Domain squatting, or “domaining,” as it’s known among its adherents, has always been something of an embarassment to many mainstream Internet businesses. Like the cousin who made his fortune in a business nobody dares discuss, domainers wield enormous power in the Internet economy—Google alone has made an awful lot of money out of Adsense-fueled “parked” domains—but nobody really likes to admit it. Business 2.0 has changed that, though, with what must be the first magazine cover story profiling a domainer. The subject, Kevin Ham, boasts a domain portfolio worth an estimated $300 million, and has, among other things, cornered the market on religious domains (he owns both god.com and satan.com), and struck a deal with Cameroon to use its .cm ccTLD for a new twist on typosquatting (go to perton.cm, and you’ll see what I mean). However, Ham is now branching out from the usual domainer revenue model of parking and flipping to creating actual content. As Ham says, “It’s time to build out the virtual real estate.” His timing is perfect. As Google, no longer a scrappy startup willing to latch onto any revenue source it can find, begins to crack down on “made for AdSense” sites, making money from parking could get a lot harder. However, domainers have survived earlier crackdowns on trademark infringement and typosquatting, and the smarter ones will find a way to stay in business. After all, while it may be too late to make a fortune by starting your own search engine or blogging network, domaining is still a business where you can get started with as little as a dollar and a dream. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to cut a deal with Antarctica for the aq TLD. It’s gotta be good for something.
By Marc Perton