On today's edition of Extreme Cheapskates: Cybersquatting Edition, a 30-year-old web designer says he recently snagged what may easily be the website deal of a lifetime, legally purchasing Google Argentina's domain name for under $3 USD.
Last Wednesday evening, Nicolas Kurona was working late when he began receiving messages that the nation's search engine was down. "I entered www.google.com.ar into my browser and it didn't work," Kurona recalled to the BBC. "I thought something strange was happening."
It seems Kurona's suspicions were dead on – something stranger than he likely could have ever imagined was at play. Upon visiting Argentina's network information center, a.k.a. the group that manages domains ending in the South American nation's “.ar” country code, and searching “Google,” he realized the search engine's domain name was not only listed as being for sale, but was apparently available for the low, low price of 270 pesos, which roughly equates to $2.90 USD. Upon seeing this incredible bargain, the web designer then did what any of us would do and attempted to purchase the site. "I never imagined that it was going to allow me to buy it," he recalled, however after he “followed the steps,” listed on the site for purchase, he then "received an email with the purchase invoice," solidifying him as Google Argentina's apparent rightful owner.
"When the purchase process was completed and my data appeared, I knew that something was going to happen... I was really anxious," he recalled. However it seems this anxiety may have intensified upon actually googlin-- sorry, looking up the website, with the tech expert shocked to find his “personal data" appearing on the page. “I was frozen looking at the screen," he explained. ”I could not believe what had just happened."
So what exactly happened? It seems no one actually knows. “One theory is that Google had simply forgotten to renew its domain name,” the BBC reported of the matter, noting that Open Data Córdoba who tracks expired Argentine domains confirmed the company's assertion. “However, Google says its licence for the domain hadn't expired - and was not due to expire until July 2021.”
Despite managing to find the site listed for sale, Kurona says he, too, has no idea why he was able to purchase the domain, noting that he feels "slightly strange" about all the attention he's faced for not only purchasing the site, but for the virality a tweet he posted explaining the situation.
Regardless of what exactly went down that night, it seems Google officials weren't too happy about the whole fiasco. “For a short term, the domain was acquired by someone else,” they explained in a statement to the BBC, noting that they were able to recover the domain fairly quickly after.
Whatever happens, Kurona maintains he had no ill will when purchasing the site. "I want to make it clear that I never had any bad intentions, I just tried to buy it and the NIC allowed me to," he reiterated.