Sometimes in life, we stumble upon the most incredible surprises. Sanmay Ved could certainly attest to that as he looked through a list of domain names on the Google Domains website. And during his search, he discovered that “Google.com” was available to buy for just $12. Stunned, he quickly made the purchase, only to receive an urgent email shortly afterwards.
Based in Mountain View, California, Ved was a former Google employee who had worked as a display specialist at the company. In the early hours of September 29, 2015, he decided to browse the search engine’s new domain website, which had been launched in January of that year.
Websites such as GoDaddy dominated the online registration service for domain names at the time, but Google Domains offered an alternative to American internet users. Looking to learn more about the site and its interface, Ved typed “Google.com” into the search bar – but he was stunned by the results.
“To my surprise, Google.com was showing as available!” Ved wrote on LinkedIn in September 2015. “I clicked the ‘add to cart’ icon beside the domain (which should not appear if the domain is not available for sale). The domain actually got added to my cart as seen by the green check-box, and the domain appeared in my cart.”
Even more incredibly, the domain name cost just $12, much to Ved’s bemusement. However, the true gravity of the situation became clear when the former display specialist went to the checkout. “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!,” he continued.
Within moments of completing the transaction, Ved was sent two unusual emails relating to his newly acquired domain name. According to him, he hadn’t seen any messages of that type when purchasing unregistered names on Google Domains in the past. Meanwhile, he also noticed a key update on his profile.
“Additionally, my Google Search Console (aka Google Webmaster Tools) was auto-updated with webmaster related messages for the Google.com domain which actually means ownership was transferred to me!” Ved wrote on LinkedIn. As a result, he was immediately given access to some private information.
“Additionally, I started receiving notifications for when ownership changed (along with new owner details etc.) in the Google Search Console for websites that are powered by Google Sites (which makes sense given that websites powered by Google Sites rest on the master domain Google.com),” Ved continued. “Quite clearly, ownership had been granted to me. Order was successful.”
His reign as Google owner didn’t last too long, however. A minute after purchasing the domain name, in fact, Ved received another email, this time from Google Domains. Unlike the previous two messages, though, this was to confirm the cancellation of his order.
When reflecting upon the swiftness of the response, Ved recalled a similar incident involving a fellow internet giant. “Google could do this given the registration service used by me (aka Google Domains) belonged to Google, unlike the 2003 event in which Microsoft forgot to renew their Hotmail UK domain, which was registered with Nominet UK,” he wrote on LinkedIn.
“As a result, the Hotmail U.K. domain was returned to the open market for pickup by anybody who fancied it,” Ved added. “Somebody else picked it up, and as Microsoft wasn’t the registrar themselves, Microsoft wasn’t able to cancel the order and take it back automatically.”
Prior to the cancellation email, the “Google.com” domain name was visible in Ved’s order history, but that soon changed. The page was automatically updated afterwards, bringing up a message confirming that the order had been canceled. Curious, he then went to the search bar and typed in the domain name one more time.
“On searching again for the domain Google.com, it now finally shows as unavailable,” Ved wrote on LinkedIn. “I have reported the incident to Google Security. Google has reverted, has acknowledged the incident and is investigating into the incident.”
Ved received a response from Google Security on October 8, 2015, offering him a cash reward for reporting what happened. He was quick to explain his intentions, however, making it clear that it wasn’t about money. With that in mind, he requested that the sum be given to charity instead, picking the Art of Living India Foundation.
“I have chosen that the donation be made towards the Art of Living’s education program, which runs 404 free schools across 18 states of India, providing free education to more than 39,200 children in the slum, tribal and rural belts where child labor and poverty are widespread,” Ved explained. “The schools nurture the complete child, including body, mind and spirit.”
While Ved himself didn’t want to disclose the initial cash offer, Google stated that the reward totaled $6,006.13, a number that resembles the letters in the company’s name. Upon learning that the money would instead go to charity, though, the internet giants doubled the amount.
“I don’t care about the money,” Ved told Business Insider in October 2015. “It was never about the money. I also want to set an example that it’s people who want to find bugs, that it’s not always about the money.”
Ved’s remarkable story was a big hit on LinkedIn, earning more than 2,400 likes and over 300 comments, most of which praised his conduct. Meanwhile, in May 2016 his relationship with Google took another interesting turn when he went back to work for them in San Francisco, California.
After initially leaving the internet giants in November 2012 Ved started his own ecommerce store two months later, before taking up a position at Amazon in 2015. From there he eventually made his way back to Google, where he now works as an Agency Development Manager.
On September 29, 2015, Sanmay Ved stumbled across a stunning discovery when browsing domain names online. For just $12, he briefly became the owner of Google.com. And while the internet giants soon put that right, the cash reward that the company offered to him was instead given to charity. A noble gesture born from a bizarre incident.