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Domain names bring in more than $2 million at Fort Lauderdale auction

Dating.com sold for $1.75 million at Thursday's domain name auction held at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel. It was the highest bid accepted among the 120 names up for sale at DomainFest. Bidders at the hotel and online bought 35 of those names, spending a total of $2,386,550.

The names that were not sold Thursday, including Jeans.com, WiFi.com, Safety.com and CommunityCollege.com -- which have asking prices of $1 million or more -- will be added to an extended online auction that began Friday and ends May 20 at 3:15 p.m. Thursday's names are expected to be added to the auction by Saturday, according to an Oversee spokeswoman.

Thursday's live auction was organized by Moniker, based in Pompano Beach, owned by Oversee.net. The online extended auction is being held on SnapNames.com, also a division of Oversee.

Jeans.com got an offer for $2 million through a phone bid Thursday, but it wasn't high enough for the owner to sell.

Some of the biggest sales happen outside the auction. Moniker's Chief Executive Monte Cahn was part of the team that sold Slots.com privately this week for $5.5 million, but did not disclose the buyer.

Cahn said lately he's seeing more general topic names being sold to end users -- such as people or companies who already have a business and want to use the name to expand it -- rather than domain name investors hoping to build it up to resell it. Cahn said Moniker has reached out to several jeans companies who have shown interest in the name.

Cahn said jeans is more valuable now because customers are more comfortable with buying uniquely fitting items online.

"You know your size and you just buy it,'' Cahn said. "People thought that would never happen with shoes, but look at Zappos."

Online shoe retailer Zappos.com, which is derived from the Spanish word for shoes, also owns Clothes.com.

It's common for major companies to own a generic domain name. For example, Johnson & Johnson owns Baby.com, Bank of America owns Loans.com, Barnes & Noble owns Books.com, JCPenney owns Gift.com and Toys R Us owns Toys.com.

Most of the crowd at the auction were investors with several thousand names in their portfolios -- many have been playing the Internet real estate market since the mid 1990s.

The other top sellers Thursday were BoardGames.com for $450,000, Therapists.com for $50,000, Antidepressant.com for $30,000 and GolfResorts.com for $22,500.

Palm Beach domain investor Patrick Ohannessian, head of executive accounts at the firm BTIA Inc., has owned CommunityCollege.com since 1997. Thursday was the first time he tried to sell it at an live auction. He said he isn't disappointed that it didn't sell and plans to give it an extra boost to make it a more desired name -- adding a Facebook element and doing more, like blog posts, to get it toreach Page 1 of Google search results. It's currently on Page 2 when searching for the term "community college.''

In the next five to six months, his company plans to make it easy to access on a mobile phone.

He said the owner of Degree.com found him at the auction and tried to negotiate a price privately, but it wasn't the $1 million he wanted.

"I worked so hard on it, if I don't get what I want to sell it for, I won't sell it,'' Ohannessian said.

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