Update: Pope Francis loses domain names to 'cyber squatters'

600-plus domain names containing 'pope francis' were grabbed within hours of pope's appointment

Although the newly appointed Pope Francis I has proven himself technologically savvy enough to use Twitter, the Vatican dropped the ball when it came to quickly registering a domain name for the pontiff after his appointment earlier this month. Within hours, cyber squatters grabbed up more than 600 domain names containing derivations of the pontiff's name, including popefrancisi.com, popefrancis.org, and popefrancis.fr, according to domain-name company names.co.uk.

"I find this a very surprising oversight on such a major appointment," said Stephen Ewart, marketing manager at domain name company.co.uk. "Previously the Catholic Church has been very savvy about owning its domain names. In December last year, it paid over $180,000 to own .catholic and actually had the Chinese version of the domain name selected as the first top-level domain to go live in the world."

Among the domains registered within hours of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's anointment as the head of the Catholic Church are the following:

  • Popefrancisi.com, registered in Florida by Andrew Chen
  • Popefrancis.org, registered in Arizona by a private party
  • Popefrancis.fr, registered in Australia

Popefrancis.com has been registered by a private party since 2010, which is interesting in that the new pope is the first in history to choose a papal name honoring St. Francis of Assisi.

A Florida-based company called eRealEstate.com scooped up a bunch of Pope Francis-themed domain names, including popefrancis.co.uk, popefrancis.de, popefrancis.be, popefrank.tv, popefrank.net, popefrancis.tv, popefrancissouvenirs.com, and popefrancisinfo.com. The company's CEO, Richard Schwartz, said in an email to InfoWorld that he is not a cyber squatter. In his blog, he offered to make all of these domain names available to the Vatican at no cost, "not that they would want any."

Ewart predicted that some opportunistic cyber squatter can expect a nice payday for his or her efforts. "We expect this to spark a real bidding war for Pope Francis' domains. In 2005 the address for Pope was sold for over $5,000. Not bad for a $20 [purchase]," he said.

This story was updated to include Mr. Schwartz's response.

This story, "Pope Francis loses domain names to 'cyber squatters'," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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