03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Selling Domain Names Is Billion-Dollar Business

The real estate investors packing the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles this week don't have to worry about interest rates, exploding mortgages and foreclosures. The addresses they buy and sell are on the Internet, where a good name might attract millions of people and pull in big bucks from advertising.

As with real-world property speculation, the Internet domain name business is built on limited supply and high hopes. It has booms and busts, rising corporate powers and rookies who wished they'd bought in the 1990s. Two of the biggest practitioners, and Demand Media Inc., are based in the Los Angeles area and have collectively received more than $450 million in venture capital investment to fuel domain name buying sprees.

The bidding paddles flew Tuesday and Wednesday in the hotel ballroom at DomainFest, a yearly gathering of participants in this highly specialized and lucrative business.

Individual speculators and deep-pocketed companies snapped up domains such as for $400,000, for $300,000, for $75,000, for $50,000 and Satinpanties for $10,000.

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