This past summer, Compaq Computer Corporation paid businessman Jack Marshall $3 million for the right to use the web address he had registered, www.altavista.com. While most of us will never be in a position to receive such a payout, this transaction is a reminder of just how competitive the "domain game" can be, and no company wants to end up on the wrong end of such a deal.
The vanity plate of the nineties, a custom URL is hardly a rarity. Having your company's name nestled between www and com is a common practice. But what if your company's name is somewhat common? Or, what if the domain you had your heart set on is already taken? There are alternatives when your first domain choice is not available.
The Name Game
An example: For television and radio stations, the most coveted domain would normally contain the station's call letters, www.wxyz.com, for example. But almost anyone can register a domain, and, in the case of a local television station, that is exactly what happened. If you visit this site, you will find a simple notice offering to sell this domain. No doubt, the domain's current owners are hoping to be paid by the station for that prized URL.
Buying the domain, however, is not the station's only option. It's just as easy (and will likely be a lot less costly) for the station to simply register www.wxyztv.com, www.wxyz-tv.com, or even www.channel6.com. If the station markets itself as "your prime news source," then www.primenews.com becomes a possibility.
Another option to consider is "sharing" a domain. If you own the Glass Eyeball Company, but the Good English Council already has a popular site at www.gec.com, you may be able to register www.gec.org, then offer to work with the other group to share the two domains, so that visitors to either site will be greeted with a notice of both organizations.
From a legal standpoint, if someone (especially a competitor) had registered www.glasseyeballcompany.com, you may have some additional recourse under intellectual property laws, but I won't even pretend I'm qualified to give you any legal advice. See a lawyer.
It's important to remember that a "good" domain name means more than just www.yourcompany.com. Do you really want to have an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org? Wouldn't email@example.com be nicer (and much easier to remember)? Be sure to know your options when choosing a domain for your company.