Osama-related Web sites are being registered by the hundreds.

Inside the Internet.
May 4 2011 6:55 PM

OsamaBinRaided.com, Going Once, Going Twice …

The flash market of Bin Laden-related URLs isn't making many people rich.

Elsewhere in Slate, Jack Shafer makes the case for releasing the Bin Laden photo, William Saletan explains why the  human-shield myth was a bad idea, Dave Weigel talks about how Osama's death  proved everyone right, John Dickerson looks at  Obama's poll numbers, Dahlia Lithwick says torture is still wrong, Chris Beam explains the  mood in Pakistan, Heather Murphy compiles a slide show of the elite Navy SEALs, and Maura O'Connor looks at how  the war still continues in Afghanistan. For the most up-to-date-coverage, visit  The Slatest. Slate's complete coverage is rounded up  here

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People who park current-events-related domains are generally looking for "quick cash," Sedo's Johnston says. Generally, a domain-parker will register hundreds of similar domain names at bulk prices around $7 per domain for a year at a time. After a year, they'll jettison the domains whose ads haven't covered registration costs. (Shiftier domain-parkers participate in what's known as "domain tasting," which takes advantage of the five-day grace period available for domain-registration refunds.)

"Most of them are really ephemeral, stupid domain names," says Jacob Ruytenbeek, a California-based consultant who says he's taking the opposite strategy with binladenfilm.com. He bought the domain, the first he says he's bought for pure speculation, about 10 minutes after he saw "Bin Laden Killed" appear on an MSNBC news ticker Sunday night. Someone had already registered binladenmovie.com (in April 2007, it turns out), "but I was shocked that binladenfilm.com wasn't." He uploaded a basic WordPress blog, and seeded it with a few bare-bone entries, including a post announcing the domain was for sale. So far Ruytenbeek hasn't received any offers, but he is planning to reach out to major movie studios soon. "I think the value of this domain name has not peaked," he says. "It will peak as interest builds in a film."

Scores of domain speculators like Jacob have put their Bin Laden-related domains up for auction or sale on sites like eBay and Sedo, with asking prices Wednesday afternoon as high as $21 million, for the awkward, 1990s-sounding eOsamaBinLaden.com. (Some perspective: sex.com sold for a record $13 million in November.) Other sellers are asking $1 million (05-01-11.com), $100,000 (osamas72virgins.com), $10,000 (binladennews.com), all the way down to starting prices of 99 cents (osamabinraided.com), possibly in hopes that bidding pushes the cost above the registration price.


Despite, or perhaps because of, the deluge of domain registrations, domain resellers seem to be having a tough time. On eBay Wednesday afternoon, $29.99 appeared to be the highest actual bid (for dead-osama-photos.us) among auctions for Bin Laden-related domains. Brock Martin, a night-shift machine operator from Findlay, Ohio, who buys and sells domain names on the side, said he jumped onto his computer as soon as he saw a generic "Breaking News" flash across his television. As soon as it became clear Bin Laden had been killed, he started typing. "Osamabinladendead—taken. Binladendead—taken," he recounts. "First one I got was osamakilled.com."

Martin has about 130 domains in his portfolio, which he began stocking after Michael Jackson's death seemed to make instant millionaires of the "domainer" quickest to the draw. "This could be bigger than that," Martin says of the Bin Laden domain rush. But, "As far as I can tell, it seems that people haven't really paid much for them." Perhaps buyers are afraid of the potential negative repercussions of starting a Bin Laden-themed website, he speculates. Noticing the lack of interest, Martin has already dropped the asking price for his six eBay-listed domains from $50,000 apiece to prices ranging from $1,800 to $12,500. But he's accepting lower offers for consideration. "If someone offered one-tenth the asking price, I'd probably take it." If Martin's domains aren't sold by the time he'd be forced to re-register next year, he says, he'll just let them expire.


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