Want Web Address? Talk To The Landlord: Boca
Man Leases Internet `Domain' Names
What's a name worth in a dot-com, Internet-crazy world? To Rick Schwartz, names - catchy
Internet address names specifically - can be worth millions.
Take www.men.com. He bought it for $15,000 in 1997. Today,
it's a virtual gold mine. Why? Because he can lease the address
to someone who wants it for a Web site. Schwartz says
he's never been to the site and has no say in what gets
displayed. He's merely an Internet landlord. He leases men.com
for about $200 a day, or more than $70,000 a year. And that' s
only one site.
Someone who wants a Web site on the Internet must give it an
address so people can find it. However, you can't use an address
someone else is using or has the right to use. You have to
register the address - called a domain - with a company that
makes sure the name you want doesn't already belong to someone
else. This has been going on since the early '90s and it's a
first-come, first-served arrangement.
Schwartz, a 46-year-old former
advertising salesman turned Web mogul, has acquired or registered
about 3,000 such addresses since 1997. Of those, about 2,000 are
X-rated. Sleazy.com and voyeur.com are among the more tame adult
titles he has bought. Some, like men.com, sound tame but are used
for adult material.
Then there are the names you can say at the dinner table:
tradeshows.com, ebid.com, fishingtackle.com, personalads.com. He
recently bought girlscoutcookies.com so that his 8-year-old
niece, Jackie, could " sell more Girl Scout cookies than
anyone else on the face of the Earth."
Last week, he and a group of about 25 Web site owners were
prepared to bid big bucks to buy the drugs.com address during an
on-line auction. They lost to an unidentified buyer who bid
$834,000 for the name, but they were prepared to spend more than
$1 million. (Accounts of why he was outbid vary. The auction
company, GreatDomains, says he missed the bidding time limit. He
claims there was no limit and that his group was shut out because
of their adult-oriented businesses.)
"We could have turned that million into a profit in 12
months," Schwartz says. "It's a
bargain, really. Whoever got it, if it's one of the big drug
companies, which I doubt, the others in that market will be
Schwartz is a symbol of how Net-savvy
South Florida has become. In fact, several Internet-oriented
business owners have joined to try to do for Palm Beach, Broward
and Miami-Dade counties what Silicon Valley did for California.
The businesses are calling themselves the "Internet
Coast" in hopes the phrase will give the region's hundreds
of Internet companies an identity that lures talented
"We want to be a hub for the Internet, the way Boston
became a hub for the textiles industry years ago," said Jeff
Kline, whose company, Accris, develops Web sites. Other companies
involved include Internet provider Cybergate, corporate software
creator Hot Office and business- to-business portal BizProLink,
but not Schwartz. The group's Web page is
Kline says he would like the businesses to join with Florida
Atlantic University in Boca Raton to nurture new technology the
way Stanford University did in the San Francisco Bay area.
"The tri-county area has the same sort of industrial cluster
and resources that Silicon Valley had 20 years ago,'' Kline said.
"South Florida was where the PC (personal computer) was born
(at IBM in Boca Raton). And because of the PC, the Internet
flourished. We need to capitalize on that legacy to attract the
talent that Silicon Valley gets now."
As for Schwartz's corner of the
Internet, life is good. He says he rakes in a seven-figure salary
and he just bought his mother an oceanfront condominium in Fort
Lauderdale with the sale of an address to a New York City company
that plans to help students increase their SAT and ACT scores.
Most of his time is spent collecting residual checks and
paying the bills to renew ownership of his various parcels of
virtual real estate. Schwartz usually
trolls various on-line auction sites such as eBay and Yahoo!,
where domain owners take bids for various names.
Oddly, filthy.com was free until he claimed it in January.
"Can you believe that? It was a steal."
Whether you create your own Web name or buy one, you must
register it with Network Systems, which manages site registration
for the federal government.
Schwartz avoids brand names like cocacola.com or tacobell.com. Besides being already taken, brand names vary in popularity. Companies fold. Generic names are forever.
"Can't get much better than men.com," Schwartz
said. "It's half the population of the
Other names come from catchy phrases he hears wherever. One
night a few weeks ago he heard commentators describe a fight
between two baseball teams as a "basebrawl." Schwartz
signed up for basebrawl.com right away. magazine
that her husband had suffered abuse by his squabbling mother and
grandmother, Schwartz claimed
abuseexcuse.com for his own.
Sure, some purchases are speculative, he said, but he has the
luxury of waiting until the Internet grows to the point that
someone, somewhere will want one of his domains. "If this
was 100 years ago, I'd be sitting with Rockefeller and Carnegie,
" he says. "Essentially I own Times Square."
Copyright © Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., 1999
Jeff Houck, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, Want Web Address?
Talk To The Landlord: Boca Man Leases Internet `Domain' Names.,