How to Make Domain-Name Millions

Four not-so-easy steps to cash.

Want to be a domain-name millionaire? Here's your chance. The obscure California nonprofit that controls the domain names of the world—known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN—is about to authorize an unlimited number of new suffixes. Forget about ".com" and the 21 other suffixes that now exist. Companies, governments, and groups of all sorts will soon be able to apply for control of any suffix they dream up—from ".gay" to ".green," two that already have been proposed. Then these domain-name bosses can get rich selling addresses with their suffixes. According to the people behind ".nxt," a conference in San Francisco devoted to ICANN, an "Internet land rush" is on. And that rush includes conference co-organizer and Seattleite Jothan Frakes, who got in early on the domain-name business back in 1997, when he co-founded a firm called enic that sold addresses with the "cc" suffix. After selling the firm, Frakes became a consultant. Here are his top tips for entrepreneurs looking for domain-name gold. 1. Be prepared to spend a lot to acquire a suffix. ICANN's application fee for a new suffix is $185,000. As The Washington Post reported last week, that's a cost that critics say "cuts out many smaller grass-roots organizations, developing countries, or dreamers." Frakes, however, says that number is merely a starting point. "You're going to need consultants, technical help, legal help," he says. "You should budget for three-quarters of a million dollars." 2. Then spend even more money to market it. Frakes says a company in Colombia spent upward of $1 million last year to market the suffix ".co." And that's an ending with a huge running start. Companies in the UK and elsewhere were already using ".co" as a so-called secondary suffix (for example,, and were eager to streamline their addresses with a simple ".co." An entrepreneur looking to make a fortune on quirkier suffixes might have to spend more. 3. Be realistic. The company marketing ".co" sold 500,000 addresses in just a year. The group that manages ".museum," on the other hand, has just 500 entities signed up, according to Frakes. It doesn't necessarily follow that if you build it, they will come. 4. Be stealthy. Al Gore and Mikhail Gorbachev are already competing over the suffix ".eco." What if Starbucks announces that it wants to apply for the suffix ".coffee," thereby prompting a number of other companies to do the same? The fear of competition is causing many firms to keep their plans to themselves. That's why Frakes says he can't reveal the names of the several Seattle companies at the conference, including one that he's consulting with. Nor will he talk about the two suffixes that he himself plans to apply for.

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