Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The man who owns the Internet


The man who owns the Internet is an Internet article about the most powerful dotcom mogul you've never heard of: Kevin Ham. It's by Paul Sloan of CNNMoney.com. The article is an oldie but goodie. Basically, Kevin Ham makes money off your poor spelling and typing skills. He registers those domains that are commonly mis-spelled (among others). It leads to an add-ridden site, and when people click on those ads, Kevin makes money. "If you control all the domains," Kevin says, "then you control the Internet."

An exerpt:
" The man at the top of this little-known hierarchy is Kevin Ham -- one of a handful of major-league "domainers" in the world and arguably the shrewdest and most ambitious of the lot. Even in a field filled with unusual career paths, Ham's stands out.

Trained as a family doctor, he put off medicine after discovering the riches of the Web. Since 2000 he has quietly cobbled together a portfolio of some 300,000 domains that, combined with several other ventures, generate an estimated $70 million a year in revenue. (Like all his financial details, Ham would neither confirm nor deny this figure.)

Working mostly as a solo operator, Ham has looked for every opening and exploited every angle -- even inventing a few of his own -- to expand his enterprise. Early on, he wrote software to snag expiring names on the cheap. He was one of the first to take advantage of a loophole that allows people to register a name and return it without cost after a free trial, on occasion grabbing hundreds of thousands of names in one swoop.

And what few people know is that he's also the man behind the domain world's latest scheme: profiting from traffic generated by the millions of people who mistakenly type ".cm" instead of ".com" at the end of a domain name.

Try it with almost any name you can think of -- Beer.cm, Newyorktimes.cm, even Anyname.cm -- and you'll land on a page called Agoga.com, a site filled with ads served up by Yahoo (Charts, Fortune 500).

Ham makes money every time someone clicks on an ad -- as does his partner in this venture, the West African country of Cameroon. Why Cameroon? It has the unforeseen good fortune of owning .cm as its country code -- just as Germany runs all names that end with .de.

...



Ham had no clue that there were rivals out there who were way ahead him, deploying software that purchased names at a rate that Ham's fingers couldn't match. Through registration data, he eventually traced many of those purchases to one owner: "NoName." Behind the shadowy moniker was another reclusive domain pioneer, a Chinese-born programmer named Yun Ye, who, according to people who know him, operated out of his house in Fremont, Calif.

By day Ye worked as a software developer. At night he unleashed the programs that automated domain purchases. (Ye achieved deity status among domainers in 2004 when he sold a portfolio of 100,000 names to Marchex (Charts), a Seattle-based, publicly traded search marketing firm, for $164 million. He then moved to Vancouver.)"
To find out how the story pans out, check out the rest of the article. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Tao said...

Hmmm,

I was going to do that too. Thief :P

Interesting story :)