UPDATE (26th June 14:01 BST): Information about the price of BTCS.com has been added.
Bitcoin isn't the only digital asset changing hands for lots of money these days. The cryptocurrency has spurred a rising trade in associated domain names, with popular domains sometimes changing hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Some domain name investors and brokers believe bitcoin has opened a new category in the sector.
Niko Younts is one such investor, and with good reason. It was he who sold the BitcoinWallet.com domain name for $250,000 in February, setting the high watermark for the category.
The sale of the domain gave a return of nearly 23 times the initial investment, he told CoinDesk, having purchased it for $11,000.
"When I first dove into bitcoin in the fall of 2013 [...] I knew almost immediately that bitcoin was going to be hot global news, and there would be countless opportunities in the premium domain space related to this controversial 'thing' dubbed bitcoin," Younts said.
Confident in his prediction, Younts assembled a portfolio of 700 bitcoin and cryptocurrency-related domain names under the banner of Currency Evolution, the name he has given his project.
Younts showed CoinDesk a page listing what he said was the majority of his portfolio, saying he believes the bitcoin domain boom has only just begun.
However, "the early-investor boom has definitely already happened," he elaborated, counting himself among the traders who profited from the low-hanging fruit.
Another domain name player who wants to cash in on the surge in bitcoin interest is Australia-based broker Domain Guardians. The firm is currently touting what it thinks is the next hot bitcoin property, the domain name BTC.com. If it can find a buyer for the right price, it takes a commission from the sale.
A co-founder of Domain Guardians, Mike Robertson, says there has been strong interest in the BTC.com domain name and an overall growth in attention to bitcoin-related domains.
"The response we've received from prospective buyers has been very positive [...] We're currently in discussions with a number of companies," he said.
Jen Sale, another co-founder of Domain Guardians, added that the BTC.com domain fits in with the overall trend at the high end of the market for short, one-word domains that ended in the .com suffix.
She added that the demand for these properties was increasing, against a backdrop of growing interest in bitcoin-related domains, and claimed that her firm had brokered deals worth millions for such one-word .com domain names.
Sale probably isn't exaggerating. The domain industry can be big business. At Domaining.com, for example, a leaderboard tracks the most valuable domain sales.
Currently holding the top spot is Sex.com, which was bought by a company called Clover Holdings in November 2010 for $13m. Other entries in the top five include Hotels.com, which cost $11m in 2001 and Fb.com, acquired by Facebook for $8.5m in September 2010.
A domain name broker can take a commission of 10-20% from the sale. Sedo.com, for example, the largest domain name marketplace, also acts as a broker for some sellers and charges a 15% commission on successful sales.
This translates into tens of thousands of dollars for six-figure sale like BitcoinWallet.com and over a million in a major sale like Hotels.com or FB.com.
Some way to go
However, some industry observers indicate it could be some time before a bitcoin-linked domain name will reach those heights.
Ron Jackson, who publishes industry title Domain Name Journal, says the trade in bitcoin domains is too new for a discernible pattern to be observed:
"There haven't been enough significant bitcoin-related domain sales to call anything a trend. The only major one we have seen this year is BitcoinWallet.com."
Another domain name sale that is often cited by players in the sector is that of BTCS.com, which was purchased by Bitcoin Shop last February. The price was undisclosed, but domain name traders cite as an acquisition with a potentially hefty price tag. But Bitcoin Shop's chief executive Charles Allen tells CoinDesk that it was acquired for just $12,250, which is slightly more than the amount Younts paid for BitcoinWallet.com.
"We believe this was a fair price for a four-letter .com domain name. However, we are surprised by the prices some owners are seeking," Allen said.
Domain investors like Younts, though, will hope that Jackson is proved wrong, and soon. Younts said that BitcoinWallets.com (note the plural in 'wallets'), which he also owns, has been attracting lots of attention from potential buyers, including three six-figure offers.
Younts also noted that competition and asking prices have been rising, saying that several domain names that include a country name and the word 'bitcoin' are now beyond his budget.
For example, CanadaBitcoin.com was going for double-digit bitcoin offers only, FranceBitcoin.com had a price tag of 30 BTC, and SeychellesBitcoin.com could be had for 10 BTC.
Perhaps fittingly for a trade spurred on by a decentralised cryptocurrency with a value that can fluctuate wildly depending on what buyers and sellers decide it is worth, Younts points out that domain name investing adheres to a similar dynamic:
"There are no universal metrics for domain valuation from a buyer or seller [...] In many cases, [a domain name] owner is simply praying for a home run, but the name is worth what someone is willing to pay for it at the moment."
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