When that huge box of chocolates arrived by courier, I knew I was in trouble. The large gold box told me right away it was Godiva. The pain in my wrist told me it weighed at least three pounds. And the sender's address on the mailing label told me it was a gift from somebody I'd forgotten. This was not a gift to accept with a last-minute Hallmark card (hey, it's chocolate; you have to encourage people to send you chocolate!).
But by this stage, the snow was coming down pretty fast, and I knew that I wasn't going to make it to the mall to get a suitable reciprocal gift. A quick survey of my home office told me there was nothing suitable to regift in return. Besides, what do you get for the person who has everything? Just as gift anxiety began setting in, an answer came to me: How about a domain? A nice, juicy presence on the Web for showcasing close-up photography of chocolates, cocoa-related prose, and poetry--or anything else she felt like. A handy custom e-mail address. A heartfelt and novel gift from a dear chocolate-scarfing friend. Why, it's so festive, you can practically roast chestnuts around it. And so I was off to the virtual market to make the purchase.
Just as gift anxiety began setting in, an answer came to me: How about a domain? A nice, juicy presence on the Web...
What to buy?
I confess that, like most panicked buyers, I got my idea from advertising. A day earlier, I read an opt-in e-mail newsletter from Dotster, one of the stable of registrars I rely on to hold my collection of domains. The newsletter suggested giving a domain for the holidays, which I considered a dumb idea designed to squeeze one more domain registration from a desperate gift-giver with no ideas of his own. But that was before the chocolate. Now, I realized it was a brilliant idea designed to squeeze one more domain registration from a desperate gift-giver with no ideas of his own. It seems much less desperate than the really last-minute pick (a lottery ticket) and less risky than a magazine subscription (because you know nobody else is going to register the same domain for them).
It seems much less desperate than the really last-minute pick (a lottery ticket) and less risky than a magazine subscription.
But what to buy? The obvious back-slapping saucy joke domain, .xxx had already been deep-sixed from the agenda at a recent ICANN meeting. (Thanks, Vint Cerf, for that smart move. I only hope that it's a permanent shelving of a laughable idea, and not just a temporary hiatus.) A nice .eu domain, also recently in the news, had a sophisticated, Continental sound to it, though not exactly a good match for this particular friend, despite her staggering good taste for buying me chocolate.
Nope. It would have to be a good old-fashioned dot-com domain, from a good old-fashioned dot-compromiser. So I turned to the usual suspects, some of whom had recently introduced a handful of new offerings that piqued my interest.
Where to buy?
The company that had started me down this road, Dotster, had just announced a seasonal price drop of .com, .net, .org, .info, .us, and .biz domains from $15 to $6.99, good until the end of December. That's enough to bring out the bargain hunter in anybody.
Seven bucks in exchange for a box of Godiva seemed like a deal good enough to eat. But it was too tightfisted on my part. Maybe it would be a more even trade if I dressed it up a little with some Web site hosting and an e-mail address. But by the time I priced up the bargain hosting that plan Dotster offers (a good deal with free scripts for blogs, galleries and forums, 500MB of storage and 25GB transfer), I was way overbudget at $71.40 for the year. It's much too cheesy to buy just a couple of months' worth of hosting as a gift, only to force the poor recipient to take over billing right when the post-holiday credit card bills are reaching critical mass.
So I hopped over to one of the mainstays of all-in-one hosting: DirectNIC.
The DirectNIC advantage
DirectNIC wasn't offering any bargain-basement deals for the holidays, but it did have one thing in its favor: a $15 package with registration, ad-supported hosting, and e-mail forwarding (a neat little trick that sets up e-mail addresses at your domain that redirect mail to your regular e-mailbox). I toyed with the idea of adding another 15 bucks to the mix to take the advertising off the top of the hosted Web pages.
So was this gift worth giving? At $30, the price was right. What about the rest of the checklist? It had domain registration. A Web site. E-mail addresses (albeit in the form of forwarding addresses). Check.
Yet one thing scuppered the deal. I didn't have the time or the inspiration to slap a Web site or page on the site. Gah! This virtual shopping trip was becoming more time-consuming than a hike through the snowdrifts to the mall. Then I remembered an opt-in mailing that GoDaddy had sent out last week.
You go, daddy
Recently, GoDaddy added a little sweetener to its ridiculously cheap domain registration package. For around nine bucks, you get a domain, and, as if up to 100 e-mail forwarding addresses were not enough, GoDaddy has added an actual solid POP and Web e-mailbox with a capacity of 25MB. The company used to charge 10 bucks for this service; the price came out a little better than a buy-one-get-one-free offer.
The real kicker was the five-page starter Web site that GoDaddy throws in with its standard domain registrations. Called WebSite Tonight, it's one of those fill-in-the-gaps, template-driven designs with just enough content to get you up and running quickly. Bingo, that would do the trick.
So how quickly could I get this done? And how could I hand over control of the site to my friend?
So how quickly could I get this done? And how could I hand over control of the site to my friend? Well, it all hinged GoDaddy's acceptance of payments through PayPal. That way, I could register everything in the recipient's name, set up the account payment through PayPal, and pass along the keys of the domain and its hosting to my buddy without giving away access to my spending power. (She can't pay through PayPal without my password, after all).
Twenty minutes later, the deed was done. I set up everything in my friend's name, except for keeping the primary e-mail address as my own to prevent a stray message from the company from spoiling her surprise. I designed the greeting-card starter Web page right away; it would take the domain a couple of days to resolve before the site would appear live on the Web. I'm no great shakes at Web design, and templates tend to cramp your creativity anyway, but thanks to a boilerplate five-page site and a few personal uploaded graphics as a placeholder, the gift was almost complete. The only thing that remained was to change the e-mail addresses on the account and the domain to those of my friend. Then the secret would be out, and we'd be ready to rock.
Ten bucks' worth of domain, no matter how well picked, was no substitute for a hundredweight of Godiva.
In the meantime, I was left with a pretty serious shortfall in gift values. Ten bucks' worth of domain, no matter how well picked, was no substitute for a hundredweight of Godiva. Besides, a domain's so intangible that you want something solid to go along with it. And the obvious choice was a set of spanking business cards with the new domain details on them. The snow was still falling, so a trip to Staples was out of the question. But VistaPrint wasn't. It will print 250 business cards in color for 20 bucks (free for new customers, with a sub-$10 shipping-handling charge) to promote your new e-mail address and Web site. That was a bit more like it.
Is Matt Lake really a cross between Scrooge, the Grinch, and the Krampus? Let him have it in the TalkBack section below.