'Net broker puts domain names up for sale

Longtime hoarders of coveted Web addresses can enlist Mulitmedia Realty to act as a broker to sell the names.

Brokers juggle home sales, stock trades and auto purchases, so why not Internet domain names, too? Longtime hoarders of coveted Web addresses such as "videodating.com" or "gratefuldead.org" can now enlist Mulitmedia Realty Inc. to act as a broker to sell off the names -- sometimes for exorbitant prices.

Domain names have been given out on a first-come, first-serve basis for a US$50 fee by the government-sponsored InterNIC registration service for three years. During that time, some of the best names have been gobbled up by organisations and individuals who either hope to put the Web address to use someday, or sell it to hungry competitors, according to Steve Newman, president of Multimedia Realty.

That's where Beverly Hills-based Multimedia Realty comes in. Owners of domain names who wish to find a buyer can list their URL with the company much as a home is listed with a realtor. Multimedia Realty, which launched the service yesterday, charges a hefty commission of 10 percent to the seller, but buyers pay no fees.

Some of the names currently for sale include "wallstreet.org" for US$375,000 and "gratefuldead.org" for US$175,000. The most expensive of the current 100 listings is "nirvana.org" which carries an asking price of US$650,000. The names are listed in categories such as known places, famous streets and people names.

Newman says that companies and individuals will pay the price for names that lead customers to their Web pages. "Domain names are an extremely important asset to a company or an individual," Newman says in a statement. "It makes the difference between being easily found or completely overlooked."

Some domain names have even spurred lawsuits over who should be the rightful owner, such as the well-known case involving "mtv.com". The site name was registered and run by cyber-savvy MTV employee Adam Curry, but a court ruling forced him to turn over the Web address after he quit the station in 1994. However, there are no regulations governing the buying and selling of registered domain names as of yet, according to Multimedia Realty.

Multimedia Realty is on the Web at http://www.multimediarealty.com.

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