Dominic J. Bagnoli Jr. of Emergency Medicine Physicians in Canton played the high-stakes Domain Name Game and won.
Youve never heard of the Domain Name Game? You cant find it in the TV listings. Its not at Caesars Palace. And Milton Bradley didnt unveil it with a new set of board games.
Youll find it on the Internet and its one of the most popular games nationwidefor name holders and seekers alike.
A domain name is your Internet identitywww.yourbusiness.com. For their time and effort, some people are making a fortune buying and selling domain names. But unless youre one of these brokers, youre in for disappointment and frustration, because its a game you dont want to play.
Bagnoli, COO of EMP became a reluctant contestant in 1997 when he pursued emp.com to reinforce his companys branding and marketing strategy. Retail cost for a domain name from Herndon, Va.-based InterNIC, which administers Web addresses (more than 2 million to since 1995) is $70 for two years, then $35 a year.
But Bagnoli encountered one problem: Someone already had the name.
We wanted to be very clear who we were. Were not anything but EMP, says Bagnoli. His company specializes in managing and staffing emergency departments with local physicians who are residency trained and board certified.
Working with his Web site developer, Data Direct Inc. in Canton, Bagnoli tried to see what it would cost to get the name. The owner of the domain name turned out to be a broker (apparently no longer in the business) who offered to sell it for about $800.
While Bagnoli considered paying, a different broker picked up the nameprecisely how or why isnt clear. The new owner wanted nearly $10,000.
Ann Schlosser, vice president of marketing for Data Direct, was busy exploring other options, such as available variations on the EMP name. Meanwhile, Bagnoli considered paying the asking price for his name.
He says he knew it was an obvious case of profiteering, but figured it would be better for himand not a competitorto use the name. Besides, the site was integral to his businessin addition to being a marketing tool, it handles certain business functions, such as allowing physicians to post schedule requests.
Were trying to build a regional reputationmaybe a national reputation eventually. We wanted something easy for people to find, he says.
In the end, Bagnoli got what he wanted for the affordable list price; InterNIC re-released the name because the owners either failed to pay for it or didnt use it online. Its a common occurrence, according to Nancy Huddleton, an InterNIC spokeswoman.
When you apply for a domain name, InterNIC sends out an invoice, due in 30 days. If you dont pay on time, InterNIC reissues the name.
While Huddleton didnt know the specifics of Bagnolis case, she acknowledged its common practice for brokers to take out dozens of names at a time, then try to resell them before the invoices come due.
Bagnoli got off easy.
Compaq Computer Corp. recently paid a reported $3.3 million for the altavista.com domain name, which leads people to its well-known AltaVista search engine. While Compaq had acquired the search engine in its purchase last year of Digital Equipment Corp., the domain name had been the property of an unrelated companyAltaVista Technology Inc.since before the search engine existed.
More recently, the aptly named domain broker All Dot Com (www.alldotcom.com) listed www.welcomeonline.com for sale. Asking price: $100,000.
It really depends how much you want it and how much its worth to your marketing effort, Schlosser says.
You can avoid the Domain Name Game by registering your preferred name as early as possible. Get a domain and sit on it until youre ready to do a site, she says.
If the first name you want is taken, you do have alternatives. For example, rather than use a corporate name or an acronym, companies increasingly are coming up with creative names that refer to their products or services. Thats why www.tires.com takes you to Discount Tire Direct, while www.dishes.com delivers you to Procter & Gambles Web site for Dawn dish soap.
How to reach: EMP (330) 833-9400; Data Direct: (330) 499-0692
Michael M. Murray is a freelance writer specializing in online issues.
Domain name help
You can pay an Internet service provider or Web site developer such as Data Direct to register your name or you can do it yourself by visiting InterNICs Web site at www.internic.net. If you want to know whether a specific name is taken, conduct a WHOIS search by typing the desired name into the space provided on InterNICs home page. Results are free and immediate.