The Nets are wasting Brooklyn’s time by making fans type in the name of their beloved borough just to get to the team’s website.
So argues the New Mexico woman who has owned Nets.com since 1997 and is now trying to sell it to the team.
“I’m not a big sports fan, but I think basketball depends on its fans,” said Jane Hill, owner of a telecommunications company called Cyber Mesa Computer Systems. “They’d be much more accessible to their fans if they had the shorter name.”
This week Hill and her son redirected the web address to an Ebay auction selling ownership of it, but the $150,600 final bid was a far cry from the millions they have asked for in the past, and did not meet the reserve price. The family was just testing the waters, and trying to show the Nets there is interest from elsewhere, Hill said.
“We wanted to make them see the value in it,” she said.
The Hills offered Nets.com to the team in 2012 for $5 million, when it first relocated from New Jersey. The Nets refused and made no attempt to negotiate, Hill said.
“They simply weren’t interested. No counter-offer or even an attempt to talk about it,” she said.
After being turned down, the Hills started having some fun with their internet placeholder. They created pages taunting the Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov with comments in English and Russian, including one featuring a photograph of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, whose team won the National Basketball Association championship in 2011. They also redirected Nets fans to the Boston Celtics homepage after a big-ticket trade that brought former Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn, and to Mets.com, just because.
“We were trying to get some attention on one hand, and trying to have some fun on the other,” Hill explained.
Cyber Mesa acquired Nets.com back when Netscape was a popular web browser and people used the phrase “surfing the net” without irony. It bought it not to host a website at the address but as part of the purchase of a company that hosted 500 e-mail accounts, and happened to own the domain, Hill said. When the New Jersey Nets decided to make the leap across the West and East rivers, the Hills figured the time was right to turn a big profit.
“The Nets did a really good job of branding, and now they had fans from two different places. It made sense for them to have a more generic name,” Hill said. “It seemed like a natural fit.”
The Nets opted to buy Brook
Even without interest from a professional basketball team in one of the biggest markets in the country, the Hills insist that the domain is worth something.
“Because it’s a word in the dictionary, and because it’s only four letters, it has intrinsic value,” Hill said.
The family has turned down bids for the name before, some running in the six figures, Hill said.
“It’s kind of complicated,” she said. “I personally feel that the Nets should have the domain, but I also feel we should be fairly compensated for it.”
A tech law expert said the Hills should probably just settle for less. In general, he said, “.com” domains are not worth as much as they used to be because of new domains such as “.nyc,” and because most people use search engines rather than typing in web addresses directly. And he minced no words in describing what the Hills are trying to do, saying the days of such schemes are numbered.
“Domain squatters won’t be running these excessive extortion rackets anymore,” said Jonathan Askin, a Brooklyn Law School professor.
The Nets declined to comment for this story, but Barry Baum, a Nets spokesman, told the New York Times the team has no interest in acquiring the name, and called efforts by the Hills to sell it “shameful.”