The unfortunate truth is that neither the City of Montreal nor any of its affiliated tourism institutions have ever owned the domain name one would assume it should own: Montreal.com.
Instead, this domain name has been owned by a Montrealer named Ben Soo since the early 2000’s, and its safe to say that he’s received more than a few offers to sell.
According to Kristian Gravenor and John David Gravenor in their 2002 book Montreal: The Unknown City, the computer network whiz Soo purchased Montreal.com in 1994, when registering a domain name “involved tracking down the right bureaucrat, agreeing to a complex set of guidelines, and ponying up hundreds of dollars a year.”
Soo cleverly bought the name and “anxious wolves have been crying ‘Little pig, little pig, let me come in’ ever since.” Indeed, the Southam newspaper chain, which formerly owned the Montreal Gazette, tried to buy it, “but tried to knock down the price with a tired line about the name losing value once a wider variety of suffixes come out. The newspaper chain offered a lowball $8,000.”
They couldn’t have been more wrong, and Soo couldn’t have been more right in his apparent bullishness.
Other bidders have included anonymous parties represented by lawyers and another company that promised up to $250,000 in a dubious profit-sharing arrangement, according to Gravenor and Gravenor.
Today, Montreal.com is still owned by Soo. The website is a self-described “web magazine formed to provide both fun and useful information on the cultural and touristic offerings in Montreal.”
But a quick look at the website clearly shows a site that hasn’t been well-kept over the years. Judging from its appearance, it’s likely that no one has been actively working on it for some time.
Despite that, the site claims that “The montreal.com team is made up of people experienced in computing, journalism, graphic design, photography and multimedia. It is managed under the auspices of Makaera Vir 2000 Inc., a privately owned, unaffiliated company.”
When MTLinTech sent an email directed to Ben Soo at the email address provided on site, we received a reply from Kate McDonnell, who replied that “right now is not a good time to interview the folks at montreal.com.”
One can only assume that as time goes on, the domain name might increase in value. It’s also an interesting case of an individual striking early, back in the Internet’s pre-historic days, while no one else within the city administration was smart enough to do so.
Of course, it would make sense for the City of Montreal to own the domain name one day, but it’s also likely that a purchase isn’t on the top of the priority list for Dennis Coderre and company. After all, its two tourism-related sites have been established for years now.
But what, if any, are Soo’s plans for the awesome domain name? Why hasn’t he sold it yet, and which parties, if any, have made recent offers?
Perhaps one day we’ll get ahold of Soo and get the answers.