There’s gold in them there domain names. Some are sold for seven digits – Pizza.com, for example, famously sold for $2.6 million back in 2008 – this after the original owner paid only $20 for it in the mid-’90s. Early Internet users embarked on such domain name registrations without thinking much about it, only to become rich years later.
These days, of course, most one-word domains like that have long been grabbed – most have been sold. Some are kind of weirdly used: duck.com, for example, redirects to Google (seriously, try it – Google aquired the domain when they bought out On2). So lucking into concise, descriptive names is right out – it’s why young Internet companies all drop random letters from their name.
If you want to make money pre-buying domains today, today the game is reacting to – or predicting – current events. Here are just a few such events – and the domain name gold rushes they prompted.
The Naming of Pope Francis
When one becomes Pope he changes his name – and new Popes almost always take on the name of a predecessor they hope to emulate. It’s why most of them have some sort of Roman numeral after their name.
Not the case with Pope Francis, who took on the name of St. Francis of Assisi – prompting Vatican observers to speculate about theological implications and domain name speculators to buy, buy, buy.
Within minutes of the smoke changing color, domain name registration speculators snapped up hundreds of domains with the words “Pope Francis“, hoping to cash in on sudden demand. It’s not an unwarranted hope: PopeBenedictXVI.com sold for thousands back in 2005.
As for the real prize, PopeFrancis.com? It was surprisingly purchased by a Chicago Lawyer back in 2010, seemingly on a lark, and is today registered to the Vatican.
The USA picks a new president every four years – it’s most of what major media outlets here report on during the two years leading up to them. That kind of media saturation is exactly the sort of thing domain name speculators thrive on – whether they work for the campaign or otherwise.
For example: in a 2012 debate Mitt Romney declared his love for female causes by mentioning the “binders full of women” he used to find cabinet members – a phrase Twitter took a lot of delight in. A Democratic Super PAC bought up “BindersFullOfWomen.com” two minutes after Romney uttered the phrase, which in my mind must be some sort of record. The site was used by the PAC through the rest of the election, but is inactive now.
But it’s not just current events that prompt domain name registration speculation – it’s future ones too. And for domain name speculators 2016 is an opportunity – especially if you can manage to pick the right candidates.
Rick Santorum’s trying to stay ahead of this: he’s already bought RickSantorum2016.com, RickSantorum2016 .net and Santorum2016.net. But according to Politico it’s unclear whether candidates or speculators have purchased Christie2016.com, ElizabethWarren2016.com or JoeBiden2016.com, meaning we can only guess if they plan to run. O
One thing’s for sure, though: this picture might be a standard GoDaddy filler page, but I also imagine it’s the only shirt in the wardrobe of Biden’s summer home:
Boston Marathon Bombing
It’s been true through most of human history: people try to exploit tragedy to make a quick buck. This ugly instinct isn’t unknown to domain name speculators, some of whom snap up relevant domain names. It happened after the Boston Marathon bombing – people bought up relevant domains, presumably hoping to cash in on them.
Not everyone did this to cash in, though: the owner of BostonMarathonConspiracy.com bought the domain simply to prevent conspiracy theorists from having access.
Michael Jackson’s Death
The death of a celebrity always prompts reflection on their career – resulting in a spike of Internet traffic. Again, speculators know this, and act quickly to grab domains when someone dies. One eBay user tried to sell Michael Jackson related domain names like KingofPopsDeath.com, MichaelJacksonDied.com, MichaelJacksonArtist.com, and RestInPeaceKingofPop.com immediately after Michael Jackson’s demise. Disgusting? Yep. Profitable? Probably.
New Top-Level Domains
But of course, the mother of all domain name registration gold rushes is yet to come. The world of top level domain names (TLD) will soon bust open wide, meaning website owners and companies will be able to use endings like “.app” and “.book” in place of “.com” and “.net”. But who will control which of these top level domains?
A massive online auction will decide many of them, while those with legitimate claims will argue over others. Amazon, the company, is already fighting with the nations that Amazon, the river, flows through for exclusive access to .amazon, and similar fights will almost certainly show up across the planet.
A company called Donuts – connected to Domand Media – is spending $56 million to bid on such domains, and it’s likely they won’t be the only ones. Stay tuned, folks: this is going to be the domain name gold rush of the century.
Of course, some people purchased well-timed domain names simply to crack a joke. Not everyone’s in it for the money. And everyone should, I think, own at least one domain – even if it’s just for email, using services like Google Apps (even if it’s just a way to avoid spam). If your name is available, please: snap it up before I do, or you’ll need to pay me lots of money for it.
Anyway: which events will prompt the next wave of domain name speculation? I want to know what you think. Leave your ideas in the comments below – unless, of course, you’re afraid someone else will use them and get rich.