INTERNET

HongKong.com and Taiwan.com domains go on sale for first time in 20 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 March, 2015, 6:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 April, 2015, 11:30am

Some of Asia's most premium online real estate went on sale this week for the first time in decades.

Url broker Domain Holdings Group (DHG), which specialises in buying and selling premium domains, announced on Monday that it was selling HongKong.com and Taiwan.com. Urls, or web addresses, connect users with the location of a file on the web, such as a website or server. 

"[These] are two of the most important domains to both commerce and tourism in Asia," said managing director Alan Dunn.

"Today marks the first time in over 20 years these assets are available for sale."

"Over the last two years the China market has become a dominant investor in domain names and we expect these domains to fetch near record prices," said Mark Daniel, director of business development for DHG.

China is the second largest market after the US for premium domains. In 2014, Xiaomi, China's largest domestic smartphone brand, paid around US$3.5 million for mi.com as it seeks to appeal to a wider international customer base.

In February, internet security company Qihoo 360 reportedly spent a whopping US$17 million to buy 360.com from Yahoo. The sale would rank 360.com as the fifth most expensive domain ever, behind Internet.com, PrivateJet.com, VacationRentals.com and Insurance.com, which sold in 2010 for US$35.6 million.

Beyond monetary value, the two Chinese domains possess great propaganda potential, especially if Beijing or a pro-independence party in Taiwan or Hong Kong were to acquire the url.

Beijing at least does seem to recognise the value in a name. In August 2013, China Radio International, the state-owned media conglomerate, paid US$11.6 million for China.com.

China.com was intended to help the nation "create a favourable global public opinion environment," said Tong Liqiang, executive vice-president of the Chinese internet information office at a website launch event in January 2014.

While it was reported at the time that HongKong.com was also acquired in the same sale, the WhoIs record for the domain lists the current owner of both HongKong.com and Taiwan.com as CDC Administration Limited, a private company registered in Hong Kong. Calls to two numbers listed for the company went unanswered as of press time.

Buying domains for political purposes has become fairly common in the US. JebBushForPresident.com for example, is not owned by the Republican presidential candidate or his team, but by a Floridian couple who have used the platform to draw attention to Bush's anti-gay marriage stance, among other things.