January 25, 1999
In the early '90s before the Web gained momentum, a few wise entrepreneurs recognized the profit potential of the domain name free-for-all. A centralized registration service called InterNic took charge of allocating domain names on a first-come-first-served basis, initially without considering trademark restrictions. A few people snatched up the most recognized names they could get (one man bought "mcdonalds.com") to make money selling them to desperate companies. When InterNic changed its policy to make registrants liable for trademark infringements in 1994, some still found a way to profit from domain names by registering variations of names ("yahoos.com") or, more commonly, securing generic names that companies can use for high visibility on-line.
That's what gemstone company Maxam Magnata has done with more than 100 jewelry-related domain names, which it lists for sale or lease at www.DomainGems.com. The company registered powerful, descriptive names such as 18ktgold.com, BlueTourmaline.com and Lapidary.net with InterNic, and is now reselling them to companies who want maximum marketing potential for their Web sites. The site lists all available names alphabetically and by category (e.g., diamonds, auction houses, jewelry, precious gemstones).
Having a strategic domain name is one of the best ways to boost Web site traffic. "A lot of times when I don't want to sift through search engines, I'll just type a URL with what I'm looking for in the name and see what comes up," says Maxam Magnata owner Abigail Harris. "People don't get that they can have more than one name that they can register their company name, but also can secure what they specialize in, or get groups of names that resemble each other." (Type www.ruby.com, for instance. It's owned by Kay Jewelers.)
As everybody gets on-line, domain names are becoming more scarce, says Harris. Some of the best jewelry and gemstone ones have already been taken sometimes by companies outside the industry. "Diamond.com is a software company, and Rubies.com takes you to a costume shop," she says. So Harris secured many of the remaining names to reserve them for jewelry industry use. The names vary in price according to their market potential, ranging from $2,500 to $25,000. Most are in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, and interested companies should contact Maxam Magnata for quotes. Companies can also lease names to sample their success.
The Web site includes a well-written explanation of the value of domain names and what they can do for business. "Owning a good domain name is the equivalent of years of expensive advertising and marketing," the section says.
- by Stacey King