What’s in a web address?
Quite a lot of cash.
We scoured domain name resource DN Journal and put together a list of documented million-dollar, domain-only “.com” sales. Some have been squatted on for 20 years and have only recently traded hands.
Unsurprisingly, sex- and gambling-related domains are some of the biggest money makers.
NOTE: Web businesses have other assets and are not domain-only sales, so they were not eligible for this list. For example, Insure.com was bought for $US16 million as a fully-operating, profitable company. DN Journal reports only the domain names sold after 2003 because prior sales are not verified by credible sources.
Date sold: July 2014
MM.com was sold for $US1.2 million through Sedo in July 2014. It was purchased by Hangzhou Duomai E-Commerce Co. Ltd, a company behind other domain names Game.com, JZ.com and 4.cn.
Date: November 2014
Silicon Valley electronics supplier Power Integrations bought Power.com to replace their old, less simple domain, PowerInt.com.
Date sold: October 2013
A man named Rick Schwartz registered eBet.com in 1996 for $US100. He held onto it for nearly 20 years -- making a juicy profit off of it when the domain company Network Solutions bought it for $US1.35 million.
Because Schwartz has made a number of high-profile sales (you'll run into another much later in this list), he's earned the nickname 'Domain King.'
'When do I sell? When the domain name is ripe,' he writes on his blog. 'When is it ripe? When the right buyer comes along.'
Year sold: 2006
Solares estimated at the time that he could make up the $US1.5 million in 8 years, meaning if all went according to plan, he should have recouped his costs by now.
Year sold: 2007
'Tandberg Data, a leading global supplier and manufacturer of backup and archiving solutions, decided to take the cash offer for Tandberg.com from Tandberg, a leading global provider of visual communication products and services with dual headquarters in New York and Norway,' The DN Journal wrote at the time of the sale.
The deal was actually completed in December 2006 but wasn't made public until early 2007.
Year sold: 2009
Travelzoo spent big bucks on Fly.com in January 2009. The site now operates similarly to the flight-finding service Kayak.
Year sold: 2007
In October 2007, Computer.com cleaned up at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. / Moniker domain name auction. WallStreet.com was almost sold for $US3 million there, but it didn't 'meet the set reserve prices,' according to DomainRich.
Today, Computer.com is a website for -- you guessed it -- buying computers.
Year sold: 2012
Forexpros.com bought Investing.com in late 2012 for $US2.45 million. It was the largest domain sale of the year.
The site is now chock-full of content about investing and the stock market.
Year Sold: July 2011
Moniker brokered a deal to sell social.com for $US2.6 million in July 2011.
But don't expect any sort of fun chat site: Salesforce bought the URL and it now directs to one of the company's advertising pages.
Year sold: 2004
ClickSuccess L.P., a firm that sells financial tools and products online, purchased CreditCards.com in 2004. It was the biggest domain-only sale in years. Casino.com was part of a massive $US5.5 million deal in 2003, but its sale included a number of other assets.
Year sold: 2009
Rick Schwartz sold Candy.com to G&J Holdings for a sweet $US3 million in 2009.
G&J Holdings is owned by Greg Balestrieri and Joe Melville, cousins who grew up working in their family-owned candy company. They wanted to create easy access to sugary sweets online, so they made a big bet on the simple domain.
Date sold: March 2014
Whisky.com was sold by Castello Cities Internet Network in a domain-only sale. Michael Castello purchased the domain 19 years ago, in March 1995, when it cost nothing to obtain.
'I had the original registration in March of 1995, and I registered it for free,' Castello wrote in DN Journal. 'I always liked Scotch whisky, but the real reason I registered Whisky.com was because of the Whisky a Go Go night club in Hollywood. I always enjoyed 'The Whisky', with its musical heritage and scene where the likes of The Doors and Janis Joplin played. Years later, I even offered Whisky.com to the owner's son and he told me he didn't need it since they already registered WhiskyaGoGo.com. That rejection would prove to be good for me.'
Date sold: April 2014
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi purchased MI.com in the biggest domain sale of 2014 through a private sale. It's said to be the most expensive domain name purchased by a Chinese Internet company, and Xiaomi intends to use it to make its brand name easier to remember.
Year sold: 2008
Shoe company Zappos coughed up almost $US5 million for the domain Clothes.com.
Now both are owned by Amazon, but Clothes.com still redirects to Zappos's apparel selection, not Amazon's main site.
Year sold: 2009
Toys.com was originally sold for $US1.25 million as part of a bankruptcy court proceeding.
Then, days later, it was put up for auction again and Toys R Us ended up shelling out just over $US5 million for the powerful domain name.
It's kind of surprising how basic the site still looks today.
Date sold: November 2014
The Japanese internet service provider GMO Internet bought Z.com from Nissan Motors for 800 million yen, or about $US6,784,000.
Z.com is one of only three single-character domain names currently existing in the .com space, GMO says.
Year sold: 2006
Odimo.com handed over the domain to an online jewellery retailer, Ice.com, in a private sale for one of the priciest domain name swaps of all time.
But guess what? It's back on the market.
GoDaddy, which is brokering the deal, says it's looking for jewellery buyers, or otherwise. 'It can also be used for credit card rewards or things of that nature,' a GoDaddy exec told The Domains. 'We want to make sure this gets the white glove treatment it deserves.'
Date sold: February 2015
Add an 'o', and the deal gets even better.
The story of how 'Domain King' Rick Schwartz flipped Porno.com is pretty incredible.
He bought it from a college kid way back in 1997, paying $US42,000 even though the kid had snagged it for only $US5,000 the week before.
Schwartz told The Domains that, since then, the site earned 'well in excess of over $US10 million via parking and redirects without every providing actual adult content.' Meaning that he likely reeled in more than $US20 million total from the scandalous domain.
The buyer in February's massive, all-cash sale was reportedly a company in Prague that also owns Swingers.com and PornoTv.com.
Other expensive domain names not listed by DNJournal (either because they were sold prior to 2003 or other assets were sold with the domains):
- Insurance.com $US35.6 million in 2010
- VacationRentals.com $US35 million in 2007
- PrivateJet.com $US30.1 million in 2012
- Internet.com $US18 million in 2009
- Insure.com $US16 million in 2009
- Hotels.com was sold for about $US11 million
- Fb.com sold for $US8.5 million in September 2010
- Business.com for $US7.5 million in December 1999
- Beer.com 2004 $US7 million
- iCloud.com by Apple for $US6 million in March 2011
- Casino.com 2003 $US5.5 million
- Asseenontv.com 2000 for $US5.1 million
- Korea.com sold for $US5 million in January 2000
- Freeport.com sold for $US4 million in February 2008
- GiftCard.com by CardLab for $US4 million in October 2012
- yp.com sold for $US3.85 million in November 2008
- Shop.com sold for $US3.5 million in November 2003
- AltaVista.com for $US3.3 million in August 1998
- Software.com sold for $US3.2 million in December 2005
- Wine.com sold for $US3 million in 1999
- Loans.com sold for $US3 million in January 2000
- Loans.com by Bank of America for $US3.0 million in February 2000
- Pizza.com sold for $US2.605 million in April 2008
- Tom.com sold for $US2.5 million in December 1999
- Coupons.com sold for $US2.2 million in January 2000
- England.com sold for $US2 million in December 1999
- Express.com sold for $US2 million in March 2000
- Telephone.com sold for $US2 million in January 2000
- Savings.com sold for $US1.9 million in February 2003
- Mortgage.com sold for $US1.8 million in March 2000
- Branson.com sold for $US1.6 million in June 2006
- Marketingtoday.com sold for $US1.5 million in September 2005