James Romenesko, Knight-Ridder Newspapers



Matthew Grossman collects Internet domain names as trophies.

The 21-year-old University of Arizona student has registered dozens of trademark names, including 7up.com, dirtdevil.com and universalstudios.com, only to give them up for token gifts.

Grossman asked for and received a case of Seven-Up and a T-shirt for giving up the name to the soft-drink maker. He got 10 amusement-park passes when he turned over knottsberryfarm.com.

Some of his other transactions: a vacuum cleaner for dirtdevil.com, a case of ice cream for breyers.com.

“I always ask for something that really doesn’t cost the company,” says Grossman, who says he registered about 100 names before Internic – the firm that handles domain name registrations – began charging a $100 fee in September.

A domain name is the core of your Internet address, whether for e-mail (jdoedomain.com) or on the Web (www.domain.com). On the Internet frontier, domain names have been pretty much doled out to whoever claims them first.

While Grossman ended his pursuit of trophies when claims started to cost, others have continued to grab. David Graves, business manager for Internic, says 364,000 domain names have already been registered, and 10,000 are being processed weekly.

But some predict the rush will end soon.

“Most of the good ones are taken,” says David Milligan, who founded a Vancouver, British Columbia, firm called VanityMail Services, which provides e-mail addresses and Internet domain names for customers.

While the so-called good names are being grabbed, businesses and individuals are still finding suitable alternatives and quickly registering them. InterNet Info, a firm that analyzes commercial domain name registration, reports that the number of commercial domain names (ending in .com) increased more than 60 percent in the first quarter of 1996. In the same period, the number of organization (.org) names increased 48.8 percent, while education (.edu) names climbed just 8.2 percent.

Corporations take domain names seriously, scarfing up whatever they see as having possible future commercial use. Procter and Gamble has registered not only its many product names but also diarrhea.com, underarm.com, badbreath.com and a host of other names that involve unpleasant body functions.

But no business has been busier than Kraft Foods in registering names; it has 147, says Internet Info.