When the web address Sex.com was sold in 2012 for a reported $13 million, it was most likely the highest price ever paid for a single domain name. And precisely no one was surprised that particular address attracted the big money.
Since the dawn of the internet, companies have been willing to pay serious coin for domain names like Sex.com that are, well, straightforward. They’re memorable, and they can even improve search engine rankings.
That’s why people are waiting eagerly for a new segment of domain names, ending with “.nyc,” to become available on Aug. 4. Just imagine the possibilities: realestate.nyc; ironicmustaches.nyc; marijuanadelivery.nyc. Hell, maybe sex.nyc. They’re all winners.
New York’s extension was officially established back in May of 2013 by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, after the New York City Council approved the plan. Several other cities created similar extensions around the same time. ICANN is an international nonprofit organization that, essentially, acts as a phone book for the internet, assigning names to owners and making sure no two groups claim ownership of the same domain.
Even though the bidding hasn’t officially begun, the new domains are already attracting attention in the world of the interwebs.
Gerardo Aristizabal runs the domain registrar Hello NYC, which acts as portal for those looking to snap up valuable addresses like, say, bedbugexterminator.nyc or whatsmellslikeurine.nyc. He said inquiries are already flooding in.
“It becomes like real estate,” Aristizabal says. “People want the best locations.”
The new range of .nyc domain names will allow for memorable URLs, but they might also help companies show up at the top of search engine results. When you type a search term into Google, one of the many factors that affects the listings is whether or not the site you land on contains the keywords you’re searching for.
For example, if you search for “artisanal fair-trade sea salt in Brooklyn” — and who hasn’t searched for that? — a site with the domain name “artisanalseasalt.com” will be listed ahead of something like “salt.com.” Now website owners will be able to get more of those premium names, and presumably move a lot more sea salt.
Per the registration rules, only businesses that can prove they’re based here in the city will be allowed to obtain the .nyc extension. Aristizabal says the domains will likely run in the $50 dollar range, considerably more than a typical unregistered .com name. That’s partly because the city council set a minimum value, which Aristizabal thinks is a good approach.
“You don’t want to have a very cheap domain name, because that will attract spammers and unwanted registrants,” Aristizabal says.
The roll out is a little different than the normal domain registration process. Usually domains are first come, first served, but .nyc domains will be in a pre-sale, “landrush” phase from Aug. 4 through Oct. 3. That means that even if you’re the first person to type in the combination — say steampunkcronutcupcake.nyc — the rest of the world has until October to make their desires known. For any names that have multiple interested parties, the sites will run an auction.
Aristizabal says he expects bidding for the most sought-after domains to be heated.
“I expect to see auctions for the landrush domains at least to the tens of thousands of dollars,” Aristizabal says. “Two or three might reach six figures.”
New York City will be sharing in the benefits of that bidding frenzy. At at least $3.6 million will land in city coffers from Neustar, the company tasked with managing the .nyc debut, and a further 40 percent of gross revenue after that minimum is met. Officials don’t know how much that will be yet, but every little bit helps, and the rollout isn’t costing the city a dime.
Nick Sbordone, spokesperson with the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, said the new domains will allow New Yorkers to “own a piece of the city,” and since only locals can get their mitts on one, “.nyc can serve as a tool for developing trusted, localized online communities.”
In the scheme of things, most webmasters would regard a .nyc domain as somewhat less valuable than the far more familiar .com or .net domains. But catchy domain names ending in .com or .net are increasingly scarce these days. If you don’t have $13 million lying around for Sex.com, maybe Sex.nyc will do.