Domainers have generally had a negative reputation. Domain-name trading takes little of the actual effort needed to build a business on the Web, instead relying on clicks from people who simply guess at a site’s name or are too lazy to use a search engine. In its early years, the field was dominated by offshore players and secretive, if not illegal, tactics.
But increasingly, there is serious money at stake. Last year, 106 domain names drew more than $100,000 each, and one, porn.com, went for nearly $9.5 million. In 2006, only 70 domain names sold for more than six figures each. Millions of generic domain names, pointing to sites with little more than automated Google or Yahoo text ads, brought in untold millions of dollars.
As a result, over the last few months, private equity and venture capital firms have poured money into the largest companies in the field. […]