The years have shown us how simple domain names can be wrestled away, lost, squatted on and - incredibly - worth millions. Here we take a look at 10 of the most interesting domain name cases, and try to sort the .cons from the .pros.
Ownership is not immaterial, girl
Back in 2000, Madonna took some time out from getting married and divorced, performing 'for one last time' concerts, and finding the latest yogic or religious trend to follow, by going to court over a domain name. Madge took her claim for Madonna.com, which had previously been used to host rude material, to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the UN body that deals with this sort of thing, and won it back. Nice one, Madonna. That must have been cheaper than adopting a different domain.
Give us the domain, and your lunch money
Here's a lesson to anybody named Mike Rowe: never ever use your name in association with the word 'soft', because you aren't allowed to. One 17-year old Canadian high school student found this out when his MikeRoweSoft.com web site came under the nose of a company called Microsoft. The case received a lot of attention because Microsoft went in a little heavy on the teenager, offering him just $10 (£6.90) for the domain and any other expenses incurred. Rowe was asking for the same figure, but with at least three more zeroes at the back end. Finally, the kid settled for some gifts and 'training'. Smiles all round then.
That's blue, not white
During some presumably work-related internet searching down at Capitol Hill it was discovered that the whitehouse.com and whitehouse.org domains took users to the sort of web sites that few presidents, with perhaps the exception of Bill Clinton, would want to be associated with. Pssst. If you are looking to buy the real domain when it expires, it is whitehouse.gov, guv.
Once upon a time you had to search far and wide to find other people who hated the same companies that you did, or stand outside the shop for a few weekends. However, the internet has the power to unite every disgruntled customer in the world and bring them together under one domain, a domain commonly comprising the name of a company, and the word 'sucks'. Typically, companies register themselves these days. Ha ha, you pay to suck!
Top level toupee domain
Formula 1 supremo and small grey/white animal breeder Bernie Eccleston is not a man to trifle with in the courts, which is why we may come to regret our coiffure comments. Formula1.com used to be the source for fast racing car news on the web, until it fell out with Eccleston and his crew. Once that happened, the case pinged around the courts like Jenson Button on the grids. Formula1.com is now the 'Official Formula 1 Web Site', so it looks like Bernie took pole in the end.
It's business time
According to Guinness World Records, or that bloke that was in the pub drinking Guinness, Business.com was once the most expensive domain ever, selling as it did for a whopping $7.5m (£5.25m). However, what business is bigger business than business? Yep, sex. Sex.com sold a couple of years ago for somewhere in the region of $15m (£10.5m). Wow. Imagine the size of the brown paper bag that cash came in.
Although the dot-com industry isn't likely to re-boom anytime soon, earlier this year ToysRUs bought the Toys.com domain for some $5.1m (£3.6m), instantly placing the URL in the top 10 most expensive ever. We are off to register a combination of that URL and the previous one. Surely there must be some money in sex toys, or maybe toys sex?
From tracking cookies to breaking rocks
John Zuccarini is the master of the mis-spelled domain. Or at least he used to be. In 2003, Zuccarini was arrested for registering thousands of domain variations that aped brands including Hot Wheels and Britney Spears. On 3 September 2003, he became the first person prosecuted under the Truth in Domain Names Act, and was sentenced to over two years in jail.
Many a slip ...
In 2002, the Poetry Society's awarding winning web site lost its domain after someone apparently forgot all about the boring business of renewing it. Before anyone had any chance to find a nice rhyming couplet for 'you're fired', the domain had been snapped up, and poor punters looking for a fresh take on how clouds move about in the sky were instead offered links to such things as Chinese gambling sites and hair loss treatments. Talk about misreading your audience!
Ah, thanks guys
It's not only wooly headed poets that miss renewal dates. Both Microsoft and Symantec have been guilty of the same oversight. However, in both cases the firms were saved by apparent 'fans', who renewed the domains and re-registered them to their original owners. Why?
Could be used for everything from search-and-rescue robots to wearable tech
Don't require the rare material being mined from the mountains of South America
IBM hopes that its new tool will avoid bias in artificial intelligence
Found by calculating the strength of the material deep inside the crust of neutron stars