More Press: Frusketing.com

Late this afternoon a second article appeared on Frusketing.com by Ruban Ricart.

Heard of Domain Pigeon?

If you would’ve bought a domain name ten years ago and then tried to buy one today you would quickly realize that the task of finding a good quality one has become quite tough – the competition has increased and as you may know tons of domain name searching services & tools have popped up over time to help us domain buying fiends find some of the remaining good quality ones that someone forgot to renew or purposefully got rid off.

I was browsing the web and found one that called my attention, its called “Domain Pigeon” and they track domains that are still available for purchase. In addition to tracking them they make sure to index them in a manner that allows us to sort them by: Top Ten,Date, Alphabetical Order, Favorites, and domain length.

You may be wondering, so what? I use xyz service for my domain name research and others may be saying that they go to the “GoDaddy’s” and “1and1’s” of the world for their domain purchases but thats because they dont know about the juicy features of “Domain Pigeon”.  How would you feel if I were to tell you that during your domain name research you could now be aware of how many folks have shown some type of interest towards a specific domain?

When you visit Domain Pigeon, you’ll see what I mean – the most popular available or unregistered domains will have a darker background shade and like “Digg”  or other social bookmarking tools -the most popular will be bumped up to the top of the list while the ones that have been recently registered will be displayed with a “Pink Font” on the side bar of their site.

What’s even more interesting is the actual cost of the membership, – you can have access to all of these research features  for a measly one time fee of $14.95 and to encourage registration, DomainPigeon will grant access to registered users to a larger list of domain names which translates to approximately 5,000 additional and once again COOL & UNREGISTERED domains.

In all the glory of Domain Pigeon I do see a couple of disadvantages, one being that they dont actually offer a “Domain Purchasing Service” so its purpose is really for availability, inspiration and research; then you can go back to your “GoDaddy’s” for your actual purpose.

The second disadvantage I observed was the fact that while you’re searching other users have access to the domains your searching for so if you tap into an interesting and one of a kind domain, you better act quickly because Bob or John from Canada caught a whiff of the domain and may end up purchasing it before you….at the end of the day its a double edge sword but I think the benefits of research surpass the disadvantages.

Awesome.

Milestone: CNET Coverage

Around noon today I started to notice the strangest thing: people were signing up for Domain Pigeon memberships.

I did a little exploring and found the source: an article about Domain Pigeon which appeared on CNET’s website this morning. Here’s the article in full:

Domain Pigeon helps you find unclaimed URLs

There are far too many domain search and purchasing tools, but I haven’t found one that does it like Domain Pigeon. The service tracks domains that are still available and puts them in an index that can be searched and sorted in all manner of ways.

Domain Pigeon’s secret sauce, however, is that it shows you what other users have been looking at, right down to how many have clicked on any specific domain name. Domains that have gotten more attention darken in color, with the heavy hitters bubbling up to the top.

To encourage registration (which costs a one-time fee of $15), users who sign-up can view and search from a larger catalog of domain names. As of me writing this it’s a difference of an extra 5,000 or so domains once you register.

While the site doesn’t actually sell domains–something you have to do with a registration service–it can be a good source of inspiration for people who have not found a good name for their service. Of course, if you’re trying to be secretive about that process, you’re probably better off using something that won’t be showing your search queries to a gaggle of other users.

Josh Lowensohn, who wrote the article, has my gratitude forevermore. Thank you sir.

The CNET article led to a whole slew of mirror articles on various sites:

http://northloop.14gram.com/domain-pigeon-helps-you-find-unclaimed-urls

http://www.mashget.com/2009/01/30/domain-pigeon-helps-you-find-unclaimed-urls/

http://digim.net/domain-pigeon-helps-you-find-unclaimed-urls-cnet-news

http://www.propeller.com/story/2009/01/30/domain-pigeon-helps-you-find-unclaimed-urls/

http://jacobmadison.com/blog/2009/01/30/domain-pigeon-helps-you-find-unclaimed-urls/

http://www.cheapby.com/blog/domain-pigeon-helps-you-find-unclaimed-urls/

http://www.fxdomains.net/domain-name/3422.htm

http://infopirate.org/topic/domain-pigeon

and a few others.

There was one comment on the CNET article worth posting:

Small Adjustment, Big Improvement

Today I had the opportunity to make a small adjustment to one line of code which had a striking effect on Domain Pigeon’s appearance.

Background

The shades of green for domains are calculated relative to the most popular domain.

For example, say DomainA the most popular and has been viewed 20 times. DomainB has been viewed 10 times, so it would be half as green as DomainA. DomainC, the straggler he is, has been viewed 5 times, making it only 25% as green as DomainA. Get the idea?

Most people who have visited Domain Pigeon have clicked on one of the Top 10 domains. It’s the first thing you see when you go to the site so it gets the most attention, which is great, but there’s a problem: Those Top 10 domains have 80+ views. The domains at the bottom of the page have 5-10 views, making them much much lighter than the domains at the top. It looked like they weren’t getting much attention. Lower attention implies lower traffic, which won’t bring people back as often, which is the opposite of what I want.

So, I had to find a way to make the less popular ones darker while ensuring that the popular ones remained distinct. The solution? Square root.

The most popular domain, using the earlier example, has a shade of green at (20/20) = 1. Take the square root and you’ve still got 1.

The second most popular domain has a shade of (10/20) = 0.5. Square Root of 0.5 = 0.71…

Another domain has a shade of (5/20) = 0.25. Square Root of 0.25 = 0.5…

Great success.

Results

Before:

After:

These screen shots don’t really do it justice though. Check out Domain Pigeon to see the effect is has had.

Launch Day Followup

Wife: why can’t I find adenosinetriphosphate anymore?
me: i deleted it :)
Wife: I thought that was an awesome domain :(
me: was that you voting it up? lol
Wife: I never clicked it
Wife: put it back on
Wife: just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean others wont
me: haha no one will register that hun
Wife: me and my coworker were thinking about it if we were to have a site

I’m very happy with the way things went today. There were no major problems and the feedback from HackerNews was, as always, insightful and constructive.

I spent the majority of the day making lots of minor changes, which is reflected by my responses in the thread.

HN Todo List:

Scrolling through the comments, these are the tasks that stand out:

  • Need to add “Register Now” links to various registrars
  • Add the ability to do custom keyword searches
  • Consider targeting domain name collectors, as they are a big audience
  • Improve the price display on the registration page and maybe move it to the homepage
  • Search feature should be more prominent

By the Numbers:

  • 3,567 page views by 1,661 visitors
  • Avg Time on Site: 1:47
  • 3 registrations, though all 3 abandoned at the payment page.
  • Whois Lookups: 1,511 (note: that’s a 91% participation rate on the homepage — usability success)
  • Most importantly… Domains Registered: 8

I emailed two of people who signed up but didn’t complete the payment to find out if there were any problems. No, one of them said, he just didn’t see the price. Probably the same with the other two.

Notes:

– IE6: I hate you still. (more on this tomorrow)

– Not many people explored the domains past the first two pages. Need to find some way of improving this. It will be interesting to see what the results are when I start promoting the site within the domain name community.

– Need to improve the organization of the domains on the homepage. Most of those 1,511 clicks went to the Top 10 list (which is the first thing you see). Since the colors are all relative, this caused all the ones in the Recent section to be skewed heavily towards white.

– At the beginning of the day I wasn’t limiting the view count to unique IP addresses. After about two hours, someone started voting up domain names like adenosinetriphosphate.com, which got placed in the top 10 list. It’s unlikely anyone is going to register it, so it would have stayed there ad infinitum until some other prankster found a stupider one to upvote. So, I limited it to one vote/IP, which helped, but it may still be a problem. This will largely be fixed by finding a better way to organize the front page.

– Another startup launched about the same time as Domain Pigeon on HN. It was interesting watching the two threads all day. Their site, Taxi Mogul, received more initial upvotes and stayed a few places higher than Domain Pigeon most of the day. Currently, we’ve both received about the same number of votes, but DP has about twice as many comments, which is likely a function of me relentless responding to every comment, even if just to say thanks. Ultimately, promotion on HackerNews, like TechCrunch, doesn’t matter much. It’s what you do afterward the initial traffic that matters.

– On that note, it’s been a long day and tomorrow will be busy too.

Improving the Availability Dropdown

I’ve been making small improvements to Domain Pigeon throughout the day based on the initial feedback.

Most were through the HackerNews thread, but one particularly helpful visitor, Hoan, emailed me with several suggestions including the following:

* Instead of “Views 64” perhaps you could say “64 people interested in this domain” (conversions could go up…)
* You can get rid of “Added on Jan X”, and make the previous statement larger

Result:

Before:

After:

Good suggestion — Thank you Hoan.

Keep ’em coming.

Troubleshooting: /MSOffice/cltreq.asp

Scrolling through Domain Pigeon’s log file, I see:

ActionController::RoutingError (No route matches "/MSOffice/cltreq.asp" with {:method=>:get})

What’s going on here? My first impression was that someone was probing the site for vulnerabilities, but it turns out that’s not the case. Googling points to the answer:

Is someone attempting to hack my system? No, Not really.

These are requests from a user who has installed Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, and who has enabled the “Discuss” toolbar in his browser. When that toolbar is enabled, the browser will automatically query for these two files when visiting each site, to determine whether the Office Server Extensions are installed.

Microsoft, was there not a better way to do this?

The Green Light Flashes, the Flags Go Up

Here goes nothing.

Cross-posted from HackerNews:

The short of it:
Domain Pigeon helps you find unregistered domain names for your websites. Please let me know what you think.

The long of it:
In March of last year I was in the process of writing some poker software and trying to decide on a name for it. I wanted a good name and also wanted to own the corresponding domain name so that people could easily find it. I used Ajaxwhois, a great site that lets shows you the availability of domain names as you type, and quickly got pulled in trying to find a good domain. I would spend hours trying things like “pokerguru.com”, “pokermaster.com”, “pokercalculator.com”, “pokerexpert.com”, and so on. After a lot of time and energy later, I found “allinexpert.com”, which became the name of the software.

Fast forward to about July. ALL IN Expert had just flopped and I was trying to decide on a new project to work on. I had several ideas in mind and again, I wanted a good domain name for whatever it wound up being. It was kind of sick: I wound up going back to Ajaxwhois and using it as the tie breaker. If I could find a good domain name for one project and not the other, that would be what I worked on.

It was crazy. There’s got to be a better way. I wrote a small piece of software that played with various word combinations and displayed their availability.  Surprisingly, there are a lot of decent domains out there… you just have to be patient enough or resourceful enough to find them.

Then it hit me: This is something other people could use too. I put the other ideas on the back burner and started on this one.

Domain Pigeon, an eccentric but hopefully memorable name I discovered with the same software, is intended to make finding unregistered domain names easier. It has been my learn Rails/JavaScript/web development nights and weekends project over the last few months. I hope you like it.

This is round two of its launch. Last week I posted a link to Philly on Rails, a local group of Rails aficionados, and received a lot of great feedback. The result is what you see today (hopefully, depending on how DreamHost does with the traffic).

I’ve got a list of about two dozens features I intend to add over the coming weeks, which will be modified and prioritized based on your feedback.

For me, Domain Pigeon has been as much about learning the process as it has been about the releasing the product. On that note, all feedback, positive and negative, is welcomed. I also keep a blog, mattmazur.com, where I write about Domain Pigeon and its progress for anyone that is interested. I try to be as transparent as possible, as that’s the best way to get valuable feedback.

On a final note, a lot of the design decisions for Domain Pigeon were adapted from feedback given to other people launching their sites on HackerNews and for that, I owe you all a thank you.

Please let me know what you think.