The Tech Side of Emoji Domains with Bob Frankston

About this time last month, I was humming along just days into the new year and recovering from the FLU. Yes, it was nasty and I’m glad to have survived it. But I digress.

As I said, humming along during the work day, I received a Twitter mention notification. Ruh roh, must be trouble, right?

Writing about a number of popular and unpopular topics as it relates to domain, I sometimes go running for the hills when Twitter mentions start bombarding my phone or inbox.

Bob Frankston

Nevertheless, a certain mention suggested that a gentleman by the name of Bob Frankston and I should link up for an emoji domain interview or simply to have a conversation about emoji domains, seeing he owned 💩.to.

Little did I realize at the time I responded to the mention, Bob held various industry roles and co-founded a number of software companies over past half-century — most notably creating VisiCalc with Dan Bricklin.

Dan (left) and Bob (right) back in the day. Photo courtesy of Business Insider.

“Watch the two guys invented the first-ever spreadsheet”

Coincidently, I stumbled upon Dan Bricklin’s, co-founder of Software Arts with Bob, TED Talk about 3 months prior, but didn’t make the connection at all until reading Bob’s website.

While previous emoji domain interviews have been focused on the hopeful upside of what is to come, today’s interview explores the opposite side of the proverbial emoji domain coin.

After all, there are two sides to every coin. And with over a half-century of technical genius under his belt, I couldn’t forgo the opportunity to discuss tech, and emoji domains (i.e., their past, present, and future) with Bob.

In addition, this interview opens the door to another extension allowing emoji domains. .to. Read up, share, and enjoy!

KC: Upon initial contact, I noticed you own a number of domains. How and when did you register and Do you consider yourself an investor or collector of domains?

BF: I registered in about 1989 – the same time I registered Alas I didn’t think about cornering the market on domains at the time so passed on the available

I do have a collection of domains for various purposes, but done collecting them as such. I do have them for purposes like http://方思腾.香港.

I watched how Network Solutions figured out how to corner the market on names and by 1999 watching threats from the RIAA. I came to appreciate what a truly terrible idea the DNS is.

Putting English words into the very plumbing of the Internet is an idea that dates back to the 1960’s when we put used disk addresses as part numbers of for user IDs (TOPS-10, compuserve) or, further back, when your phone number was a path through Strowger switches.

Can you imagine a time when you had to change your phone number just because you moved or, worse, you’d lose your name and honor simply because you forget to renew your own name? What a sick idea? Like tying the web together with surgical thread.

We need a real directory system and real trademark law, and not an autistic version that does not take human perception into account and one that does not fall apart by design. Imagine the Rosetta Stone in disappearing ink or the ancient scrolls written on tissue paper.

So given that it’s a game I play with naming, as in registering a few years ago because I found it was available, I also have other names such as http://网.ws (so I can have a short name).

BTW, I tried to put a link behind http://方思腾.香港. But Google knows that it can’t be right

And gives me no way to get past it! Proceed at your own risk.

KC: Attaining a half century of distinguished technical expertise and founder of a number of tech companies, what are your thoughts about emoji domains and how they came to be?

BF: Once we recognize that the domain name system is a novelty toy, then why not play with it? The problem with emoji domains is that you can’t type them and a lot of programs don’t recognize them so one has to recognize the limits. In practice since the URL beyond the emoji can be anything, you can accomplish the same thing for free by simply having a picture on your site with a URL behind it. The other problem is that, as with the proliferation of TLDs, the whole thing loses its value once the joke is played out.

KC: Tell me, what’s your stance on IDNs, including emoji domains, security flaws pertaining to ICANN’s latest security report?

BF: I haven’t followed the DNS security issues in detail because that’s only one part of a fundamentally flawed system. It’s still centralized, rent-seeking, subject to failure due to typos and then adding the additional character sets ask for more mischief. So, maybe it reduces the problems like the hijacking of, but is a veneer on a broken idea.

KC: In your opinion, do you see emoji domain names greatly impacting how a business markets and advertises to reach more customers?

BF: Since few can type emoji names, they look different in each medium and you can’t even be sure which is which. I see them as a fleeting idea. And maybe something for the child (not the innocent one but the juvenile on that thinks 💩 jokes are funny).

KC: Speaking of 💩, when and how did you learn about emoji domain names, specifically 💩.to?

BF: I was already familiar with Punycode. I figured that if I could get the punycode for an emoji, then I could register it. However, I found that wasn’t true for most TLDs, yet I found it worked for .to and paid for a year of entertainment. So, I didn’t learn about them as much as discovered that .to wasn’t preventing me from creating them. I don’t know if Tonga even knew what I was doing.

KC: Out of all the emoji domains you could have purchased, why 💩.to? What exactly stoked your curiosity?

BF: I was reading about the history of the 💩, and figured if I was going to play with silly and childish, then I might as well go all the way.

KC: Well played on the last question. Well played. 🙂 Moving on, have you purchased other IDN or emoji names?

BF: I have variations on 方思腾 (HK traditional and simplified) and .COM (simplified only). Some other single letter names. Others for business names I was trying out. Some for Frankston variations, for my wife and family members so I could provide for email addresses that identify the sender. Some short ones like, but more obscure to save me typing.

KC: For the emoji domains and domains in general you own, do you receive sale inquiries, and would you ever consider selling?

BF: If someone wanted to offer me money for most of my domains why not. It’s not about virtue – it’s about price (and convenience).

KC: Lastly, seeing .WS hiked prices and* .NET recently hiked prices as of Feb 1st, what are your thoughts as pertain to domain price hikes?

BF: The price hikes are part of a structure corrupt system of holding identity and reputation hostage while participating in a system that guarantees all the knowledge in the world will become detached and meaningless. Not only are the price increases not justified the very idea of charging people for linkages is worse than a pile of stinking 💩. It’s grand theft internet (GTI)!

In fact, the folks (to use a nicer-word than deserved) at .WS locked one of my domains for two months so I couldn’t move it when the rates changed. Hmm. Coincidence?*

The only thing that puzzles me is that why we tolerate such a corrupt and destructive concept that shows a total failure to understand all we have learned about computing and concepts like binding over the last century. It is a medieval fundamentalist that assumes meaning is intrinsic and unchanging that honors creationism rather than Darwin.

We’re going to look back at this error as the new dark ages when all knowledge went AWOL.

[02/16/2018 – Editor’s Note: Please accept my apologies and editorial updates for unintended incorrect and erroneous information reported at the time of publishing.  Upon further review, the aforementioned question and answer have been editorially struck based on factual information surfacing.  The domain referenced above by Mr. Frankston, originally reported to have been locked, WAS NOT locked, WAS NOT prohibited or delayed transfer, and WAS successfully moved by Mr. Frankston without realizing a price increase of any sort. In addition, the original question states and reads in error that .WS hiked domain pricing, which is not a factual statement.  The has been edited based on last price rate change for .WS occurring March 2016, and IS NOT to be confused with the exclusive $1.00 increase observed by .NET as of February 1, 2018.]

KC: Before I forget, any insightful last thoughts you would like to share with readers?

BF: Play and have fun with the DNS, but recognize that it is a bug far far worse than Meltdown. We just accept it because … well… the greybeards told them so and people believe them. They shouldn’t.

Closing Thoughts

Whether there is agreement or disagreement, I find it interesting to always discover and explore a topic, especially emoji domains, from various sides and viewpoints.

Thanks to Bob for allowing me to invade his space and time to share his thoughts and insight pertaining to the technical aspects and loopholes of DNS — the tech side of how emoji domains came to be.

Simply put, emoji domains are merely a bug more than a feature, yet touted by some as today’s marketing dream for reaching more customers and realizing revenue growth tomorrow.

Technical loophole or not, emoji domains are here for now, but that may not always be the case though.

In closing, emoji domains may overstay their welcome, if welcomed at all.  For now, let’s allow for time to sort out this mysterious detail, like it always has and will forever continue to do.

That’s all for now!

Written by Alvin Brown
He's an experienced and passionate serial entrepreneur, founder and publisher of Kickstart Commerce. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable digital strategies for greater commerce.