Sunday, July 29, 2001

A Dot of Your Own

The word is that this has not been a great season for summer rentals. Whether it's the slowing economy or the slowing economy, folks seem to be somewhat reticent to part with a year's salary just to have that special Hamptons' summer cottage for a week. Of course, the el primo places that are just a stone's throw from Martha or Jerry still have strong demand, because after all, when push comes to shove, it's worth spending your kid's college education fund for the really important things in life.

That's because there's an old adage that in real estate that the most three most important things are location, location and location. Being in the right place is absolutely essential if you're going to make a splash. And since there's another old saying that land is valuable simply because they're not making any more of it, it's worth spending almost whatever it takes to establish a beachhead up front near the actual beach.

This is true in almost anything. Sure, it costs more to buy orchestra seats than ones in the second balcony, but at least from up front you can really see the show. Of course, sometimes the investment is in time versus money, such as when you want to secure a good parking place, a spot by the pool or the best seat for the parade. Being willing to arrive early and curl up with a sleeping bag can net you dividends, such as being able to see all five of the Backstreet Boys sweat up close and personal.

This used to be the case in the world of the Internet. Of course, there the real estate comes in the form of the so-called domain names... the "dot coms" with which we've all become so familiar. While the cost to register one of these little beauties is only about $20 a year, the good ones were grabbed quite a while ago. That's why, just like a place listed as "10rms bch vw," there is an active market in speculating on what addresses will prove to be the popular ones in the future. And that's why if you must have "," it'll set you back a cool $2.5 million to buy the rights, while you can snap up "" for a relatively paltry $149,000.

For those that don't have that kind of cash, the only good news is that unlike land, it's easy to create a new domain name. All it takes is a catchy phrase, from "" to "" It's so easy, in fact, that at last count, nearly 35 million distinct domains had been registered throughout the world. But since everyone wants to be where the action is, over 29 million of those registered were in 3 of the over 250 domains available: .com, .net or .org. And in those neighborhoods, like building lots near the ocean, the good stuff was taken a long time ago.

Enter the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, better know to bit heads as ICANN. They've announced that starting this fall, they are effectively hanging out the "for rent" sign on two new developments. While .info will be available for any use, .biz will be restricted to businesses. Assuming that those rollouts go smoothly, they've also announced 5 additional names that will be available in the not-too-distant future for specialized use: aero for air transport companies, .coop for cooperatives, .museums for museums, .name for individuals and .pro for accountants, lawyer and doctors. In each case, they've put into place procedures so that only the appropriate organizations or individuals will be able to obtain a specific address... no cyber squatting allowed

The idea is that this will make it easier for Mr. and Mrs. Web Surfer to find the information they need. Looking for airline schedules or fares? Then typing in might get you to the latest data, while typing might take you to plumbing supplies, and might be your local dentist. Just as in real life, last names will start to count, making it easier to differentiate between Jimmy Swaggart, Jimmy Carter and Jimmy the Greek.

If the controls work, and only a legitimate user of an address is allowed to own it, the cost should go down as the availability goes up. No longer will some modern version of an Oklahoma Sooner be able to get to a spot first and plant a flag marking his claim, regardless of who comes rushing along afterwards. So now Bill Gates can get for a pair of sawbucks, and not have to shell out a cool $1 million for the "com" variety that's currently offered on the auction block.

Followed to its logical conclusion, we're bound to see even more extensions, enabling neat little electronic neighborhoods to be created. Looking for music? Then go to How about some tips on putting? Check out It'll soon be just like Disneyland: you'll be able to go to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland and know exactly what to expect.

What this all means is that if you've always had your eye on a little place by the water, and you have neither the cash to buy it nor the time to develop it, you certainly could be out of luck. But if you've always coveted a little dot com of your own, where you and the missus can curl up between shopping sprees at Amazon or spins on Travelocity, your ship may have just come in.


Marc Wollin of Bedford still calls home. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

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