“If you control all the domains,” he says, “then you control the Internet.”
Kevin Ham is a Korean-Canadian who lives in Vancouver. In domaining industry, Vancouver is similar to Hangzhou or Xiamen in China, where bring up a large number of outstanding investors. Being a devout Christian, Ham owns lots of Christian domain names, such asGod.com, Satan.com, Christianrock.com. Always wanted to be a medical doctor, he was trained as a family doctor. While something about the Internet really intrigued him.
Since 2000 he has quietly cobbled together a portfolio of 300,000 domains which generates an estimated $70 million a year in revenue. Back to 2007, he had already built a $300 million empire.
How did he make such a success?
Back then, he made profits from traffic generated by typo domains such like typing “.cm” instead of “.com”. Ham made money every time someone clicked on an ad. At that time, hardly any .cm names were registered. And “.cm” is not the only domain suffix that can be operated this way. There are “.co”, “.et” etc..
That is also the main reason why he keeps low profile. His success in typo domain play had drawn many concerns. Many people concerned in the business were so angry with him that someone even sent him a box of actual piece of shit. Ham was also concerned of law issue claiming his play as trademark abuse.
He wrote software to snag expiring names and took advantage of a loophole that allows people to register a name and return it after tested invaluable. Ham figured out when these names were to drop and he launched his attacks with five PCs to snag the names he wanted. However, there was someone who was way ahead him. And that person is Yun Ye, a Chinese-born software developer. Then Ham bought his way to the front and brought down servers many times. In six –month time in late 2000, Ham registered more than 10,000 names.
Ham’s team installed software named “wildcard,” that reroutes traffic addressed to any .cm domain name that isn’t registered. In this case, Cameroon, a country of 18 million with 167,000 computers connected to the Internet, which means hundreds of millions of names. He even sit down with the prime minister of Cameroon to discuss the whole thing.
When people type “paper.cm”, it will redirect to Ham’s Agoga.com servers in Vancouver which are filled with paper and office products ads served by Yahoo. When he tracked down by several companies, he claimed “You can’t really say that is targeting trade-marks,” he says. “It captures all the traffic, not just trademark traffic.” In this way, Ham, Yahoo and Cameroon government share the profit together.
In September 2015, Kevin showed up in domainfest Vancouver Meetup and gave a speech. He stressed his current desire to give back to the community, and to spend more time building real business rather than simply buying and selling. To continue his previous metaphor, he wants to live in the house, not just act as a broker.
References: money.cnn.com, namescon.com