Can an expired domain make you a millionaire?

While most great domain names are already taken, hundreds – if not thousands – expire daily. Some of these domains belong to the old batch of registrations, particularly with Network Solutions or Register.com

Aged domains have one extra benefit: a lot of them were businesses once, some more successful than others.

When researching domains that miraculously become available via auction, for example on NameJet, it’s important to research the former owners of these lapsed domains.

You might discover some gems.

Some domains turn up as former assets of Fortune 500 companies. Others were involved in IPOs that preceded the burst of the dot com Bubble in the late 90’s.

One of my domains once belonged to a start-up that was bought by Microsoft, ten years ago. Once they absorbed the company, they eliminated the service and they dropped the domain.

That used to be the Bill Gates way.

I don’t have any delusions of grandeur. That domain is now worth a tiny fraction of the $65 million in stock and cash that Microsoft spent on the business in 2000. But still, I had to make a point.

Is this the only way one can become a millionaire with expired domains?

A couple of years ago, I landed a real gem on NameJet – a domain that belonged to a pioneer movie production company. Currently, it’s just a landing page with a logo and a contact email. I get lots of spam to its single “info” mailbox.

I also get lots of movie scripts, for free.

It’s shocking to realize that several dozen aspiring writers every month, contact that former company email thinking that someone is giving them a chance to hit it big in Hollywood!

The truth is, that I do read those scripts, and if I were a malicious jerk I’d probably try to benefit from them. Instead, I’m responding to those poor souls, explaining that the movie company does not exist anymore. Of course, I make sure IΒ  include my constructive criticism about their script; some are great, some are good – some suck worse than most of Sylvester Stallone’s flicks from the 80’s.

The bottom line: you might be sitting on a pile of cash and you aren’t aware of it. Scrutinize your domains, research who owned them years ago. Enable the DNS, set up some email addresses and listen to the digital waves as they pour in.

You might have a gem in your hands.

For updates, follow me on twitter: @acroplex

Comments

  1. Wonder if there’s legal liability if you set up an email account that use to be in existence and receive sensitive emails.

  2. Hey acro, so you didn’t like First Blood?

    Good points about checking prior owners – always a few surprises there.

  3. Nice post Theo.

  4. Pretty interesting story Acro. I have considered doing this “just to see what happened” on some domains but wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. Do you just guess on the email address, Google @domain etc?

  5. hi Elliot – I’m not suggesting that one “clones” an email with ulterior motives, I simply set up a “catch-all” that essentially gathers all emails. It’s interesting how among the hundreds of spam emails, I get both generic inquiries and communication that assumes the domain is still with the company – although there’s nothing to indicate that.

    Fizz – Ah, you got me there πŸ™‚ First Blood is indeed an exception, so much better than FB Part II.

    RH – Thanks.

    Jamie – Just point the “catch-all” to a generic info@domain.tld

  6. Carl Demers says

    I own a millionaire Domain Name.
    BusinessesMan.com
    It’s a American Dream Businesses man Domain.

    Just a Name Value One Millions Dollars.

    Carl

  7. Something similar, I hold mahaloairlines.com, once a functional air line in Hawaii and MillionaireIsland.com which someone once purchased for a lot of money. Any day now…

  8. Hey Acro, I have one name that once belonged to a guy that scammed people out of millions of dollars. Including myself. My only question is what to do with it that would pay back the money that he toke from me before the feds froze the funds. I will probably get 30% back after a few years, as another such company did to me a while back.

    At one time, I used to have such a website as you describe, and I got hundreds of inquiries as to when the money was coming back to the victims. Some were vary sad, but how am I to help them? I am a victim too. But I guess that owning the domain is sort of my “sweet justice”, cause I can put on the website what I want. Maybe I should make it a financial site with adsense. πŸ™‚

  9. @Joseph You can make a consumer alert website. This happened to me long time ago and to a band of people. http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.williamfranklinfraud.com I did not create the site but it was very useful as most of the traffic came from inquiries. William scammed people for years. Once caught, he just moves on and does it again and probably the same for your guy.

  10. A domain’s provenance is almost as important as the term and extension. I totally agree that the “digital waves” that wash in may give you new insight into the asset and what the visitors want.

    In addition, there are 3 other things I like to do with certain domains, especially those with “mystery” traffic:

    1) Have a stats program enabled in the page so you can see referrers, country, and other user details. I like Statcounter but G Analytics is also fine.

    2) Have a search box on the site, see what they type in. Amazing insight into their mind set.

    3) Take them directly to a survey and ask them what they are looking for (SurveyMonkey.com is great for this).

    Jonathan

  11. Carl – Good luck with that.

    John b – That’s exactly what’ I’m talking about πŸ™‚ The fall of the mighty, in the digital era.

    Joseph – That’s a case of sweet revenge. I think you should take Tia’s advice.

    Tia – Good thing his name wasn’t Benjamin πŸ˜€

    Jonathan – That’s some great advice, a lot of people fail to do as much as track visitors.

  12. Hey Theo, how does one create a ‘catch all’ email address? is it creating a wild card of some sort?

    also, if you are reading dozens of movie scripts every month (and replying to the authors) AND all of the other stuff you are already doing, i have to hand it to you. do you ever sleep? πŸ™‚

  13. hey Mike πŸ˜€ You’d need to host the domain and CPanel offers one such option, to “dump” any and all email under that domain to a single mailbox.

    I don’t read *all* of the scripts LOL but some are extremely bad with the occasional gem that has potential. I feel bad these guys don’t research the company and blindly email the info account.

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