Image: Xuanyu Han via Getty Images
Since 1994, the URL Wormhole.com has been owned by 79-year-old Dick Merryman. It has no purpose, with Merryman—a Carl Sagan fan—only deigning to have it display a scientific illustration of a wormhole in space, a brief description, and at the bottom of the page in big, red letters: THIS WEB SITE OFFERS NO SERVICES TO THE PUBLIC.That's about to change. Last month, Jump Crypto, the company that owns Wormhole, a decentralized finance (DeFi) platform that bridges tokens between Solana, Ethereum, and other blockchains, filed a lawsuit against Merryman, claiming he breached a contract after he apparently accepted an offer to sell it and then backed out of it. Wormhole has recently become a key part of DeFi and its complex, cross-chain investing mechanics, and was hacked for $320 million in February.
In June of last year, Jump Crypto made an offer of $2,500 to Merryman for the website through the intermediary service DomainAgents. A few days later, Merryman responded saying “the price for wormhole.com is a firm US$50,000,” according to the complaint.That was just fine with Jump Crypto. In the eyes of the firm, this answer meant that Merryman had accepted a $50,000 offer and was willing to sell the domain. The DomainAgent platform indicated the deal status was “Agreement Reached” and started the process of transferring the domain. But on July 12, Merryman sent another message: “Nope, sorry, I changed my mind. This was too easy, I’m either leaving a lot of money on the table or it is a scam. Either way, no sale. If you want to make a reasonable offer, then you are encouraged to do so,” according to the complaint. In further communications, Merryman—whose email address is email@example.com—raised the price first to $100,000 and then to $200,000, according to the document.“Yeah, good luck with legal action. The price is US$100,000,” Merryman wrote.That’s when Jump Crypto filed a lawsuit claiming Merryman breached the contract of sale, and demanding he pay the firm's attorney fees as special damages. (Merryman does not appear to have legal representation in the case, with all communications being sent directly to him.)
After a few weeks, Merryman says he is giving up. "I'm tired," Merryman told crypto news outlet Decrypt in an interview. "I'm not happy but I'll take it." According to court documents filed on Monday, Merryman and Jump Crypto “have come to a resolution and settlement." At the time of writing, Wormhole.com still exists in its glorious, early-internet form.
This story is a reminder that in today’s world, corporations tend to get what they want, and that crypto companies are willing to do what it takes to get vanity domains. In 2018, the company that is now known as Crypto.com paid an estimated millions of dollars to computer science professor Matt Blaze for the Crypto.com domain, which Blaze had been using as his personal site since the 1990s. The sale of Wormhole.com is also a sad reminder that the old internet, where individuals owned cool domains just for the pleasure of putting a picture of a wormhole on it and have a cool-sounding email address, is slowly dying. Wormhole.com has gone through a few iterations in its 20-plus years of existence. In June of 2000, the site displayed a picture of Carl Sagan and his birth and death dates.
In 2002, the site simply included the disclaimer: “Wormhole.com is a private domain and has no services available to the public,” which stayed on the site at least until 2005, according to snapshots of the site collected by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. There are no more snapshots of the site until 2019, when the site started displaying the image of a wormhole that is still displayed on the site today. Merryman did not pick up the phone when Motherboard called him to ask for comment. He also did not respond to an email and text message asking for his perspective on this story. Jump Crypto did not respond to a request for comment. Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast, CYBER. Subscribe to our new Twitch channel.