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The bidding war for

The man who eventually sold the domain to VA Research tells of the intense bidding for the name.

SAN JOSE, California--Microsoft, Red Hat, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard were among the companies that made a bid for the domain name in a round of bidding in 1998, the previous owner of the hot Internet real estate said today.

However, Microsoft emphatically denies making a bid for the domain name. "This would be a silly thing for Microsoft to try to do," a spokesperson said, raising the possibility of a forged bid. "It reeks of inaccuracy."

Other companies that expressed interest in the site, though not bids, included Dell, IBM, and Novell, said Fred van Kempen, who registered the domain. He declined to say how much any company offered, but did say that the new owner, VA Research, paid "substantially less than the top offer of $5.5 million."

He registered the site in June 1994 with the express purpose of "protecting the site from being abused" by commercial companies, and held two rounds of bidding for the site, he told CNET today. His advice to prospective bidders: "Bring a lot of cash and bring a good plan."

The cash requirement was to screen out bidders who weren't serious, and the plan was to make sure the site was used to help out the Linux community, he said.

During the first round, however, van Kempen got offers for lots of money, but he wasn't satisfied with how companies planned to use the site. So he set up a second round of bidding, in which he found that Linux computer maker VA Research wanted to use the site the same way he did.

Red Hat made bids in both rounds of bidding, he said, but they came with no plans. "They just threw cash at me," he said.

VA Research unveiled the site yesterday, but the site was a victim of its own popularity. Though the site never went down, the old site in the Netherlands, where van Kempen lives, did go down, according to VA Research's Trae McCombs. Consequently, many couldn't access the site until the change of address propagated across the Internet.

Yesterday, the site was getting more than 25,000 hits per hour from separate computers, McCombs said.

The interest in was very high, van Kempen said. When word of the bidding got around, he was receiving as many as 25 offers a day, he said.

Van Kempen said the Compaq offer actually came from Digital, a company Compaq bought in 1998.