He’s the man who owned Google – for a minute.
Sammy Ved used to work for the online behemoth, and he still finds himself “messing around” with their products. Checking out the Google domain-buying web site (Google Domains), he made a surprising discovery. “Google.com” was available for purchase.
Despite knowing that it had to be some kind of glitch, Ved decided to see what would happen if he initiated a transaction to buy the valuable internet property. Much to his surprise, he was able to do so.
Speaking of the incident, Ved recalled: “The domain actually got added to my cart as seen by the green check-box, and the domain appeared in my cart. I was hoping I would get an error at some time, saying ‘transaction did not go through’, but I was able to complete the purchase, and my credit card was actually charged!”
For the grand total of £7.92 (about $12.00), he had managed to gain ownership of what is arguably one of the most famous domains in existence. And, at that point, he began receiving proprietary internal information about the company.
“The scary part was I had access to the webmaster controls for a minute,” Ved said. In disbelief, he took screenshots to document his experience and detailed the whole process on LinkedIn.
A less honest person might have taken advantage of the situation. But Ved’s concern began to grow, and he decided to contact Google’s security team. Once alerted, they took the necessary steps to cancel the sale.
Initially, the company was reluctant to reward him for his honesty. But they later relented and gave him a reward. He won’t say how much he got but did reveal that it was more than $10,000. And Ved donated all of it to his favorite charity – an Indian foundation that provides much-needed education to impoverished areas.
To this day, he’s not sure how he was able to purchase the site. Apparently, either there was a bug in Google Domains or the company somehow didn’t renew the domain name when it expired. A spokesperson for the company reported that their investigation up to now has not turned up anything unusual.
A short URL can be worth a lot of money. The Huffington Post reported in 2010 that Facebook paid $8.5 million (£5,598,920) for fb.com, and the domain porn.com sold for $9.5 million (£6,257,617) in 2007.
Ved, currently in the MBA program at Babson College in Massachusetts, still thinks about his very brief claim to fame and fortune. “I can’t shake that feeling that I actually owned Google.com,” he says.