Three letter .com domains are known among domain investors as "LLL" .com assets. Their primary appeal is in how short yet versatile they can be, and while they can represent distinct brands like IBM.com, they can also be acronyms of longer corporate names.
During that prehistoric era, the internet was still comprised of military and university servers existing as IP numbers. The big bang of the 1990s was fueled by the creation of the domain namespace at a time that 99% of people had no idea about it.
Another important element of three-letter .com domains is their scarcity.
The Latin alphabet consists of 26 letters, and when combined in sets of three letters, there is a total of 17576 combinations. While this might seem like a lot, 17k domains is nothing among the 150 million .com domains currently registered. Tens of thousands of companies might be looking for that particular three-letter combination, and only one can own it.
From an investor's standpoint, not all letters are created equal. While the first LLL .com was registered in 1985, there were still plenty of available three-letter .com domains until 2000—fifteen years later. The reason: some of the letter combinations were unappealing, due to the lack of obvious acronym, or because when forcibly created into a brand, the visuals of it looked strange.
In the early days, domain investors registered or acquired via domain trading, thousands of LLL .com domains for small amounts—from a few hundred dollars to the low thousands. A large number of these were resold to their final destination: companies that had the desire to select a three-letter .com but did not exist early enough to secure it.
Chinese domain investors played a major role in how the market of LLL .com domains eventually exploded, sending the value of even the "worst" letters into much higher value levels. Often referred to as "Chinese letters," the subset of unappealing consonants excluding "V" was popularized among investors, who sold their Q/J/X/Z/Y letter combinations to buyers in China.
In the early days, the letter "E" was among the popular ones, and such LLL .com combinations were taken or resold at top prices. In the late 2010s, the creation of the blockchain and cryptocurrencies led to many online exchanges desperately seeking LLL .com domains with the letter "X."
What is the maximum that three-letter .com domains have sold for?
The top six sales involve five domains that were sold over $2 million dollars - one of them, Sex.com, was sold twice. Source: NameBio.
sex.com — $14,000,000 USD
sex.com — $13,000,000 USD
ice.com— $3,500,000 USD
fly.com — $2,890,000 USD
tom.com — $2,500,000 USD
eth.com — $2,000,000 USD
Of course, these are just publicly-shared sales, and domains sold under a nondisclosure agreement cannot possibly be included.
How can a company, or an individual, acquire a three-letter .com domain?
There are three ways, as directly registering a LLL .com these days is impossible.
The first way: directly from the current owners, who are using the domain for their business or venture. There are LLL .com domains not explicitly for sale, and if someone wants to acquire them, they can place an offer. A great option is to utilize the expertise of the Uniregistry Brokerage team, that will negotiate the acquisition of the LLL .com domain on your behalf.
The second way: acquire the LLL .com from existing marketplaces such as the Uniregistry Market, or Afternic. These are domains listed for sale by domain investors, and they are looking to maximize their investment's return. Expect to pay a price reflecting the value of the domain asset, and you might be able to agree to a payment plan. A company called MUX.com did just that, getting a three-letter .com domain on a startup budget.
The third way: wait until a LLL .com expires and drops. Believe it or not, such miracles still happen, and it's often due to the neglect of the domain's registrant, or unattended managing accounts. The youngest LLL .com on the internet is VDF.com, a domain name once owned by a Spanish company, which was registered in 2020. Such drops lead to an instant registration by automatic services, and the ensuing auction attracts domain investors like bees to honey.
Registering a dropping LLL .com as the sole bidder is impossible these days, although it was possible in 2002: the registrant of WWF.com spent $8.75 dollars on a drop-catching service, reviving the domain that the former World Wrestling Federation dropped upon its rebranding to WWE in 2001. Source: NamePros.
These days, investing in LLL .com domain names is a two-fold approach.
Outside of China, domain investors are treating LLL .com domains as representative of the potential branding and matching acronym worth to corporations.
In China, however, domain investors often treat LLL .com domains as monetary "vessels" that can be used the same way that casino chips are used. Due to the differences in the global economy, such a two-fold approach creates interesting pricing scenarios: some LLL .com domains continue to sell for high five-figures to six-figures, or more, all while some can sell for up to low five-figures USD. Source: NameBio.
In a nutshell: Owning a three-letter .com domain reflects a good amount of prestige, for a valuable asset that might have plenty of interested suitors globally. While all of the LLL .com domains are registered, there are plenty of opportunities to acquire such assets in the domain aftermarket.
The information contained in this blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an endorsement, advice, or opinions from Uniregistry on any subject matter.