The Ethics Of Domain Name Selling
A few months ago, when my wife was still pregnant, I registered the domain name “Babycation.com.”
I had been making jokes with a friend about how my time off from work for paternity leave was going to be one big vacation where I’d get to catch up on lots of book reading and TV. (Not surprisingly, I was wrong on that.) I took to calling my paternity leave my “Babycation” and while we were discussing this, I checked and saw the domain name was available.
I bought it for about $10. And forgot all about it.
A few days ago, I got an e-mail from someone who wanted to buy the domain. The man said he and his wife were starting a baby-related business and wanted to use babycation.com.
I wasn’t sure how to respond. In the e-mail, the guy didn’t say he wanted to purchase the domain itself, just that he wanted to use it for his business. Did he want to rent it? Was I going to become some sort of virtual slumlord? What if I sold the domain name and he went off and created the next google.com? What if babycation.com became a billion-dollar business? Should I ask for a cut of the business instead of selling the domain outright?
I wrote back asking for more details. The guy replied that he and his wife had just had a baby and wanted to start a small business. He was interested in buying the domain name, which would be a pretty easy process on my domain registrar, godaddy.com.
I asked a friend of mine who works in the Internet business what he’d do. He’s sold several domains over the years, some of them for established sites that had lots of traffic. He suggested I offer it for sale for $1,000, a pretty crazy profit margin, but not unusual for a domain that somebody wants to buy.
I wrote the guy back and told him I would sell him babycation.com for $1,000. I told him in the e-mail that I was open to negotiation and would very likely accept a lower offer. (Check out my hardball tactics.)
He wrote back and he and his wife just had an idea for a small business and that there was no way they could pay that kind of money. He didn’t make a counter-offer. He gave up.
And now I feel terrible. I feel greedy. I feel like I should write the guy back and offer to give him the domain on the cheap and help him and his wife out.
Then again, all I’m going by is a few very short e-mails from a guy I don’t even know. How do I know that this newborn even exists and that I wasn’t being approached by a domain hoarder?
A few years ago, I lost a domain name for my personal site when I forgot to pay for its renewal. It was snapped up quickly by a domain hoarder based in Colorado. I wrote him a letter and made phone calls asking for the opportunity to buy it back. The guy tried to sell it back to me at a price I couldn’t afford. I told him that the only reason that domain name got traffic was because of all the work I’d put into establishing the site. He told me to write him a letter via certified mail listing the reasons that the site belonged to me. He made me jump through a bunch of hoops to get my domain back. Then he told me I couldn’t have it. I really hated that guy.
I ended up purchasing a similar domain and putting my site back up at that address. In the end, it was the content of the Web site, not the domain name itself that was important. My readers followed and within a year, traffic to the old domain dried up.
If this guy were to register a similar domain name, would anyone care if it’s called babycation.com or babycation.net? Or even baby-cation.com?
I’m not sure exactly what to do now, but it’s made me think about the value of a name and how hard it is to know what a simple idea is worth.
What do you think? What should I do?
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