What exactly is a domain?
A domain is the address of a website. You can compare it with property (real estate): a domain is a little like a virtual plot of land on the Internet. The website at this address can then be compared to the building standing on the plot.
It's common to talk about "domain sales", but in fact domains can't actually be bought and sold; they remain the property of the registry operator. It would be more accurate to say that they are leased. The registry operator (or rather the registrar, acting on its behalf) charges an annual "leasing fee", typically of between €6 and €20. "Buying a domain" therefore actually means buying the right to lease the domain.
At present (2022), there are around 18 million registered "German" domains, i.e. domains ending in .de. The number of free domains, i.e. domains available for registration, is not quite infinite, but is almost unimaginably high – certainly higher than the number of atoms in the universe.
If so many domains are still available for registration, why do some people spend such high sums of money on a domain?
The usual answer is that all the domains have been taken, and their owners, assuming that they would even be willing to part with them, would expect a hefty fee for doing so.
Is it true that all the good domains have already been taken?
Once again, the comparison with the property market is helpful. In Munich, land with planning permission now costs €2,500 or more per square metre. Land with planning permission can be purchased in some parts of Germany for less than €100 per square metre. That though is of little help to a car dealer in Munich who is looking for a site for his showroom. It's much the same with Internet domains. Take the domain cars.de. Even if its owner were willing to part with it, our hypothetical car dealer would probably have to fork out a seven-figure sum for it. The domain usua6ig-hoodo-h1ubn-o1voh-qucho-z4ohj.de is probably available for free. But it's not really very helpful when it comes to selling cars.
That's not the end of the story, though. Firstly, domain endings aren't limited to .de (or .com, or .net, or the more familiar domain endings). New endings are continually being created, and they currently number around a thousand. On the whole, the new endings aren't particularly popular, and certainly not as popular as familiar endings such as .de or .com. But once again, this can be compared to the property market.
Cities like Cologne are already bursting at the seams. The chances of a family finding an affordable plot of land on which to build their own house are fairly slim. (Germans, note, still do this: buy a plot, then build their own house.) The family is facing the prospect of spending the coming decades in an apartment in a high-rise.
They could, though, look slightly further afield. That means commuting in from the surrounding districts if necessary, just as people commute into New York from New Jersey, or into London from Hertfordshire. It also means putting up with jokes about living in the boondocks. But plenty of others are in the same situation; there just aren't enough "good addresses" to go round. Bauhaus for example is a major German chain of DIY stores. But it's not at bauhaus.de, where you might expect it to be; that's the home of the Bauhaus museum. The DIY store is at bauhaus.info. But customers still find it.
Then there are, it has to be said, still a good many free domains with the familiar domain endings. It just takes a little creativity to find them, that's all.
Finally, there's a huge number of domains that have been registered, but aren't in use and instead are waiting for someone to buy them on the free market. According to some estimates, these domains account for as many as half of all registered domains. Millions of virtual plots are lying vacant waiting for a buyer. If you're looking for your virtual plot, the domain market is the place to look. This is where my concept comes into play. I have some very special virtual plots!