Imagine if you were somehow able to purchase Google’s domain name—and for just $3. That unlikely-sounding scenario really did happen in Argentina, where a web designer bought Google.com.ar while the site was down for two hours.
The BBC reports that 30-year-old Nicolas Kurona purchased Google Argentina’s domain name using a standard, legal process, though he never expected it to work.
On Wednesday night, Kurona was at home designing a client’s website when he began receiving messages on WhatsApp that Google was down. “I entered www.google.com.ar into my browser and it didn’t work,” he said. “I thought something strange was happening.”
Kurona navigated to the Network Information Center Argentina (NIC), which operates the .ar country code domains. He searched for Google and was shocked to find the Google domain up for sale.
Google Argentina’s domain on sale at a bargain price
Believing his attempt would come to nothing, Kurona went through the process of buying the domain. He then “received an email with the purchase invoice” for just 270 pesos, which is about $2.90.
Unsure whether he really had just bought Google’s domain name, Kurona headed to google.com.ar. “My personal data appeared,” he said. “I was frozen looking at the screen. I could not believe what had just happened.”
Kurona emphasized that he never planned to do anything nefarious. “I want to make it clear that I never had any bad intentions, I just tried to buy it and the NIC allowed me to,” he said. “When the purchase process was completed and my data appeared, I knew that something was going to happen… I was really anxious.”
The NIC took back the Google name soon after Kurona purchased it, but exactly how this all happened is unclear. The most likely explanation is that the company just forgot to renew its domain name, though Google says the license was not due to expire until July 2021.
Google is investigating what happened. And while Kurona has gained plenty of media attention and a tweet with 80,000 Likes, his $3 fee still has not been returned.