I talked about selling a domain name for $19,000 in a Slack thread at work, but I didn’t mention the domain name. I didn’t mention it because it’s kind of embarrassing to me now – the domain name and the company it came from.
But I was thinking about it, and I shouldn’t be embarrassed because I pretty much single-handedly built a company that had 250,000 active users at its peak.
That company was called Datapimp.
But wait, that’s only the beginning of the cringey part!
In my defense, I’ll just say it was a long time ago, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
When you wanted to register a .com, .net, or .org domain name in the early days of the web, you only had one choice, Network Solutions. If you tried to register something Network Solutions considered distasteful, they would reject it.
But then, in 1999, about half a dozen new registrars all came online on the same day. A coworker friend of mine and I were sitting in the office at Affinity Hosting checking out the new registrars, and on a lark, I entered fuckoff.com, and the order went through.
The coworker registered an equally stupid domain, and we started talking about what we could do with the domains. Remember, nothing like them had ever been available on the web before. It only took us a few minutes to come up with the idea for an email service that used the new domains.
I don’t recall where the Datapimp name came from, but I registered the .net, and we started whipping up a site and put it up on the Affinity network (sorry, Will) on an unused Cobalt server.
I’d like to stop here and say, if you’re starting a business, and someone else owns the .com version of the domain you want, try to buy it from them before you get the business up and running. I had to pay $2,000 for datapimp.com because I didn’t bother to contact the owner until the datapimp.net site was up and running, so he knew he had me over a barrel.
Long story short, over the next few months we registered hundreds of not-safe-for-work domains and sold email addresses on them.
People actually paid us $25 a year for the pleasure of having a profane, obscene, filthy email address. The best way to get paid for an online service at that time – or at least the best way for our new company – was an e-check service. Your customer writes you an e-check, you print it and deposit it in the bank. Seems primitive now, but for the first few months, checks were piling up in the printer every day.
For every check we received, though, we’d also receive a hundred emails asking for a free service. So eventually, we opened up to free accounts, but they were webmail only. If you wanted to POP, you still had to pay us. And later, we came up with some other paid services, but the free webmail accounts are what got us to a quarter of a million users.
The email business fizzled after a while, as most fads do, so we added hosting to Datapimp. We never did hosting right, though, in my opinion, even though the original partners had left and my new partner (who may or may not work for Kinsta) had hosting experience as well. The project kind of limped to an unceremonious death right around Christmas in 2007. The last hosting customer hung around until the end of 2008, so I suppose, all in all, it lasted about 9 years.
But for a fleeting, glorious moment at the turn of the century, I ran the most ridiculous business on the web. I’d challenge anyone to prove me wrong on that count. 🙂 Everything about it was wrong and misguided and sophomoric and idiotic, but I suppose I have to own it now.
So there it is. Oh, the domain that sold for $19,000 at auction? fuckit.com. It was an “adult” domain auction, and that was the only “adult” domain I held on to when we folded the Datapimp tent. So that was my exit payout, so to speak, nineteen grand. Ha.