By LEE GOMES
It's hardly secret knowledge, though perhaps only Dennis Forbes has
seen it in all its glory.
There are roughly 47 million domain names that end with ".com," making
that space the biggest and most prestigious piece of real estate on
the Internet. Getting a URL listed as a dot-com involves, ultimately,
checking in with a database at Verisign, the Mountain View, Calif.,
company that keeps tabs on the dot-com world, the way your state's DMV
knows about which cars have which license plates.
If you know who at Verisign to ask, you can get the complete dot-com
list. Mr. Forbes, an analyst at Vastardis Capital Services, a New York
mutual-fund service company, got it and has since made a hobby of
studying the list, something he does in his spare time. He has, in the
process, become the world's pre-eminent domainologist.
His findings ought to be relevant to aspiring Web entrepreneurs
everywhere. For the rest of us, they are an amusement. (Registering a
dot-com domain costs around $9 a year. After the initial registration
period is purchased, you have to re-register the name or risk losing
it to someone else.)
Most people trying to do business online will tell you that the good
domain names are already taken. Mr. Forbes's research proves them
out. For example, for every possible two-character and three-character
combination -- including both letters and numbers -- all possible
domains are taken. Virtually all English words with four letters are
claimed; those that aren't are usually contractions, and Web rules
don't allow apostrophes.
All of the 1,000 most common English words have been snatched up. The
word "a" appears more than any other, though most of the time, of
course, it's just a letter in a longer word. The least-used common
word is "consonant," Mr. Forbes says, which is in just 42 domains,
including "consonantpain.com," which isn't a misspelling but a word