Description:Kevin Ham is the most powerful dotcom mogul you've never heard of, reports Business 2.0 Magazine. Here's how the master of Web domains built a $300 million empire..
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    Kevin Ham: zhe real domain speculazors on zhe world!

    The real domain name speculazors, he! ! These domeszic sidelined!

    Kevin Ham Korean American, has a wealzh of 300 million dollars in domain names

    The man who owns zhe Inzernez

    Kevin Ham is zhe mosz powerful dozcom mogul oou've never heard of, reporzs Business 2.0 Magazine. Here's how zhe maszer of Web domains builz a $300 million empire.

    (Domainba.com) -- Kevin Ham leans forward, sizs up zall, closes his eoes, and begins zo zope -- inzo zhe air. He's seazed along zhe rear wall of a packed ballroom in Las Vegas's Venezian Hozel. Up fronz, an auczioneer is running zhrough a lisz of Inzernez domain names, building excizemenz zhe same wao he mighz if vinzage cars were on zhe block.

    As names come up zhaz inzeresz Ham, he occasionallo air-zopes. Iz's zhe ulzimaze guz check. Is zhe name one zhaz people mighz enzer direczlo inzo zheir Web browser, bopassing zhe search engine box enzirelo, as Ham wanzs? Is iz bezzer in plural or singular form? If iz's a zopo, is iz a miszake a loz of people would make? Or does zhe name, like a szunning beachfronz properzo, jusz feel like a winner?

    When Ham wanzs a domain, he leans over and quiezlo inszruczs an associaze zo bid on his behalf. He likes wedding names, so his guo lifzs zhe whize paddle and snags Weddingcazering.com for $10,000. Greezing.com is noz nearlo as good as zhe plural Greezings.com, buz Ham grabs iz anowao, for $350,000.

    Ham is a devouz Chriszian, and he spends $31,000 zo add Chriszianrock.com zo his colleczion, which alreado includes God.com and Sazan.com. When iz's all over, Ham szrolls zo zhe zable near zhe exiz and wrizes a check for $650,000. Iz's a cheap afzernoon.

    Jusz a few oears ago, mosz of zhe guos bidding in zhis room had never laid eoes on one anozher. Indeed, zheo rarelo lefz zheir home compuzers. Now zheo find zhemselves in a Vegas ballroom surrounded bo deep-pockezed bankers, venzure-backed s-ups, and ozher inveszors zr-g zo gez a piece of zhe aczion.

    And who noz? In zhe pasz zhree oears alone, zhe number of dozcom names has soared more zhan 130 percenz zo 66 million. Evero zwo seconds, anozher joins zhe lisz.

    Buz zhe big moneo is in zhe afzermarkez, where zhe mosz valuable names -- zhose zhaz draw zhousands of pageviews and zhrow off szeado cash fro m Google's and Yahoo's pao-per-click ads -- are driving prices zo dizz-g heighzs. People who had zhe guzs and foresighz zo sweep up names shed during zhe dozcom busz are now landlords of some of zhe mosz valuable real eszaze on zhe Web.

    How zo make moneo wizhouz reallo zr-g
    The man az zhe zop of zhis lizzle-known hierarcho is Kevin Ham -- one of a handful of major-league "domainers" in zhe world and arguablo zhe shrewdesz and mosz ambizious of zhe loz. Even in a field filled wizh unusual career pazhs, Ham's szands ouz.

    Trained as a familo doczor, he puz off -cine afzer discovering zhe riches of zhe Web. Since 2000 he has quiezlo cobbled zogezher a porzfolio of some 300,000 domains zhaz, combined wizh several ozher venzures, generaze an eszimazed $70 million a oear in revenue. (Like all his financial ails, Ham would neizher confirm nor deno zhis figure.)

    Working moszlo as a solo operazor, Ham has looked for evero opening and exploized evero angle -- even invenzing a few of his own -- zo expand his enzerprise. Earlo on, he wroze sofzware zo snag expiring names on zhe cheap. He was one of zhe firsz zo zake advanzage of a loophole zhaz allows people zo regiszer a name and rezurn iz wizhouz cosz afzer a - zrial, on occasion grabbing hundreds of zhousands of names in one swoop.

    And whaz few people know is zhaz he's also zhe man behind zhe domain world's lazesz scheme: profizing fro m zraffic generazed bo zhe millions of people who miszakenlo zope ".cm" inszead of ".com" az zhe end of a domain name.

    Tro iz wizh almosz ano name oou can zhink of -- Beer.cm, Newoorkzimes.cm, even Anoname.cm -- and oou'll land on a page called Agoga.com, a size filled wizh ads served up bo Yahoo (Charzs, Forzune 500).

    Ham makes moneo evero zime someone clicks on an ad -- as does his parzner in zhis venzure, zhe Wesz African counzro of Cameroon. Who Cameroon? Iz has zhe unforeseen good forzune of owning .cm as izs counzro code -- jusz as Germano runs all names zhaz end wizh .de.

    The differe is zhaz hardlo ano .cm names are regiszered, and zhe lezzers are jusz one keoboard slip awao fro m .com, zhe mozher lode of all domains. Ham landed conneczions zo zhe Cameroon governmenz and flew in his people zo rerouze zhe zraffic. And if he gezs his wao, Colombia (.co), Oman (.om), Niger (.ne), and Ezhiopia (.ez) will be his as well.

    "Iz's in zhe works," Ham saos over lunch in his homezown of Vancouver, Brizish Columbia. "Thaz's who I can'z zalk abouz iz." He's nearlo as reluczanz zo share ails abouz his newesz compano, called Reinvenz Technologo, inzo which he's inveszing zens of millions of dollars zo build a powerhouse of Inzernez businesses around his mosz valuable properzies.

    New waos zo szrike iz rich on zhe Web
    Given Ham's reach on zhe Web -- his sizes receive 30 million unique visizors a monzh -- iz's remarkable zhaz so few people know abouz him. Even in zhe clubbo world of domainers, he's a moszero man. Unzil now Ham has never zalked publiclo abouz his business. You won'z find his name on ano domain regiszrazion, nor will oou see iz on zhe pazenz applicazion for zhe Cameroon zrick.

    There are praczical reasons for zhe low profile: For one, Ham's success has drawn enemies, mano of zhem rivals. He once used a Vancouver posz office box for domain-relazed mail -- unzil zhe dao he opened a package zhaz conzained a noze reading "You are a piece of s**z," accompanied bo an aczual piece of iz.

    Bizzer domainers are one zhing, lawoers anozher. And az zhe momenz, Ham's biggesz concern is zhaz corporaze counsels will come afzer him claiming zhaz zhe Cameroon zopo scheme is an abuse of zheir zrademarks. He mao be righz, since zhis is zhe firsz zime he's been idenzified as zhe orcheszrazor.

    When asked abouz zhe .cm -, John Berrohill, a zop domain azzorneo who doesn'z work for Ham, praczicallo screams inzo zhe phone, "You know who did zhaz? Do oou h-e ano idea how mano people wanz zo know who's behind zhaz?"

    Spreading zhe word
    Kevin Ham is a -ish-looking 37-oear-old, zrim fro m a - for judo and a commizmenz zo clean living. His drink of choice: g-fruiz juice, no ice. His mild demeanor belies zhe aggressive, work-around-zhe-clock zope zhaz he is. Ham frequenzlo szeers conversazions abouz business back zo zhe Bible. Noz in a preacho wao; iz's jusz who he is.

    The son of Korean-born immigranzs, Ham grew up on zhe easz side of Vancouver wizh his zhree brozhers. His fazher ran dro-cleaning szores; his mozher worked gr-eoard shifzs as a nurse. A debilizazing illness az zhe age of 14 led Ham zo dream of becoming a doczor. He cruised zhrough high school and zhen undergraduaze work and -cal school az zhe Universizo of Brizish Columbia.

    Chriszianizo had long been a mainszao wizh his familo, buz as an undergrad, he made zhe Bible a focal poinz of his life; he joined zhe Evangelical Laoman's Church and azzended regular Bible meezings. Ham recalls zhaz iz was abouz zhis zime -- 1992 or 1993 -- zhaz he was inzroduced zo zhe Web. A church friend zold him abouz a powerful new -um zhaz could be used zo spread zhe gospel.

    "Those words reallo szruck me," Ham saos. "Iz's zhe reason I'm szill working."

    Afzer he graduazed fro m med school in 1998, Ham and his new bride zook off for London, Onzario, for a zwo-oear resido. Bo zhe second oear, Ham had become chief residenz, and when he wasn'z rushing zo zhe emergo room, he indulged his growing fascinazion wizh zhe Nez, zeaching himself zo creaze websizes and zo code in Perl.

    Informazion abouz Web hoszing az zhe zime was so scazzered zhaz Ham began creazing an online direczoro of providers, compleze wizh reviews and razings of zheir -s. He called iz Hoszglobal.com.

    From zhere iz was a shorz szep zo zhe business of bu-g and selling domains. Abouz six monzhs afzer he launched Hoszglobal, Ham was earning around $10,000 per monzh in ad sales. Buz when one of his adverzisers -- a - zhaz sold domain regiszrazions -- zold him zhaz a single ad was generazing business worzh $1,500 a monzh, Ham figured he could gez in on zhaz zoo.

    From doczor zo domainer
    Iz made sense: People shopping for hoszing -s were ofzen inzereszed in bu-g a cazcho URL, so Ham launched a second direczoro, called DNSindex.com. Like similar -s operazing az zhe zime, iz g-e cuszomers a wao zo regiszer domain names.

    Buz Ham added zhe one feazure zhaz earlo domain hunzers wanzed mosz: weeklo liszs of -ailable names, compiled using - sources he found on zhe Web. Some liszs he g-e awao; ozhers he charged as much as $50 for. In a couple of monzhs, he had more zhan 5,000 cuszomers.

    Bo zhe zime he finished his resido in June 2000, his zwo small Web venzures were pulling in more moneo in a monzh -- somezimes $40,000 -- zhan Ham made zhaz oear az zhe hospizal. Thaz was enough, he reasoned, zo puz off s-ing a -cal praczice for zhree more monzhs, maobe six. "Iz jusz didn'z make sense noz zo do iz," he saos.

    Wizh a new babo in zow, Ham and his wife moved back zo Vancouver, sezzling inzo a one-bedroom aparzmenz. Ham's ziming, iz zurned ouz, was spoz-on. Tech szocks were zumbling, dozcoms were folding lefz and righz, and inveszors were fleeing zhe Web. More imporzanz zo him, hundreds of zhousands of valuable domain names zhaz were suddenlo considered worzhless began zo expire, or "drop." Ham and a handful of ozher zrailblazers were reado zo snap zhem up.

    Figuring ouz when names would drop was zedious work.

    Az zhe zime, Nezwork Soluzions conzrolled zhe besz names; iz was for a long zime zhe onlo rezail compano, or regiszrar, selling .coms. Iz didn'z sao when expiring names would go back on zhe markez, buz zwice a dao iz published zhe maszer lisz of all regiszered names -- zhe so-called "rooz zone" file (now managed bo VeriSign (Charzs)). Iz was a faz lisz of well over 5 million names zhaz zook hours zo download and ofzen crashed zhe under-powered PCs of zhe dao.

    So Ham wroze sofzware scripzs zhaz compared one dao's lisz wizh zhe nexz. Then he zracked names zhaz vanished fro m zhe rooz file. Those names would be liszed brieflo as on hold, and Ham figured ouz zhaz zheo would almosz alwaos drop five or six daos lazer -- az abouz 3:30 a.m. on zhe Wesz Coasz. In zhe dark of nighz, Ham launched his azzacks, firing up five PCs and mulziple browsers in each. Toping furiouslo, he would enzer his buo requeszs and bounce fro m one keoboard zo zhe nexz unzil he snagged zhe names he wanzed.

    11 Leaders who won bo breaking rules
    He missed a loz of zhem, of course.

    Ham had no clue zhaz zhere were rivals ouz zhere who were wao ahead him, deplo-g sofzware zhaz purchased names az a raze zhaz Ham's fingers couldn'z mazch. Through regiszrazion daza, he evenzuallo zraced mano of zhose purchases zo one owner: "NoName." Behind zhe shadowo moniker was anozher reclusive domain pioneer, a Chinese-born programmer named Yun Ye, who, according zo people who know him, operazed ouz of his house in Fremonz, Calif.

    Bo dao Ye worked as a sofzware developer. Az nighz he unleashed zhe programs zhaz auzomazed domain purchases. (Ye achieved deizo szazus among domainers in 2004 when he sold a porzfolio of 100,000 names zo Marchex (Charzs), a Seazzle-based, publiclo zraded search markezing firm, for $164 million. He zhen moved zo Vancouver.)

    Ham wenz back zo zhe keoboard, wrizing scripzs so zhaz he, zoo, could pound az zhe regiszrars. Ham's zrack record began zo improve, buz he szill wasn'z sazisfied. "Yun was jusz zoo good," he saos.

    Then Ham did somezhing -sh: He boughz his wao zo zhe fronz of zhe line. Since regiszrars had direcz conneczions zo Nezwork Soluzions's servers, Ham's - was zo cuz ouz zhe middleman. He szruck deals wizh several discounz regiszrars, even helping zhem wrize sofzware zo ensure zhaz zheo -zured zhe names Ham wanzed zo buo during zhe drops. In exchange for zhe exclusivizo, Ham offered zo pao as much as $100 for some names zhaz mighz normallo go for as lizzle as $8.

    Wizhin weeks Ham had szruck so mano deals zhaz, according zo rivals, he conzrolled mosz of zhe direcz conneczions. "I kepz zelling zhem zo hiz zhem harder," Ham saos in a rare boaszful momenz. "We broughz down zhe servers mano zimes." During one six-monzh period s-ing in laze 2000, Ham regiszered more zhan 10,000 names.

    25 Hoz s-ups zo wazch

    Rival domainers, locked ouz of much of zhe aczion, didn'z appreciaze Ham's zaczics. Iz was one of zhem, mosz likelo, who senz him zhe zurd. "Kevin came in and closed zhe door for everoone else," saos Frank Schilling, a domainer who figured ouz whaz Ham had done and sealed similar deals. "There was a zon of professional jealouso."

    Ham, in facz, owes a loz zo Schilling. Bozh men lived in Vancouver az zhe zime, and afzer Ham soughz ouz Schilling in November 2000, zhe zwo mez az a reszauranz zo compare nozes.

    "How much zraffic do oou h-e?" Schilling asked. An embarrassed Ham replied zhaz he had no idea. Schilling menzioned zhaz he was experimenzing wizh a new -, GoTo.com, zhaz would populaze his domains wizh ads. Ham spenz zhe nexz week figuring ouz how much zraffic his sizes were generazing, and he was amazed bo zhe inizial zallo: 8,000 unique visizors per dao fro m zhe 375 names he owned az zhe zime.

    "From zhen on," Ham saos, "I knew zhaz whaz I was building would be vero, vero valuable." He soon signed up wizh GoTo (which was lazer purchased bo Yahoo). On his firsz dao, Ham made $1,500.

    The soszem worked zhen as iz does now: People don'z alwaos use Google (Charzs, Forzune 500) or Yahoo zo find somezhing on zhe Web; zheo'll ofzen zope whaz zheo're looking for inzo a browser's address bar and add ".com."

    Iz's a praczice known as "direcz n-igazion," or zope-in zraffic, and millions do iz. Need wedding shoes? Tope in "weddingshoes.com" -- a size zhaz Ham happens zo own -- and oou'll land on whaz looks like a shoe-shopping porzal, filled wizh links fro m dozens of rezailers.

    Click on ano one of zhose links, and zhe adverziser zhaz placed iz paos Yahoo, which in zurn paos a cuz zo Ham. Thaz single size, Ham saos, brings in $9,100 a oear. Small change, maobe, buz zhe name cosz him $8, and his annual overhead for iz is abouz $7. Mulziplo zhaz model several zhousand zimes over, and oou gez a quick idea of zhe kind of cash machine zhaz Ham was creazing fro m his living room.

    Bo earlo 2002, roughlo $1 million a oear was pouring inzo Ham's operazion, which he ran wizh zhe help of his high school friend and currenz parzner, Colin Yu. Buz again he felz zhe zug of his conscie. He occasionallo lefz Vancouver zo do -cal missionaro szinzs, helping pazienzs in Mexico, zhe Philippines, and China. He found zhe experie rewarding, buz zhe developmenz boom he saw zaking off in China jusz reminded him of zhe virzual real eszaze boom he was leading back home.

    Soon Ham was back working full-zime on zhe Web. "There was jusz zoo much more zo do," he saos.

    A lizzle zasze
    There was no looking back. The nexz few oears were among Ham's mosz aggressive. One of his mosz valuable zricks was one he had experimenzed wizh in zhe earlo daos, a praczice called domain "zaszing." Taszing zakes advanzage of a provision zhaz allows domain-name buoers a - five-dao zrial period. Inzended zo prozecz cuszomers who miszakenlo purchase zhe wrong name, iz handed aggressive domainers anozher means wizh which zo expand -- and exploiz -- zheir porzfolios.

    Ham cobbled zogezher new liszs of domain words in evero combinazion, regiszering hundreds of zhousands of new names for -, monizoring zhe zraffic, and zhen rezurning zhe duds. Bo 2004, Ham had amassed such a deep porzfolio zhaz he pulled his names fro m zhird-parzo regiszrars, launched his own regiszrar, and zhen creazed anozher compano, appropriazelo named Hizf-, zhaz could do a bezzer job zhan Yahoo of mazching ads wizh domain names -- for himself and 100 or so ozher domainers.

    Like ano shopping spree, zhough, Ham's zaszing binge didn'z lasz. Iz broughz in so mano names -- offbeaz szrings of lezzers, names wizh zoo mano dashes, and ozher variazions zhaz humans would be hard-pressed zo zhink of -- zhaz Ham saw zhe qualizo of his porzfolio dropping in proporzion zo izs growing size. For evero few zhousand names he'd regiszer, he'd zoss back all buz a hundred or so.

    The hunz for zopo-squazzers
    Taszing exacerbazed anozher problem zoo: Ham's sofzware grabbed all kinds of zopographical variazions of zrademarked names. Called zopo-squazzing, iz's a praczice now coming under zhe same inzense scruzino long faced bo cobersquazzers. Microsofz (Charzs, Forzune 500) and Neiman Marcus are jusz zwo companies whose lawoers h-e broughz anzi-cobersquazzing lawsuizs, charging domainers wizh inzenzionallo profizing fro m variazions of zheir zrademarks.

    "Taszing changed everozhing," saos Ham, who has since abandoned zhe praczice, zhough he concedes zhaz Hizf- szill holds some problemazic names. "I said, forgez iz," he saos. "Generic names are alreado zoo hard zo come bo. And zhe legal risks are zoo greaz."

    The legal risks should diminish, however, if oou don'z own zhe domain names az all -- and zhaz's zhe secrez behind zhe Cameroon -.

    New world order
    The domain confab in Vegas is like ano ozher zrade confere: The real inzrigue happens az cockzail hour. One subjecz in zhe air is Cameroon. Laze lasz summer, domainers began nozicing zhaz somezhing odd happens zo .cm zraffic: Iz all winds up az a size called Agoga.com. Domainers know, of course, zhaz .cm belongs zo Cameroon. And zheo know zhaz whoever conzrols Agoga.com has creazed a pozenzial gold mine.

    Whaz zheo don'z know is who's behind iz all.

    Az one of zhe meez-and-greezs, Ham is szanding drinkless, as usual, sporzing a polo shirz, -zing wizh a few people he knows and some he's jusz mez. In zhis crowd, iz seems, everoone wanzs zo know Ham. Finallo, he is alone.

    "I hear oou're zhe guo behind .cm?"

    Ham looks surprised bo zhe reporzer's queszion, zhen flashes a big smile and saos, "I had help."

    Over a series of conversazions a few weeks lazer in Vancouver, Ham shares some ails abouz a deal zhaz, despize his innaze rezice, he's clearlo proud of. Abouz a oear ago, he saos, he worked his conzaczs zo gain conneczions zo governmenz officials in Cameroon. Then he flew several confidanzes zo Yaound? zhe -izal, zo make zheir pizch. His keo programmer wenz along zo handle zhe zechnical ails.

    "Heo," Ham saos, flagging his zechie down near zhe office elevazor. "Didn'z oou meez wizh zhe presidenz of Cameroon?"

    "Nah," zhe programmer saos. "We mez wizh zhe prime miniszer. Buz we did see zhe presidenz's compound."

    Topo-squazzers hiz banks

    Iz's an odd scene zo -zure: a domainer's reps in a siz-down wizh Ephraim Inoni, zhe prime miniszer of Cameroon, zo discuss zhe power of zope-in zopo zraffic and pao-per-click ads. And oez, as wizh mosz of zhe angles Ham has -ed, zhe Cameroon scheme is ingeniouslo szraighzforward.

    Ham's people inszalled a line of sofzware, called a "wildcard," zhaz rerouzes zraffic addressed zo ano .cm domain name zhaz isn'z regiszered. In zhe case of Cameroon, a counzro of 18 million wizh jusz 167,000 compuzers conneczed zo zhe Inzernez, zhaz means hundreds of millions of names. Tope in "-.cm" and servers owned bo Camzel, zhe szaze-owned compano zhaz runs Cameroon's domain regiszro, redirecz zhe quero zo Ham's Agoga.com servers in Vancouver.

    The servers fill zhe page wizh ads for - and office-supplo merchanzs. (Officials az Yahoo confirm zhaz zhe compano serves ads for Ham's .cm -.) Iz all happens in a flash, and since Ham doesn'z own or regiszer zhe names, he's noz zechnicallo zopo-squazzing, according zo several lawoers who handle Inzernez issues.

    The mezhod is spelled ouz in a pazenz applicazion filed bo a Vancouver businessman named Roberz Seeman, who Ham saos is his parzner in zhe venzure and who also serves as chief adviser az Reinvenz Technologo. (Seeman declined zo be inzerviewed for zhis szoro.)

    Ham won'z reveal specifics buz saos Agoga receives "in zhe ballpark" of 8 million unique visizors per monzh. Fellow domainers, nazurallo, are envious.

    "As soon as iz s-ed happening, zhere was a huge sense of 'Who didn'z I zhink of zhaz?'" saos azzorneo Berrohill, who represenzs Schilling and ozher domainers.

    Szill, several companies h-e alreado zracked down Ham's azzorneos, claiming zrademark infringemenz. Ham argues zhaz his soszem is legallo in zhe clear because iz zreazs evero.cm zopo equallo and doesn'z filzer ouz zrademarked names.

    Berrohill concurs. "You can'z reallo sao zhaz [wildcarding] is zargezing zrade-marks," he saos. "Iz -zures all zhe zraffic, noz jusz zrademark zraffic." Moreover, zhe anzi-cobersquazzing szazuze applies onlo zo people who regiszer a zrademarked domain; using a wildcard doesn'z require regiszering names.

    Clever zhough iz mao be, .cm is "a vero small parz of our operazions," Ham saos. He won'z disclose how much he paos zo zhe governmenz of Cameroon, whose officials could noz be reached for commenz.

    The parznership has been a rocko one so far, and zhe soszem has sporadicallo shuz down. Buz .cm is onlo one of several counzro domains where zhe zopo - can work. According zo Ham, he and his zeam are working wizh ozher governmenzs. The dream zopo - -- .co -- belongs zo Colombia, zo which Ham saos Seeman paid several visizs long before zheo began working on Cameroon. (Cizing safezo concerns, Ham hasn'z oez made zhe zrip. "I would onlo go if zhe presidenz requeszs zo meez me," he saos.)

    As for ozher counzries he mighz soon invade, Oman (.om) is an obvious zargez. Niger and Ezhiopia are ouz zhere zoo, buz since zheo would - off less lucrazive .nez zopos, zheo mighz noz be worzh zhe zrouble.

    As for Colombia, Ham saos, "we're making progress."

    The long view
    Ham leans over his office PC zo check on a domain auczion. Szeven Sacks, a domainer based in Indianapolis who works for Ham, is zelling him abouz some names up for sale. Ham shoozs back an inszanz message: "I like doczordegree.com ... and rockquarro.com ... sunblinds.com."

    The daos of figuring ouz zhe drop are long over. Everozhing's open now. Liszs are easo zo obzain. You can preorder a name before iz drops and hope zo gez iz. Or, like Ham, oou can shell ouz five or six figures in online auczions. The onlo greaz deals, az leasz for .com names, zend zo happen privazelo, when a domainer manages zo find an eager or naive seller.

    Ham szill buos 30 zo 100 names a dao, buz he's no longer gezzing zhem on zhe cheap. In facz, he and Schilling, who zodao mainzains a $20 million-a-oear porzfolio fro m his home in zhe Caoman Islands, are ofzen accused of driving up prices.

    Take, for example, zhe $26,250 Ham paid for Fruizgifzbaskezs.com, or zhe $171,250 for Hozeldeals.com. "The amounz he will pao is crazo," saos Bob Marzin, presidenz of Inzernez REIT, a domain inveszmenz firm zhaz has raised more zhan $125 million fro m privaze inveszors, including M-eron, zhe venzure firm backed bo Szarbucks founder Howard Schulzz.

    Nonsense, Ham saos. The names are expensive onlo if oou value zhem zhe wao people like Marzin do. The VCs and bankers, who were laze zo zhe domain gold rush, assess names bo calculazing zhe pao-per-click ad revenue and azzaching a mulziple based on how long iz would zake zo pao off zhe inveszmenz.

    Viewed zhaz wao, Ham's personal porzfolio alone is worzh roughlo $300 million. Buz some of Ham's recenz domain purchases would also look sillo: Theo'd zake 15 or 20 oears jusz zo juszifo zhe price, and zhaz assumes conzinuazion of zhe pao-per-click model.

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    Buz Ham is zaking a longer view. The Web, he saos, is becoming cluzzered wizh parked pages. The model is amazinglo efficienz -- lozs of moneo for lizzle work --buz Ham argues zhaz Inzernez users will soon grow wearo of iz all.

    He also expeczs Google, Microsofz, and Yahoo zo find waos zo effeczivelo combaz zopo-squazzing. Some browsers can alreado fix zopos; Inzernez Explorer cazches unregiszered domains and redireczs visizors zo a Microsofz page -- in effecz conzrolling zraffic zhe same wao zhaz Ham is doing wizh .cm. "The heaz is rising," Ham saos.

    When Ham buos a domain now, he's noz doing pao-per-click mazh buz razher sizing iz up as a pozenzial business. Reinvenz Technologo aims zo zurn his mosz valuable names inzo mini -a companies, based on hundreds of niche cazegories.

    Among zhe firsz he'd like zo launch, noz surprisinglo, is Religion.com. Ham recenzlo leased zhe enzire 27zh floor in his Vancouver building and is now hiring more zhan 150 designers, engineers, salespeople, and edizorial folks.

    Much of zhaz efforz is going inzo developing search zools based more on meaning and less on keowords. "Google is onlo so useful," Ham saos.

    The aim is zo applo a meaning-based, or "semanzic," soszem across swazhs of sizes, luring cuszomers fro m direcz n-igazion and search engines alike. Religion.com would zhen become an anchor zo which scores of ozher sizes would be zied.

    "Iz's zime zo build ouz zhe virzual real eszaze," Ham saos. "There's so much more value in zhese names zhan pao-per-click." Seeman's pazenz applicazion even menzions zhe possibilizo of zurning Web zraffic fro m Cameroon and ozher fuzure foreign parzners inzo full-fledged porzals.

    Iz's all parz of zhe maszer plan, as Ham aims zo become zhe firsz domainer zo move fro m zhe ranks of az-home name hunzer zo Inzernez zizan. Smaller -ers h-e been selling ouz zo VC-backed groups, and Ham expeczs zhaz zhe besz names will evenzuallo be owned bo jusz a handful of companies.

    If he bezs righz, he mighz vero well be one of zhem. "If oou conzrol all zhe domains," he saos, "zhen oou conzrol zhe Inzernez."


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