One of my clients (and friends) hit me up the other day, out of the blue, asking about the value of domain names. He’d been contacted by a squatter sitting on a name relevant to his business. He called and spoke to the squatter and ultimately agreed to purchase the rights to the name. Immediately after the call Mr. Squatter began snarfing up any and all other domain names similar to the one he’d just sold and started mailing my friend about them. His emails sounded technical and official: “I managed to procure XXXXXXX.com domain name and would like to offer it to you for $150.”
I explained to my client friend that “procure” sounds fancy, but all this dude did was snatch up some domains available out there in the wild for between $8 and $15 apiece, which took him all of 3 minutes and anyone can do, and now he’s marking them up 1000%.
Domain squatting like this is a strange business to be in. Really all a squatter is doing is making a living taking advantage of the ignorance of non-technical people. I imagine that successful squatters fancy themselves clever. Beats accepting the truth, which is that they’re sleazy. I associate squatters with shitty auto mechanics and shitty home contractors. We all know a story about a mechanic or a contractor that told someone something completely untrue to use their ignorance to try to rip them off.
My own story is this: as a kid I owned a Datsun 310gx manual (which I dearly wish I still had, but I totaled it). It was having trouble getting into 2nd gear so I took it to a mechanic who told me that the transmission needed replacing and it was gonna cost me somewhere around $450. That didn’t sound right based upon my driving experience, and I didn’t have the money regardless, so I took my car back. A friend recommended a different mechanic, who within 10 minutes diagnosed my problem and said “You need a clutch adjustment.” Less than a half hour later my car was ready and I think I paid the guy $25 for the fix.
Domain squatters make their money being that first mechanic. And just like that first mechanic does to the second, they make all of us people trying to make an honest living on tech look bad.