Which is why the recent domain sale of Cats.com—literally, an entire domain name for the internet’s favorite animal—is one that we should closely watch. The domain is currently sitting at $125,000 on the auction site Flippa, and will sell to the highest bidder in the next five days.
The owner of this domain, a guy named Algis, had apparent dreams of building a site dedicated to felines, but says he ran out of time. According to the website, he says that 15,000 people just type in Cats.com each month, hoping for cats. (He also says that he’s had private bids, outside of Flippa’s system, of as high as $500,000. This is an important domain for the internet.)
Looking back at the domain’s history, it’s had moments where it’s faded in and out of view, but only rarely has it lived up to its name. It has failed to speak the internet's language.
A few samples, via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine:
October 1996: With a Geocities-style front page featuring, yes, an actual drawing of a cat, the company had an excellent domain name for a product that could best be described as not very feline friendly. What’s a cat supposed to do with products that “revolutionize global finance”?
July 1997: Same basic look, but nicer organization.
August 2005: This is about the point where the domain becomes about as useful as a ball of yarn. The site has been replaced by a line of text: “The owners of this website are considering a sale of the domain name www.cats.com. If you are interested in acquiring this domain name, please contact [email protected] and we will send you further details. This notice does not constitute an offer capable of becoming a contract by acceptance.”
November 2005: Cats.com is now a page that exists for the purpose of spam traffic.
December 2006: Still a page for spam traffic, but the owners appear to have realized the value of their excellent domain name.
August 2008: The graphics weren’t picked up by the Internet Archive, but around this time, the site appears to have been a Demand Media-style site. Was part of a network that included such sites as Tarot.com, Photography.com, and Gardens.com.
January 2013: Back to a clearinghouse for spam. Awesome.
And starting in early 2016, the domain went up for sale.
The story of Cats.com is a story of wasted potential. Why is it that the domain name that best fits the internet’s collective interests is a pile of crap?
This is potentially catnip for BuzzFeed. Just sayin’.