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What’s in a (Domain) Name?

BY NICHOLAS KELLY | APRIL 22, 2009 7:26 AM

When retail mega-chain/chronic misspeller Toys R Us purchased the domain name www.toys.com in March, the company bought its way in to an incredibly small online community.

However, unlike the standard conception of a “small online community,” (organizations usually along the lines of sci-fi mash-up slash fiction sites or groups of various niche erotica enthusiasts) the online club that Geoffrey the Giraffe and company had joined was far more impressive in its uniqueness.

At a cost of $5.1 million (the fourth-largest amount ever officially recorded for the sale of a URL) part of what Toys R Us got when it bought www.toys.com was a spot on the Domain Name Journal’s list of the world’s 10 most expensive domain names.

For more than half a decade, the Domain Name Journal has tracked the sales of website URLs and compiled annual rankings of the highest prices paid for Internet domains. Though the lists do not cover every domain name sold (because of logistical complications ranging from private sales of domains to domain name sales that may be unranked because they were not pure cash transactions) the Domain Name Journal’s collection does offer an interesting insight in to just what types of web addresses URL purchasers seem to think Internet users will flock to.

The list is in all regards fairly surprising, evidencing not only some highly unexpected URLs but also an impressively wide variety of interests represented. What’s more, the rankings of the domains collectively juxtaposed offer a unique vantage point in to what are (technically) the most valuable properties on the Internet.

Even more surprising (and flying in the face of half the jokes about the web) is that the most expensive site on the list is not www.porn.com.

According to the Domain Name Journal, the No. 2 ranked porn.com is actually trumped by www.fund.com, the most expensive URL sale officially recorded at just under $10 million. Not only a staggering indication of perhaps a maturing of the Internet, fund.com’s top ranking serves as a reminder that for all the teasing the net sometimes gets (some, no doubt, even emerging from this very column) there are perhaps just as many people online every bit as interested in logging on for the S&P as the T&A.

The manner in which Nos. 3 through 10 sites jockey for position is no less illuminating than fund’s price dominance. Adding a touch of class at No. 3 is the $7.5 million diamonds.com and (as previously mentioned) grammatically challenged toy-giant Toys R Us takes the No. 4 spot.

Perhaps the most interesting pairing on the list is spots 5 and 6. The fifth position belonging to none other than vodka.com at a neat $3 million, and creditcards.com takes the sixth spot at $2.75 million.

Perhaps in some way undoing the respectable veneer fund.com put on the web, there’s nonetheless something impishly entertaining about the fact that a URL intended to hawk vodka is more valuable than one offering credit cards. It’s hard to say exactly how this might have happened, though one likes to presume the excuse “I was drunk” was uttered by at least one of the buyers involved.

Computers.com and seniors.com make up the seventh and eight positions on the list, respectively, and datarecovery.com takes No. 9. Cameras.com and tandberg.com (the official website of videoconferencing/making-sure-they-get-their-damn-domain-name corporation Tandberg) actually tie for the bottom spot at the $1.5 million mark, and both purchases tempt speculation as to who owned the respective domains in the first place.

For cameras, one would suspect perhaps an online camera retailer, a camera maintenance or review site, or any number of other possibilities. Tandberg’s story, on the other hand, is much more easily discernible thanks to the Internet Archive’s Wayback machine, which shows that Tandberg.com was originally owned by the Tandberg Data company, which specializes in both digital storage and deciding its worth $1.5 million to add “data” to the company’s URL.

While by no means are these world’s most expensive URL’s the world’s most popular URL’s it is interesting to see what segments of webspace investors have been willing to bet would someday become digital hubs. And just as the way such terms as “eBay,” “YouTube,” “Google,” and “Raptor Jesus” have become ingrained in our collective online culture, their URLs sometimes becoming even words themselves, it is safe to say that at some level (at least on the Internet) there is always something in a name.


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