I got it for the minimum bid of less than $100.
If you go to SimplicityRules.com, you’ll find yourself redirected to adamduvander.com. Back before I forgot about it, I planned to move this blog over there, minus personal posts. I wanted to double down on exploring simplicity. Now I’m not so sure it needs its own site. There’s the rub.
It’s not that I don’t want the domain name. When I renew, I’ll probably max it out. Might as well. It’s now eight years from when I first started this blog. When friends type in SimplicityRules.com, for the first time they’re getting where they mean to go.