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Did Twitter Just Pay £30,000 For Twitter.co.uk? [UPDATED]

UPDATE (Feb 4, 2011): I’ve heard back from Steve Crawford who’s confirmed that the domain was bought by Twitter for the asking price.

“Sold, after mediation via Nominet. I think the DRS process is flawed, however. I would have liked to have done the Expert Decision first and then gone to mediation but Nominet don’t work that way. I looked at lots of cases where the decision went in favour of the respondent (e.g., myspace.co.uk, ripley.co.uk, swan.co.uk etc) but couldn’t find a single case where the respondent had gone on to sell the domain. I put pragmatism before pride and took the money. But we’ll never know which way the decision would have gone.

I’ll use the money to promote my new product, Azabat Write, which is an adaptation of my original t.w.i.t.t.e.r. project.”

Rest of my article untouched as below. Despite pursuing multiple angles, I never heard back from Twitter.

###

If you visit twitter.co.uk you’ll be re-routed to twitter.com. Nothing unusual about that, you might think. Except for many years Twitter.co.uk wasn’t owned by Twitter at all, and went to an entirely different website.

Last month, the ownership of the twitter.co.uk domain name passed over to Twitter themselves.

Prior to this, twitter.co.uk was owned and operated by software developer Steve Crawford, who bought the domain in 2005. Twttr.com, which was the original domain (and brand) name for Twitter, didn’t materialise until 2006. The first tweet (sent by co-founder Jack Dorsey) wasn’t published until March 6, 2006. Twitter.com was registered shortly afterwards, but all of this took place long after the creation of the .co.uk website. So why was the latter built at all?

As told by The Guardian:

Crawford says he wanted to use the site for an accessibility software project – ‘Talking Wordprocessor, Internet, Typing Tutor, Email Resources’ – that later dried up, but since Twitter’s massive growth post-Christmas boom he has seen traffic soar, along with a rather tedious admin problem.

He says Twitter is effectively spamming him, albeit in a roundabout way. When new users register with Twitter they have to enter an email address, but Twitter doesn’t ask users to confirm the address. For some bizarre reason, some people are using addresses @twitter.co.uk, which means Crawford keeps getting email from Twitter when any of those ‘users’ (either confused new users, or spam accounts) gets a new follower, or any other email update from Twitter. He’s already had more than a hundred emails and gets a visitor every 24 seconds.

To his credit, Crawford used that accidental traffic as a way for charities to run free adverts on his site.

He had even a Twitter page:

Eventually he put the twitter.co.uk domain up for sale – the asking price was £30,000 (about $48,000). He gave Twitter first refusal, but they turned him down.

Crawford’s last update on the matter was April 2010. You can see his website almost in full (bar a few missing images) at azabat.co.uk/twitter, where I’m guessing it was previously hosted. Azabat is (or was) Crawford’s company – somewhat amusingly, he doesn’t own the .com.

Here’s the big question – did Twitter pay up? £30,000 is a very small amount to pay for such a high profile, top level domain, even if was simply to secure the outpost. And as Twitter’s importance has grown ensuring all the important domains were controlled by the mothership would have become exponentially more important.

But then again, nobody could have realistically done anything (of value) with this domain except Twitter. ‘Twitter’ is a contextual trademark, after all, and even allowing for the fact that the twitter.co.uk domain was secured before this become a legality Twitter, Inc would certainly have had a lot of leverage if this had been taken to court. However, there’s no record of a dispute being filed at Nominet, so it seems unlikely they pursued this course of action.

The short answer is: nobody knows what happened except the parties involved. I’ve reached out to Steve Crawford and Twitter and will update this article accordingly.

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