Frager Factor

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Untold Domain Success: 12-Year Old W/ Idea, Hand Registers Domain, Builds to 140M Accounts, 5B Monthly Views & $160M Exit To Viacom

Rebecca Garcia was 12 years old when she bought her first domain name. She asked her dad for his credit card to purchase the address. He didn’t think she knew how to actually buy a site.

“When my parents saw the credit card bill and it had, like, XoAriesGirloX or something, they called the company and were like, ‘Yeah, we didn’t know our 12-year-old daughter could figure out how to buy a domain,’ and they returned it,” Garcia says.

"You Can Build aA Thing On The Computer And It Shows Up On The Screen”

Garcia’s first website was an extension of her “Neopets” account and survived despite her domain name being revoked by her parents. “Neopets,” a virtual pet game spread across an expansive website, was launched in 1999 by two independent developers, Donna and Adam Powell. A mix between “Tamagotchi” and “Pok√©mon,” taking care of pets was the basis of “Neopets‘” design, but the digital creatures were able to battle, too. Much of the game takes place inside a virtual world called Neopia, populated with themed lands for players to visit and explore.

‘Neopets’ just literally introduced me to the concept of, ‘you can build a thing on the computer and it shows up on the screen,'” Freeman says. “I had to be 12. I was really young.”

“It was an unlimited playground,” Garcia says. “There was a stock market where you could buy fake stocks; you could make digital money from there. You could open your own shop and sell items. “Neopets” had this separate world to connect on whatever hobbies you had. It was the idea that it was really an open playground and that you were, in a way, self-made.”

“Neopets” provided the overarching structure of play, but it was girls like Garcia who expanded the web game’s presence.

Neopets went from its initial launch to over 140 million accounts and 5 billion pageviews per month. On 20 June 2005, Viacom bought Neopets, Inc. for US$160 million.

“Lost Memories Dot Net” is a film that captures the aesthetics of the era: Glossy, stylized graphics that harken back to the days of Geocities and Angelfire. The graphics were all over the place with regard to color and subject, but consistency is apparent when looking at images: hyper-saturated color palette, large hero images, punchy fonts, and liberal use of brushes and filters.

People assume all is dead there. Those sites, Tumblr and MySpace too, had a dumb business plan. Give free pages to youngsters and let them crowdsource content and build traffic from their friends. But these kids were smarter than the investors. They built businesses. Sold subscriptions. Merchandise. Used affiliate programs to earn revenue on referral traffic. All while Yahoo failed to understand how to monetize. 

Who can get into the mind of a kid and fill a void- a KID. You can't replace that passion with a Yahoo takeover.

Even when FOX bought MySpace I never understood the logic of bands making millions selling direct to consumer music, while FOX didn't even leverage the traffic and demographic targeting to advertise their movies. Why didn't FOX build Fandango on the MySpace platform with links on every page?

Garcia started her first business in “Neopets,” with virtual employees and everything.

Now a software developer and founder of CoderDojo NYC, an organization that teaches kids to code, Garcia started her first business in “Neopets,” with virtual employees and everything. The community eventually expanded past the bounds of the “Neopets” platform and began to spread elsewhere on the Internet, as explored in game designer Nina Freeman’s 2017 title “Lost Memories Dot Net.”

In 2016, Motherboard reported that the login data of 70 million Neopets accounts was stolen. It contained not only usernames and passwords but also email addresses, birth dates, IP addresses, and PINs. It turned out this information was being stored in plain text by Neopets and had first been retrieved in 2012; every single account created prior to that year was affected. Neopets responded by posting about the leak on their official Facebook page and sent emails out to all affected players telling them to change their passwords.

Neopets is consistently one of the "stickiest" sites for children's entertainment. Stickiness is a measure of the average amount of time spent on a website. By May 2005, a Neopets-affiliated video game producer cited about 35 million unique users, 11 million unique IP addresses per month, and 4 billion web page views per month. In February 2008, comScore ranked it as the stickiest kids entertainment site with the average user spending 2 hours and 45 minutes per month.

JumpStart acquired Neopets from Viacom in April 2014. On 6 March 2015, much of the Neopets Team remaining from Viacom were laid off. On July 3, 2017, Chinese company NetDragon acquired JumpStart.

There are thousands of untold domain success stories like this.

Read more on Variety

About The Author: Owen Frager is an Internet marketing expert ready to help take your company to the next level.

Contact Owen: Twitter | Google+ | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email