Apple now owns iCloud.net, gaining what was perhaps the last major domain that shared a name with but was not directly associated with the iCloud brand.
Previously, iCloud.net was the home of a Chinese social networking site owned by Tong Lei. Lei has reportedly owned the domain which hosted the small-time network since 2011. On Feb. 14, he published a blog post stating that he was retiring, and that the site would shut down operations by the end of the month. The primary reason probably being that Apple has quietly acquired the domain, according to WhoIs information about the current registrar.
In response to a comment on the post, Lei refused to give out statistics about how many users or posts were hosted on the site — and announced that all relevant data and files would be destroyed come March 1. A tipster reportedly told AppleInsider that the domain was sold for $1.5 million, but that number hasn’t been verified. Neither Lei nor Apple has commented about the financial deals of the transaction.
It’s not at all unusual for companies to buy domains that are related to its brands and intellectual properties. In 2011, Apple bought iCloud.com from a Swedish company called Xcerion to the tune of $5.2 million, according to TechCrunch. What remains to be seen is what exactly Cupertino is planning on doing with the domain name. The most probable outcome is that it would either redirect users to the current browser cloud services at iCloud.com. Or, like some other iCloud-related domains that Apple owns, it could simply be parked and remain non-operational.
Interestingly, some rumors have suggested that Apple is looking to make a push into the social media industry — including developing a video-sharing app akin to Snapchat or Instagram, Bloomberg reported last August. While Apple hasn’t been terribly successful with its social media endeavors thus far, the possibility of the company doubling down on its push into social is certainly still there. Whether iCloud.net will have anything to do with this push — as some outlets, including Mashable, have hinted at — remains to be seen. It’s probably safer to say that iCloud.net’s history as a social media site is just a coincidence.