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Domain names for sale in cyberspace auction

A NEW online auction house being launched tomorrow will let companies and individuals bid for high-profile internet addresses, writes Polly Fergusson.

Internationally recognised domain names including FTSE100.com will be up for sale for an unspecified amount on the website next week. Record bids are expected, following the example set by WallStreet.com, which recently sold for $1.2m (pounds 750,000).

Cheapnames.co.uk, the on-line equivalent of a car number- plate dealer, allows firms and individuals to bid for and register internet domain names, with the address going to the highest bidder. Other addresses like www.drugs.com have sold for $850,000 and www.computer.com for $500,000, as the true values of catchy internet addresses have soared.

The new site has been developed by Phase8, a web development company, where the directors are rubbing their hands with glee at a lucrative 5 per cent commission for each successful bid.

"Getting hold of good domain names will get harder in the future with the restrictions of the English language," said John Sewell, managing director and founder of Phase8.

"Currently 11 million domain names have been registered, and a great way to obtain a good name is to try and source them through our site," he added.

Cheapnames.co.uk is expected to attract a number of speculators looking to deal in internet names as well as those wanting to buy or sell a name.

Registration fees vary in price depending on the authority they are registered with. Companies with addresses that finish with co.uk are the cheapest at pounds 39 for a two-year registration deal. But .com or uk.com address users will have to fork out pounds 69. These prices cover all legal and administration requirements.

Mr Sewell has high hopes for his company and puts its current value at pounds 20m-pounds 25m. "We are hoping to float within 24 months, and we want to go for the big markets in the United States and United Kingdom.

"We won't be floating until we can get a market capitalisation of pounds 100m," he said.