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The Internet Businesses The Almighty Buck

The Man Squatting On Millions of Dollars Worth of Domain Names 175

Jason Koebler writes For the last 21 years, Gary Millin and his colleagues at World Accelerator have been slowly accumulating a veritable treasure trove of seemingly premium generic domain names. For instance, Millin owns, has sold, or has bartered away world.com, usa.com, doctor.com, lawyer.com, comic.com, email.com, cyberservices.com, and more than 1,000 other domain names that can be yours (including yours.com, which he owns), as long as you've got the startup idea to back it up. Millin doesn't sell domain names anymore, instead, he trades them to startups in exchange for a stake in the company.
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The Man Squatting On Millions of Dollars Worth of Domain Names

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2015 @03:46PM (#49007275)

    What has he created? What has his labor produced? Or is he just a landlord?

    • What has he created? What has his labor produced? Or is he just a landlord?

      How many people in the late 90's were anticipating that .com rush? So the guy may not have created much, but at least he did something hazardous at the time you didn't see coming.

      • In the late 90's, domains were practically free. In fact, lots of places "sold" free domains (actual .com and .net, not just subdomains). He didn't do anything hazardous.
        • Cite please? I've never seen "free" .coms that didn't have huge gimmick terms attached to them.

          • If you want a paper trail, you're going to have to go find a paper trail. In the days of Alta Vista and Infoseek you were lucky if you found something that actually matched your keywords, and Google doesn't index the Wayback Machine for obvious reasons.
  • by Britz ( 170620 ) on Saturday February 07, 2015 @03:48PM (#49007285)

    I really hope that all the new TLDs will end this domain squatting pest and diminish domain names. Squatters add nothing of value. Only transaction costs to online businesses.

    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday February 07, 2015 @04:04PM (#49007359)

      It doesn't matter. The domain names are only worth whatever someone will pay for them. Sure, he's made millions in the past with some high profile sales. But that's in the past.

      How much do you think gouda.com is worth?

      What kind of startup would trade part of themselves for gouda.com?

      I looked through my bookmarks and I didn't find a single instance that would be considered "generic". The closest was amazon. Which has nothing to do with the Amazon or Amazons.

      • by shadowrat ( 1069614 ) on Saturday February 07, 2015 @05:05PM (#49007585)
        Also, the days of naming your company after something are long gone. People just apply random stuff like Uber to their company. The next big startups are going to be named stuff like "Zoosit", and "Mixlebin".

        oh gosh! mixlebin.com is still available. i better get it!
        • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

          The practice is so widespread, new software can never be named something practical and descriptive. It's always gotta be some name from left field. I came across one recently that was so bad, the website didn't even say what the software did! All it says are buzzwords with a link on how to install. They want you to install the software before you know what it does.

          Sigh ... Millennials.

        • by Smerta ( 1855348 )

          Mixelbin?!?! C'mon man, get with the times!!! All the kewl kids are dropping vowels like a bad habit.

          Much better to go for mxlbn, it's way cooler.

          Ironically (I believe that is the correct use of the term), mxlbn.com is actually available as a domain name as well. At least as of 4:18pm P.S.T.

          • by Smerta ( 1855348 )
            Ha... I transposed the "e" and "l" in your mixlebin (in my defense, I work a lot with pixels, lots of graphics programming on the brain). Guess those hipsters were on to something with the vowel dropping after all :-/
          • Unless the name ends in an "r" without a vowel immediately proceeding it, nobody cares.

        • "And what exactly does Gryzzl do? Itâ(TM)s a cloud for your cloud. I have no idea."

      • It doesn't matter. The domain names are only worth whatever someone will pay for them. Sure, he's made millions in the past with some high profile sales. But that's in the past.

        At best, domain squatters are exacerbating the problem of shitty naming of open source projects. That is literally the best possible case, the least possible damage they could be doing. Isn't that alone worthy of stringing them up by their entrails?

      • What's gouda worth .... that's a good question so let's run some quick math just to see what it might be worth. I'll use a name that i owned for a while.
        first, it's a solid fun name, I happen also to have a fun and solid domain name
        that's 48000 visitors for year, of which I got about 9000 visitors to click google paid about 650.00
        that level has been consistent for years.
        so 650 x 10 = low end is about 6500
        I get offers all the time, best do far is about 18,000.00
        gouda is much more fun sounding so it's got to

        • This guy knows what he's talking about... I was the guy who developed software systems for a hard-money lending company, to determine just such a value.
      • What kind of startup would trade part of themselves for gouda.com?

        I looked through my bookmarks and I didn't find a single instance that would be considered "generic".

        A friend of mine is in the generic domain name business. The point wasn't to get a generic domain name for your company. The point was that a surprisingly large number of people would type their search phrase into the URL bar of the browser, instead of into the search field or going to Google or Yahoo and typing it there. So a large nu

        • by Pope ( 17780 )

          UK domains tend to be [name].co.uk, and there's a tidy business for the people running *.uk.co

      • How much do you think gouda.com is worth? What kind of startup would trade part of themselves for gouda.com?

        Plenty of people out there want to buy names like these for commercial purposes: rockingchairs.com, hammocks.com, www.wine.com, www.petfood.com

    • Squatters are scum IMO. They target companies, people, names and pre-register names by looking at startups / new companies hoping to hold it hostage for thousands when they bought it for $3. IMO if you don't have a related name or business you shouldn't own it. Not to mention I've dealt with some and they are complete a-holes. Asked for one for $100 they bought for $3 dollars and showed zero visitors in the past year and guess what. They offered to go from $5,000 to $3,000 then get told to accept it or ge
    • Recent history shows that despite new TLDs and country code TLDs, most entrepreneurs still prefer a .com to start a business (then may own a country or .biz TLD as well).
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday February 07, 2015 @03:54PM (#49007315) Journal

    1) Generate startup
    2) Obtain domain name for stake in startup
    3) Declare bankruptcy
    4) Buy substantially all assets (including domain name) of startup.
    5) Repeat

    • by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Saturday February 07, 2015 @04:12PM (#49007405)
      I know reading the article is not fashionable, but it says:

      "You can no longer buy a domain name from Millin. Instead, he will work with your company (or your idea for a company) to build out a product, then he'll lease or lend you one of his domain names in exchange for partial ownership." (emphasis mine)

      • Are you trying to imply he's doing anything other then rent seeking? If you are you're doing a terrible job at it. How much money is this guy putting up? If the answer isn't "enough to buy his share of partial ownership" then the only thing he brings are the domains he's squatting on. To wit: rent seeking.
        • Are you trying to imply he's doing anything other then rent seeking? If you are you're doing a terrible job at it. How much money is this guy putting up? If the answer isn't "enough to buy his share of partial ownership" then the only thing he brings are the domains he's squatting on. To wit: rent seeking.

          No, he's implying the OPs tactic for screwing him over wouldn't work (even if it were legal).

      • by hitmark ( 640295 )

        the rentier economy...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2015 @03:54PM (#49007319)

    aka the troll on the bridge, whenever a big new industry or platform comes into existence. Someone who's figured out how to seize ownership of an essential piece of the supply chain and then make a mint charging rents, or by selling all or parts of it for 100x what he paid.

    Congrat Mr. Millin on being "that guy".

    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday February 07, 2015 @04:31PM (#49007473) Homepage

      You all do realize that most of the people who made money off of the various 'gold rushes' haven't been prospectors? They've been 'support' people. They guys who sold the food and mules, operated the boats and stores. The poor fools who bought the mules, food and transportation got to hack it out in the backcountry. A few struck it rich. The rest didn't.

      Although not associated with automobiles, there is an analogy here.

      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday February 07, 2015 @08:14PM (#49008417) Homepage Journal

        You all do realize that most of the people who made money off of the various 'gold rushes' haven't been prospectors? They've been 'support' people. They guys who sold the food and mules, operated the boats and stores.

        Those guys provided a valuable service: they arranged (or paid) for the goods to be transported west. Domain squatters are interfering with a valuable service.

        Although not associated with automobiles, there is an analogy here.

        In your gold rush scenario, domain squatters would be people who bought out the stores of all their goods, then opened their own store with prices inflated by around 1,000 percent and up (judging by responses I've got from domain squatters when I've poked at them just to see what kind of assholes they were.) For example, a squatter owns cardot.com, which would obviously be a cool place to put slashcode (or something like it, of course, since slashcode HAHAHAHA) and talk about cars. Well, they want $19,000.00 for it. They've had it for a bunch of years, and they're calling it "CardOT.com" on their squatter page, as if that made any kind of sense whatsoever. So not only are they squatting on a domain that the community could be using, but they don't even know how to sell it because they're a bunch of fucking idiots.

        Domain squatters provide nothing of value, and interfere with legitimate activity. They should be rounded up and offered the opportunity to repent before otherwise being fired into the sun.

        • In your gold rush scenario, domain squatters would be people who bought out the stores of all their goods, then opened their own store with prices inflated by around 1,000 percent and up (judging by responses I've got from domain squatters when I've poked at them just to see what kind of assholes they were.)

          That's not how economics works. If you buy all the stores in the area and inflate the prices by 1000%, that presents a business opportunity for someone to open up a new store with prices inflated by 50

      • That's a perfect analogy for modern day indie game development, too. I guess things stay the same, the names just change.

      • This guy isn't supporting. He's standing in the way. He is literally making it harder for people to start companies. That's different than selling food, mules and running a store.
    • by Bob_Who ( 926234 )

      "You can no longer buy a domain name from Millin. Instead, he will work with your company (or your idea for a company) to build out a product, then he'll lease or lend you one of his domain names in exchange for ....

      ....turds and cock

      1) BlowMeDailyMillin.com
      2) MillinEatMyTrollTurds.com

      Millin4Millions.com is not for sale, no matter how much you beg and gobble....

    • ...except in his case, he realized the value of them, and realized that someone would rent seek them, so he grabbed them to give out to those he figured would use them for something useful.

      His behavior is actually preventing the predatory practices that naturally grow out of the current domain registration racket.

      And of course, any startup he gives one to can then turn around and sell it if they need the money.

      • His behavior is actually preventing the predatory practices that naturally grow out of the current domain registration racket.

        Well, no. His behavior is the predatory practice, because he's set himself up as arbiter of who is worthy, and at what price.

        I don't hope very many people die in a fire these days, I guess I'm mellowing with age. But domain squatters are on my list, because they're a net drain on society. They contribute nothing of value and they stand in the way of actual accomplishments.

        • My point here is that he's charging the same amount for the domains as a default registry charge -- $0. And while doing this, he IS preventing regular squatters from sucking up these domains and turning a profit off them.

          But none of that matters much anymore, when you can register domains like nota.democrat if you pay the right registrar the right $$$....

          I consider domain registrars for the most part to be a net drain on society. Let's just map unicode to IPv6 and be done with it. Use a search engine ins

          • My point here is that he's charging the same amount for the domains as a default registry charge -- $0.

            But you're lying. That's not what he's charging. Stop lying. Then you won't be so wrong.

            • My point here is that he's charging the same amount for the domains as a default registry charge -- $0.

              But you're lying. That's not what he's charging. Stop lying. Then you won't be so wrong.

              But I'm not -- he does have other conditions to transfers, but so do the registrars themselves. It's one thing to say I'm incorrect and point at some evidence that shows this (for example, is he also waiting for domains to expire and then gobbling them up, posting them as "for sale" for exorbitant prices? If so, that's a valid point), but it's another to just say I'm intentionally misleading people about it.

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      whenever a big new industry or platform comes into existence. Someone who's figured out how to seize ownership of an essential piece of the supply chain and then make a mint charging rents, or by selling all or parts of it for 100x what he paid.

      Before you go too harsh on this guy, remember google's several hundred billion dollar market capital is based entirely charging huge per-click ad fees for certain search keywords like "insurance", "hotel" and "doctor." I think it's just supply and demand of marketing

      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday February 07, 2015 @05:20PM (#49007659) Homepage Journal

        remember google's several hundred billion dollar market capital is based entirely charging huge per-click ad fees for certain search keywords like "insurance", "hotel" and "doctor."

        They built the stadium, they get to decide who plays in it and under what terms. But domain squatters didn't build anything. They're just taking advantage of a weakness in the system, to the detriment of everyone else. Google, on the other hand, makes the web useful. There are more sites on the web today than there would be if Google didn't exist. There are less sites on the web today than there would be if domain squatters didn't exist. Therefore, they can FOAD.

        • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

          There are less sites on the web today than there would be if domain squatters didn't exist.

          A: This sounds like a feature, not a bug.

          B: People act like having to pay a couple grand for a desirable domain name is such a travesty. If you're a legitimate business and you can't scrape a chunk of your advertising budget to buy the name you want, you should probably just stick to your brick and mortar.

          • A: This sounds like a feature, not a bug.

            So you're anti-choice? You're part of the problem.

            B: People act like having to pay a couple grand for a desirable domain name is such a travesty.

            Yes, and it is. It's bullshit.

            If you're a legitimate business and you can't scrape a chunk of your advertising budget to buy the name you want,

            Ah yes, the old "the market can bear this malfeasance" argument. It's always shitty, and always used to excuse bad behavior.

        • by gnupun ( 752725 )

          They built the stadium, they get to decide who plays in it and under what terms.

          Who cares? They both point potential customers, who use generic keywords, to a vendor. And they both cost millions of dollars. Why is one a ripoff (generic keyword URL seller) and the other completely okay (google)?

          But domain squatters didn't build anything.

          You think only builders should get value? What about owners, shouldn't they get something for the valuable assets they have invested in? You should inform landlords around t

          • You think only builders should get value? What about owners, shouldn't they get something for the valuable assets they have invested in?

            Investors in a building (to use your inept example) are providing the capital that enables the building to be built. But people who buy domain names don't cause the domain names to be built, because domain names aren't built. Obviously, there is no parallel here. These people are not really investors, because they're not investing. They're just buying. They're speculators. And what we know about speculators is that they cause artificial activity in markets which has real-world negative consequences.

            Now, tell me what legal or ethical crime the URL owner has committed in wanting millions for his asset?

            They are

  • A start-up called "usa.com"? It must be for lobbyists: the country is for sale.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday February 07, 2015 @04:04PM (#49007363) Journal
    Medicare.com went for just under US $5 million last year. Sex.com and Bet.com were million dollar hits.

    Insurance.com went with some other minor assets for over $35 million in 2010.

    • by Bob_Who ( 926234 )

      Medicare.com went for just under US $5 million last year. Sex.com and Bet.com were million dollar hits.

      Insurance.com went with some other minor assets for over $35 million in 2010.

      It figures. Medicare, Porn, Gambling, and the Protection Racket can all afford to pay ridiculous ransoms because its what they do best... take your money!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It should be illegal just like huge domains. If your not using it and don't have a company related you shouldn't be able to own it. They buy them for prices ranging from 99 cents to 7 dollars and then ask hundreds to hundreds of thousands for them Thankfully you can at least get it if you hold the trademark. They held one of my friends domains hostage, the hit counter showed 3 visits since they bought it and are asking 3 grand cuz its his companies name. Records show they bought it for 99 cents, he's cu

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They held one of my friends domains hostage, the hit counter showed 3 visits since they bought it and are asking 3 grand cuz its his companies name. Records show they bought it for 99 cents, he's currently in the trademark process.

      How did they buy it if it was already registered to your friend?
      Or did you mean it wasn't actually 'his', but a domain he wanted?

  • Guy who gives away free stuff gets angry when guy taking free stuff turns around and sells it. News at 11. We will also interview guy who didn't get any of the free stuff to begin with and feels like he's entitled to some now that he understands there is money to be made.
  • Having a bunch of domain names is no sign of "investment" or "savvy" -- it's having a few bucks at the right time.

    Not sure if these people have to pay the wholesale renewal price of $15 or not, but it seems to me that you shouldn't be able to squat on names of websites not in use, or vaguely sounding like a website you have in use. I can understand "donaldtrumpbadhair" as a domain Donald Trump might reserve.

    I predict we will soon have intelligent agents who take care of our internet connections, and the nam

  • Being in the first 4-5 entries on a google search is worth a lot of money. I didn't think anyone looks at domain names anymore. We may as well just be using IP addresses at this point.
    • by seoras ( 147590 )

      I don't believe that [keyword].com gives you the guaranteed 1st page Google results position it used to.

      Google did a shake down a few years ago in one of their updates.
      If they thought you could pay them for the traffic they gave you for free organically they'd drop your ranking to make you pay for it.
      ("Don't be Evil"... yeah, right..)

      Web users will type in the noun of what they are looking for appending .com instead of going via search.
      That's the value in arguably the most valuable .com there is sex.com

      The

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One way to check such abuses would be to mandate that only the registrars can sell domain names. An individual can buy as many domains as he pleases but would not be permitted to legally resell them. An individual could divest himself of domain names only through expiration or a direct return to the registrar.

    If a company called Acme Foods desired the domain acmefoods.com but the domain was already held then that company would be forever out of luck unless the holder allowed the domain to expire or return

  • You want that beach front property but can't afford the section with the view to build on.
    The land owner says "I'll lease you the land if I get to use the property on the weekends you aren't using it".
    What's not to like?

    What this guy is offering seems like a fairly good idea and not a bad deal to me, so why all the hate?
    It's just a new spin on raising VC or Angel money.
    So taking money is ok but not renting a domain name? That doesn't make sense.

    The new TLD's aren't yet bestowing the branding power that the

  • The Man Squatting On Millions of Dollars

    Sounds like the title of this year's Turner Prize winner. Bloody modern art.

  • You want the government to tax perceived values of unused domains? Or limit how long a domain can go "unused"? Or limit how many someone can own? There are many companies who have "prime" domains. The point here is this company is trading the domain name for a cut in the business. What are some big web names out there... google. Bing. Yahoo. Slickdeals. Woot. Autotrader. Craigslist. Facebook. Twitter. Ebay. Aside from weather.com... off the top of my head i can not really think of some site with a simple na
  • What makes him any different from the people who buy up housing for cheap, pay off politicians and put 50 people into 5 rooms? He is a slumlord, pure and simple.
  • HE'S the guy that puts up all those web sites that have nothing on them except links that are designed to get unsuspecting people to click on them, for the ad revenue.

  • Domain grabbing should be illegal

    • Domain grabbing should be illegal

      What harm is being done to society? Even if he just sits on those domains forever, who cares if "email.com" doesn't point to something useful?

  • If the rent-seeker doesn't use it, they lose it. [baynews9.com]

  • but I'm not sure it's a morally/ethically/socially good model.
  • There needs to be a sufficient cost on domains (something like $100/year) to ensure that they are being used for a legitimate reason. I have no problem with squatters if they are willing to pay into the system; however, they are currently paying almost nothing and just blindly sweeping up every available domain to create a no-value-added business.

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