Web URL Social.com is for sale, and since opening bids start at $5 million it could easily surpass Sex.com's $13 million price. Yes, social is sexier than sex in today's friendly web. But here's the catch: URLs themselves may not be long for this virtual world.
At DomainFest Barcelona on June 8, Social.com will be sold by brokers Moniker and SnapNames on behalf of its actual owner Scott Carter. Carter bought it in 1995, but tried to sell it in 1997 for $50,000. There were no takers, so he tried to leverage the URL to promote various businesses which include a recent Twitter tool BigTweet. It hasn't worked out for around 16 years, so Carter is now selling it.
Remember that in 1995 the Net was in its early infancy, and social networking was a distant and almost unimaginable phenomenon—Zuckerberg didn't even create the predecessor to Facebook, Facemash, until 2003, Twitter began late in 2006, and even that old dog Friendster only surfaced in 2002. Carter was remarkably prescient (or perhaps just lucky) to garner Social.com back then, and evidently hasn't been able to do much with it since 1995, so it does seem a perfect moment to try to sell it to someone who can use it.
The trick is that with starting bids at $5 million and so much hype surrounding social sharing online right now, it's easy to imagine Social.com's price roaring quickly up past the already astonishing $13 million paid for Sex.com in late 2010. We have no idea who may be interested in buying it, but we'll find out pretty soon whether a tech firm or an investor sees it as a route to making more money.
Here's the rub though: A huge fuss erupted online last week because Google finally made good on its promise to adjust the Chrome browser so that the URL address bar could be removed. It's a style thing for now, freeing up more real estate on the screen for the actual web content you're trying to access rather than controls for browsing itself. But Mozilla, the guys behind Firefox, also released a plug-in for their browser that does the same trick, and you've been able to do the same trick in Apple's Safari for a while. All these moves de-emphasize the URL bar as a tool for navigating to websites, hinting at a future where you barely notice the address of the page you're looking at, and instead are more concerned with its actual content and ongoing links.
Also, remember how recently TV presenters mentioning website addresses used to chatter away with "Aitch tee tee pee colon slash slash website name dot com," but now merely have to say find us online at "Website dot com" or even "Follow us on Facebook or Twitter." Apple even tried to change some browsing habits, as part of its ongoing effort to make everything about computing easier, with its "Top Sites" landing page in Safari a while back—a highly graphical click-to-navigate solution to starting a web session, and Google followed it. Essentially how we navigate around the web is changing, and that change is happening quite swiftly—soon we may not care about the URL of a site quite so much, which could cast all of these million-dollar URL buyouts in an interesting light.
Then again—sex, and increasingly social, always sells.
[Image: Flickr user bruce-asher]