Just for clicks


Kieren McCarthy<br /><em>Quercus, 288pp, £12.99</em>

ISBN 1905204663

Taking place against the backdrop of the dotcom boom, the fight for the million-dollar-making domain name sex.com was a battle between two masters of technology, one a scholar and one a conman, which would endure countless lawsuits, appeals and a decade of conflict.

Gary Kremen was the quintessential geek, an entrepreneur who was working with the internet back in the days when it was a tool reserved for governments and universities. He predicted the need for an anti-virus market before the first virus was born; he set up the dating service match.com (now the leader in an enormous international online dating market); and until it was stolen from right under his nose by conman Stephen Cohen, he owned sex.com. The ensuing battle over rights to the domain name became an epic and exhausting fight for justice conducted in the previously unknown legal territory of the online world.

McCarthy’s account of the court battle for ownership of sex.com is as much a biography of a twisted genius. He paints Cohen as a grotesque bottom-feeder of an individual, who thrives on sex and stolen power. It is hard not to enjoy the story of his downfall, and yet Kremen’s eventual victory is underpinned by the tragedy of Cohen’s mental breakdown.

This article first appeared in the 28 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Gaza: The jailed state