What's in a domain? $400 million if you're Business.com

We all know that a great domain name is critical. But is it $300 million to $400 million critical?

We all know that a great domain name is critical. But is it $300 million to $400 million critical?

That's the big question after The Wall Street Journal reported that Business.com could garner anywhere between $300 million to $400 million.

The domain was acquired by Jake Winebaum and Sky Dayton for $7.5 million in 1999. In hindsight, the Business.com purchase was one sign of the impending dot-com bust. This potential sale almost makes me wonder if Dayton and Winebaum are calling another top--at least in the interim.

In any case, it's unclear what Business.com is worth. Here's the ledger running around inside my noggin:

It's worth it:

  • Domains matter--I know because I work at a company that gobbled up a ton of domains in its early days. News.com, TV.com, Search.com--you get the idea.
  • There's potential in the URL. There are a host of potential bidders: Dow Jones, New York Times and News Corp. You couldn't find a better URL to pair with the Fox Business Channel than Business.com.

There's no way it's worth it:

  • Sex.com reportedly sold for $14 million. If sex is arguably the Internet's biggest industry it's impossible to argue Business.com is worth $400 million. Beer.com went for $7 million. Do you want sex and beer or business? It's a no brainer folks.
  • There's no there there. Business.com was one of the vertical search engines I had on my Life without Google lists. The problem: It's all sponsored and featured links. It's more yellow pages than a real search.
  • Business.com's goal, which is to drive readers to merchants for a bounty, doesn't sync with the reported buyers' models. If you're Dow Jones are you really going to waste a URL like business.com just to shuffle readers to merchants? No. Content is going to get involved and arguably screw up the current model.

In the end, it's a great payday for Winebaum and Dayton. But the 'winning' bidders may get buyer's remorse.