When it was revealed in February that OpenAI had allegedly purchased AI.com in order to reroute traffic to the ChatGPT web interface, there was a little bit of a commotion. AI.com now points to X.ai, the billionaire’s fledgling machine learning research company, suggesting that Elon Musk, a former backer, Twitter user, and fan of X, has either grabbed the lucrative domain off their hands or had someone else do it for him.
Of course, domains are purchased and sold daily. However, two-letter.com domains, particularly those that form words or well-known abbreviations, are uncommon and extremely expensive. Mashable noted that when AI.com began rerouting visitors to OpenAI’s website, the domain could scarcely have sold for less than IT.com did for $3.8 million the year before, and probably achieved a much higher price given the hoopla around artificial intelligence in general.
Undoubtedly, OpenAI thought that by purchasing AI.com, it would attract new users for life. It may have also had plans to eventually transfer its consumer-facing functions, such as ChatGPT’s web client, to the shorter domain. We may never find out, as X.ai has taken over the domain.
The news appears to have been initially published by Analytics India Magazine (perhaps a bidder itself at one point), but in reality, there isn’t much to say about the changeover outside of the transfer itself. It’s just strange and pricey enough to mention here.
With only a small number of academics and engineers working on, one can only assume, whatever Musk instructs them to, X.ai is still primarily an abstract organization. Its professed objective is “to understand the true nature of the universe,” but since the site’s launch in July, no discernible advancement has been made. Musk has undoubtedly been active over that period.
What might that indicate? Sam Altman grew weary of his toy? Was there a new domain chosen instead of the one that was originally planned to be used? Was the sale initially a preliminary one, or was it possibly a month-to-month lease? Did someone lose interest, or was there a bidding war?
Whatever the case, it ultimately just seems like a couple of wealthy men arguing over a shiny toy. The most famous brand in AI is ChatGPT, so why spend millions to create a new one from scratch? Why pay so much to redirect to another empty site when X.ai is already brief and memorable (or at least it will be until there are eight other Musk startups called X) and has nothing worth looking at? It’s important to note that OpenAI never really confirmed that it had purchased the name, and Musk has yet to respond to our emails and has never done so.
I will say that you know what I would do if I had $10 million and the chance to purchase AI.com. Direct it to the obvious candidate and then offer a 50% markup to their rivals. If that didn’t work, I would flip it to the competitor and make the first company an offer. We can only hope that someone along the information superhighway (if you will) had the same insight and managed to extract a tidy profit from one of these billionaires. In that case, good work.
I believe that nobody really cares who owns AI.com in the end, and that people may even be wary of the corporate entity in charge of such a plainly vanity name. Just let’s all decide not to use it. Everyone will learn a lesson from that.