If at first a domain name does not succeed, bid, bid again

Domain-name auction businesses are busy recycling names

Come hell.com or hi.net water, more than 250 high-profile Internet domain names will be up for auction Friday at the third annual live auction held by domain name registrar and reseller Moniker.com.

For businesses with an online presence, having just the right catchy domain name can make the difference between being successful or joining the list of failed dot-com ventures.

The Moniker.com auction, to be held at the World Association of Domain Name Developers' T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference tomorrow at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., will feature a wide variety of intriguing domain names for auction. In addition to hell.com and hi.net, bidders will get a crack at buying appliances.net, Breathalyzer.com, CD.net, DigitalCameras.com, Iran.com, MonaLisa.com, prohibited.com, reunite.com, transplant.com and vocalist.com.

Preauction price estimates figure that auction.com could go for $8 million to $10 million; hell.com might fetch $3 million to $5 million; DSL.com could net $5 million or more; and HMO.com might go for 42 million, according to the company. Some 500 to 700 bidders are expected to attend.

Of the 250 domain names to be auctioned, more than 100 are expected to sell, said Monte Cahn, CEO of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Moniker.com. "It's validating what's going on in our domain industry," Cahn said. "It's giving true value to domain names."

Part of what is fueling the reselling marketplace for domain names is crashed dot-coms of recent years, which often left behind domain names as one of their last remaining and most lucrative assets, Cahn said. An easy-to-remember domain name can help buyers find Web sites from which to make purchases, he said.

Moniker.com calls itself a domain asset management business. It also buys and sells names and runs a domain registrar operation for customers who want to register their own domain names.

Domain-name auctions appear to be a growing marketplace, with established competition from Portland, Ore.-based SnapNames.com and online auction seller eBay Inc. Other domain-name vendors are also getting into the act. Apopka, Fla.-based Afternic.com features a Web site where buyers can make offers on domain names for sale, while Sedo.com LLC, a Cambridge, Mass.-based domain name business, just launched its online auction marketplace earlier this week. Another vendor, BuyDomains.com in Waltham, Mass., will launch its online auction services next month, according to Pete Lamson, senior vice president and general manager.

BuyDomains.com targets the small to midsize business market and sells domain names that it already owns in its inventory.

"A business needs to have a name that resonates from a search to get attention" from prospective buyers, Lamson said. "The market for existing domain names is similar to the real estate market -- people do have to have the right address [to be successful]."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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