Web Site Names Become Big Business

More than 100 million URLs have already been identified and purchased. So new business owners who want a specific URL must cough up big bucks for the name they want — or try a more creative naming approach.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now to a story about Internet real estate. Today for our Wednesday focus on the workplace, a look at business Web sites. If you're trying to register a domain name for your company, chances are your first choice is already taken. More than 100 million URLs have been purchased. You can either cough up big bucks to buy the one you want, or you can get creative, like the folks who launched SpiralFrog.com.

As Corey Moore reports, the site has nothing to do with amphibians.

(Soundbite of keyboard)

COREY MOORE: SpiralFrog.com - but wait, there's no frog. But there is Kanye West.

(Soundbite of song "All Falls Down")

Mr. KANYE WEST (Singer): (Singing) And when it falls down, who you gonna call now?

Ms. SYLEENA JOHNSON (Singer): (Singing) I'm telling you all.

MOORE: The Web site has a vibrant green background, and it's a music downloading service.

(Soundbite of song "All Falls Down")

Mr. WEST: (Singing) Man, I promise.

Ms. JOHNSON: (Singing) Oh, when it all...

MOORE: So what does Spiral Frog have to do with music?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GEORGE HAYES (Owner, SpiralFrog.com): Well, we're still working on that. We'll have to figure that out. It was truly about making sure that we could stand out in the Web.

MOORE: George Hayes runs spiralfrog.com. He launched it last week after combing through hundreds of URL choices.

Mr. HAYES: I'm sure everybody with a Web site has gone through the same thing we did, which was, you know, anything that would make sense to the consumer - kind of normal name - may be already taken, somebody may already have.

MOORE: It sometimes makes sense to drum up a domain name that doesn't make sense. Comedian Don McMillan found out the hard way that he needed to get creative. He figured simply registering his name as a URL would be his best promotion tool. Well, it probably would've been, but his name is already owned by another Don McMillan.

Mr. DON McMILLAN (Comedian): He's a lawyer or something in Kansas. But, you know, and I called him, I said, you know, I'm in entertainment, I would like use it and, you know, a Web site is important to me. And he goes, well, how much will you give me for it? I'm like, come on. You're a lawyer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McMILLAN: How about donmcmillanesquire.com? How about take that one? But he didn't want to give it up.

MOORE: And so Don McMillan, the comedian, decided to go with a domain name, technicallyfunny.com. There are about 130 million registered domain names. It's making for bigger business on the Internet with companies buying, selling and auctioning off scores of URLs - some for millions of dollars. Tech comedian, Don McMillan.

Mr. McMILLAN: I always picture there's a guy in a trailer park in Oklahoma who, back on 1993 went, ah, there's people are going to want this. I'm going to grab, let's see, a donaldtrump.com. Okay. That'll cost me $3 a year to hold on to that one. And I'm going to get parishilton.com. I'll get $3 a year for that one. Finally, at a $100, I'll be worth a million dollars by 2007. And they are.

MOORE: Entrepreneur Dermot O'Brien owns a domain name that may be worth quite a lot. Last week, he put southie.com on a popular Web auction block. Southie is an Irish neighborhood in south Boston. Any day now, he expects it'll sell big.

Mr. DERMOT O'BRIEN (Entrepreneur): The domain name, you know, would be popular, say, for a commercial real estate company who are, you know, going to do a whole lot of projects in that area or even for a residential real estate company who would want to be selling homes to, you know, their young professionals.

MOORE: O'Brien has owned southie.com for 10 years. These days, it's a lot tougher to find an available domain for your business. Comedian Don McMillan says that's why you should get ridiculous with your name choice.

Mr. McMILLAN: It's kind of a naming a company nowadays. You notice nowadays, when they name companies, all the company names are taken, so they're making up words like Avaya. What the heck is Avaya? That's - I've never even heard of that. If I thought Spiral Frog, I'm going to go, what exactly does Spiral Frog do? Are they chiropractors for amphibians? What exactly does Spiral Frog do?

MOORE: Time for Don to check the Web site. While he's at it, he can also log on to fogbuzz.com. That's a software company. There's godaddy.com - a domain registering service. And how about fancyrats.com? Well, actually, that name's still available.

For NPR News, I'm Corey Moore.

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