The College Student Who Accidentally Became The Owner Of Google.com

By Morris M. on Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Google headquarters logo on Mountain view California glass office building on a late Winter morning. Wide horizontal panoramic image.
“The destiny of Google’s search engine is to become that Star Trek computer, and that’s what we are building.” —Amit Singhal

In A Nutshell

Many of us dream about what it would be like to own one of the world’s most powerful companies, even if only for a minute. US college student Sanmay Ved doesn’t have to dream. In September 2015, he was shopping for available domain names when an unexpected one caught his eye. Google.com was available for $12. Ved bought it and immediately had ownership and control transferred to him. His position of power only lasted 60 seconds before someone at Google realized what had happened and frantically canceled the sale, but it must have been quite a rush for those 60 seconds.

The Whole Bushel

In 2003, Microsoft did something very stupid. Despite repeated warnings, they forgot to renew their hotmail.co.uk domain name. It wound up going back on the open market, where it was snapped up by a stranger, briefly crippling the tech giant’s email services. Twelve years later, Google would make a similar mistake, though with less-drastic consequences.

The date was September 29, 2015. US student Sanmay Ved was awake at 1:20 AM, trying to learn the ropes of Google Domains, a service the company uses to sell domain names. Perhaps out of boredom, Ved typed the domain of his old workplace (Google) into the search bar. To his surprise, it came up as available.

Google.com was for sale.

The listed price was a mere $12, so Ved clicked to add it to his shopping cart. The whole time, he thought he would get an error message any moment. But no message appeared. Instead, Ved took the domain to the checkout and paid for it. A split second later, his credit card was charged. Then two emails appeared in his inbox, full of vital information about the Google.com domain. For all intents and purposes, Ved was now the owner.

Things didn’t stop there. Ved immediately began receiving messages clearly intended for Google’s own web team. He was granted access to stuff he shouldn’t have been able to see and had control over the domain handed entirely over to him. For the next 60 seconds, Ved was effectively owner of the domain belonging to the biggest search company on Earth.

Thankfully for Google, selling the domain through one of their own services meant they could also cancel the sale. About a minute after Ved’s card was charged, the search giant refunded his money, canceled his order, and retook control of the domain. They even offered Ved a cash reward. Showing quite a bit of class, Ved asked them to give it to an education charity. Google doubled it before doing so. To top it all off, his LinkedIn post detailing the incident went viral, attracting more than 300,000 views. Not a bad outcome at all for a measly $12 investment.

Show Me The Proof

LinkedIn: How I Ended Up Purchasing & Owning Google.com via Google Domains
BBC News: Cash reward for Google.com takeover man
The Register: Microsoft forgets to renew hotmail.co.uk domain