Want Ebola.com? Cough it up

Want Ebola.com? Cough it up
Domain speculator Jon Schultz wants to sell Ebola.com soon because he’s worried something may ‘ameliorate’ the outbreak.

He is the merchant of disease domains. Name a disease and there's a chance Mr Jon Schultz will have it.

He has birdflu.com. He has H1N1.com.

He has one for Chikungunya and another for Marburg. And finally, there's the jewel of his trove, Ebola.com, which Mr Schultz bought in 2008 for US$13,500 (S$17,210).

The time for the payout has arrived. Mr Schultz of Blue String Ventures wants US$150,000 for Ebola.com - a price he thinks is more than reasonable.

"According to our site meter, we're already getting 5,000 page views per day just from people typing in Ebola.com to see what's there," said Mr Schultz, who monitors headlines from his Las Vegas home the way brokers watch their portfolios, to gauge his domain's worth.

War and disaster have always presented business opportunity, from clandestine arms dealers hawking guns to construction barons looking to turn millions off Gaza's reconstruction.

And domain speculators like Mr Schultz, who stewards terror.com, PotassiumIodide.com and fukushima.com, are the latest manifestation of that effect, Washington Post reported.

"Our domain, birdflu.com, is worth way more than Ebola.com. We're definitely holding onto that one for the event," he said, referring to an outbreak he thinks could be way bigger than Ebola.

Others, however, haven't been nearly so forgiving of Mr Schultz.

"In today's information economy, there are few more useless money-grubbers than domain squatters and that is exactly who owns Ebola.com," commented Mr Elias Groll of business website Foreign Policy.

Mr Schultz said he wants to sell the domain soon because he is worried that something may "ameliorate" the outbreak, diminishing Ebola's news value.

He got into the business years ago, but started to focus on disease domains only in 2005 when he saw a strange offering on a domain auction for something called bird flu.

He bought birdflu.com for US$20,000 and "got into the kick of buying disease domain names". It wasn't long before he came across Ebola.

His business partner, Mr Chris Hood, praised Mr Schultz's eye for a good disease domain.

Said Mr Hood: "He sits in front of the computer all day educating himself on health and science news to see if things will have potential."

Mr Schultz has been waiting years for a time like this to turn a profit on Ebola.com. And in the unfortunate event that there is a bird flu or Marburg outbreak, there Mr Schultz will be again, hawking domains of tragedy, looking to make money.

What about ISIS.com?

"You know," Mr Schultz said, pondering it for a long moment.

"I actually haven't thought of that one yet."

This article was first published on Oct 16, 2014.
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