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The Story of the Lower East Side (.com)

The Villager's Scoopy's Notebook column reported that, "in a dot-com deal that could be the East Village equivalent of Google buying YouTube," artist Jim Power (the Mosaic Man) finally sold off his long-treasured EastVillage.com domain to a real estate company, for a seemingly cheap $10,000. That got us thinking: What's up with other neighborhood domain names? Surfing around, we found that Chelsea.com is a production company, Greenpoint.com is North Fork Bank, and Soho.com ain't much. But head over to LowerEastSide.com, and all you get is a question mark. Mysterious! Intrigued, we looked up the owner and dropped him a line. Surely the Internet namesake of Manhattan's most tragically hip neighborhood shouldn't go to waste! He got back to us, and all was revealed.

The domain, according to WhoIs, was registered by Mark Alhadeff at Ocean-7, a web development company that was based in the East Village but got forced to the Seaport because of high rents (or so Mark tells us). He gave us an explanation:

Way back when (more than a decade ago) we had just finished a site for See Hear, the long lost fanzine store on East 7th Street. At that point we were growing fast and mostly building bigger sites for bigger clients, but it was fun to do something local (for a friend). Anyway, after having done that site I had local on the brain and somehow I got this vision for a web application that would leverage QuickTimeVR to give a street perspective of a neighborhood. We were going to use the VR tech to make it so you could "virtually" walk down the street and spin your head at will. The ultimate idea was that you would charge each retailer to make it possible to enter their store (which would be represented by either a website or another VR). While we did actually figure out how it could be built and even what it would look like -- we were pretty busy and didn't have the resources to outfit a fleet of vehicles with panaromic cameras. I know it might sound a bit egomaniacal, but we were way ahead of Google Maps which introduced its "StreetView" feature earlier this year (more than ten years after our original idea!). As the Velvet Underground said, "Between thought and expression lies a lifetime." I had intended to register almost every neighborhood domain, but many were already registered. If I remember correctly at that time EastVillage.com was a well funded, or at least well publicized, web-based soap opera. Besides, we were (and still are) quite busy coding all kinds of all other really innovative stuff. Ultimately we did register a bunch of domains, but I've never been a fan of the domain squatting concept. We let them expire (much to the chagrin of my partner). LowerEastSide.com was too cool to let go, and we have never stopped using it.

So, since then we've used the domain for other projects, skunkworks stuff, and email. We've gotten offers for it over the years, but never substantial enough for us to let it go. I suppose if someone offered the right price and/or maybe convinced me that they were going to use it for something incredibly noble we would probably make some kind of a deal.

There you have it! Every domain tells a story, someone corny would say. We expect Rob Shamlian to have an offer on Alhadeff's desk by quitting time today.
· Lower East Side [lowereastside.com]