Early in the 20th century, many doctors claimed smoking wasn't bad for your health. In the "Lucky Strike" advertisement above, 20,000 physicians said there were even benefits to smoking. The only actual benefit, it would seem, was the increase in their bank accounts. They let the money affect their judgment.
Where were the doctors at the time who sounded the alarm on the dangerous health risks of smoking? There were a few. But to tobacco corporations, those doctors were a nuisance and an obstacle to higher sales, and therefore they were ignored and actively shunned. Cigarette manufacturers and 20,000 doctors had a conflict of interest between their financials and the facts.
Interestingly, this smoking example is analogous to the .ws domain extension and many of the people in it.
Since 2015, the .ws extension has had a virtual monopoly on emoji domain registrations. The people who registered and/or invested in them early have a vested interest in its success. Nothing wrong that, really. We believe in capitalism. Those who took the risks should reap the rewards.
Well, fast forward to July 2017, and this is when their capitalist story turned into more of an anti-trust business case on what not to do. Enter the .to extension, which is indeed a different lucky strike for the general public.
First of all, because of our love for emojis, we started out as fans of the .ws extension, but the .to extension provided us an education we sorely lacked. It also revealed to us the lack of integrity of many .ws investors.
When the .to extension was promoted by Max Guerin in mid-July 2017, not one person from the entire .ws investor community acknowledged him. They ignored and shunned him. We at Punycode.com were the only one who expressed publicly we liked his idea. In response, many .ws investors became less friendly toward us, especially when we stopped buying .ws domains from them.
Like many .ws domain investors, we thought .ws was the "standard" for emoji domains. But this is wrong. Very wrong. Our mistake was emoji domains are still practically unknown to everyone. Currently, we still see individuals surprised that they can register emoji domains. Thus, there cannot be a standard, widely-accepted emoji domain extension when emoji domains aren't even recognized, much less accepted.
Although Punycode.com owns more single-character .ws emoji domains than most .ws investors -- most .ws investors own double-character domains -- we knew .to was indeed a superior extension. For the first time, there was an emoji extension that actually makes sense. Since emoji domains are used primarily for re-directs in marketing campaigns, .to's inherent "go to" meaning is by far more intuitive than the meaningless .ws. Instantly, we realized the value of .ws emoji domains had been overstated, and artificially and inaccurately promoted as the only viable emoji domain extension. .To was clearly a viable alternative, if not a more preferable one.
Regarding the name ".ws" -- besides the inside joke among old-time domainers that ".ws" stands for "we suck" -- is a more serious problem with it being simply unlikable. The first question that almost everyone asks after learning he or she can register emoji domains in .ws is can it be registered in another extension?
The .ws "we suck" joke we discovered was all too real when the first day we owned a .ws domain at Global Domains International, the operators and origin of all .ws domains, was when we started to receive over 20 spam emails a day. Even basic features that are normally free, like domain forwarding, they were charging for. Domain contact information can't be changed on your own and so a service ticket is required. The .ws operators seemed out of touch with their competition. But why should they when they have a monopoly on emoji domains?
Not anymore. By mid-August 2017, about one month after Max Guerin introduced to the .ws community his .to idea, serial entrepreneur Marc Köhlbrugge opened the floodgates with his .to emoji registration service. Yes, the registration fee is higher but major domain features, like privacy, are all included in the price. Within a week, almost every .to single character was registered. Mr. Guerin's assertions were validated. Punycode.com's was also validated, but it didn't do our .ws portfolio's value any good. With the ascension of .to, the decline of .ws was inevitable and its monopoly was suddenly over. Whatever advantage .ws had in the past was long gone.
Two charts below from Namebio.com clearly beacons the decline of .ws domains after Marc Köhlbrugge's work promoting .to domains in mid-August 2017. The first chart shows what .ws domains were selling for in the past; the last sale recorded was July 23, 2017. The second chart shows all emoji and IDN domain sales in the last 30 days. Notice in the second chart a .to emoji domain selling for $1500 and none sold with a .ws extension.
After the .to extension became popular, Punycode.com criticized the .ws investors for not taking advantage of Max Guerin's earlier suggestion to go into the .to extension. If they were truly about promoting emoji domains, what is wrong with an emoji domain in .to extension? Yet they continued to trumpet only .ws. We warned them not to put too much stock in .ws, but like what they did to Max Guerin, they all ignored and shunned Punycode.com as well. We were a nuisance and an obstacle to their financial situation.
For example, an emoji domain gallery, managed by a .ws registration purveyor, once featured a .com emoji domain we own but our domain has since been deleted from his gallery. To this day, we received no answer to our question on why our domain was deleted. When we told an old-time domainer (someone who has sold millions of dollars worth of domains over the years) what has happened, he said, "Why would you want to be in a gallery full of .ws domains? Your .com's are like Ruth's Chris steaks, and their .ws's are like hamburgers. You don't belong there!"
Like the smoking example, many .ws investors, it seemed, were in denial of the fact that .to was a serious consideration. Mr. Köhlbrugge proved them wrong. Although .ws investors claim they want to promote emoji domains, in action they tried to stifle any competition for .ws that would adversely affect them financially. From the .ws registration purveyor via GoDaddy.com to the investor who doesn't want his .ws portfolio to not lose value, they were all wanting the .to extension to go away. We at Punycode.com didn't want our .ws portfolio's value to go down either but not at the expense of sound reason, especially after analyzing the reality of the situation. We refused to let the money affect our judgment.
And also like the smoking example, they continued to tout the 20,000 .ws registrations, the benefits of support (what support?) and how .ws is the "standard" and the ".com" of emoji domains. How wrong were they? How about this: they forgot that only emoji domains in .com can be the ".com" of emoji domains -- and Punycode.com has 33% of all .com emoji domains in existence. Yesterday, we saw the writer of a "definitive" guide to emoji domains not knowing whether or not a Unicode character is an emoji. (That emoji happens to be a .com we have at Punycode.com.) A few weeks ago we educated another writer of a guide to emojis as well when he also didn't know whether or not certain Unicode characters were emojis. Therefore, since their basic facts and assumptions were lacking, their conclusions have been proven to be lacking as well.
We still have eight single-character .ws emoji domains, and they are worth only a fraction of what they were before. They pale in comparison to the .to domains. That is why we finally decided not to sell our .ws emoji domains on Punycode.com, especially to uninitiated customers. We rather take the .ws loss than have someone else take that loss. Simply put, .ws domains are not professional and business-grade. We believe any investor or webmaster would be unhappy in the long run owning a .ws domain.
Even if we can ignore the financial value, the practical value of .ws is limited in comparison to the .to extension. The .ws extension signals to people about a company that can't afford a proper domain. So the ".ws" would be a distraction, not a positive. In addition, the .ws initials by themselves don't mean anything and thus add nothing of value in marketing campaigns. Again, the ".ws" might even distract and offset some benefits from the emojis. At least with a .to extension, the link signals a purposeful re-direct, a "go to." Major companies like Amazon, Uber, and NBC News (who can afford a proper domain) have been using the .to extension in their social media marketing efforts for years. In fact, the .to extension was one of the first extensions to be used as a re-direct link, which emoji domains are perfect for.
Punycode.com started less than a month ago and has already received the highest offer amount in history for an emoji domain. We turned down the offer, because unlike .ws, we believe emoji domains in .com, .net, and .to will increase in value in the future. With our connections to many company CEOs, Punycode.com is currently working on two deals that would dwarf even our highest offer. Stay tuned.
Many people in business tend to forget why they are in business in the first place. Believe it or not, it's not about making a profit. Money is the by-product, not the mission. The mission is to provide society a benefit it otherwise would not have without our company's existence. That is Punycode.com's philosophy, whether you buy from us or not. Only learn from our mistake and don't buy a .ws domain. In time you will understand that buying an emoji domain in .com, .net, or .to extensions is more useful, appropriate, and professional for your company.
UPDATE September 12, 2017: Today we met a business owner who registered almost 200 .ws emoji domains, none of them singles. Since the person registered all of them with privacy, each domain costs $12. So her total investment was about $2400. She now decides to auction off her .ws emoji domains hoping to get something a little more than what she paid. Unfortunately, she'll soon discover that she will not be able to recoup her losses. Her losses really is a $2400 educational course in domaining. This is an example of why .ws should rarely be considered as an investment, and those who continue to sell .ws domains have a moral responsibility to educate new buyers of their options, such as the .to extension availability.