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Crypto.com: the story of the internet domain worth millions of dollars

EC
Elisa Campaci

5 min

The Story of the Million Dollar Sale of the crypto.com domain

The story of the million-dollar sale of the Crypto.com internet domain tells of the importance of having a recognisable name on the web!

To those of us who use the Internet on a daily basis, the decisive role of Internet domains may escape your attention. Between the late 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium, domains were the subject of real speculation. In even more recent times, the sale of certain addresses has reached astronomical figures. Such is the case of the Crypto.com domain, registered in the 1990s and resold for millions of dollars in 2018. The story of the million-dollar sale of the Internet domain Crypto.com provides much food for thought on the importance of identity on the Web!

‘Crypto.com’ is not the real name of the exchange

You may not know that ‘Crypto.com’ is not the original name of the well-known centralised cryptocurrency exchange. The company was founded in Hong Kong in 2016 by Bobby Bao, Gary Or, Kris Marszalek and Rafael Melo. It was created under the name ‘Monaco’. Only a few years later, in 2018, the exchange was renamed ‘Crypto.com’, thanks to the purchase of the rights to the internet domain of the same name. The company spent a huge amount of money to obtain this domain, fighting with the previous owner who for many years refused any offer. How much was Crypto.com bought for? The negotiation has always remained secret, but the estimated figure is between 5 and 10 million dollars.

Who was the owner of the Internet domain Crypto.com?

The first owner of the Crypto.com domain was Matt Blaze, a professor and cryptography researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, who registered it in 1993 at the beginning of his academic career. Blaze had deposited the domain for free at the time, because it was not until 1995 that the organisation that managed the Domain Name System (DNS) decided to monetise domain registration. Blaze used the domain Crypto.com as the address of his personal cryptography-themed blog in which he shared resources and tried to dispel the myth that cryptography is a business for criminals. As early as 2000, a company called ‘Crypto.Com, Inc’, which dealt in encrypted communication services, made the first proposal to buy the domain owned by Blaze. But it was only with the cryptocurrency boom, around 2016, that Blaze was inundated with offers for Crypto.com. However, the professor never intended to give up his valuable domain, stating repeatedly and publicly that Crypto.com was not for sale.

Crypto.com, a valuable internet domain (for many reasons)

Throughout its history, Crypto.com has proved to be a valuable domain because it is unique and capable of communicating a precise identity, that of the cryptocurrency world. Anyone who uses it will immediately be associated with the sector it represents.

The Crypto.com domain was so coveted that a potential buyer came to Blaze’s office at the university, begging the professor to accept his offer.

But why did Blaze so strongly oppose the sale of the Crypto.com domain? Again, the question of identity returns. In a nutshell Blaze argued that the domain should refer to a cryptography project and not a cryptocurrency project, since the original meaning of ‘crypto’ relates to the former semantic field. Blaze criticised the use of the term ‘crypto’ to refer to cryptocurrencies; ‘crypto’ originated as an abbreviation of ‘cryptography’ and not ‘cryptocurrency’. The professor did not want to fuel the association of cryptography with cryptocurrencies, which he personally has always viewed with suspicion and little connection to cryptography.

In support of this thesis, Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, a journalist with expertise in hacking and cybersecurity, also spoke out in 2017. Franceschi-Bicchierai showed how on Google News or according to vocabulary, ‘crypto’ referred to cryptography. “Think, for example, of the term ‘crypto wars’ (‘Crypto Wars’), which refers to government (originally the US) efforts to undermine and slow down the adoption of unbreakable communication systems”. The journalist’s contribution also includes a statement by Emin Gün Sirer (who had not yet founded Avalanche) in which he explained that cryptography in cryptocurrencies is an ‘ancillary’ element and that the real innovation is the use of blockchains as consensus mechanisms and distributed systems.

This was the case in 2017, but now the situation is definitely reversed. Language has evolved and searching for ‘crypto’ on Google means coming across content and information exclusively related to the world of Bitcoin&Co. Today in dictionaries, the first meaning is ‘abbreviation for cryptocurrency’, only the second is ‘relating to crypto’.

The Million Dollar Sale of the Crypto.com Domain

Suddenly, however, in 2018 Blaze writes on his blog: ‘over the past few years I have received a growing series of offers, many of them obviously not serious, but some of them frankly attention-grabbing, for the Crypto.com domain. I ignored most of them, but it became increasingly clear that keeping the domain made less and less sense for me. Earlier this year, I entered into confidential discussions with some serious potential buyers. Last month, I reached an agreement to sell the domain.

The cryptographer Blaze had actually sold the Crypto.com domain to cryptocurrency exchange Monaco for a few million dollars. After the purchase, the former company ‘Monaco’ implemented the rebranding operation to become ‘Crypto.com’ as we know it now. The case of Crypto.com is just one of many examples of how important a domain name can be in the identity of a brand. Being recognisable on the Internet, with the most appropriate name, becomes a (million-dollar) business matter. The Hong Kong exchange’s operation has ensured that its brand is directly identified with its product, crypto.

Many other crypto-themed domains have had a similar history to Crypto.com and have passed into the hands of companies in the industry. Among these Internet domains are Tokens.com sold for $500,000, Cryptoworld.com for $195,000, Eth.com for $2 million and Bitcoinwallet.com for $250,000.

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