Is the Domain Name Gold Rush Over? Not by a Long Shot!

November 24, 2011 by  Filed under: Domain 

We are probably all familiar with the image of a group of men straining to hear the starter gun as they prepare to rush off and try to claim a piece of ‘Goldfield’. For those who had strong legs, or just an inordinate amount of the dumb luck, the race to their ‘claim’ was probably the most profitable few hundred steps they have taken in their entire lives. Fortunes were made by planting your white flag at just the right spot.

A comparable Gold Rush has been taking place on the Internet over the past few years here the focus was not so much on physical real estate but on owning a corner of the web sure to be passed by lots of virtual feet. I am of course referring to the rush to obtain domain names that link in with what people would naturally type in as they search for goods and services on the web.

In the domain name registration race many people initially saw it as a bit of a ‘free for all’ to get the best domain names. A favourite technique of some individuals in trying to get in on the action of this latest Gold Rush was the practice of ‘Cybersquatting’ where people bought the domain names related to the business names or advertising slogans of well-known companies. They then held the companies (and sometimes even individuals) over a barrel by demanding huge sums for the release of the domain. These days the common law and the proprietary rights of businesses to their names and advertising slogans are well recognized in most jurisdictions. In the United States for example Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) of 1999 makes it possible for companies to take so-called cyber squatters to court in order to retrieve what is regarded as their intellectual property. Many other countries including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have similar legislation in place.

Does this mean that the domain name Gold Rush is well and truly over? Not by any means! There are still huge amounts of money to be made by selecting a domain name guaranteed to draw in traffic and then either building a website on it or selling it on to a third party. Consider the following:

1) In most areas of economic activity they are usually a large number of players who have probably all registered their business names as domain names. What is very often not ‘taken’ however are domain names related to general descriptors of the goods and/or services in that area. To use a spurious example: When you look at the field of “Paper Clip Straighteners” it might be that ‘Acme Straighteners’, ‘ABC Straighteners’ and ‘Straight as a Rod’ have all registered domains in their own name. But what if someone wants to do a bit of price comparison or research the field in general? This is where something like paperclipstraighteners.com comes in (it is available in case you are interested)! The owner of this domain can use this piece of Internet real estate to set up a price comparison site, an advertising site, a site that redirects traffic to retailers on a commission basis or even sell it to one of the businesses mentioned above. Someone who is willing to do his research can make a huge amount of money in this way. For example the domain name pizza.com was sold for 2.6 million dollars after its owner bought it for $20 fourteen years previously! There are in all probability many more such gems hidden somewhere on the Internet ready to be mined by those who are willing to put in the legwork.

2) We live in a rapidly changing world, with vast amounts of new goods and services entering the market every single year. Furthermore the social environment is in a state of constant flux with new trends and fashions emerging faster than we can give names to them! One of the implications of this is that pieces of Internet real estate that were hugely valuable in the past are rapidly becoming worthless while the blue-chip addresses of the future still have to be coined. If you doubt this fact, just spend some time thinking of how to relative values of faxmachineparts.com and ipodgadgets.com must have fared over the past few years. If you are somebody who has a keen eye on developments within popular culture, or within a certain niche market, you probably already have a good idea of emerging trends. Doing some research and investing in a domain name related to those trends can be a hugely profitable investment. I am quite sure, for example, that the person who registered speeddating.com still cannot believe his/her good luck.

3) There has been various attempts to open up domain name registration and the body assigning domain names be slowing towards allowing companies to set up in register their own top level domain names. This means that they will then be able to put any identifier behind the ‘dot’. Setting up such a system will however be hugely expensive and will only be open to the biggest of the multinational companies. Moreover people are used to the system that has been in place since the inception of the Internet and owning a valuable piece of .com real estate will probably always put a smile on the face of your bank manager.

So how can you get a piece of this action? The natural first step would be to keep your eyes and ears wide open and try to spot certain pieces of Internet real estate that could earn handsome profits in the future. You should secondly not be afraid to speculate. Not every domain name that you will buy will be plated with gold dust but it is quite likely that with some there will be quite a bit more than dust around! Lastly there are one or two essential tools that you will need. The first is a piece of software able to do multiple domain searches and perhaps even more importantly something to keep track of domain names about to expire. This is perhaps where the biggest opportunities lay. It is quite likely that there are some very valuable domain names in your field of interest that have been registered ages ago by someone who is just ‘sitting on them’ waiting for the right time to sell. Very often these names expire because their owners are not taking an active day-to-day interest in them. This fact means there are literally hundreds of valuable domain names expiring every day without their owners being aware of the fact. If you can manage to track down some of these and to swoop on them when the time is right it can be equivalent to placing a claim-flag in the paydirt.

Please visit my blog for some practical suggestions on how you can be a part of one of the most exciting opportunities on the Net without even having to don your running shoes and prospectors hat!

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