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Billionaire Elon Musk reacquired x.com

Kevin Murphy, July 11, 2017, Domain Sales

Billionaire entrepreneur and PayPal founder Elon Musk has reacquired the domain name x.com for an undisclosed sum.

X.com was the domain he acquired in 1999 and originally used for PayPal, before its 2001 rebrand.

Musk, who currently runs private space travel trailblazer SpaceX, confirmed the purchase in a tweet today:

The deal was first spotted by domainer/blogger Elliot Silver, who noticed the Whois change.

Musk also seemed to say in a subsequent tweet that he had originally bought x.com back from its original owner in 1999 for stock in the nascent company, which 18 years later would presumably be worth an absolute fortune.

While the price of the 2017 purchase was not disclosed, one has to assume it would be worth millions; pocket change to a man reportedly worth over $15 billion today.

Uniregistry sale leads to BBC telling millions that domainers exist

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2017, Domain Sales

The BBC dedicated five minutes of prime-time air to telling the British public that domainers exist, after a Uniregistry domain name sale led to interest from producers.

The One Show appears on BBC One at 7pm five days a week. It’s the BBC’s flagship magazine program and appears to currently have about 3.5 million viewers per day.

It’s notorious for its hosts’ often jarring segues between sycophantic interviews with visiting celebrities and prerecorded human interest stories covering everything from people who collect doylies to people who are dying from AIDS.

In Friday’s episode — guest-hosted by Jerry Springer, no less — the first VT of the show is about domainers.

Regular host Alex Jones points out that while Springer and guest Rita Ora own their matching .com domains, fellow guest Tracey Ullman’s .com name is on the market for $795 (it’s registered to HugeDomains, but that isn’t mentioned).

Ullman laughs, and the UDRP-fodder is never mentioned again.

Cut to VT.

The roving reporter, whose name is not given, tells us that there are 335 million domains on the internet today, anyone can come up with one, and that “there are other people out there known as ‘domain dealers’ who buy these domains and sell them on for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of pounds”.

Brit domainer Graham Haynes is then introduced as “one of the first people to buy and sell domains”. He says he sold a portfolio of domains for £1.5 million ($1.91 million at today’s exchange rate) and spent $600,000 on furniture.co.uk.

Haynes says domains are always going up in value so he always tries to hold on as long as he can before he sells.

Then we get a few seconds over Skype with Aron Meystedt, who bought first-ever .com Symbolics.com eight years ago and says the name as been a “good cornerstone” of his portfolio. He uses the word “domainer” for the first time.

Then our reporter says she wants to find out whether she has what it takes to be a domainer.

We’re introduced to 25-year-old domainer Simon Whipps, who says he buys domains for £10 to £20 and sells them to end users for about £1,000.

The reporter hands him a list of domains she’s come up with and gives him half an hour to tell her whether they’re worth anything or not.

Then we’re off to the Cayman Islands, where a Londoner identified only as “Mo” lives. It’s presented as if he’s living the high life on a beach having made a killing from domains.

I believe he’s Mohammed Khan, a broker from Uniregistry. He says he helped broker personalloans.com ($1 million) and kiwi.com ($800,000).

Then it’s into the Uniregistry office, where a VP identified (mistakenly, it turns out) as “Alan Schwartz” mentions that he helped broker the $13 million sale of sex.com.

Back to Whipps, who tells the reporter than the only two domains on her list worth a damn are christmas.net and adventure.net. Given she owns neither, it’s not clear how she came up with these picks.

All in all, it’s a strange, thin, directionless fluff piece with nothing to say about domaining other than the fact that it exists. It could have been produced at basically any time in the last 15 years with barely any changes.

According to Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling, the item came about as a result of interest from producers after Uniregistry made an aftermarket sale to somebody involved in the show.

It’s not clear who the buyer was or what the domain was, but apparently the kernel of the idea of the piece came about “organically” as a result of the deal.

Sixteen-year-old emoji .com sells for €3,400

Kevin Murphy, June 1, 2017, Domain Sales

An emoji domain name believed to be in the first three such domains ever registered has been sold.

The domain ☮.com (xn--v4h.com) seems to to have been sold to an end-user buyer, via Sedo, for €3,400 ($3,816). The sale appears to have been a quick flip by an Austrian investor.

☮ is of course better known as a symbol representing peace, most associated with campaigns for nuclear disarmament.

The name now redirects to Sonshi.com, an “educational resource for Sun Tzu’s The Art of War”. The owner explains:

As students of Sun Tzu, we understand the objective of understanding warfare is peace. Even when we are forced to do battle, we want to end it quickly. If possible, it is best to prevent fighting altogether. There are few symbols that represent peace and are as recognizable as ☮.

According to research carried out by domain investor Michael Cyger, ☮.com is one of the three oldest emoji domains, after a “hot spring” symbol in .com and .net, all having been registered April 19, 2001.

It’s not a knock-your-socks-off price, given the scarcity of emoji domains and the age of the registration, but it seems to show there are buyers out there.

Emoji domains were recently discouraged by ICANN’s security committee due to the potential for security risks, and are currently effectively banned in new gTLDs.

.com-dominated NamesCon auction already has one million-dollar bid

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2017, Domain Sales

There’s still about week to go until this year’s NamesCon conference kicks off in Las Vegas, but the live auction that will close the first day of the show has already seen pre-bidding action.

One batch of domains has already received a high bid of $1,010,000, but does not appear to have yet met its reserve.

The batch is led by bar.com, but also includes bar.net, cafes.com, grill.com, place.com, pub.com and shelter.com.

Another five domains on the list, all .com names, have attracted bids in six figures, topped by the $800,000 bid for ol.com.

The list of names up for pre-bid on NameJet (100 of which will hit the live auction) is dominated by Verisign TLDs — .com, obviously, and to a lesser extent .net and .tv.

The biggest pre-bid for a 2012-round gTLD is the $1,010 currently offered for gold.club, roughly 110th on the list as ordered by current bid.

The most active new gTLD auction is currently shoes.xyz, which has 28 bidders but a top bid of just $330.

I’m not sure how much can be inferred from pre-bids, but it certainly seems that most of the money from domain investors is still being put into short, one or two-word .com domains.

The auction will begin at 1500 US Pacific Time next Monday, January 23.

The auction is being managed and promoted by Right Of The Dot and NameJet. Would-be buyers need a NameJet account to participate.

Names not sold during the live event will go to an extended auction until February 9. ROTD’s Monte Cahn said this is in order to give Chinese bidders time to bid after Chinese New Year (January 28 this year).

Short .at domain auction raises over $1m

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2016, Domain Sales

Nic.at’s three-stage auction of one and two-character .at domains has raised over $1 million.

Auction house Sedo announced today that over 1,000 .at names were sold, for a combined total of over $1 million.

The biggest-ticket name was c.at, which went for €56,000, according to Sedo.

Bidders were not restricted to Austria or German-speaking nations. Sedo said notable bids came in from China, the US and Canada.

Here’s the top-ten list, priced in euros:

c.at€€56,000
1.at€€26,008
at.at€€20,500
e.at€€12,500
b.at€€11,100
6.at€€11,001
d.at€€10,100
ep.at€€10,099
ch.at€€10,002
f.at€€10,000

.web could already be a record-breaker as auction enters day two

Kevin Murphy, July 28, 2016, Domain Sales

It seems likely that .web has already smashed through the $41.5 million record sale price for a new gTLD at ICANN auction.

The auction, which kicked off properly at 1300 UTC yesterday, seems to have ended its first day of bidding at around 2300 UTC last night without a winner.

That suggests, based on the rules and how previous auctions have played out, that we’re probably already looking at high bids over $50 million.

The previous top price for a gTLD at ICANN auction was .shop, which sold to GMO for $41.5 million earlier this year.

The signs are that .web will go for more.

Be warned, this is mostly informed guesswork. I don’t know what the current bids are.

ICANN auctions work in rounds. In each round the minimum bid is either $1 (for round one) or the previous round’s maximum bid (for all subsequent rounds).

The maximum bid in each round is set by the auctioneer, who has broad discretion, based on the action at the time.

The range between minimum and maximum bids seems to get bigger in each passing round, based on previous auction results.

According to ICANN auction rules (pdf) each bidding round lasts 20 minutes and is immediately followed by a 20-minute recess.

This schedule is somewhat flexible. It could be slowed down or sped up with the consent of all bidders.

The .web auction was due to kick off at 1300 UTC yesterday, according to court papers, though it seems probable that round-one bids were accepted the previous night.

The first day’s bidding was due to end at 2330 UTC yesterday.

So that’s over 10 hours of bidding yesterday, which works out to about 15 rounds if they stuck to the 40-minute round schedule.

When .shop sold for $41.5 million, it did so in just 14 rounds, carried out in a single day.

The final round of that auction saw an acceptable bidding range of $36.8 million to $46 million — an almost $10 million spread.

So, if we can assume that there were at least 15 rounds in the .web auction yesterday and we can assume that the auctioneer is following a similar playbook to the .shop auction, the maximum bid when the auction paused overnight was likely well over $50 million.

By the time you read this, this guesswork could be moot anyway. I expect we’ll find out later today whether those assumptions were accurate. It seems unlikely that a third day’s bidding will be required.

The applicants for .web are NDC, Radix, Donuts, Schlund, Afilias, Google and Web.com. Vistaprint’s bid for .webs is also in the auction.

Instagram paid Chinese cyberquatter $100,000 for instagram.com, Facebook lawsuit reveals

Kevin Murphy, January 20, 2016, Domain Sales

Facebook has sued a Chinese cybersquatter for trying to renege on a five-year-old deal that saw it buy the domain instagram.com for $100,000.

The lawsuit, filed in California last week, claims that a family of known cybersquatters, based in Guangdong, is trying to have the purchase invalidated by a Chinese court.

The company, which acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, wants the court to rule that the domain deal was legal, preventing the cybersquatters retaking control of the domain.

Photo-sharing app Instagram launched in October 2010 using the domain instagr.am.

At that time, instagram.com was owned by a US-based domain investor, but it was bought by Zhou Weiming about a month later.

Zhou, Facebook says, was the now-dead father of three of the people it is suing, and the husband of the fourth.

When Zhou purchased the domain, Instagram had become wildly popular, well on the way to hitting the million-user mark in December 2010.

Instagram had applied for the US trademark on its name in September 2010, less than a month before its launch.

The company made the decision to pay $100,000 for the domain in January 2011.

The Whois information for instagram.com changed from Zhou Weiming to Zhou Murong, apparently his daughter, around about the same time, though the registrant email address did not change.

The purchase was processed by Sedo, according to a copy of the deal filed as evidence (pdf).

Now, Murong’s mother and sisters are suing her and Instagram in China, claiming she did not have the authority to sell the domain, according to Facebook’s complaint.

Facebook claims the Chinese suit is a “sham” and that the whole Zhou family is acting in concert.

The company wants the California court to declare that the sale was valid, and that registrar MarkMonitor should not be forced to transfer the domain back to the Zhous.

Facebook in 2014 won a 22-domain UDRP case against Murong Zhou, related to typos of its Instagram trademark.

Read the full California complaint as a PDF here.

Top 2015 new gTLD sale looks like cybersquatting

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2016, Domain Sales

One of the top secondary market domain sales of 2015, as reported by Sedo, appears to be a case of somebody selling a domain matching a trademark to the trademark’s owner.

According to a press release yesterday, the domain basic-fit.fitness was the third-priciest reportable new gTLD domain sale handled by Sedo last year.

It went for €7,949 ($8,634).

Given that it’s not intrinsically an attractive-looking domain, I tried to figure out why it sold.

Judging by Whois records, the buyer is the corporate owner of Basic-Fit, a chain of over 300 gyms in four European countries.

It has at least one trademark on “Basic-Fit”.

The original registrant, according to records cached by DomainTools, was a Belgian web designer.

The domain seems to have changed hands around May last year. In April, it spent a couple of weeks under Whois privacy.

The domain was registered August 27, 2014, the day .fitness exited its Early Access Period and domains were available at regular prices.

It seems the same Belgian web designer owns several more new gTLD domain names matching brands that are parked with Sedo and available to buy instantly.

Many are .immo (“.realestate”) domains matching the brands of Belgian real estate firms. There are also a few .beer domains under his name matching the brands of breweries and beers in the UK, US and Czech Republic.

It’s not unheard of for web developers to register domains on behalf of clients. It’s rather less common for them to then list them for sale, with buy-now prices, on domain marketplaces.

Looks dodgy to me.

Rightside to auction “xyz” domains at NamesCon

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2016, Domain Sales

.xyz made a bit of a splash with domain investors in 2015, but is the meaningless string “xyz” inherently attractive? Even at the second level?

Rightside seems to think so.

The registry, which does not operate .xyz, is planning to auction at least four “xyz” domains during next Monday’s live auction at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas.

Rightside today disclosed that xyz.sale, xyz.market, xyz.news and xyz.live will be among about a dozen registry-reserved short domain names– such as q.sale and z.pub — it will attempt to sell.

The only meaningful domain on its list is the absolutely fantastic, category-killing viral.video.

It’s difficult to see the “xyz” names as anything other than attempt to cash in on the popularity of .xyz domains among the investors, many of them Chinese, currently pumping money into the domain market.

XYZ.com’s .xyz gTLD has over 1.7 million domains in its zone file today, making it the largest-volume new gTLD by a considerable margin.

I’m not sure there’s any causal connection here, but it should probably be noted that Daniel Negari and Michael Ambrose, XYZ.com’s CEO and COO respectively, recently acquired a substantial chunk of Rightside.

The two men disclosed November 30 that they had paid over $8.5 million to buy almost 10 million shares — or roughly 5.2% of the company — on the open market.

The NamesCon auction kicks off at 1400 Pacific (2200 UTC) on Monday at the Tropicana in Vegas. It’s being managed by RightOfTheDot and Namejet.

Berkens flogs the lot to Go Daddy

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2015, Domain Sales

Domain investor Mike Berkens has sold almost his entire portfolio of domain names to Go Daddy, both parties said today.

Berkens’ company, WorldWide Media sold about 70,000 names to the company, which plans to list most of them on its Afternic Fast Transfer Network.

That’s the service that tries to streamline the purchasing of premium-priced domains as much as possible by making them available intermingled with unregistered names on registrars’ storefronts.

Berkens said on his blog, The Domains, that the decision to sell off most of his portfolio came about largely due to his personal circumstances.

“Simply put, life is short and this it was the perfect time for myself and my family to make a move that doesn’t require working 7 days a week, 365 days a year on the computer,” he wrote.

He intends to continue his work with RightOfTheDot, the auction and premium sales company he founded with Monte Cahn, which is running a big auction at the NamesCon conference next month.

He has also retained a portfolio of adult-themed domains, which he plans to sell via a web site at adult.domains.

A small portfolio of mostly new gTLD domains will be sold via the.domains.

Financial details of the Go Daddy deal were not disclosed, but Berkens said he could have made more money selling the names individually. He expects Go Daddy will find the domains profitable too, he said.