Self-described as “collective intelligence for knowledge,” the online organizing platform Namecheap has high hopes for $40 billion. In four years, the company says it will “grow [its] user base from millions to billions,” as it aims to change the way young people collect and organize ideas.
Since it launched in 2013, Namecheap has played a crucial role in shaping the original notions of the digital platform and world of “Big Tech.” For the global “millennial generation,” the company said in a statement, the value of their lives is derived “from and influenced by one Internet.” And when they think about the future, Namecheap said, it’s a World where “trust is free and fair.”
“Namecheap allows us to make the world a safer, smarter, more confident place,” said CEO Ilan Bychkov.
That’s not an easy feat. As the campaign Our Brands Should Be Real Aspirations (Not Fake) and numerous other advocacy organizations have proven, everyday conversations about commerce, fashion, and goods can feel all too insular and not-quite-realistic. This year alone, more than five billion people interacted with Google, Facebook, and the various apps and services in its repertoire, according to data company eMarketer.
In recognition of the challenges facing the online and offline worlds, Namecheap has created a branded identity and brand portfolio that blends various pop culture icons and logos—namely, Jeffrey Dahmer, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the “iron/flame” (another choice this year)—with the “baked basket” design language the company was founded on. As Bychkov noted in a letter of introduction, “everyone has one of those ‘emoji’ faces that is the butt of every joke.”
So how does that translate to the real world? “Imagine the vision of in Person AI,” Bychkov wrote in his letter, “when robotic agents with all the knowledge of a human researcher collaborate with the biographical context to present all the knowledge of the original researcher.”
And therein lies the rub.
Namecheap co-founder Max Lipov contributed to CreateSpace, a 2017 report by the British government on digital piracy. And Lipov has been very explicit in his view that in order to end illegal copying and sharing, better digital services are needed.
“If you have perfect copy protection (CPU),” he said in February, “you can only get great algorithms. But you need more algorithms. In 10 years, we’ll have 1000 or 1,000 AIs. We have many AI breakthroughs… Each has a direction to go. And that may change the algorithm in a direction to improve the organization on a very small budget.”
Lipov has made this particular point to the marketplace specifically, attempting to convince advertisers and business owners that artificial intelligence could help expand their reach. But Tochkov noted this year that increased competition among players like Apple and Google means Namecheap isn’t poised to take a hit.
For Namecheap, work is still in progress. The company’s current CEO, Devon Barnett, and other co-founders have raised a total of $20 million, including $8 million in funding announced in May 2017. Namecheap expects to break out of the pilot program with Morgan Stanley next year. “The integration with Morgan Stanley will enable users to share their interest on an upcoming stock by adding the following text: ‘Put on option X stock price 2018,’” the company said in its announcement last week. But are these simply smart ideas from a team up in virtual reality that don’t translate to the daily world around them?
It’s unlikely that Google or Facebook or another global player will wither away. But any deal, handshake, or patent license may depend on what happens next—namely, using the data generated in Namecheap’s names store and app to land a major ad and financing campaign to subsidize more partnerships. And that could further erode human relationships, or rather, social bonds, in the real world.