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16 Feb 2008
Last year I wrote two blog entries on the dire state of Tralliance, owner of the .travel registry, which was bailed out at the last minute by a large loan from the registry's controlling shareholder, Michael Egan. Since then they've taken some decisive steps on the road to irrelevance.
Originally, they had strict rules about who was allowed to register, basically only members of a list of well known industry associations. As of December 21, they have new rules that seem to limit registrants to anyone who shows the faintest interest, with a preference to bulk registrations. (If you followed the history of .aero, the deja vú is intense.) In September, they sold their search.travel search engine for about $300K to a company controlled by Egan, stating they needed the cash to stay in business. Then, according to an SEC filing, Labigroup, another company controlled by Egan, has agreed to buy at least 25,000 .travel domains, producing over $250,000 of simulated revenue which looks an awful lot like taking money out of one pocket, waving it around, and then putting it back in one's other pocket, particularly since another SEC filing two weeks ago reveals that current owner theglobe.com is selling Tralliance to yet another LLC owned directly by Egan.
Earlier today I sent in an application to become one of the registrant elect, claiming that I'm in the Travel Media because I have a funky little website at http://airinfo.aero. The scrutiny was indeed strict and onerous, taking nearly 45 minutes until they said OK, so now my web site is also http://airinfo.travel. (I'm waiting for the flood of traffic due to my increased credibility.)
I also got e-mail from my personal .travel salesman, suggesting a list of other domains I would certainly want to register, including skyauction.travel. In response to my question, he said that no, they would not indemnify me for the lawsuit if I took his suggestion and skyauction.com sued me.
They're obviously hoping for a flood of domain speculators and squeegee domains, which will be a challenge to find at the $99 that .travel domains still cost. The point of all of the buying and selling is hard to figure out, since so much of it is just shuffling money among companies under common ownership. Is the goal to fluff up Tralliance and sell it? Do they actually think they can turn a profit?
In any event, although it was utterly predictable that .travel would fail as an actual travel domain, the switch to squeegee-hood is an interesting strategy. If it succeeds, that would portend bad things for domains in general.
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