Domain-name business hosting a steady revival

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 12:00am

The dotcom bubble may have burst but the local internet domain-name business is witnessing a slow revival. Last week, Hong Kong company Essatte sold the domain name to United States software developer International Software Systems Solutions for US$35,000.

While the deal seems small compared to high-profile domain-name sales at the height of the dotcom bubble, it is Hong Kong's biggest since the dotcom frenzy.

Steven Tracy, chief technical officer at local marketing consultancy Market Evolver, which brokered Essatte's deal, said: 'I haven't heard of anything like this [in the region] for a while.'

But Dion Wiggins, research director at technology market watchers Gartner Group, said the market for domain names had remained active, with firms making a living out of brokering such deals without grabbing headlines.

In December, a man in Florida sold the domain name for US$1.3 million. Analysts predicted the deal might revive the practice of cyber-squatting, or the registering of domain names based on trademarks in the hope of selling them to the legitimate owner of the trademark for a large sum. Cyber-squatting ceased to be profitable after the introduction of an arbitration system allowing trademark holders to present their cases to organisations such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

Mr Tracy said Essatte, a holding company, was not a cyber-squatter but had registered the domain name several years ago to market anti-spam software. Essatte also registered the names spamburg. com, and

International Software Systems Solutions makes software that stops pop-up ads from appearing while users browse the Web.

The market for selling top-level domain names is primarily focused in the US, though Hong Kong companies have been active as both buyers and sellers.

In 2000, shortly after it acquired Cable & Wireless HKT, Pacific Century CyberWorks paid venture capitalist firm Venture Catalyst US$1million for the domain name

Market Evolver marketing director Don Rider said: 'We don't think it will reach the sort of ridiculous levels it did in 1999 but there is clearly an upward trend.'