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Domain name black-marketing

What’s happening here? Technology is being monetized in the same way art and wines have been. There's a lot of money to be made in cyberspace, from cyberspace and by cyberspace, writes Rahul Sharma.

business Updated: Jul 08, 2007 03:52 IST
Rahul Sharma

Hoarding coveted domain names can make you a millionaire

Beer, sex and diamonds sell everywhere, a lot of them in the cyber world. But if you wanted to buy a suitable domain name to promote these small human pleasures on the Internet it could cost not thousands but millions of dollars because somebody smarter got in there first.

Back in the good old days of rattling typewriters, domain probably meant no more than the area where typists sat and hit those keys with venom or satisfaction. But times have changed and the art propagated by Pitman — then God — has been replaced by electronic mails and domain names have taken on a new meaning.

While we struggled in a non-wired world, smart kids, many of them school and college dropouts, surged ahead with the changing technology elsewhere to make lots of money by first quietly registering and later selling domain names in auctions reminiscent of invitation-only sale of top class art worth zillions.

It hurts to know that sex.com, a domain name that is self-explanatory, sold for $12 million in 2005, eleven years after a certain obscure software salesman registered it. Porn.com beat that sale by $2 million when it was bought in May this year in what is said to be the biggest all-cash transaction for an URL.

Beer.com — which according to Forbes magazine now features racy content aimed at a male audience — apparently sold for $7 million, and Diamond.com got its owner a cool half a million more when it went on the block. On Beer.com you can find virtual bartenders, while Diamond.com offers you those sparkling stones that last forever.

I bumped into beer for the first time in my teens. That accident was strongly disapproved by my mother while my father controlled his smile as I gurgled satisfactorily in the peak of Delhi summer. Sex, I really don’t want to talk about thanks to my middle-class upbringing. Diamonds I am still to buy.

There was a time when these three words defined aspirations and lifestyle. It’s now disheartening to see smart kids make lots of money by adding a .com suffix and selling them on the Internet.

What’s happening here? Technology is being monetized in the same way art and wines have been. There's a lot of money to be made in cyberspace, from cyberspace and by cyberspace.

Some of that was visible at an auction last month in New York where participants spent nearly $11 million to buy more than 200 Internet domain names. One of them was seniors.com, which sold for $1.8 million. The new owner is yet to populate the site. It still says that it is up for sale at the Largest Live Domain Auction Ever.

So if you want to make money you might seriously consider spending up to $15 per year to register and keep a domain name that might suit your current and future interests than put the money in a piggy bank (Do they still make those things?). There are specialized websites that tell you what’s on offer, though the names are rather weird given that most of the sensible ones have already been taken. If you are lucky you could be betting on a winner, though experts say that most of these names do not make huge amounts of money.

Topping the high traffic list of sedo.com, a domain auction website, is scene.com, followed by li.com – which had more than 200 offers. Seems the owner of this website, which is parked without content, is in no hurry to sell. Monalisa.com comes in 9th on the list, while tell.com is 10th.

On Moniker.com, which organized the auction in New York, the highest priced domain names on offer seem to be from China. Names like cnmobile3g.cn, 3gcnmobile.cn and ggggoogle.cn are available for $418, 868,900. It’s difficult to say what’s behind the name, but given the Chinese penchant for numbers there’s definitely something behind the price that they are being offered at. There is still chance to come up with more gobbledygook in the hope that somebody stuck in the worldwide web would want to buy it. Go for it, folks!