By the time Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany assumed his new papal moniker on Tuesday, it was already 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.
Cadenhead, an author of 20 technology "how-to" books with titles like "Movable Type 3 Bible Desktop Edition" and "Teach Yourself Java in 21 Days," said he registered the names for $12 each from Internet address seller Bulkregister.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.
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 at whitehouse.gov).
Reached on his cell phone, Cadenhead said he hasn't made any decisions about what he'll do with the domain, but he vowed he wouldn't be pawning it off to the highest bidder.
"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," he said.
According to publicly available Internet "whois" records, BenedictXVI.de, BenedictXVI.org, BenedictXVI.net and BenedictXVI.info each appear to have been registered today after the new pope was introduced.
BenedictXVI.com currently links to Cadenhead's blog. He said visits to the site started rolling in at a rate of about 100 per minute after the new pope's name was announced.
Cadenhead describes himself as a "lapsed Catholic" and "domain name geek" who bought up the domains after doing a little online research into papal naming conventions. Cadenhead checked pope names as far back as 1700 and bought the rights to every one (with the proper corresponding new Roman numeral) that he could get his hands on. JohnPaulIII.com and JohnXXIV.com were the only ones that were already taken, he said.