Friday, April 04, 2008

A slice of the auction

Fourteen years ago, Chris Clark shelled out 20 bucks to register the domain name "pizza.com." This afternoon, he's selling it to the highest bidder for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million.

"It's crazy, it's just crazy," he said somewhat giddily yesterday morning from his home in North Potomac. By then, a week's worth of anonymous bidding at an online auction site had pushed the price to $2.6 million. The auction closes at 2 p.m. today.

"That amount of money is significant," said Clark, 43, who recently launched a software company. "It will make a significant difference in my life, for sure."

With more than 150 million domain names already listed with registry firms, coming up with unused -- and uncomplicated -- Web addresses is close to impossible. That's led to an active secondary sales market, where domain owners try reselling their Web names to big corporate spenders.

Most domains resell for about $2,000, domain traders say. But the premium names -- the generic ones that cover an entire industry and end in the all-important ".com" -- can draw millions.

Business.com sold for $7.5 million in 1999, and so did diamond.com seven years later, according to an industry trade magazine. In 2006, a Russian alcohol exporter bought vodka.com for $3 million, while sex.com sold for about $12 million in cash and stock. Last month, fund.com sold for $10 million.

The best generic names -- those like books.com (owned by Barnes & Noble) and pets.com (PetSmart) -- were snapped up long ago during the early 1990s, back when the World Wide Web was still relatively shiny and new.

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