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Namestation starts charging – review/alternatives

I remember it as, a useful site which would usually suck hours of my life away showing me domain names I didn’t originally know I wanted/needed. It would usually come up with the results though, providing me with a decent domain for a new project or site. So when I wanted to dial in recently and generate some sort of short url domain for this blog and was redirected to namestation I had one of those “that’s not where I left it” moments.

So its moved, re-branded and been closed off. That is close off for free querying/use. I can understand why this has happened, being a successful domains generation site it was probably getting heavy traffic, perhaps badly converting traffic as webmasters/domain purchasers are likely to be saavy, likely to not click through affiliate links to godaddy and likely to load a few hundred pages (each with a hundred calls to whois registries) per click through (if they do click through.) Also the dreamer kids just messing about with domain names probably added to the load. So now it costs, $9 a month to be precise, not a shocking amount but probably enough to allow its owners at least break even.

Namestation, Worth $9 a month?

At first I just bailed out and found a few alternative sites, nameboy first (which I remembered was far too unhelpful to bother with) then a few others, the best I found was domainsbot, which offers the basic kind of service namestation (makewords, w/e) used too. For a start it did the job, but the fence now up around namestation made me inquisitive.

So I signed up. First for free, allowing use all of the services makewords used to have, bar the most important/validating feature, domain availability. You can generate all of the domains like you want but you wont know if they are available or not without checking elsewhere, unless you pay. So yeah, jump to the premium plan, $9 a month. I do wonder how they got to that price point.

There’s more. By far the best new feature addition of namestation is contests. Contests allow people to post their site idea and let others suggest available domain names that they could use. Contests are a fantastic idea. Contests will only work should the people wanting the ideas actually pay the people competing, but still contests are a nice addition. I should add it doesn’t cost to enter contests (suggest domain names.)

After you have the premium plan its mostly business as usual, makewords was good with its wordlists, namestation is better, quicker and mostly simple to use. There are a few other additions, compound words allows you to mash up two phrases nicely (although I couldn’t get much useful out of it for the first contest I challenged myself to enter) and being able to check “all extensions” for a domain is very useful for example.

There is a few things which aren’t so great. If you go about generating lists of domains, using say, the top 1000 words list, if you use a fairly common word then the chances are 85% of the top 1000 words have already been mixed with it (e.g. carShop, carOnline etc.) but with the current gui namestation just queries a page size at a time, which may leave you clicking nextpage and waiting on ajax 15 times before you see any Available domains. You can up the page size to 100 (see “set page size” link bottom left of results) – of course if your a premium plan user. It may reduce strain on the server this way, but loading blank pages is no fun.

Advanced settings are useful too, but they only appear on some of the wizards, you can’t for example use compound words and limit the character count. This would be win win for both users and server strain.

And still there is the age old problem of .me and false firing. Its happened about 5 times in the last hour, namestation says the .me is available, godaddy/whois disagrees. This has always been a problem though, with almost every domain checking facility since .me’s were released, the problem is probably the registrars side.

Anyway seeing as what should of been a 20 minute search for a short url domain has somehow transformed into a long ass review and no short url domain name I thought I would throw it up there as a contest. So go dump your inspiration on this, while I go and make some coffee.

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