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Man buys Google Argentina for £2

Google Argentina’s domain name was bought by a web designer while the site was out of action for two hours in the country last Wednesday.

Nicolas Kurona, aged 30, said he managed to buy Google.com.ar through a normal, legal process.

“I never imagined that it was going to allow me to buy it,” he told the BBC.

Google Argentina told the BBC: “For a short term, the domain was acquired by someone else.” It added it had regained control of the domain very quickly.

The story started when Nicolas was at his desk on the outskirts of Buenos Aires on Wednesday night, designing a website for a client.

He started getting messages on WhatsApp that Google was down.

“I entered www.google.com.ar into my browser and it didn’t work,” he said. “I thought something strange was happening.”

He decided to go on to the Network Information Center Argentina (NIC) – the organisation responsible for operating the .ar country code domains. He searched for Google – and up popped Argentina’s Google domain available for purchase.

Nicolas Kurona

Despite thinking it would not work, he “followed the steps and then I received an email with the purchase invoice”, he said.

Nicolas shared the NIC invoice with the BBC. Google Argentina’s domain name was acquired for 270 pesos (£2.08/$2.90).

“I was frozen”

Dumbfounded, he tapped www.google.com.ar into his search bar and pressed enter. “My personal data appeared,” he said.

“I was frozen looking at the screen. I could not believe what had just happened.”

At 21.52 local time on Wednesday, Nicolas bought Google Argentina’s domain name. All of those millions of Google searches, and people coming to www.google.com.ar, were now in theory, coming to him.

Screengrab of NIC page, allowing Nicolas to buy www.google.com.ar
Screengrab of NIC page, allowing Nicolas to buy www.google.com.ar

“I want to make it clear that I never had any bad intentions, I just tried to buy it and the NIC allowed me to,” he said.

Nicolas’s night had, in just a few minutes, turned into a major news story.

“When the purchase process was completed and my data appeared, I knew that something was going to happen… I was really anxious,” he said.

Nicolas tweeted what had happened – to try to clarify how events had gone down, he said.

 

So what on earth happened?

Well, one theory is that Google had simply forgotten to renew its domain name. However, Google says its licence for the domain hadn’t expired – and was not due to expire until July 2021.

Open Data Córdoba group (which is dedicated to tracking expired Argentine domains, and tracking registered ones) backs this up. It’s still unclear why Google’s domain name was released.

Nicolas says he has no idea what happened, but it feels “slightly strange” to have so much media attention. He has been hailed as a hero in some corners of Twitter, and his tweet clarifying what happened has racked up 80,000 likes.

Nicolas says he’s just relieved that he didn’t get into trouble.

Google is investigating what went down on Wednesday. But for some reason, for a few minutes at least, Google lost control of Google Argentina this week – to a 30-year-old web designer, it seems.

James Clayton is the BBC’s North America technology reporter based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @jamesclayton5.

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