Entrepreneurs will speculate on just about anything.
In the 1990’s, speculators (dubbed domainers) began registering domain names with a view to selling them for a profit. “.com”, being the most desirable in what was still an emerging market, saw the most traffic. Ecommerce was still in its infancy (things do change). The most popular were one word descriptions. Sex.com, Porn.com, Beer.com. After that, generic descriptive sites like propertyforsale.com were also snapped up pretty quickly.
Were these domain name grabs speculation or cybersquatting? There’s a fine line, an almost impossible to penetrate fine line, as protocols define cyberssquatting as bad faith registration of domain names with a few to making a profit.
Who buys the domain names and why? The obvious answer is people who are in businesses, like brewers (beer.com) and purveyors of Internet porn (porn.com). Sometimes the purchases are defensive. Facebook bought fb.com to stop competitors using the name. Fb.com probably came about as a of the popularity of Facebook. And it comes just about as close to cybersquatting as you can get. Domainers look for trends and popular web sites and register names that are similar to popular web sites such as Facebook.
There are two types of domain name sales: The sale of a domain name for which there is no web site and the sale, lock stock and barrel, of both a domain name and its existing site. Not surprisingly, the latter is often the most expensive. There are brokers (think a big fee) with web sites featuring domains for sale.
Beer.com was created in 1993 and in 2006 was sold for $7 million. There is no web site, but you can bid on the domain name at Aftermarket.com, a site for buying, selling and parking domain names. Fancybidding on some of their for sale domains like Sexedu.com or Jewelry.com?
9. Diamond.com (not to be confused with Diamonds.com) sold for $7.5 million in 2006. It offers advice and education on diamonds (e.g., traveling with diamonds) and sells everything from $4.3 million dollar diamond solitaire rings to $110 turquoise drop earrings. Who would buy a $4.3 million ring online anyway?
A live site, Business.com sold for $7.5 million in 2010. It is an umbrella marketplace for all things business, from shopping credit cards, to human resources software, to insurance and back again. Follow the links to shop to your heart’s content.
Type in Fb.com and guess what happens? You go straight to Facebook. That’s because Facebook bought the domain name in 2010 for a cool $8.5 million. Don’t despair, you can make a bid for Bookface.com (www.archeodomains.com). Once a book selling interface, it went out of business several years before Facebook was up and running.
Guess what you will find on this website? Yep, porn. Click through galleries or focus on porn stars like Lexi Belle (she of 2,300 followers). The domain name sold for $9.5 million in 2007. It was purchased by MXN Ltd, a company that describes itself as a company that “develops and deploys innovative web properties.” For “innovative” read “opportunistic”. It is based in Detroit.
Purchased for $9.9 million in 2009, the domain is listed as “under construction” on www.directnic.com. It is unusual in that there is no web site, but there is an financial advisory group trading under the Fund.com name.
Sex.com sold for a cool $10 million in 2010. As is often the case with sites like this, it is not at all clear who purchased it. Who registered Sex.com in the first place? A guy named Gary Kremen originally registered it in 1995. He was also the founder of www.match.com. Interesting side by side, don’t you think? The web site offers the obvious.
After Sex.com, the reassuring smiling family picture on Insure.com was something of a relief. It sold in 2009 for $16 million. It will come as no surprise that it sells insurance. All kinds of insurance.
We are in the land of the rich on this site. Selling for $30 million in 2012, PrivateJet.com offers information on private jets (buy, sell, charter), as well as luxury lifestyle pieces (e.g., expensive toys and destinations). Plan a trip in your jet to the Maserati Polo Tour or buy a villa in the South of France.
Purchased by HomeAway (a vacation rental company) in 2007, VacationRentals.com was an existing site. HomeAway bought it to stop Expedia picking it up. The price of security? $35 million.