360.com is likely to act as a platform to unify Qihoo fragmented product portfolio

Qihoo 360 has acquired what could be the most expensive domain name. The Chinese Internet security company has paid a staggering $17 million to buy domain name 360.com. Before that, the biggest known purchase of a Web domain was when the U.S.-based Clover Holdings bought sex.com for $14 million in 2010. Registration data show that the ownership of the domain was transferred from the telecom carrier Vodafone to Qihoo on Wednesday, February 4.

Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd Pays A Record Sum To Buy 360.com Domain

Qihoo spent a huge fortune

Though Qihoo did not officially confirm the report, sources familiar with the matter told China Daily that the company had spent “a huge fortune,” big enough to buy a number of popular domains. It’s pretty difficult to track big-ticket domain purchases because many of the deals are not made public. Last year, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi spent $3.6 million to buy the Mi.com domain.

It’s still unclear how the Internet security company plans to use the domain name. It is most likely to act as a platform to unify Qihoo’s fragmented product portfolio. Currently, visitors to 360.com are redirected to Qihoo’s search engine site Haosou.com. A quick look at the company’s original search site so.com also redirects to Haosou.com. Originally, the company was offering its security software products under the Qihoo.com domain. But a visit to Qihoo.com is also automatically directed to Haosou.com.

Qihoo wants to create a single brand image

In addition, Qihoo has formed a joint venture with Coolpad to manufacture smartphones. Analysys International analyst Tian Zheng says that security will be the key selling point of Qihoo-branded smartphones. Though Haosou.com currently serves as the company’s unified Web address, it could be replaced by 360.com. A business won’t spend $17 million on a domain that simply directs users to another Website. 360.com is easy to remember, so creating a single brand image around this domain would be a smart move, especially in China.

Qihoo shares rose 0.77% to close at $61.20 on Thursday.