'Popesquatting' Seen on Potential Papal Domains

While Internet betting sites set odds on the identity of the next pope, domain speculators are buying up domains connected to names that might be adopted by the new Catholic leader. Blogger and technology author Rogers Cadenhead admitted to participating in "popesquatting" potential papal domains. "My money's on one of these six names - BenedictXVI, Clement XV, Innocent XIV, Leo XIV, Paul VII, Pius XIII," Cadenhead wrote on his blog. "I mean this literally. I registered all six of these as dot-com domain names earlier this month, which I feared was tacky - to say nothing of soul-imperiling - until I read about the vacant papal see stamp. Clearly I'm not the only baptized Catholic who gets geeked about this process."

Cadenhead has plenty of company. PopeBenedict16.com is already for sale on the domain auction site Sedo. But speculators who are just now thinking about papal names are arriving late to the game. The JohnPaulIII.com domain was registered in 1999 while JohnPaulIII.net was bought last November.

With domains selling for as little as $4.95 a year, the cost of speculation is low. But what's the actual value of capturing the .com domain name of the next pope? If the objective is resale, there is almost no chance that the Vatican would purchase such a domain from a squatter, as it controls the .va top-level domain, which it can use to create an official web site for the new pope (if one were needed in addition to the vatican.va site). Creators of "fan sites" along the lines of PopeJohnPaul.com tend not to have huge budgets for acquiring domains.

Such domains might have the highest financial value to parties likely to use the name for decidedly unapproved uses, such as porn sites, which routinely purchase G-rated domains - including whitehouse.com and domains used by Christian sites - for use as traffic gateways.