Some investors are domain name enthusiasts, others love cryptocurrencies, whereas we also have examples of individuals such as Michael Saylor who embrace both. While we are dealing with two completely different asset classes and the profile of the average investor also tends to be quite a bit different (with domain investors representing a slightly older demographic compared to crypto enthusiasts, for example), there are significant common denominators.
The most important one is described by just one word: sovereignty.
Time and time again, a defining selling point used by domain investors who pitched domain names to end users was represented by the brand sovereignty narrative. While many end users are tempted to simply launch their business on a third-party platform rather than create their own website (with it being downright amusing to see seven or eight figures worth of business being done through a Facebook page for example), most of them fail to take into account that they are essentially surrendering their brand sovereignty.
- They are relying on third parties for their online presence, third parties that reserve the right to pull the proverbial plug at any point in time, for any reason they deem appropriate.
- Most of these third parties are ultra-large corporations that are oftentimes chaotically managed and compared to the sheer amount of business these large entities do, a small-scale end user is nothing but a fraction of a drop in an immense ocean… as such, it would be a stretch to assume that you have impressive negotiation power when it comes to your relationship with the third part that graciously hosts you (for now).
- Even if the third parties in question have all of the best intentions in the world and would never even entertain the idea of terminating your account, the fact remains that they are businesses that might lose their luster and fail. Remember those who made a name for themselves on Vine, only to see the platform go belly-up? Yes, many of them moved on to other platforms and are doing just fine but still, it’s most definitely a con worth keeping in mind.
The same way, cryptocurrencies put financial sovereignty on a pedestal in light of the fact that their main selling point is represented by unconfiscatability. To put it differently, let’s imagine that you do business through a PayPal account and that for one reason or another, you eventually receive a notification from them that your account is being terminated. While you may be allowed to appeal the decision in question, the fact remains that the bargaining power you have with a giant such as PayPal is practically non-existent.
The same principle is valid when it comes to banks, with an obvious example being (rather ironically) represented by their attitude toward cryptocurrencies. Stories abound about banks which swiftly closed down the accounts of those who let’s say bought cryptocurrencies through them or were engaging in crypto-related businesses. Why? For policy-related reasons that are non-negotiable and once again, you as a client have little to no bargaining power in such a relationship.
Why Not Cut Out The Middleman?
It should come as no surprise that in light of horror stories such as the previously mentioned ones and many more, cutting out the middleman becomes a rather appealing perspective. A wide range of advantages tend to be associated with this move, from lower fees (especially for larger amounts in the case of cryptocurrencies compared to PayPal and international wire transfers) to increased flexibility (the sky is the limit in terms of tweaking possibilities when running your own website, whereas there are likely to be platform-related limitations when choosing to use a middleman).
But they all pale in comparison to sovereignty because while business models can be tweaked quite a bit, it is difficult to put a price tag on the piece of mind that comes from knowing that you are in charge of your destiny when running a business or simply engaging in financial transactions. At the end of the day, it all boils down to understanding that freedom is underrated and unfortunately, we only understand this if the freedom in question is taken away from us for one reason or another.
Sunshine and Rainbows?
If you’ve made it thus far, it may seem that it’s all sunshine and rainbows when choosing sovereignty over the comfort that comes from relying on a third party but we need to be realistic and acknowledge that there are also cons involved and for the most part, these cons also revolve around one crucial word: responsibility.
To illustrate this, let’s leave digital assets aside completely for a moment so as to analyze physical cash on the one hand and credit cards on the other. We will take things one step further and assume that one day, you make a mistake when it comes to both payment options: on the one hand, you lose your cash (it fell out of your pocket) and on the other hand, you mistakenly make a payment through your credit card.
The word “responsibility” stands out when it comes to cash because more likely than not, it’s… well, gone. You lost it, the cash disappeared and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it aside from learning from your mistake and being more careful in the future. In stark contrast to how things stand when working with physical cash, we have various safety nets involved when buying through a credit card. A lot of times, all you have to do is call your credit card provider and absolutely everything will be sorted out.
This is the number one lesson that needs to be internalized when it comes to sovereignty-facilitating options such as physical cash in the “real” world as well as digital assets such as domain names and cryptocurrencies in the online one. With great freedom comes great responsibility, to put it differently. Or to make a more or less forced metaphor, when taking your brand’s destiny or your financial destiny into your own hands, do not expect much in the way of hand holding.
It is also worth pointing out that the barrier to entry tends to be higher when it comes to sovereignty-facilitating options. Think about how easy it was for a let’s say Instagram influencer who is now successful to get started. All he or she needed was a camera and a 100% free Instagram account. If the content was any good, the person in question was able to tap into a humongous pool of, yet again, 100% free traffic. Had that person decided to set up shop on a domain + website, a wide range of challenges would have emerged:
- Finding a Web hosting provider and making sure his website’s uptime is rock-solid rather than letting Instagram worry about that.
- Hiring a designer to create his website or learning the ropes himself, so investing time and/or money before he even posted the first image or video rather than trusting Instagram with all of that and only focusing on the content creation dimension.
- Generating traffic, the most difficult obstacle of all to overcome. When running your own website, you cannot simply tap into an existing pool of traffic like you do with Instagram’s community. On Instagram, you have a lot of active users who love browsing through the content that’s made available to them, whereas when starting your own website… well, you have nothing. It’s on you to figure out ways to attract eyeballs, it’s on you to convince people to become repeat visitors, etc.
- On the monetization front, he will once again have to roll up his sleeves a little bit. While not as difficult as generating traffic due to the fact that there are quite a few “plug and play” options available, it would still be more difficult than monetizing through a middleman platform, where he in many cases simply clicks on an “enable monetization” button and he’s good to go.
What Will It Be?
It is ultimately all a matter of understanding that there is no such thing as a perfect solution but realistically speaking, in the overwhelming majority of cases, taking control of your own destiny by embracing digital assets which facilitate that (whether they are domain names, cryptocurrencies or anything else) would be recommended.
Is this always logistically possible?
No, not always, with video creation representing a textbook example to that effect. While running a blog is something that doesn’t break the bank cost-wise, the same principle is not valid when running or trying to run a vlog, for the simple reason that video content is notoriously expensive to host and the likelihood of being profitable after drawing the line is quite a bit lower compared to simply using a third-party platform. But given enough ambition, even that can be done.
As far as pretty much anything else is concerned, a fairly straightforward conclusion would be that by cutting out the middleman, you are indeed setting yourself up for a more difficult beginning for a wide range of reasons but you are doing so with the big picture in mind and with the firm understanding that it is difficult to the point of impossible to put a price tag on creating a strong brand as well as retaining full ownership of it no matter what.