Wall Street lined with gold?

For those of you in any doubt that business was better than sex, Friday’s auction of the internet domain name WallStreet.com could have set the record straight once and for all.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The address had a reserve price of $4-5m, but optimistic auctioneers Moniker.com told Bloomberg that it could go for as much as $10m. A cash bid of this size would have beaten the current record of $9.5m paid for Porn.com earlier this year (although it would still lag the rumoured $12m in cash and stock paid for Sex.com in 2005).

Not content with outstripping sex, a $10m sale price would also have demonstrated business’s superiority to technology (computers.com), alcohol (vodka.com) and – believe it or not – fiscal policy (tax.com).

Unfortunately, it was not to be. In the end, the domain name was left unsold after reportedly failing even to attract the reserve price, let alone the record-breaking sums suggested.

The WallStreet.com domain has been largely lying dormant since 2003, when a Caribbean-based casino was forced to sell up after the US clampdown on betting sites destroyed its major market. It was then snapped up for $2.3m by an unnamed entrepreneur, who on Friday was no doubt rubbing his hands together in glee at the prospect of a juicy return.

Moniker's theory was that punters would flock to the domain to get their daily fix of Wall Street-related facts and figures. Sounds improbable, but the figures seemed to support it – the site is allegedly drawing 2,000 visitors a day, despite not having any of its own content.

And domain names have certainly proved lucrative in the past. Take the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which managed to effectively double its GDP by selling the rights to its .tv domain name suffix (for more than $50m).

But the odd thing about their continuing price escalation is that they’ve arguably never been less important. Since most of us now rely on Google and co. to navigate our way round the web, owning a domain name isn’t the same guarantee of traffic that it might have been a few years back.

Clearly the prospective buyers of WallStreet.com came to the same conclusion.

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