A set of three documents filed in California Bankruptcy Court earlier this week reveal that the world’s most valuable domain name – Sex.com – has been sold for $13m, just one million dollars more than it was sold for back in January 2006.
The tale of Sex.com is a fascinating and complex one (I wrote a book about it), and never short of twists and turns. The most recent twist came earlier this year when the company that bought Sex.com from Gary Kremen in 2006 (for $12m plus $2m in stock and other options), Escom LLC, declared bankruptcy. Escom has been unable to make Sex.com sufficiently profitable and was overdue on interest and debt repayments.
This announcement was quickly followed by the news that Sex.com would be put up for public auction – the time, date and location and the need to be holding a cheque for $1 million to even be allowed in the room, were published. But then, one of the owners of Escom, Michael Mann, broke cover (Escom has always been purposefully cloaked in corporate law cloth) in order to prevent the auction going ahead.
The auction for Sex.com was due to be held in New York a few hours ago but, as became clear last night, creditors of the current owner, Escom, forced through an involuntary bankruptcy which has caused the auction to be “postponed”.
Thanks to the court document [pdf] filed here in Los Angeles, we now have a little bit more information about who the creditors are and what they are owed. Washington Technology Associates is owed $6.6 million; iEntertainment, $3.5 million; and AccountingMatters.com a tiny $7,800. All three companies list the same address in Maryland.
No one is talking at the moment so Escom remains somewhat of a mystery, as it has been since it first bought Sex.com off Gary Kremen in 2004 for $12 million. But with all the media attention on an auction [pdf] that was pulled at the last minute, you have to admit that the world surrounding Sex.com is never dull.
So I’m hearing at a very late time that the much-vaulted auction of Sex.com is off following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (Chapter 11 meaning that the company is folded but that its assets are still available for sale etc.)
The auction was due to happen tomorrow afternoon, New York-time. As I write this it is late LA-time. Now, I’m not up-to-speed on the recent changes in US bankruptcy law, nor on what has happened precisely with Escom. So I’m not sure that the Chapter 11 bankruptcy has sufficient impact to prevent the auction but my gut feeling is that it does. Unfortunately everyone is asleep in New York and Los Angeles at the moment, so we’ll just have to see what happens.
It won’t be the first or last time that sex.com has seen last-minute turnarounds.
Update: Yes it is “postponed”. Interesting to see what happens after this.
I recorded a show for National Public Radio’s (NPR) On the Media show earlier this week talking about Sex.com, my book about it and the domain’s upcoming auction next month.
The show played this morning. You can see the NPR page (with transcript) at http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2010/02/26/06. And listen to the show below:[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/s2h.aba.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/npr-on-the-media-26feb10.mp3|titles=NPR’s On the Media (26 Feb 10)]
So everyone and their dog knows about Twitter. Now the problem is they have started using it – and you can see it through the pretty drastic impact on third-parties the past two weeks or so.
Services you use to make Twitter more manageable keep getting knocked offline. A few months ago Twitter itself was suffering from the attention and keep falling offline. It was at an inflexion point – it had grown so much that it needed an influx of money to build the system to deal with the demand. And that’s when the likes of Google started offering to buy it – leading Twitter’s owners to (somewhat stupidly to my mind) outright reject any suggestion of selling their company.
Twitter got some money and hired consultants – one of whom I know – to help them deal with demand. They shifted to the same style of server spread and backup that Google and Facebook use.
That wave has passed but now the third-parties are having the same problem. Tr.im – which allows you to stick in a long URL and get a short one out (which is ideal for those 140-character-only tweets) – has been falling offline repeatedly in the past fortnight. It’s got so bad that I’m ready to shift to a different company. And today Splitweet – which allows you to post to multiple Twitter accounts – also went offline. It popped up an hour or so later saying it was under a denial of service attack. As of writing this I still can’t use its service.
The same is happening with other third-parties. SocialToo is running slow. And Twitterfeed keeps timing out while I’m trying to create an account with it because I can’t use Splitweet.
All this means that, after Twitter itself hit the wall and pushed through, that the third-parties feeding off this service’s success are also about to hit that wall. They are going to need money to maintain their (free) service. Who is going to stump up that money? And to which service? Should be interesting to see which services people think will be able to provide a return on investment, and which will fall by the wayside.
I think Amazon is fantastic. It is on the cutting edge of Internet commerce and it constantly pushes at the barriers… I’m a big fan of the Kindle – the first proper e-book; I admire Amazon’s affiliate program which is inventive and generous; but most of all, I love the way it has allowed booksellers across the world to tap into its enormous online presence, enabling independents to name their price and make books easily available that previously would have required a visit to the world’s main book repositories (in the UK that’s the Bodleian Library and the British Library at Paddington).
But I have to say I am foxed when it comes to what Amazon has to say with respect to my own book – Sex.com. While pondering getting a US publishing deal today, I had a look at Amazon.co.uk to see how my book was doing, whether it had any good reviews and so on.
Sex.com is out of print at the moment. So I was pleased to see it has been picked up by second-hand booksellers. The price wasn’t very encouraging though. No author likes to see their book offered for less than the paper it costs to print it on, so seeing Sex.com offered for £0.08 – or 8p – was not exactly exhilarating. But then what’s this – it is also on sale for £71.76. £71.76? What’s going on?
I am going to have to make a determined effort to update this blog more often. I always feel better when I am writing. Anyway, just as an update: I am currently in New Delhi in the Maurya Hotel following a busy conference week. I’ll be heading to the airport soon to go to Paris, where I hope to meet up with various folk that are integral to the next two conferences coming up both in June: the OECD ministerial in Seoul, followed immediately afterwards by the next ICANN meeting in Paris.
But in between, and for Thursday and Friday this week, I will be at Domainpulse in Vienna giving a talk partly about my book, Sex.com, and partly about the history of making money from domain names. You can see the full programme here. It should be interesting: Wolfgang Kleinwachter, Peter van Roste, Sabine Dolderer, Patrik Faltström, Daniel Karrenberg plus a number of people I have yet to meet and look forward to doing so. If you’re going, see you there.
I’m quite excited about the fact that Amazon has brought out a new ebook reader that it calls the Kindle. I haven’t seen one in the real world but I am assuming with the effort they’ve put behind it that the screen technology is what it claims to be – easy to read without straining your eyes.
I believe ebooks are the inevitable future. It’s just another step along the digital revolution. But – and what a but – have you seen the state of the “Kindle”? It looks like a prototype. A prototype designed by 18-year-old students back in the 1980s. Here is good technology and big demand with crappy design – i.e. the perfect opportunity for Apple.
Kevin Murphy, a British IT journo based in the US, has done a review of my Sex.com book on his blog.
He likes it. Which is nice since he is one of roughly three journalists in the world who understand the domain name system and its history. You can read it all here.
I like the opening line: “This is easily the funnest tech industry book I’ve read in a long time.”
I’m still don’t know where things are at with the US publisher, or this bloke in New York was interested in making a screenplay out of the book, or if I’m ever going to make any money from the book. Still, what does it matter in the wider scheme of things? I managed to write a book and people seem to enjoy it.
This has to be good – I note that Amazon.com is now selling my book – Sex.com.
Unfortunately there is still a four to six-week delivery date on it, which leads me to conclude that my publishers have yet to strike a deal with a US publisher. I also note on a quick perusal of the Net that the Sydney Morning Herald and ran a whole extract in its edition today – Chapter 3, I believe. And I’m pleased to see that Techworld – where I was news ed – ran an extract last week. Alot has happened since I’ve been away.
I’ve also got a lovely review on Amazon.com. Although this doesn’t appeared to have helped my ranking much – it’s still way down at book no 186,461. Anyway, the review: