Today we are going to take a trip back to the past, a time before anyone knew Rosener, Berkens or Schilling. A time when many corporations, especially those outside of the tech sector did not know if they should even grab a domain name.
According to Wired Magazine only one-third of the Fortune 500 had registered an obvious version of their names back in 1994.
Want a domain with that ?
The Golden Arches, home to Ronald McDonald and the Happy Meal, McDonalds did not own McDonalds.com back in 1994. Joshua Quittner was a journalist who decided to call the home of Ronald McDonald to see why they were not yet online.
Quittner contacted McDonalds and spoke to Jane Hulbert a media relations person for McDonalds. When Quittner asked why there was no McDonalds.com ? Hulbert replied with, “Are you finding that the Internet is a big thing? Quittner told her that some think it’s a very big thing.
Hulbert hung up and went to find someone more tech savvy within the company. Quittner hooked up with Hulbert again a few weeks later by phone.
Hulbert told Quittner, “I don’t have anything for you, and I probably won’t have anything for you,” she confessed. “I’ve left a lot of voicemail for people, but no one seems to know anything about it.”
Here is one of the largest companies in the world, that protects their trademark like a Barracuda, shutting down unrelated business that call themselves Mcanything, and they have no understanding about the Internet.
Two weeks later, Joshua Quittner registered McDonalds.com. Quittner also contacted Burger King, there was no BurgerKing.com and they were almost as clueless as McDonalds. In an article published by Quittner he mentions he thought about asking Burger King if they wanted McDonalds.com.
Let’s take a time out and look at the process of registering domain names in 1994. Most domain investors who read blogs and forums day in and day out were not active in 1994.
Quittner had reached out to someone at InterNic to understand what the process was, and how many people were working on Internet registrations.
Scott Williamson was the person who supervised InterNIC registrations back in 1994. Williamson explained to Quittner that there were 2.5 people who handled all the demands for domain registrations. Williamson said that a year ago, his agency received 300 requests a month for domain names; now, more than 1,300 requests stream in each month.
So you can see that there was an opportunity for many registrations to fall through the cracks. Williamson told Quittner,”If we had to research every request for a domain name right now, I’d need a staff of 20 people,” Williamson said. So the policy is simple: “Trademark problems are the responsibility of the requester.”
Quittner asked Williamson if he could register McDonalds.com ? Williamson replied, “There is nothing that says I can stop you from doing that.” He went on to note there is a need for some kind of policy.
So now Quittner sets up an email address, Ronald@mcdonalds.com, he asks people what he should do with the domain name ? Quittner published an article offering the domain back to McDonalds, in return for the domain he would like McDonalds to donate some computer equipment to a local school. McDonalds now turns up the heat on InterNic and they actually agree to revoke the registration.
InterNic then changes it’s mind and leaves McDonalds.com with Quittner. McDonalds donates $3,500 for the computer equipment and they get their domain name. According to the book “Social Media & Electronic Commerce Law” this is the first known instance of a registrant gaining an economic benefit from a willing registrant.
I want my MTV (.com that is)
Adam Curry was an early pioneer online, in addition to being a VJ on MTV, Curry was up on all things tech. Curry has been called “The Podfather” as he was one of the first podcasters.
In 1993 Curry registered MTV.com, Curry said that he informed his bosses at MTV and they had said nothing to discourage the registration. Curry eventually left MTV and that’s when MTV changed their tune on the domain name. Curry was adamant about keeping the domain name, he called the case between himself and MTV, the Roe vs Wade of of the Internet and the information superhighway.
MTV is owned by Viacom and Viacom wanted the name, Viacom and Curry went back and forth and eventually settled. No details were mentioned.
Yet MTV.com is always listed on all time domain sales lists as selling for $100,000. That info actually comes from the dispute Viacom had with the owner of MTV.com.sg who actually won against Viacom in the first ever Singapore SDRP. This was kind of like a UDRP but for the country code of Singapore .sg. Elitist Technologies was looking for $200,000 and Viacom thought this proved there was bad faith. Elitist replied that it was a fair starting point considering they paid Adam Curry $100,000 for MTV.com.
Today Viacom owns MTV.com.sq but I have not found what the sales price was.
Wrong kind of Candy
Porn company Internet Entertainment Group, Ltd. purchased Candyland.com back in 1995. There is a popular children’s board game named Candy Land that is produced by Hasbro Inc. There is also the fact that Hasbro has had the trademark on Candy Land since 1951.
Hasbro took legal action and won the case. The thing I found interesting was that IEG was allowed to hold onto the domain for 90 days to let people know they were moving to another domain name.
You can read the results of the case here.
How Cool is that ?
Back in 2000 Martin Wolk wrote an article on ZD Net that profiled Tim Lee the owner of Cool.com. In 1995 while a student at the University of Washington, Lee registered Cool.com for free. His friends echoed the sentiments of many at the time, “Why would you want a domain? What are you going to do with it ?”
Lee told Wolk that at first he really just wanted to pay off school and get a down payment for a house. He would have sold the domain for less than $100,000.
He started getting offers in 1996 and says he got an offer from Adam Curry of MTV.com fame. According to the article, for a while, Lee loaned out the name to other entrepreneurs for six months at a time, hoping they would be able to develop a business plan compelling enough to persuade him to invest his increasingly valuable asset.
Lee goes on to talk about bigger and bigger offers, the highest being $8 million in cash and $30 million in stock. He declined the offer.
When you look at Lee’s LinkedIn profile you see Cool.com in his work history. He incorporated as Cool.com Inc.
• Founded Cool.com, Inc in July 1999.
• Planned and developed company vision and strategy.
• Effectively completed initial business plan, resulting in startup capital and significant Series A preferred financing.
• Successfully built key executive team for business development, technology, sales, and human resource functions.
• Chaired Board of Directors and oversaw management team and a total of 25 employees on the implementation of business plan and vision.
• Designed and implemented internal IT network and systems including Linux VPN, firewall, and file sharing solutions.
• Successfully developed and integrated collaborative work environment using MS Windows & Exchange Server.
In an article that was published in 2002, Lee is asked if he regrets not selling ?
Cool.com owner Lee, 29, now works as a consultant to an unrelated business. He said he was often asked if he regretted not selling the address when he was offered millions for it.
“I don’t,” he said last week. “It was quite a learning experience.” He declined to elaborate.
Of course in 2002 a lot of people were writing that not only domain names, but the Internet was done.
Here is the earliest screenshot available from Archive.org
Today Cool.com is owned by Thunayan K Al-Ghanim and his FMA.com. Thunayan once told me about acquiring Cool.com and it was certainly nowhere near $1 million. I do not recall the exact price he mentioned and have reached out to him for a quote. If he gets back I will update the post.
Currently Cool.com resolves to a parked page.