Sex.com seeking a new hookup

Considered by many to be the world's most valuable domain name, Sex.com is up for sale by domain broker Sedo.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk

Anyone interested in Sex.com will find an eager seller for the right price.

The domain name, considered to be the Internet's most valuable, is now on the market, domain broker Sedo announced Thursday. Sedo is peddling the hot domain name on behalf of its client and current owner, Escom, which scooped it up in 2006 for an estimated $14 million. Along with the domain name, two related trademark registrations are also included.

Escom CEO Del Anthony said he chose to sell the domain through Sedo because of its experience brokering high-value domain names and its global network of clients. Anthony said he believes Sedo, short for Search Engine for Domain Offers, will make sure Escom receives a price for Sex.com that reflects its value.

"It is an extremely rare opportunity that a domain name of this caliber becomes available for sale", Kathy Nielsen, director of sales at Sedo, said in a statement. "Short, descriptive domains are an amazing marketing vehicle. The sale of Sex.com presents potential buyers with a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Domains that define an entire category have proven to be the most valuable properties on the Web, according to Sedo. And "sex" continues to be one of the most searched terms in cyberspace. A Symantec report from August and another from December found "sex" to be among the top five search terms among youths.

Perhaps befitting its name, Sex.com has survived a torrid history.

The site was first registered in 1994 by its original owner, Gary Kremen, the founder of Match.com. But Kremen lost the domain in 1995 when Stephen Cohen--who had been recently released from prison for impersonating a bankruptcy lawyer--forged a letter to domain registrar Network Solutions, instructing it to transfer the domain name to him.

Failing to verify the authenticity of the letter, Network Solutions transferred Sex.com to Cohen, who eventually took in at least $40 million using the site over the next few years. Kremen later sued both Network Solutions and Cohen, but a lower court ruled against him, finding that domain names were not subject to the same laws as more tangible assets. Though Kremen did win a $65 million judgment against Cohen, the latter moved his money overseas before fleeing the country.

In 2003, an appeals court judge ruled that Kremen did have a right to the stolen domain name and found Network Solutions--now owned by VeriSign--liable for giving it away without gaining the correct authorization. The suit was settled in 2004 with the court finding in favor of Kremen, thereby establishing a precedent requiring that domain name registrars be held accountable for the domains under their care. Reportedly wanting to leave the adult business, Kremen eventually sold the domain name to Escom.

The domain was set to hit the auction block in March. But creditors of Escom, who claimed they were owed more than $10 million, forced the company to declare bankruptcy, temporarily halting those plans. In May, creditors finally reached an agreement with Escom to allow Sedo to broker the domain privately.