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[humorix] I Got Your Virtual Property Right Here!

I Got Your Virtual Property Right Here!
Jon Splatz, Humorix Pundit and Social Commentator
May 8, 1999

Recently there's been a lot of commotion[1] about "virtual
property", which has been described as a new, revolutionary
phenomenon to hit the Internet.  Contrary to what you might
have read over at Slashdot, "virtual property" is not a
new, revolutionary concept.  It's just a fancy buzzword to
describe a common, every day occurrence.  I should know;
I'm a bona fide piece of "virtual property".  I'm currently
up for auction at eBay.

I've put my pundit and social commentary services up for
bid at eBay.  The winning bidder of this piece of "virtual
property" will recieve my expert services as a pundit for
six months.  I've only received one US$100 bid (a sympathy
bid from James Baughn), but I expect that by the time my
auction closes in six days, the bidding will surpass my low
reserve of US$100,000.

Buying and selling online assets is not something that has
only sprung up recently on eBay; it's been around since the
dawn of computing.  For instance, I've heard from a
reliable source that, back in 1994, a man named Bob made a
deal with Bill Gates involving "virtual property".  In
exchange for an undisclosed amount of money, Gates agreed
to name an upcoming Microsoft program after him.  

More recently, Red Hat announced a plan where venture
capitalists and businesses that invest in the company will
receive a complementary piece of virtual property based on
the amount they invest.  Details are sketchy, but I know
that "Gold" investors will receive an exclusive right to
submit the code-name for an upcoming Red Hat Linux
release.  For instance, RH 5.9, code-named "Starbuck", was
named by a VC who happens to own a considerable stake in
Starbucks, Inc. Red Hat 6.1 will be named "BunnyPeople", a
reference to Intel, a significant investor in the company.

In addition, an unconfirmed rumor is floating around that a
multi-billion dollar piece of hot cyberproperty will be up
for grabs in the near future.  I heard this rumor from a
top-secret organization based in... oh, wait, I'm not
supposed to talk about that... I've said too much already.
Forget you read that last sentence.  There is no top-secret
organization based in Finland plotting world domination. 
There is no conspiracy.  

According to the rumor, eBay plans to auction itself off
via an eBay auction.  Apparently the eBay executives, many
of which have become multi-multi-millionaires from stock
options, are wanting to hand over control of the company to
someone else so they can retire.  The traditional way to
sell off a company is to make deals with potential buyers
in a smoke-filled room.   The eBay honchos, however,
wanting to demonstrate the power of eBay's services, plan
to auction off the company to the highest bidder using an
eBay auction.

Yahoo, Microsoft, Transmeta, and AOL seem to be the most
likely bidders.  I can just imagine corporate executives
from Microsoft hitting the reload button in their browser
(IE, of course) every few seconds to see if a rival company
has outbid them. "Dammit!  Those yahoos over at Yahoo just
outbid us!  I'll fix that..." the Microsoft Vice President
of Rival Acquisitions would yell as he trumps the Yahoo bid
by a cool billion or so (mere pocket change to him).

The meta-eBay auction is an extreme example of virtual
property, but it isn't a harbinger of a major revolution in
the economy, nor is it a paradigm shift in the way business
or life is conducted.  It's not that big a deal.  Going to
the local Claw-Mart Superstore and buying a six-pack is not
any different than buying the rights to a domain name or an
Ultima Online character.  

You just can't believe everything you read over at

Write me at jonsplatz@i-want-a-website.com

[Addendum: James Baughn asked me to mention that he is
interested in selling two pieces of his own "virtual
property".  He said that he might be willing to sell his
i-want-a-website.com domain and his vintage #285 Slashdot
account if somebody would present him with a dollar amount
that, as he said, "contained a whole bunch of zeros".]

[1] http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/05/06/1437216


James S. Baughn

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