An Interview with Stu Homan, Head of Markmonitor

How do you measure the passage of 25 years? 

In seconds? That’s precisely 7.889e+8 of them. Days? 9131.25. Internet years? ~89 generations. 

No matter how you quantify it, Markmonitor is here, stronger than ever and celebrating 25 years as the industry-leader in Enterprise Domain Management Solutions.  

For our Silver Anniversary, Stu Homan, Head of Markmonitor, sat down with us to share his thoughts on the past, present, and future of Markmonitor, and about the people who are at the core of our business. We spoke of 2024 and 1999, and of all the years and achievements in between.  

Join us as we reflect on people, industry, and moments that have contributed to our success.   

Welcome, Stu! Thanks for sitting down with us to reflect on this milestone, Markmonitor’s 25th anniversary. It’s quite the accomplishment, and we’re excited to discuss details — the history and the future — of Markmonitor with you today.  

The Internet has evolved so much since 1999, that it can be difficult to recall just what the era of Markmonitor’s founding was like. Let’s quickly set the stage.  

Our story begins on April 23 in Boise, the state capital of Idaho, in the western U.S.A. TLC’s “No Scrubs” dominates the radio waves, “Web search results still have human touch,” and Neo’s physics-defying feats play out in theaters across America as “The Matrix” has recently debuted. ICANN is 6 months old and Google only 7. “Doomscrolling” and the devices that necessitate it don’t exist yet — at best, you could pass the time playing “Snake” on your Nokia.  

There are many companies from the late 90s, big stalwarts that we thought would be around forever, that are no more. What do you think it means to be celebrating 25 successful years in our industry? 

SH: 25 years in the Internet industry, it’s kind of like dog years in that you probably have to multiply them by at least 7. I’m not sure the exact formula, but in a fast-changing, evolving industry, 25 years is a significant milestone to celebrate. And it’s not just that we’ve been around that long, Markmonitor has maintained and grown a reputation of excellence that our clients have come to trust and expect from us. 

At a high level, can you tell us about the services Markmonitor offers its clients? And about the career journey that led to your current position as Head of the organization? 

SH: An ICANN-accredited registrar since 2000, Markmonitor serves some of the largest brands in the world. We manage domain name portfolios and provide brand protection solutions with unmatched expertise, superior security, and dedicated service. Marking 25 years in the domain industry as the leading corporate domain name registrar is something the team and I are very proud of, and I feel very fortunate to be in this position today. 

I started at Markmonitor in 2011 as a supervisor on our Domain Operations team, specifically focused on domain renewals and registry billing.  Like a lot of folks that come to the Domain Industry, I didn’t have a background in domains. I was actually doing something completely different — I had been living in the Czech Republic at the time.  

Over the years, I have had a lot of great opportunities and exposure to different parts of the business and have had the good fortune to work on many great teams full of talented people.  I think that is the key part to highlight — here we are, celebrating 25 years, with many of the same people who’ve been here almost since the beginning. And today, our teams are just as energized as they were during their first years at Markmonitor, it’s part of what makes this a really special place.   

That exposure to different aspects of the business has helped me immensely in my role today. I work cross-functionally, across the spectrum of the Markmonitor organization. From Customer Experience to Sales, Account Management, Product, Engineering, Marketing, Finance, etc.  There’s so much talent and knowledge here at Markmonitor — our people have helped me in my understanding of the Internet, the domain industry — and given me new ways of seeing and understanding the responsibilities that a trusted partner like Markmonitor owes to its clients. 

Working with all different folks across all the functions of the business is the highlight of my day. 

When did you know that working at Markmonitor and in the domain industry was “it” for you?  

SH: For me, it was when I realized that Markmonitor works and deals in the beating heart of of the Internet. And so much of it is behind-the-scenes!  

When I talk to people about what I do for work, eyes can glaze over — it can be difficult to convey how important our work is to people outside of our industry, how it helps to connect the world.  

But when you take the time to understand the domain industry for what it is, and learn to appreciate the many nuances of the Internet, you gain perspective on Markmonitor’s role in all of it — that to me is really exciting — being central to making sure the Internet is a safe, secure, and functioning place.  

I mean, the Internet is so crucial to our lives, and domain names are like the real estate of the internet. People may talk about domains being replaced by social media, or apps, or maybe something else entirely in the future, but even then, those apps are ultimately connected to a domain name that’s hosting infrastructure. I think that domain names will always hold an important place in how the Internet functions and is experienced.  

Beyond that, it’s the people. I love working with my colleagues at Markmonitor and the industry people I’ve met along my journey. Our customers work for some of the biggest, coolest companies and brands in the world and I feel like it’s a privilege to work with them, learning their business, their challenges, and working toward solutions with them. I find it fascinating.  

In 2022, Markmonitor joined the Newfold Digital family of brands. What’s that been like for the business? 

SH: We are so excited to be among fellow “Domain People,” you know, people who understand the “3 Rs,” for example (i.e. Registry, Registrar, Registrant). 

We have tremendous support from Newfold Digital’s leadership team, which is readily apparent in all the investment into Markmonitor’s teams and technology, so we can better support our valued clients. It’s going to sound like a cliché, but it’s so, so true for Markmonitor — our customers are our greatest asset, it’s that relationship we have with them. Newfold talks a lot about the significance of maintaining customer relationships and building on that — so where we are now, we have never been more excited for our future. 

Markmonitor’s Leadership Team Meeting Sharon Rowlands, CEO of Newfold Digital, in
Jacksonville, FL.

There’s something to be said about that culture of building relationships — it has always been part of Markmonitor. And once you’re in, you’re part of the family. Some people travel far, more than a few have “come home” over the years. Every person here with us today, and all those who came before (part of the Markmonitor extended family), have helped us in this journey, culminating in this major milestone of our 25th anniversary.   

Well said, Stu. The people here, and the people who have gotten us here, are unique in their strengths and the biggest contributors to Markmonitor’s successes, not to mention anticipating and supporting our clients’ needs, developing new products, advocating and participating in policy discussions, and so much more.   

Markmonitor’s team and presence started in Boise, it’s where both you and headquarters are located today. Where else has Markmonitor had a physical footprint over the years?  

SH: Sure. Markmonitor was founded in Boise. The city was then and remains today, the heart of Markmonitor. In fact, this connection is represented in our recent rebrand by our logo — which hopefully, I am not stating the obvious too much — is a representation of the mountains of Idaho as well as a nod to the letter Ms in our name.  

When I started in 2011, headquarters was San Francisco. That’s where the executive team at the time was based, and a good portion of our engineers, administrative roles, and more. However, no matter where headquarters was officially located, Boise has always been where the majority of our employees are based — our “critical mass” — if you will.  

Boise sounds like it holds a very special place in Markmonitor’s history. As we celebrate our silver anniversary, are there any plans to give back to the city that gave us a place to call “home?” 

SH: Yes, there are. When discussions began regarding our 25th anniversary, representatives from our Customer Success Team were proactive in suggesting that we do something to give back to the community, and they led the planning from that point on. I was proud when I realized that giving back to the community, in both time and funds, was another way that Markmonitor employees exemplify the importance of building relationships, only this time with their local communities.  

Our people chose to donate to Idaho Gives, “a powerful event that supports local communities and organizations” and to spend their time volunteering at the Idaho Botanical Garden, along with a few other charitable endeavors.  

How has Markmonitor’s global presence grown over the years and what has that meant for our clients and partners? 

SH: From a very early stage and continuing to this day, Markmonitor has been a global company. Our other key locations and teams around the world, in Europe and APAC, in London and Tokyo especially, are very important parts of the Markmonitor story.  

As we have grown and continued serving a truly global, enterprise client base, our office locations have expanded as well. When Markmonitor became the first US-based registrar licensed in Mainland China for .com, .net, and .cn, we expanded our team there with some very talented and knowledgeable colleagues.  

This expansion continues to the recent past. Last year we invited many talented engineers in Brazil and Argentina to join our Engineering Department, working closely with our valued engineers in Boise. We’re looking to add more locations in 2024 and beyond — it is important to us that Markmonitor’s talent and clients are well-represented in the Middle East, APAC, and everywhere else in the world.  

Markmonitor has certainly expanded since 1999, but how much have we changed? Who founded Markmonitor and does the business problem they identified and were solving for back then still hold true today?  

SH: Markmonitor’s founders were Faisal Shah, James Hepworth, and Ed Priddy.   

As to the business problem they were solving for, well, it’s baked into our name. I personally wish we had officially started as a domain management company, but it started out more to solve problems in brand protection. In fact, it’s right there in the name — “Trademark Monitoring” being shortened to “Mark Monitor,” and that has since evolved into one word — “Markmonitor” (yes, the second m is now lowercase).   

However, while Markmonitor did not officially start as a domain registrar, it very quickly became one in the first years of the company’s existence. We gained ICANN accreditation in 2000 and the domain registrar aspect of the business played a very critical role in the development and stabilization of the company in those early days. The early expertise, adoption, and embracing of the corporate registrar model is a key part of Markmonitor’s success and story. There is so much more to our story at Markmonitor though, with many great products, colleagues, and teams over the years, but the domain team has been rock-solid and with us since nearly the very beginning.  

A screenshot of Markmonitor’s website from May of 2000, as captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

What would you consider to be some of the most salient changes in the Domain Industry from 1999, when Markmonitor was founded, to now, 2024?  

SH: So, this would be a fun question to ask some of my colleagues who’ve been here since those early days. Chris Niemi and I had a chance to catch up recently when he celebrated his 20th anniversary with the business. He is Markmonitor’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives and authors our Quarterly New gTLD Reports. He plans to include his thoughts and reflections on 20+ years in the Domain Industry and Markmonitor’s 25th anniversary in his next report, publishing this May.  

That is one big thing right there — New gTLDs hadn’t been launched when I joined Markmonitor. In 1999, no one would have understood what you meant if you were talking about “ICANN’s Next Round” or “dotBRANDS.” The scope of TLDs was much smaller in those days. And of course, no blocking products or concept of Web3 or blockchain domains back then either. This is just the tip of the iceberg though, so much has changed and developed over the years, especially with regards to different tools and technologies that have come and gone.  

I mean, I’ve heard some stories — but I think many of the “wild west days of domains” were mostly gone by the time I joined in 2011. In a broad sense, in the early days, things were much more manual. Now, they’ve become more streamlined and automated — but there have been many other nuances and complexities introduced to the industry that keep us vigilant and on our toes.  

For example, in December of 2005, the .eu ccTLD was launched. It challenged us with some new wrinkles in the TLD space. The Markmonitor team was not very large at that time, but they did an incredible job of joining together to come up with an innovative approach in tackling this brand-new process, which was a huge win for our clients. To this day, that launch is a point of pride in Markmonitor’s history and one of our most successful as well.   

In the past, there was much less automation between registrars and registries. I’ve heard stories of sending faxes to domain registries and other archaic processes for domain renewals or ownership changes. Even situations where people would have had to go in-person to an office and physically pay or transact with someone for a domain renewal.  

What hasn’t changed over the course of Markmonitor’s 25-year history? Do you think it will remain unchanged for another 25+ years? 

SH: There is definitely a core aspect of the service Markmonitor offers that really hasn’t changed. It’s that foundational relationship that our people build with our clients — that managed “white-glove” service that our teams have always and will always provide.   

As automation means less time spent on manual tasks, our Domain Portfolio Advisors have been able to provide a higher level of service. They’re able to invest their time and attention in their clients, learning more about what is important to them and their businesses. They use their time wisely and stay current in their expertise and knowledge in our products and services, to better serve our clients in all their needs, like those related to DNS and SSL Certs, not just domains.  

Our DPAs are often looked at as an extension of our clients’ own internal teams. Markmonitor is strong due to the relationships our DPAs and Account Managers have built with our clients. We’ve really curated our teams to respond to the needs and challenges of large enterprise customers. I think that trusted partnership we’ve been able to build and maintain, that dynamic between the DPAs and their clients, that’s been the secret to our success for many years.   

And I am really proud of Markmonitor’s reputation of excellence —being exacting — meeting and exceeding some really complex, very nuanced client needs.  There’s a certain kind of pride in what we do here at Markmonitor, a standard that we maintain — for our clients, for the larger industry, and for the love of what we do — that is hard for others to replicate as it’s the product of 25 years of very deliberate work.   

I think we can prove that beyond just talk! Exemplifying what I’ve just said, in Markmonitor’s most recent Customer Satisfaction Survey, conducted this month, 97% of our customers said that our DPAs make them feel valued. That’s just incredible. It speaks to what our DPAs and all the teams at Markmonitor do for our clients and this organization. Value can be difficult to quantify, much less make someone feel, so that 97% of our clients feel valued really speaks to the level of attention and quality of relationship that our teams build with them and others in the industry.   

What predictions do you have for our industry and for Markmonitor? Is there anything you would like to have happen? 

SH: In the industry as a whole, I want to see the continued collaboration of all relevant stakeholders and parties in addressing and resolving the issues that face and impact us. In collaboration, we advance. I’d like to hope that we can avoid getting bogged down by factions not motivated by growth or development, and that we don’t allow perfection to be the enemy of progress.  

And I believe that Markmonitor will remain at the heart of all these discussions for years to come. We’ll continue advocating for our clients and the good of the Domain Industry — having a voice in policy development, encouraging necessary changes, and ensuring that our work embodies the high standards we’re known for. At the end of the day, it’s all so that our clients are able to safely and securely manage their domains and to protect their brands online, at global scale. Our mantra, our ethos, our mission at Markmonitor is truly to help our clients transform the world online. And I hope we continue to have a lot of that in the future.   

Further streamlining of processes and automation in the world of corporate domain management is nearly guaranteed. Not just for domain portfolios, but also brand protection and DNS and SSL Certs. With SSL certs especially, consider the lift that would be required of a brand operating at global scale if the life cycle of certs decreases from years to months or even days. Now for large enterprises, multiply this across many different brands, departments, regions, etc. and SSL cert life cycle automation becomes a must. Markmonitor will continue to focus on designing our products for all our clients and their respective needs — including those who wish to automate their workflows, those who want to login and self-service, and those who prefer to work closely with their DPAs. 

Oh, and would it be a 2024 interview if I didn’t mention Artificial Intelligence? I think AI offers many opportunities to solve enterprise customer needs and can provide insights that may influence domain strategy, like when deciding which domains to register, monitor, or ignore. At Markmonitor and Newfold, we’ve been exploring how AI could help with our corporate customer needs. The potential behind these innovative AI-based insights and solutions in enterprise domain strategy will only grow as the technology behind these AI tools continues to be refined.  

Thank you, Stu. As we begin wrapping up our 25th anniversary interview, what final thoughts would you like to share with Markmonitor’s clients and partners?  

SH: At Markmonitor, our guiding lights will always be our clients and we strive to be good partners to our peers and colleagues in the industry.  Addressing the challenges and needs of our customers will always be at our core. This year especially, one of our key initiatives is to expand our network of trusted partners. In doing that, and in releasing new products and services, we promise to continue delivering the value and service that our clients know and deserve.  

No matter what changes and complexities the future may hold, we hold the relationships we’ve built with clients and partners as paramount to our success. Our Global Industry Relations team will continue to grow Markmonitor’s presence and voice in policy meetings and deliberations, advocating for our clients’ best interests. Our Domain Portfolio Advisors will continue acting as extensions to our clients’ internal teams, ensuring they know their value and importance, and working to solve whatever issues may arise. And the people at Markmonitor that you don’t see in public-facing roles? I promise that they’ll continue working for you too. We take pride in a job well done and in cultivating relationships, and as part of the Newfold family, we’re more empowered than ever to do so.   

Any parting words for the people of Markmonitor, past and present? 

Thank you. Once you’re in Markmonitor, you’re always in Markmonitor. Your presence and your contributions played no small part in helping us get where we are today — Happy 25th Anniversary!