By the time Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany assumed his new papal moniker on Tuesday, it already was too late for the Vatican to buy the corresponding dot-com Web address.
That’s because a St. Augustine, Fla., man, Rogers Cadenhead, registered the address BenedictXVI.com on April 1, hoping that would be the name of John Paul II’s successor. To cover his bases, Cadenhead, 38, also registered ClementXV.com, InnocentXIV.com, LeoXIV.com, PaulVII.com and PiusXIII.com.
“I couldn’t resist the chance to have some skin in the game. Someone else already has JohnPaulIII.com and JohnXXIV .com, but otherwise I put a chip down on every name of the past three centuries,” Cadenhead wrote on his Web log at Cadenhead.org.
Then came the crush of site visitors — and some uncertainty about what he would do next.
“I never really registered it with the intent of making money, and I think to crassly auction it would be a sin of some kind. . . . Whatever decision I make will be guided by the desire not to make 1.5 billion people mad at me, including my grandmother,” Cadenhead said recently.
Then Thursday, according to his blog site, he sent a message to the pope’s new e-mail address asking if the church wants the domain. He’s concerned that his message might not get through the Holy See’s spam filters.
“While I am waiting to hear from the Vatican (which has to be the strangest phrase I have ever written in my life), I am donating the pope domains and my site’s ad revenue from this crazy week” to charity, wrote Cadenhead, who appeared Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show.
For nearly as long as Internet addresses have been sold, speculators — sometimes called “cyber-squatters” — have bought attractive addresses with the hopes of either selling them to the highest bidder or using them to snag visits from unsuspecting Internet users. The most famous example is whitehouse.com, which for years was home to a pornography site that many Web surfers accidentally discovered when looking for the president’s online home (the official White House Web site is white house.gov).
According to publicly available Internet “whois” records, BenedictXVI.de, BenedictXVI.org, BenedictXVI.net and BenedictXVI.info each appear to have been registered since the new pope was introduced.
Cadenhead describes himself as a “lapsed Catholic” and “domain name geek” who bought up the domains after doing online research into papal naming conventions. Cadenhead checked pope names as far back as 1700 and bought the rights to every one he could (with the proper corresponding new Roman numeral).
“I really thought that especially if Cardinal Ratzinger was chosen, that he’d be very likely to go back to the papal playbook and choose one of these traditional names,” Cadenhead said.
A 1999 U.S. law made it illegal to register an Internet domain name with the intention of extorting money out of a trademark owner. The Internet addressing system’s main oversight body also disapproves of the practice and offers a dispute-resolution process for people who feel their names or trademarks have been improperly registered as Internet addresses in a bid to extort money out of them.
Newly anointed Benedict XVI will inherit a large and robust Internet presence. The Vatican’s official Web site — Vatican.va — has detailed information about the church, the pope and the Holy See.
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