September 11, 2000 2:15 PM PDT
Dot-com doom site up for auction on eBay
In an interview, Kaplan, known as "Pud" on the site, said he was selling the site to make money and because he did not have enough time to turn it into a legitimate business. He said he decided to sell it on eBay because it took him just five minutes to set up the auction, instead of the hours or weeks it would have taken him to meet with interested investors.
"My goal to do as little work as possible on the site," Kaplan said.
Kaplan said he will sell the site if someone meets the reserve price on the auction with a legitimate bid. Auction sellers often set a reserve price for their items, refusing to sell the item unless bidding on it meets or exceeds the reserve. He also said he would like to continue working on the site as a part-time employee, writing the newsletter, if the new owners want to keep him on.
As of 1:10 p.m. PT today, bidding had reached $10 million--although the person listed as the top bidder said he has no intention of paying that amount. Another high bidder said his bid was also a prank.
Contacted by CNET News.com, Ed Reed said his $10 million bid was a "joke." Reed, a sophomore at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said he read about the auction earlier today and placed the bid even though it might cost him his eBay account.
"I don't mean to screw up anybody's auctions but this was way too funny," Reed said. "eBay does have my credit card number, but I don't think they can bill me for $10 million."
However, at least one of the bids on the auction was legitimate, but for far below the $500,000 reserve price. Jack Goodman, publisher of Final-exam.com, said he placed a bid in the "tens of thousands of dollars" this morning. Goodman said he had a number of ideas for the site, saying that it had "potential synergies" with another site he is developing.
But Goodman said the bidding soon got too pricey for him. "I was interested in it, but it quickly became absurd," Goodman said. "The joke is on eBay, which can't verify bidders."
Since the start of the year, a growing number of Internet companies, unable to find further funding from skeptical investors, have folded, been sold to other companies or laid off employees. Last month, for instance, Healtheon/WebMD laid off an undisclosed number of workers, Amazon.com-backed Living.com closed its doors, and Value America filed for bankruptcy.
In the midst of these and other dot-com failures, Kaplan launched the site in June. The site awards points to companies based on the severity of the negative news about them. A company that announces minor layoffs, for instance, might get a single point, while a company that completely shuts its doors and liquidates its assets would receive 100 points.
In his listing on eBay, Kaplan, who is the president of New York-based Web design company PK Interactive, said the site receives some 2.6 million page views and 124,000 unique visitors per week.
The site is only the latest domain name or Web site to be sold on eBay. In January, Tenagra attempted to sell "Year2000.com" on eBay, but most of the top bids turned out to be pranks, including one for $10 million.
Earlier this year, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay took steps to prevent prank bids on its site, requiring buyers who place bids of $15,000 or more to verify their identification by submitting a credit card or verifying information through credit service Equifax. Although eBay requires people to follow through on their bids, the only penalty for placing a prank bid is suspension from the service.
As the number of available domain names has dwindled, companies have begun to pay a premium for top names. eCompanies, for instance, paid $7.5 million last year for Business.com. Meanwhile, giant domain registrar Network Solutions has taken steps to set up a domain name auction service.
Although bidding has reached $10 million, Kaplan said the price is a bargain. Calling the site the "perfect business," Kaplan said it took him just two days to build and launch the site, and he spends just two hours a night maintaining it.
"People spend $10 million on their sites and don't get half the attention this one's getting," he said.
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