How to acquire an unavailable domain name
February 10, 2007 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Help me acquire a domain name that's unavailable!

I came up with the perfect name for a new biotechnology-related business I'm involved in and, of course, the .com domain is taken. WHOIS lookup reveals that it's owned by an individual who turns out to be an academic physician. He registered it two years ago and is not using it. I had been planning to use one of the services provided by Network Solutions to make an anonymous offer. What are the advantages of this route over approaching the individual directly? Are there other options? (the domain expires in a year)
posted by Turtles all the way down to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just because there is no website doesn't mean he isn't using it.

The advantages of using an anonymous offer are small unless you have already made noise about your idea on the web. Also, it may be a disadvantage as some people look at those services as a shield for people with deeper pockets.

If I were attempting to get a domain name I would contact the person directly. Of course, I also know that there's next to no chance I'd be successful and I'd start thinking of another name.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:23 AM on February 10, 2007

What FlamingBore said, especially the "not using it" part. There's no way you can know that. Lots of people have domain names and use them for email only.
posted by dobbs at 7:14 AM on February 10, 2007

If there's no way to slightly alter your domain name, you could substitute the .com with .edu or .org or whichever best applies - there's a list here.

This is not ideal, but maybe you can get the owner of the .com domain to put a link there for your site - something like "if you're looking for .....'s website click here".

So I'd try a very friendly approach, because even if you don't get his .com you might get him to help you out this way. Good luck!
posted by AnyGuelmann at 7:26 AM on February 10, 2007

Agreed, there's no way to know he's not using it. Though if he's just using it for email, you might be willing to continue to maintain his email address as part of the offer.

You might as well make the offer. Several years ago someone contacted me directly and offered me a fair price for a domain I owned, and I was happy to sell. Of course, I was only using it for personal purposes, and was a broke college student to boot; if the owner is using it for professional purposes or less cash-desperate, they might be less willing. But why not ask politely? Personally, I'd be more favorably inclined toward someone who contacted me directly than someone who went through an anonymous purchase service.
posted by Stacey at 7:56 AM on February 10, 2007

To expand on what Stacey said: when you approach him you can make clear to him that you will continue to forward his e-mail to me in perpetuity for existing e-mail addresses on that domain. That can be part of the deal.
posted by alms at 8:27 AM on February 10, 2007

Thanks all. I guess it's possible this person is using the .com domain for email; however, he is a fairly prominent academic and in all cases I can uncover on the web he uses the .edu email address affiliated with his institution. I can't find anything in a Google search of the domain name other than a whole whack of pages which use the name as a misspelling of a brand of a consumer products. But I agree that all this doesn't tell me anything definitively.

So what's a fair first offer?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:01 AM on February 10, 2007

> in all cases I can uncover on the web he uses the .edu email address affiliated with his institution

That's not indicative of whether he's using the domain. If he's using it for email (or as a development domain with strict robots.txt definitions, or etc.), it only becomes googlable if a copy of something from there is put on a publicly-viewable web page elsewhere.

He may be using it, he may have reserved it because he has a business idea, or he might be squatting. You don't know yet.
posted by ardgedee at 9:12 AM on February 10, 2007

He may be using it, he may have reserved it because he has a business idea, or he might be squatting. You don't know yet.

Agreed. And the consensus seems to be that the direct approach has the best odds of success in the slim chance that he's willing to give it up. We don't have a lot of money to throw around at this point, anyway not enough to wow him with a can't-turn-it-down offer even if we were disposed to do that. So any ideas on how best to make the approach?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:24 AM on February 10, 2007

My first offer would be nothing. Just ask if you can have it if he's not using it. I did that with a domain. The guy's plans for it fell through. He was going to let it expire anyway so he just gave it to me.

If this guy isn't going to do that, then ask him what he wants for it. And there you have your starting point.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 10:01 AM on February 10, 2007

Email him and make a good offer, then keep emailing to keep negotiation going. Research and address the transfer issues; you'll want to use an escrow service to ensure that you get the domain and that he feels confident that he'll get paid. Be polite and organized so he knows you're serious.
posted by theora55 at 11:55 AM on February 10, 2007

Well, if it's set to expire sometime soon, you can always put it on backorder through someone like GoDaddy. They also offer after-market solutions, and aren't quite as evil as NetworkSolutions/Verisign.

For $18, you'll have first crack at the name if it frees up. This doesn't make sense if it's not set to expire in the next couple of months, but if it is, you can get it without having to deal with the guy trying to grab cash, etc.

Naturally, if not that, everyone else's advice applies.
posted by disillusioned at 6:03 PM on February 10, 2007

Mike Davidson's How To Snatch An Expiring Domain is an interesting and informative read.

I'm undecided about whether or not you should try and contact the owner. On the one hand he could be nice and give it to you; on the other, he could see an easy way to make some money.
posted by chimmyc at 6:26 PM on February 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

i would also add that in negotiations, the first person to name a price loses.

As nonmyopicdave said, ask him if he's using it. If he wants to sell, ask how much. It would probably be less than what you would initially offer to "wow" him.
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:51 AM on February 11, 2007

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