back to article A $4bn biz without a live product just broke the record for the amount paid for a domain name. WTF is going on?

This week saw the greatest sum ever paid for a domain name: Voice.com was sold in an all-cash deal for $30m to a company called Block.one, more than doubling the previous, longstanding record of $13m for Sex.com. Can a simple web address really be worth $30m? Well, yes, if it is attached to a well-known business. The value of …

  1. Nate Amsden

    $30M

    couldn't you get your own top level domain for that ? (e.g. ".voice" for example assuming that is not taken).

    1. Moosh

      Re: $30M

      The vast majority of people are familiar with .com or .co.xx websites though; its all very well having your own top level domain, but you're trying to reach the largest number of people. For that, voice.com is superior to XXXXXX.voice

      Got to scrape the bottom of that barrel.

      1. iron Silver badge

        Re: $30M

        The vast majority of people are not familiar with .com or .co.xx they use Google to find every website they go to, even the ones they visit every day. It's sad but true. Which makes their domain name purchase even less worthless than the article suggests.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: $30M

          Yes, I have seen that - people set their homepage to google and then actually enter the whole URL (including the https:// part) into the search engine.

          It's like buying a car, starting it and then pushing it wherever you want to go. Sigh.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: $30M

          "The vast majority of people are not familiar with .com or .co.xx they use Google to find every website they go to, even the ones they visit every day. "

          So Amazon might as well flog off Amazon.com while it's still worth over $30M and see if they can do a deal to buy Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.com for a bit less, Google could still be relied on to direct us all to their web site.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "It did however just spend $30m on a single domain name, and so garnered more press attention."

    Has whoever sold the domain actually got the money? In real dollars, not Dunning Krugerands? Just asking.

    1. Christopher Michaelis

      Dunning Krugerands

      Upvoted for introducing me to this worthy term.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Dunning Krugerands

        Credit actually due to another commentard a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I can't remember who.

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: Dunning Krugerands

          Well, recently it was "Sorry that handle is already taken.", but historically DrXym first raised the term on this site in 2014, and still credited it onwards.

          Still a perfect name.

          And yes, I'm buggering about a bit this morning...

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "Has whoever sold the domain actually got the money?"

      According to the linked-to SEC filing, dated June 18, MicroStrategy received the money in cash on May 30 with GoDaddy facilitating.

      C.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: "Has whoever sold the domain actually got the money?"

        Somehow I don't think the author of that release thinks "cash" means - what I think it means.

        Or what did GoDaddy do - slip a brown envelope under the door?

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: "Has whoever sold the domain actually got the money?"

          "Cash" when used in the business world in the US means currency. Doesn't have to be paper currency, it could be a bank transfer or cashier's check. They basically mean anything that immediately changes your bank balance, as opposed to paying in other instruments that may have strings attached or not be easily fungible like stock, bonds, real estate, etc.

          When dealing with real estate, sometimes you'll have buyers making an "all cash offer". That means they won't be taking out a mortgage and have enough to fund the entire purchase price themselves, not that they will show up at the closing with a suitcase stuffed with $100 bills.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Has whoever sold the domain actually got the money?"

        "MicroStrategy received the money in cash on May 30"

        They're probably still staring at each other saying "Did we really just do that?".

  3. ibmalone Silver badge

    Is this...

    Is this an episode of Hustle?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      It is now

  4. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Is Ja Rule involved?

    Because this sounds like the startup version of Fyre Festival.

  5. Wellyboot Silver badge

    20 Years ago

    The Dot Com bubble was reaching its peak and companies like this were raking in millions from IPOs.

    Now there's a new generation of fools who will be conned into handing over real money to a bunch of chancers.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: 20 Years ago

      They should mind their own business.com

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 20 Years ago

        Too busy listening to the voice.com in the head.

  6. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Boffin

    Meh.

    So you have the hype but that doesn't mean people will join.

    What do they get that they don't have on Facebook? So what will compel them to move and also provide a valid government id?

    Color me a skeptic.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Meh.

      I think scepticism is unwarranted here.

      Scepticism is far too optimistic. We're going to have to resort to derision.

      And even that may be too generous...

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Meh.

        I was planning to go with "indifference", myself.

        But then that's how I've always treated Facebook, so what do I know.

  7. JLV Silver badge
    Trollface

    Cryptocurrency! Social media! Together!

    That sounds like selling a Brooklyn bridge built over the Everglades.

  8. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Boffin

    The fact they can afford to pay a large sum for only a domain name shows they are sensible brilliant entrepreneurs who have lots and lots of money; if I invest with them therefore I will make lots and lots of money too.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Pay the money to a brand consultant to come up with a name. Voice.com makes me think of a TV singing competition, not a social network.

      1. Pascal

        I initially thought they wanted to take over the VOIP market.

  9. Tromos
    Joke

    The facebook we've all dreamed of?

    Ah! That'll be the one with the homepage containing Mark Zuckerberg's obituary.

  10. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    WTF?

    Money, money, money

    I read the linked CNBC article about how Block "raised" their $4 billion: They gave away crypto coins in a currency that no-one is using and ultimately got some idiot to value these coins in dollars on the premise that these crypto coins will be valuable in the future.

    Who on Earth falls for this bollocks?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Money, money, money

      Who on Earth falls for this bollocks?

      Dunno, but if you find out please let me know. I've got this bridge...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Money, money, money

      I really believe that cryptocurrency today is a synonym for money laundering.

      This domain purchase is likely white-washing some crooks money.

    3. Ima Ballsy
      Coat

      Re: Money, money, money

      The same ones that believe I'm from MicroSoft support, OR your long lost cousin from Uganda and need to ship money, Or the Rector for the King of Norway ....etc ....

  11. Jonathon Green
    Devil

    That sounds like the perfect domain name for a Spinvox relaunch...

  12. joeldillon

    'There is its version of Wikipedia – which, by the way, relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions to function'

    To be fair, that also describes the actual Wikipedia. It's kind of their whole model, even.

  13. Lee D Silver badge

    "It will also cut out phony accounts and fake news by requiring people to use a government-issued ID to sign up."

    I have spotted a potential privacy flaw far in excess of anything that Facebook does.

    Who the hell - and where the hell - is storing those government IDs, and how can you be sure?

    I provide government ID to exactly three classes of people - banks (once, on account sign-up), the police (never needed to) and the security line at the airport. Even the *airline* doesn't need to see my passport, if you notice.

    Technically the former two are also unnecessary - my brother survived for decades without a single form of photo ID - he doesn't drive, he's never left the country. Yet he has a job, he has accounts, he has a mortgage. You only need prove your identity to a police officer - that's easier with ID but possible to do without or they wouldn't be able to do their job.

    I absolutely cannot think of a worse idea than presenting government ID to a website so you can chat with your friends.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      "I provide government ID to exactly three classes of people..."

      Not sure where you're living, but in most countries you also need to provide ID to your landlord to rent a place, to utilities providers to get for example mobile phone contract etc. It's also fairly common practice to ask for each others ID when making a high-value private sale eg second-hand car.

      I agree with the skepticism of providing ID to a social media site... but if there are people who want their social media sites to have verified identities, they somehow need to provide this themselves.

      I wonder if a fairly trusted institution such as a bank could set that up as a 3rd-party provided service, similar to a credit card network for example.

      1. Spacedinvader
        Happy

        Scotland. Just got my first gov ID (driving license), I'm 38. Have ft job, rent my flat, have utilities, bank acc (just took out a loan), made high value purchase (spending said load), mobile contract, broadband, all without a gov ID...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You must be white :p

          1. defiler Silver badge

            You've not seen us in Scotland. We're blue.

            In July we turn purple for a couple of weeks, and then back to blue again.

            Also, surprised you got a mortgage without government ID. Having worked in Financial Services, the FCA money-laundering regs require photo ID to prove you're you. Or did back when I was involved.

            The usual script - two utility bills and a photo ID from the proscribed list. It was a short list...

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              the FCA money-laundering regs require photo ID to prove you're you you have photo ID

              FTFY

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "Also, surprised you got a mortgage without government ID. Having worked in Financial Services, the FCA money-laundering regs require photo ID to prove you're you. Or did back when I was involved."

              Are you sure of that? A LOT of people don't have photo ID. Me for one. A lack of photo ID usually just means you have to provide more ID than if you have a photo ID. I've been through various ID checks from the local council voting register to government security clearances via DBS/CRB/ECRB etc and have never needed photo ID as an absolute must.

              1. defiler Silver badge

                Meh - I dunno. I was the IT guy, so picked up a lot of the stuff osmotically, so to speak. It was expected of clients - 2 utility bills and a photo ID always. Maybe it was just easier that way than doing it without photo ID. I didn't take the time to ask them when they eventually fucked me over for their own individual gains...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I have bad news for you: the next time you rent a flat you will unfortunately need to show ID. All part of the beloved UK Government's plan to now try to make everyone feel as unwelcome as possible.

          I've recently even had to scan and send ID documents to banks to open new accounts now, which never used to be the case, they used to be able to do all the checks they needed behind the scenes.

          (Oh, and that'll be a driving *licence* that you have... ;-) )

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        The UK.

        He coped well enough for 40 years without ID. He has a provisional driving licence now.

        Birth certificate usually suffices, and that's not ID in any way at all.

        Utility providers - er... no... never. Mobile phone contracts... er... no... never. Hell, my mobile phone contract required nothing more than a debit card. My utilities when I moved last year - I have provided them zero information beyond my name, address and payment details.

        Landlords, possibly, but if you don't have ID, they can't have one, it's quite simple. And if you can have a bank account without, you can rent a flat without. I wouldn't give ID to a random when buying a car. I wouldn't even provide ID in case of a collision - they need only my insurers details and the details of the car.

        My driving licence comes out of my wallet less than once a year (and I moved last year into a rented flat). And that's usually for me to check when I first got it so I can put the date into a car insurance comparison.

        Hell, I've been pulled over about 6 times in the last 5 years (never even a ticking off, they just wanted to check paperwork and look busy). Once I was asked for ID.

        (But, hey, the UK is living in a 1984 police state, right?).

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Supposedly the seller of a car should be the one filling out V5C/2 ‘new keeper supplement’ of the log book with the purchaser's name and address. Not sure if they are meant to check or not.

          For the rest, opening accounts without photo ID is pretty tricky, here's what you need according to one random bank's website if you don't have one of passport, EU(~) driving license or national ID card, or firearms license:

          Valid older style UK driving licence (no photo)

          HMRC documentation (PAYE Coding Notice/Tax Notification/Self-Assessment/Statement of Account/NI contributions bill) issued in the last 3 months or valid for the current tax year. We can’t accept P45 or P60 forms

          Notification letter from Benefits Agency/Local Authority confirming your right to benefits (Department for Work and Pensions including Jobcentre Plus, Benefits Agency or Veterans Agency), dated within the last 12 months.

        2. unimaginative

          Landlords can accept a birth certificate. The are legally obliged to check paperwork: https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents and not being immigration officials they are often confused about what they can accept and what they should check.

          Employers can accept a birth certificate plus some other documents.

          It is possible to open a bank account without ID, but its not standard and will be more difficult: https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/opening-bank-account

          Lots of other things come up. You need photo ID to sit GCSEs as an external candidate, for example.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "my brother survived for decades without a single form of photo ID"

      Same here. And my wife. No passports. She doesn't drive and I passed my test many years before photo liceces became a thing. Those paper licences are valid, without chargeable renewals, until the holder reaches 70 years old. I sometimes have to explain to some younger people where I need to identify myself that, yes, an "old fashioned" paper driving licence is still a valid and legal document,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I also had a paper driving licence until recently (well, I still do, it's "somewhere" in my filing system (I actually virtually never drive, I rarely have need to since moving to cities from the small town where I grew up)).

        I decided to report it lost and convert it to a photocard licence recently simply to have as a form of photo ID given the increasing number of times that you now need to show it (remember, the UK "doesn't have" compulsory ID cards, hah, so they're just introducing them de facto by stealth), and I'd rather not have to carry my passport around.

        I really wouldn't mind if we were to have ID cards, it was the many tentacled database that I was very much less keen on. Except, I suspect that the many tentacled database(s) now exists and interlinks behind the scenes (credit reference agencies, etc), and we don't officially have ID cards, but just make life awkward for everyone instead.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re. It is the Facebook we've all dreamed of.

    correction: It is the Facebook we've all dreamed of at the register., while (millions and billions of) users on FB don't give a fuck. Sad, but true.

    1. james_smith Bronze badge

      Re: re. It is the Facebook we've all dreamed of.

      According to an article on the Guardian yesterday, activity on Facebook has dropped 20% since the privacy scandals of last year.

  15. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    billion-dollar business that comprises of nothing but others' confidence that it is worth something.

    To be honest that is an accurate description of the whole stock exchange system.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: billion-dollar business that comprises of nothing but others' confidence...

      Billion-dollar companies are billion-dollar companies because they have billion or high-multimillion-dollar revenue streams, which in turn are based on physical or legal assets whose value is quantifiable. Since they are on the stock exchange, they have to disclose their P&L and balance sheets, as well as any pertinent information such as potential risks, litigation, executive vision of market status etc etc.

      Investors can use that information to decide what they think a company is worth, and in that sense it does comprise "nothing but others' confidence that it is worth something". But the belief is (mostly) based on facts not buzzwords.

  16. DropBear Silver badge

    "if someone with 100 million followers shifted to Voice and brought with them 50 million followers"

    Had a good LOL at that one - this is just another form of the classic "if only everyone..." fallacy. There never is an "everyone", for anything, ever, period. And the important thing is, that's the understatement of the century - actually, on the internet, there's never more that some small fraction. Take a look at a random video of a channel with millions of subscribers (viral hits excepted), some generous amount of time after publishing - it will not have even a tenth in views of the number of subs. Likes? Somewhere between a hundredth and less than a thousandth of the number of subs, even if almost nobody seems to be disliking it. I'm fairly sure there exists no internet celebrity who could mobilize anywhere near half of their "subscribers" (heck knows how many are still actually even listening) for anything more complicated than a click or a comment, even if they tried...

    PS. Let's assume I'm not going to question why such a price was paid - but a price is a function of demand _and_ supply; why was it _that_ expensive in the first place...?

  17. jmch Silver badge

    People's belief in value

    "as with all cryptocurrencies right now, its value is nothing but perceptual. There is literally nothing to stop being worth $0 beyond people's belief that it isn't."

    "the illusionary foundation for its billion-dollar business that comprises of nothing but others' confidence that it is worth something"

    To be fair, the value all fiat currencies is perceptual, and based only on the belief in it's value. The difference is - what is the belief based on? If it's USD, people have considerably more confidence in it retaining it's value than in for example, the Zimbabwean dollar or Venezuelan bolivar. In the case of a cryptocurrency, the belief might be a bit limited in scope, but it can be fervently religious, which is about as strong a belief as you can get.

    " $4bn in cryptocurrency. Investors used one cryptocurrency to buy another cryptocurrency and then Block.one used a wildly varying dollar-to-crypto-coin exchange rate to state its value."

    True, cryptocurrency valuations fluctuate wildly. However they don't fluctuate THAT wildly that a $4bn valuation can be pulled out of a couple of bob. People spend 'real'* money to buy their cryptos, and, the 'theoretical' valuation of a cryptocurrency IS actually what someone is prepared to pay in real money for them. So the fact that the $4bn is in cryptocurrency doesn't take away from the fact that a lot of people poured a lot of money into this company. So maybe if they try to cash out their invested crypto and only get 10c on the $, it's still a hell of a lot of money to be spent on, what, as you correctly point out, is a company that seems to have no assets beyond the newly bought website, and no revenue stream.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: People's belief in value

      But it seemed to me from the article that somebody's just plucked a figure out of their arse for the value of this cryptocurrency. And massaged the numbers to suit and to make themselves look grand.

      If it turns out that they have all of the funds in one cryptocurrency (let's call them Pishcoins for brevity), and nobody else owns Pishcoins, that means they get to pluck any old dollar value out for a Pishcoin. It could be $1==P1. And who's going to argue? Certainly not the people who have an investment in it being true. It's only when you actually try to release some Pishcoins that the market will fix a value on it, which will probably be $0.

      Also, countries tend to have standing armies which can help to prop up their fiat currencies. Just saying...

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: People's belief in value

        Reading further, they've raised the money by selling Eos coins. They got some mugs to spend Ethereum coins on them.

        So they sold a bunch of unicorn farts, and the buyers paid in pixie farts. But if you tried to actually spend $4Bn cash, you'd come out with $4Bn worth of goods (HP acquisitions notwithstanding). If you tried to actually spend 7.12M Ether, you'd collapse the value of the currency. In fact, their valuation assumes $561 per Ether coin, which has dropped to $280 anyway.

        So - not as much dollaroo as they'd like to think...

        Eos has taken much the same bath in much the same time.

    2. Brangdon

      Re: People's belief in value

      Fiat currencies are backed by laws about legal tender. In the UK if you use sterling to pay off a court-ordered debt or fine, it is considered paid. So (some) people are compelled to accept it (under some circumstances) by the full weight of law. Cryptocurrencies don't have that property: they are entirely voluntary.

  18. Craig 2 Silver badge

    Amazon.com is worthless. When I tell people about a product I say "it's available on Amazon". They google Amazon "whatever product" and click a link. Nobody ever types Amazon.com into the address bar and then searches for the product. Amazon could be hosted on buttplugs.com** and most people wouldn't even notice.

    ** Unless buttplugs.com is already taken, I'm not checking...

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      It is:

      $ dig @1.1.1.1 buttplugs.com

      ; <<>> DiG 9.10.6 <<>> @1.1.1.1 buttplugs.com

      ; (1 server found)

      ;; global options: +cmd

      ;; Got answer:

      ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 12763

      ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

      ;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:

      ; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 1452

      ;; QUESTION SECTION:

      ;buttplugs.com. IN A

      ;; ANSWER SECTION:

      buttplugs.com. 7430 IN A 54.164.83.247

      ;; Query time: 6 msec

      ;; SERVER: 1.1.1.1#53(1.1.1.1)

      ;; WHEN: Fri Jun 21 10:50:32 BST 2019

      ;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 58

      1. defiler Silver badge

        And this is why this site is popular. It answers the important questions.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      When I tell people about a product I say "it's available on Amazon". They google Amazon "whatever product" and click a link

      Probably you know a lot of people who never found what the address bar is for. I'd start to type in amazon.co.uk* on the address bar, autocomplete would do the rest but that's only because I'd typed it in some time in the past.

      Its value is as part of the branding and the branding has value because Amazon have put in the effort to build a search engine which works if you ignore the false positives, logistics which mostly deliver and humongous data centres and warehouses to support it all. Voice.com, OTOH?

      * You're partially right in that the .com variation is less use that the corresponding name under our local TLD.

    3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Facepalm

      When I tell people about a product I say "it's available on Amazon". They google Amazon "whatever product" and click a link. Nobody ever types Amazon.com into the address bar and then searches for the product.

      I saw someone the other day open IE (which had Bing as its home page) enter "Google" in the Bing search box, then in the Google search box enter the full domain name of the site they wanted.

  19. RobMo

    "It is the Facebook we've all dreamed of."

    Nope. Social Media is not improved by Blockchain. You don't make an Eagle by tying two Turkeys together.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      "You don't make an Eagle by tying two Turkeys together."

      It might be fun to try though.

      The bloodstained one with the scalpel in the pocket ----------------------->

      1. DCFusor Silver badge
        Joke

        Analysts have a saying about what many companies involved in mergers or acquisitions must be saying to themselves at the time. It goes like this: "Let's tie these two rocks together, I bet they'll float now!".

        See most financial history for examples and results.

  20. Disk0
    Mushroom

    Require govermnet-issued ID to sign up

    ...so much better when there is a leak, to know that your actual ID is now up for grabs, instead of having to guess how much of your identity was compromised and which accounts to reset.

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