The story of 55.com

The story of 55.com

A great domain can be used for many different businesses.

The number 55 in green type on a white square, on a green background

Domains are addresses in the digital world. Like addresses in the physical world, some domains are good and some are not. A good domain will continue to be valuable even if the business built on it fails. That’s the essence of the story of 55.com.

In 2010, Maodong Xu acquired from a friend a new group-buying business called “Wo Wo Tuan” (窝窝团=group) built on the freshly registered domain 55Tuan.com. (55 rhymes with “Wo Wo”.) Under Xu’s management, the business shot to national fame within just one year.

In 2012, Xu shortened the brand to “Wowo” and moved the business to 55.com. In 2015, the startup went public at Nasdaq, but soon afterward, the business failed. In 2018, 55.com became a cryptocurrency marketplace operated by a New York-based startup called 55. In 2020, Beijing-based Livingston used the domain to provide software development services. In June this year, the site changed to a sales lander asking for offers above $5 million.

55.com is a versatile domain. In China alone, it can be used for a variety of businesses thanks to rhyming. Below are some examples.

Chinese Pinyin Meaning Application
屋屋 Wu Wu House Real estate
物物 Wu Wu Things IoT or logistics
吻吻 Wen Wen Kiss Dating
舞舞 Wu Wu Dance Dance school franchise
务务 Wu Wu Affairs Business services
武武 Wu Wu Military Security services

I dug up an old interview (in Chinese) with domain investor Yi Liu conducted by eName. According to Liu, the domain 55.com was acquired in 2010 from overseas for 200,000 Euro (or about US$266,000 in 2010). In the following year, he sold it to Wowo for $3 million. (The figure is different from the $2,317,200 reported by Namebio in 2011.)

As you can see, several businesses built on 55.com have failed, but the domain has continued to be valuable. Good addresses in the physical world and good domains in the digital world are both blue-chip investments.

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