The free market has spoken: Sex is worth more than porn.
That's one conclusion from the near record-breaking auction of an Internet domain name announced Tuesday. The rights to Porn.com brought in the second-highest payment for an address since the Web's creation, with closely held MXN Ltd. forking over $9.5 million.
Not a bad return for a domain that sold for a reported $47,000 in 1997. But Porn.com couldn't command the payday of Sex.com, which Boston firm Escom bought last year for more than $11 million in cash and stock.
Porn is evidently still preferred over business: Business.com sold in 1999 for $7.5 million.
The Porn.com deal is one of many in the last two years in which common nouns were exchanged for uncommon money. Cameras.com sold for $1.5 million and Scores.com fetched $1.2 million. Like Porn.com, they were sold by domain broker and manager Moniker.
The resurgence of simple domain names comes even though most people get to new places on the Web through such search engines as Google and Yahoo. The idea is to put ads in front of Web surfers who type "www.porn.com" into their browsers, curious to see what's there.
Detroit-based MXN was mum on its intentions for Porn.com. But Moniker Chief Executive Monte Cahn said the site was a proven earner even without much content, getting more viewers clicking on ads than Sex.com enjoyed.
"People are very specific about what they're looking for," he said.
Former Sex.com owner Gary Kremen, who recently bought thousands of lower-tier adult domain names, said MXN overpaid. "People's expectations at the very high end are way high," he said. "It's like buying a trophy property."