Back on July 4, 2005, Namepros member Paxton started one of the epic threads in domaining. The thread was really the first to go into great depth about buying numeric domain names. The thread entitled “NUMB3RS: What’s the deal with 4-Digit Domains (NNNN)?” has over 24,500 views and 197 replies. One of the replies was in relation to 5N.com and a thread that Theo from Acro.net, or Radistar as he was known back then, had created. It was a great resource tracking 5n.com when there were over 46,000 available.
The first post:
People often ask me for my opinion on numerical domains, and in particular 4-digit dot coms (1234.com) and 4-digit dot nets (1234.net). Since number domains do not trade as frequently as letter domains, there is often uncertainty about their market value. Western webmasters/domain resellers rarely encounter websites developed on numerical domains, and question how easy such domain names are to monetize. Do these names get traffic? Can they make you money in the short-term or long-term or both? Here is my story, and hopefully it will answer some questions on what is happening now and where this segment of the domain market might be headed.
I have become a collector/investor of numerical domains. It started over a year ago when I noticed that a handful of 4-digit dot-com domains (a.k.a NNNN.com domains) were selling for high prices in auctions for expired names. It was puzzling why some of these NNNN.com domains were available to register for the basic reg fee while others were commanding prices over $100. I asked around, but most people did not have any answers. In fact, a large majority thought these types of domains had very little value – reg fee at best. That is when I began to do my research. I began to track what prices these names were selling for in the open market, who was doing the buying, and how many NNNN.com domains remained unregistered. Based on the upward trend of such names, I concluded that it was worthwhile to register as many of these as possible for $8 and lower. It wasn’t long before all 10,000 possible NNNN.com combinations were registered. My attention then shifted to the expired name marketplace. At first it was possible to catch these names as they dropped using inexpensive services like Enom’s Club Drop. As NNNN.com domains deleted, most of them could be secured for $10 (+ registration fee). This lasted for a few weeks before the competition picked up and the names began heading to auctions. It was at this time that prices rose into the $30-$60 range, with some of them selling for over $100. A few high-profile public auctions took place last year with the names going for $300+ each.
At this point I began to dig deeper into these types of names. There were many questions and very few answers. Early research showed that number combinations beginning with the numeral 0 (e.g., 0136.com, 0591.com) were the least desired, followed by numbers that contained the numeral 4. Apparently, “4″ has negative meanings in various non-Western cultures. For example, in Ancient Hebrew and Chaldean philosophies, the number 4 is associated with mortality and death. Also, the Chinese people try to avoid the number 4 because it sounds the same as death in Cantonese. The numbers most in demand by domain owners were those with repeating numbers, those representing special historical dates, and those with numbers 3, 6, and 8. Again, this preference for certain numbers over others seems to be rooted in ancient numerology – where cultures believe that the universe is based on mathematical principles. As a result, numbers have great significance in people’s daily lives. In China lucky phone numbers such as 133-3333-3333 or 8888-8888 were reported as sold for more than $200,000 each. There are many other possible meanings for numbers. They represent dates, product numbers, physical addresses, phone abbreviations (think SMS) and they even substitute for words in mobile business services (see http://worddial.com).
Today, demand for NNNN.com domains is still strong. Just this morning, 8582.com sold for $180 at Enom. But what is really making the story of number domains interesting is the recent surge in interest of 4 digit dot net domains (a.k.a NNNN.net domains). Just a month or two ago, you could find many of these available to register. The demand was low and so were the prices. That has changed in a hurry. Now all NNNN.net domains are registered. As they expire, they are being caught by dropcatchers and auctioned off to the highest bidder. More auction results from today:
Yesterday I ran a check to see how many 4 digit domains were available in the .INFO and .ORG extensions. Since I knew all .COM and .NET versions were taken, I thought it might be interesting to see how popular they were in other TLDs. Here is what I found:
[b].COM .NET .INFO .ORG[/b] 0000 - 0999 0 0 27 538 1000 - 1999 0 0 0 0 2000 - 2999 0 0 0 0 3000 - 3999 0 0 6 2 4000 - 4999 0 0 736 0 5000 - 5999 0 0 582 2 6000 - 6999 0 0 480 0 7000 - 7999 0 0 426 565 8000 - 8999 0 0 594 821 [u]9000 - 9999 0 0 448 861[/u] TOTALS 0 0 3299 2789
The results seem to indicate that someone is systematically acquiring these domains, one decile at a time. Some quick scans of the whois database revealed that this might indeed be happening. Does anyone remember Duke’s article entitled The Great Three-Letter .Info/.Biz Buyout: Elequa Alters the New Extension Landscape ? History might be repeating itself. Elequa publicly discussed numerical domains earlier this year in a February 23rd interview on DomainMasters radio. In the interview, Elequa talked about many topics, but in particular he gave some unique insight into why pure number domains have significance to the Arabic speaking world. If you would like to hear that interview, you can find it archived at Monikers website: Domain Masters: Online Radio Talk Show Archives.
So here we are today. We find that NNNN.nets are picking up steam in the marketplace. We know that NNNN.coms are still hot, and some of them are hitting new highs (last week 0753.com sold for $3,433 and 0572.com sold $2,450). We see that NNNN.infos and NNNN.orgs are being slowly absorbed into strong hands. To me, there is little to indicate that the value of these domains will go anywhere but up. They are scarce – only 10,000 four-digit combinations exist per each extension. They are often preferred by cultures who do not use the Western alphabet. As an owner of 4 digit domains, I notice that some names receive very high numbers of foreign type-in traffic. Experts predict millions and millions of new internet users will emerge from non-Western areas in the next several years. The long-term potential for these names looks promising, from an investment point of view. But what about the short-term? If domain owners want to hold on to their digit domains, can they make money from them?
When I first started to acquire these domains, I did not believe they would be easy to monetize. I tried parking them at various places like Sedo and Domain Hop. Eventually, I moved them around to other PPC programs like Domain Sponsor and Fabulous. It became clear that most of these programs were not well-suited for these domains. Most of them do not pay for Asian traffic. One program even contacted me directly to know that the type of traffic I was sending through my numerical domains was not the type they were looking to send their advertisers. They asked me to remove the domains. Next, I decided to give Google Adsense a try. I developed a few nice, simple pages and displayed some ads – and sure enough I got a few clicks. But total earnings were not much more than I got through parking with PPC companies. But since I now owned hundreds and hundreds of these domains, developing & hosting & tracking pages in this manner seemed not worth my time and effort. I was about to give up until I found GoldKey. Miraculously, GoldKey offers a solution for numerical domain owners. Some of my pure number domains that made nothing at other programs, were suddenly making several dollars per day (each). For those of you that own number domains that are not making you much money, consider giving these guys a try. Goldkey has an affiliate program, so if you are interested PM me. I can show you screenshots comparing the results for the same domains at various PPC programs as well as provide you my referral code.
To be honest, not all of my digit domains receive traffic and generate click revenue. The majority of them are profitable, but some of them get no visitors at all. Rarely in the domain business is anything guaranteed – and making money off these domains is no different. To summarize: 4 digit domains are being accumulated in the major TLDs. All the .COM and .NET versions have been registered and as demand continues to be stronger than the supply, these names are consistently rising in price. You can make steady income parking these domains, as you wait for the next tidal wave of internet users to come online. As mobile and internet technology advances, who knows what new applications & systems will be developed that may increase the value of these domains. If you’re looking for an investment with a nice potential return – and limited downside, you could do worse than picking up some NNNN domains. As a reseller, you can decide to trade if these if you desire, but I doubt you will be able to flip these overnight for sizable profits. IMHO, the best course of action is to acquire them and be patient, picking up income along the way. You might be able to offset registration renewals with the parking revenue you earn.
I tracked Paxton down and got an interview on the past, present and future of numeric domains. 10 years later.
Question 1) We are approaching 10 years since you started the epic Numerics thread on Namepros, Did you think they would get this popular and this valuable ?
I thought that in time NNNN.com could be valuable but must admit that I underestimated just how fast and how valuable. I was picking these up for reg fee in the early 2000s. It’s crazy to think these are worth more than a thousand times that value in today’s market.
Question 2) How has your portfolio changed over the last decade ? Did you sell out too early or do you still own a large portfolio of Numeric domains ?
My portfolio is still mostly numerics, but I sold many numerics over the last few years trying to play it safe. I was able to trade some NNNN.com’s for NNN.com and when the investment costs of acquiring NNNN.com’s became too expensive for my liking, I focused on adding NNNN.net’s at registration fee prices. I also added some five digit (NNNNN.com) names. That worked out well, of course, but I would have been better off continuing to add the four digit (NNNN) dot coms.
Question 3) Is .com the only play for Numerics ? Any value in .net or other extensions ?
I would say there is still value in .net due to the interest in the Asian marketplace. The dot net numerics are trading at only a fraction of the prices generated by dot com numeric sales. But it takes far too much capital for most domainers to even think of being a player in today’s dot com numeric arena. From
firsthand experience I can say there are still some bargains out there with numeric dot nets if you look in the right places and try not to get into a bidding war with the “usual suspects” who dominate numeric auctions over at NameJet. As for other extensions, I personally try to stay away unless I can grab an ultra-premium number combination. I know others have been successful with .cc and .co names, but I have just stayed within the confines of .com/.net numeric domains.
Question 4) When you have made sales, have they largely been to Chinese buyers or more spread out across the world ?
Through the 4.cn sales platform over the last 4 or 5 years, I have been able to generate a number of sales of numeric domains at prices higher than I could have achieved at auction. Since the buyers identities are private, I couldn’t say with absolute certainty these were all Chinese buyers but I suspect most of them were. Most of these sales were actually initiated by 4.cn brokers reaching out to me on behalf of private clients and not via my personal listing of names on the sales platform. More recently, I have tested my luck with some dot net and dot com numeric auctions over at Namejet. It has been really successful and I believe it’s a great platform for numeric owners looking to take some profits, especially now with the market yielding such great sales prices.
Question 5) Where do you see the value of Numerics going ?
As a crazy as it sounds, I think they can only go higher. Although I would suspect at a slower rate than we have seen in the last few years. There are a finite number of these domains and demand continues to grow. I definitely would not bet against numeric domains!