Try our Search!

The TechnoPeasant Review: Unreal Estate
Jeff Pasternack

I always loved the real estate issue of The Medical Bulletin because it deals with something that is very tangible and, well, as the name implies, real. I, of course, spend a fair amount of my time dealing with things that are unreal. For example, when I drive my 1-800-GOT-JUNK? truck to the dump, the smell is unreal. Everything we do on computers is unreal. I think a key component of the definition of real is that the subject matter exists even when there is no electricity, anywhere. Office buildings, homes and land pretty much fit that definition. The Internet and all its parts, do not.

Just as in the real real estate world, the unreal estate world also has its cycles, complete with booms and busts. Remember in December of 1999 when the piece of unreal estate known as sold for $7.5 million? How about going for $5.1 million in January of 2000? Its hard to know how much value these domain names added to their respective businesses. The former is a paid-inclusion business services directory and the latter is a store that sells all those special products that, as the name implies, are seen on TV. You know, crucial household items such as Liquid Leather, Smart Spin Storage System and the favorite of every pet owner, Urine Gone. I can, however, be persuaded by the argument that a domain name is to an Internet business what a building is to a hospital. Both provide the structure and then you have to build out the property.

But what about less popular domain names, such as, which is selling for $265 on Whoops...did you know that the .ws extension is for Samoa? Of course not...some marketing wonks want you to believe it stands for Web Site. Who'd have thought that there was a such a high level of interest in tuna fish that it would support a 1000 percent markup on the domain name? Sad, but true.

In case you didn't know, and are sites where people buy and sell domain names, reasonable or otherwise. Believe it or not, the domain name business is thriving, as recently evidenced by some large transactions such as being bought for $1.3 million. More importantly, however, if there's a domain name out there that you feel you absolutely, positively must own, like or, you can buy them at these sites.

But the Information Age has spawned more unreal estate than just domain names. Although it may be painful, consider the world of computer gaming. No, not that silly Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that has people whining like a 4-year old who dropped their ice cream. I'm talking about massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), like Everquest, Lineage or World of Warcraft. These games contain worlds where, to quote Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, people are fighting dragons with crosses and swords, with the people against the hordes, who came to conquer.

For less than $30 and a $10 monthly fee you can buy into a virtual land of might and magic, don a suit of armor or become a person of the cloth and fight for glory and gold. Virtual economies augmented by real cash, where loners die a quick death and guilds based on ethical positions fight to rule over unreal lands. Virtual lands where you can use real cash to buy castles and equipment, or even complete characters, such as a Dwarvish barbarian or an Gnomish wizard. The trick, of course, is that with time, hard work and patience, you can build your own character and find your own equipment. Or, if you're good enough, kill the character belonging to the 12-year-old down the street and take her stuff. Its all unreal anyway, right?

And that's the bleeding edge of unreality where things get a little philosophical. The Matrix, Total Recall and other movies all recount the conundrum: if you remember doing it, remember tasting it, then even if you didn't, isn't it still real? Or perhaps you like the way David Brin describes it in his 2002 book, The Kiln People. People in that storybook world send out clay golems with a soul imprint to accomplish tasks and experience events, then merge the golems' soul imprint back into themselves. Whatever the golem experienced is now in your head. It happened. You remember it happening, you remember being there, you have the ticket stub and the drain on your bank. By all accounts, whatever it was, it happened.

Billions of real dollars, or rather, bits and bytes masquerading as dollars, were shuffled around when the first Internet bubble popped. The dollars were real, right? Your 401K dropped? Suddenly Ameritrade and Etrade didn't look so wise? But did you actually fork over a fistful of cash or did some numbers on a screen or piece of paper change? Right after 9/11, how many banks froze accounts? What good did the little numbers do you then? At the end of the day, does your money really exist, or have you just bought into the concept that its there when you want it? And if the day ever comes again when the power grids go down, as they did in the northeast just a few short years ago, what good will the digital representations of your wealth do you then? Having experienced two major hurricanes last year, I can tell you that if you don't have cash on hand, you don't have anything until the power comes back on. When the power goes out, your money has the same key characteristic as domain names and the dragons and Dwarves of Everquest: its all 100% unreal.

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review. If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at