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Schwartz sells porno.com for $8.9 million

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2015, Domain Sales

The domain name porno.com has changed hands for $8,888,888, making it the fourth highest-value domain to be sold.

The seller is domain investor Rick Schwartz, notorious for owning lots of category-killer domains but hardly ever selling them. The buyer is WGCZ, a Prague-based company.

According to DN Journal, the sale is the fourth biggest ticket domain to be sold in an all-cash deal.

Schwartz bought the domain for $42,000 in 1997 from a college student who had acquired it the previous week for $5,000, according to a press release.

He said he’s made over $10 million from the domain with pay-per-click sales or redirecting traffic to other porn sites.

The related domain porn.com sold for $9.5 million in 2007. The highest-value deal to date is sex.com, selling for $13 million in 2010. The only non-porn domain to sell for more is fund.com, which fetched $9,999,950.

Dot Vegas sells $2m of premiums

Kevin Murphy, January 28, 2015, Domain Sales

New gTLD registry operator Dot Vegas says it has sold over $2 million worth of “premium” .vegas domain names to date.

The registry, which went to general availability in September, has also registered 1,000 additional premiums to itself in an effort to drum up more sales.

The list is available at the registry’s web site (pdf).

As you might expect, gambling and tourism related keywords feature heavily, but there are also names geared towards locals.

The names don’t appear to have buy-now prices. Rather, Dot Vegas is soliciting interested potential buyers via the reserved sites.

.vegas zone files show just over 12,000 names currently. That number will include the registry-reserved ones. According to DomainTools, Dot Vegas owns about 2,200 names across all TLDs.

Vegas.club sells for $100,000

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2015, Domain Sales

.CLUB Domains said today it has sold the domain vegas.club for $100,000, and will help in its promotion as a members-only site for deals related to Las Vegas.

The deal was announced here at the NamesCon conference at the Tropicana hotel in Vegas.

The buyer is One Degree World Systems, a local company that develops booking sites for tourist destination cities worldwide.

I’m not sure the deal would be reportable as a straightforward domain-only sale, given that .CLUB said the companies have a “partnership” to develop the domain.

According to a company press release, the upcoming site will offer “members-only deals on nightclubs, hotels, shows, attractions and tours as well as concierge services, VIP status at local attractions, and white glove services like personal assistants on the ground, butler and nanny services and more.”

.CLUB had a similar relationship with its first big anchor tenant, the rapper 50 Cent, for the fan site 50inda.club.

It’s the second .club name the registry has sold for a six-figure sum. It sold coffee.club, also for $100,000, last year.

Right Of The Dot helped broker the vegas.club deal, the registry said.

.baby and .mls fetch over $3 million each

Kevin Murphy, December 18, 2014, Domain Sales

ICANN and Power Auctions have completed December’s mini-batch of “last resort” new gTLD auctions, adding a total of $6.4 million to its mysterious auction cash pile.

Johnson & Johnson won .baby, fighting off five portfolio applicants and paying a winning bid of $3,088,888.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Real Estate Association beat Afilias to .mls, paying $3,359,000.

I called it for CREA earlier this week, noting that the organization wanted .mls enough that it filed two applications, a failed Community Priority Evaluation, and an unsuccessful Legal Rights Objection against Afilias.

ICANN has now raised over $34 million selling off 10 strings at last resort auctions, with prices ranging from $600,000 (.信息) to $6.7 million (.tech).

The money has been set aside for purposes currently undecided. At least one applicant wants ICANN to redistribute the cash to losing bidders, which I don’t think is particularly likely.

Famous Four makes $175,000 from .webcam porn names

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2014, Domain Sales

Famous Four Media has sold a package of 15 .webcam domain names to an unspecified buyer for a total of $175,000.

The deal included tube.webcam, asian.webcam and milf.webcam, which Famous Four described as “adult oriented”.

Whois records for the domains are not yet available.

The .webcam gTLD is due to go to general availability today, alongside .bid and .trade. Together, they’re the registry’s first three gTLDs to hit GA.

It’s not an explicitly adult-oriented gTLD, but “cam” sites are a pretty big deal in the world of porn nowadays, so it’s easy to guess where .webcam will get most of its action.

The $175,000 deal — almost the full new gTLD application fee — was brokered by HuntingMoon, which specializes in adult industry names, in collaboration with Media Options and Domain Broker UK.

The deal follows hot on the heels of the $3 million sale of sex.xxx.

Sex.xxx sells for $3m as PussyCash cites SEO value

Kevin Murphy, May 29, 2014, Domain Sales

ICM Registry has sold a package of 40 premium .xxx domain names with a total value of $5 million to Barron Innovations, operator of the PussyCash porn affiliate network.

The headline sale in the batch is sex.xxx, which carried a standalone $3 million price tag.

That’s the first .xxx name to sell for a seven-figure sum. The previous record for a single name was $500,000 for gay.xxx.

It’s also the highest-priced non-.com domain name ever sold, according to publicly available sale prices.

It beats shopping.de, which went for the euro equivalent of $2.85 million in 2008, making sex.xxx the 10th most-expensive domain we know about.

Sex.com is of course the highest priced domain ever sold, going for $13 million in 2010.

According to ICM, Barron bought cam.xxx, phone.xxx and black.xxx for undisclosed six-figure prices. The deal also included web.xxx, market.xxx, mate.xxx and education.xxx, the company said.

Barron is evidently affiliated with webcam-oriented porn sites ImLive.com and Webcamwiz.com, as well as the related lead-generation program PussyCash.com.

PussyCash was subject to this glowing review (NSFW) in the adult industry press recently and is apparently a bit of a big deal in that world.

ICM tells me Barron had been studying the search engine optimization performance of .xxx for some time before signing the deal. Shay Efron, spokesperson for the buyer, said in a press release:

We have studied the undeniably superior performance of .XXX domains in terms of SEO and conversion rates and decided to make a huge splash by acquiring the very best keyword generic names available. We evaluated SEX.xxx, the flagship domain, and decided it has the potential to became the leading brand in the entire adult industry, so it was an obvious part of a very large deal.

The company intends to develop the names, according to a press release.

This is pretty good news for ICM (because of the cash) but it’s also promising for new gTLDs as a whole.

I’m not privy to Barron’s research, but if it’s confident enough in the SEO benefits of .xxx to spend $3 million on one name, that might be a signal that other niche gTLDs could see the same benefits in future.

It might not happen overnight — ICM launched .xxx two and a half years ago — but premium names could appreciate in value, assuming new registries manage to get some actual users building sites.

First IDN gTLD auction raises $181,000

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2014, Domain Sales

TLD Registry today raised over $181,000 in “premium” Chinese IDN domain names.

A live/online auction coordinated by Sedo and held at the China Rouge members’ club here in Macau saw 39 lots go under the hammer, 33 of which managed to raise at least the $2,000 minimum bid.

All the names were in .在线 (“.online”), of two Chinese IDN gTLDs TLD Registry launched this week.

Each lot contained multiple names.

In all cases the ASCII transliteration, or Pinyin, was thrown in. Some lots also contained conceptually related names. So the winner of “casino”.在线 also won “gambling”.在线.

Buyers will presumably be able to split the bundles for resale.

The lot with the highest bid at the end of the day was a collection of domains related to “gaming”, which sold for $25,388. Second was a “casino” bundle, which fetched $25,000

.CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell spent $7,100 on “club”.在线 and related terms.

Here’s the full list of auction results. Apologies to my Chinese readers, but I don’t have a Chinese keyboard nor a source document to copy and paste the actual names that were sold.

LotWinning Bid (USD)
TOTAL$181,714
make money2500
Go (the game)2000
pay2250
dinner2000
tall, handsome and rich2100
club7100
cosmetics2200
bitcoin14388
casino25000
go to Hong Kong2000
bookkeeping2000
watch TV2000
reunion0
United Kingdom2550
personal homepage0
domain investing2500
discount4100
buy and sell3100
study English2250
maintaining your health2000
I love you2000
babysitting0
I want to eat2000
diet network2000
furniture2800
real estate16000
hot/popular2000
new cars2000
learn about wine0
luxury watches6400
travel and weather0
sell5588
hot search terms2400
loans7500
delivery information0
rent15500
financing2000
gaming25388
trademark6100

DISCLOSURE: I attended most of the auction and moderated a panel discussion during the lunch break. TLD Registry paid for my airfare and accommodation.

ROTD conducts first new gTLD auction as One.com wins .one

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2014, Domain Sales

Danish registrar One.com has won the .one contention set in the first private auction carried out by new gTLD consultancy Right Of The Dot.

One.com beat Radix, the United Arab Emirates-based portfolio applicant, to the string. Radix withdrew its application last week. The price has not been disclosed.

ROTD, Mike Berkens and Monte Cahn-managed company, has been competing with Applicant Auction for contention set resolution services and this is its first win.

The .one auction was carried out using a “single sealed bid second price” methodology, in which all participants privately submit a single bid and the winner pays the second-highest losing bid.

In this case, One.com will have paid Radix whatever bid Radix had put forward, with ROTD and escrow partner Escrow.com taking their fees from the winning bid.

Applicant Auction uses an “ascending clock” method, where bids are set in increments by the auctioneer over the space of several rounds, with bidders choosing to stay in or drop out in each round.

Cahn said in a press release: “Our Single Sealed Bid Second Price auction method protects the participants from ‘auction fever,’ which often causes over-bidding as people get emotionally tied to the process of winning at any cost due to time committed and sometimes throw their budgets out the window.”

Meet the first new gTLD domainer

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2014, Domain Sales

Gary Schultheis has bought hundreds of new gTLD domain names already and plans to buy thousands more this year.

Gary SchultheisThe former venture capitalist doesn’t consider himself a domainer, but analysis of Whois records and zone files over the weekend shows he very likely spent more than anyone on Donuts’ seven newly launched gTLDs.

At one point he owned about 10% of the .guru zone.

Schultheis’ new company, ii.org, is betting big — and long-term — on being able to sell from a large a portfolio of new gTLD names, he told DI today.

Right now, his investments are concentrated on .guru, where he says he’s picked up “hundreds” of names already.

DI research shows ii.org spent roughly $30,000 on a couple dozen generic .guru names in a single day last week, including exercise.guru, medical.guru, socialmedia.guru and divorce.guru.

“We’re not from the domain industry,” Schultheis said. “Folks I’m working with are either from the financial industry or the data industry. We’re looking at this from a smart, data-driven, black-box methodology.”

Most recently, Schultheis was president of TLO.com, a company that provided background research and risk management data services. He says that’s informed his strategy with ii.org.

“I like to take vast amounts of data and make decisions based on actual data, rather than speculation and guesses,” he said. “We may buy one-offs based on news-driven events but we try not to act emotionally.”

He’d rather not talk about the specifics of the company’s algorithms, but said they were tested out to create a portfolio of .com names, with mixed results.

Flipping some of these .com names will provide operating revenue, he said, adding that he has access to potentially millions of dollars in funding due to his previous work.

“If we have some .com’s that are industry or location specific, we have enough confidence we can sell those easily for cash flow,” he said.

“Our strategy is not to buy a million dollar domain and try to sell it for two million dollars, we’re going to buy things that will turn quick or have the potential for a massive multiple in future.”

But revenue from new gTLD sales may not come for years, he said.

“We have a five-to-ten year window on these and don’t care if we don’t sell any of these for years,” he said.

With that in mind, part of the risk of investing in “premium” strings with Donuts — which has earmarked many generic words for higher renewal pricing — is the high carrying cost.

“Click traffic is not going cover the renewal costs of these name,” Schultheis said. “gun.guru is going to cost me $400 a year to carry.”

Schultheis said as a venture capitalist in the 1990s he became aware of .com names and started buying up his own. That became International Internet Inc, which was publicly listed in the late 1990s.

Schultheis said the company (from which ii.org gets its name) was worth a billion dollars at one point, though it seems to have gone out of business around the same time as the .com bubble burst.

Now, he reckons new gTLD names will start to acquire Google juice before long.

“We own computer.guru,” he said. “If you type in ‘computer’ into Google now I believe .com’s will outrank it, but I believe over time that with the Google algorithm becoming more specific when you type in ‘computer’ as it relates to an expert it’s possible we could be as strong as .com.”

Of the seven ASCII gTLDS currently on the open market, .guru is the only one ii.org has touched. Schultheis said. In future, he intends to concentrate on where he feels the big-money buyers are.

“We’re very interested in some of the city names,” he said. “But ones like .sexy and .ninja are more for a college-age person, and I don’t feel that the audience there will show the return we’re looking for.”

By contrast .guru speaks to executive types and companies with money to spend, he said.

Without naming names, he said some other gTLDs confuse him.

“With some of these TLDs we really scratch our head and say ‘What were they thinking?'” he said. “There are dozens of these things where I don’t know how they’re going to pay the bills.”

As for ii.org’s outlook, Schultheis said its portfolio is going to be a mix of assets that he thinks could be sold quick and others that are long-term plays.

“We know we’re early. Everyone wishes they could go back to early 90s and buy up all the .coms they could,” he said. “But I also own some .mobi’s so I know you can also be wrong.”

NameJet to auction new gTLD domains before they launch

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2013, Domain Sales

Many registrars are already offering new gTLD pre-registrations, now NameJet has taken the idea one step further: it’s going to auction premium names months before the gTLDs even go live.

It’s just announced a deal with XYZ.com, which is on track to run the .xyz and .college registries, to sell 40 “premium” domain names this month. In fact, according to its press relase, the first auction started on Wednesday.

These two new gTLDs are uncontested but do not yet have Registry Agreements with ICANN, and have not passed pre-delegation testing or any of the other pre-launch prerequisites.

The companies said they due to go live next year.

Some of the domains to be auctioned include: loans.college, scholarships.college, vacations.xyz, insurancequotes.xyz, students.college, jobs.college, auctions.xyz and health.xyz.

NameJet said it expects the auctions to be wrapped up by the end of February.