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Globe logs out of Internet address business

Nearly four years ago, the Boston Globe tried to get in on an Internet land rush when the number of domains — the .com. .org, or .edu in online addresses — were expanded. Now, the Globe’s parent company has decided to stick to more familiar territory.

Last week, Boston Globe Media Partners LLC sold the right to sell Internet addresses ending in “.boston” to Minds + Machines Group Ltd., an Internet address marketing firm with offices in Los Angeles and Dublin.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and it must be approved by the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Number (ICANN), the global organization that manages Internet addresses.


When the deal is completed, Minds + Machines will be able to sell Internet addresses specifically targeted to Boston-area businesses. For example, a cab company might run a “taxi.boston” website, or a diner might buy “joesburgers.boston.”

“We’re super-excited,” said Minds + Machines chief marketing officer Toby Hall. “We see it as a massive opportunity for communities.”

Boston officials, who must also approve the deal, said they were pleased that the pending sale will soon allow businesses and residents to use “.boston” Internet addresses.

“You have this incredible asset,” said Jascha Franklin-Hodge, chief information officer for the city of Boston, “and we’re finally going to be able to bring it to market.”

With nearly 300 million registered online addresses, most of the easy-to-remember domain names — like bostonglobe.com, comcast.net or npr.org — are long gone. In 2008, ICANN launched a program to create thousands of new domains, like adding area codes to the phone network.

ICANN began taking applications for new domains in 2012. Thousands of businesses and organizations worldwide signed up, each of them paying a $185,000 application fee. Many of the new domains have already gone online, such as “.top,” “.xyz” and “.club.”


Kevin Murphy, editor of Domain Incite, a London-based online newsletter that tracks the industry, said the new domains have been less popular than many predicted. “There were some people who thought this was going to be a get-rich-quick scheme and have been disappointed,” Murphy said.

But he added that addresses based on the names of cities are doing quite well. For example, about 70,000 businesses or individuals have purchased “.nyc” addresses, which cost about $20 a year; another 60,000 have signed up to use the “.london” domain, priced at around $40 per year.

The Globe is unloading “.boston” just one month after the company received permission from ICANN to begin selling addresses using the new domain. The Globe first filed for the rights to “.boston” in 2012, when it was owned by the New York Times Co.

But the following year, the newspaper was acquired by John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. The Globe’s new management sees the Internet address business as a distraction from the Globe’s central business of providing information through its print and online outlets, said Jane Bowman, the Globe’s vice president of marketing and sales development.

“The .boston domain business was inherited by the current management team and is not perceived as core to the mission of supporting the highest quality journalism in the region,” Bowman said in a statement.

Minds + Machines was founded in 2008 to help companies apply for new Internet domains and to sell addresses.


The company specializes in the sale of city-based Internet addresses. It controls the “.miami” domain, in a deal with the Miami, Fla. city government, and has a partnership stake in the “.london” domain. Minds + Machines, which trades on the London stock exchange, earned a 2014 profit of $22 million.

One thousand “.boston” addresses will be set aside for government use, while another 15,000 will be made available to local nonprofit organizations at a discount price of $8.75 per year. The city also requires that between 10 and 30 percent of all revenues from address sales be put into a fund to support various community organizations.

Companies like Minds + Machines can make additional money by setting aside some “premium” addresses in hopes of charging a lot more for them. For instance, a local restaurant chain might pay thousands to own an address like “pizza.boston.”

Such premium Internet addresses can attract even bigger money. In 2010, the social network Facebook paid $8.5 million for the right to control “fb.com.”

The Globe could still get a piece of the action. The company will retain a small ownership stake in “.boston,” and Bowman said the Globe “will receive certain future revenues” from Minds + Machines as part of the deal.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.