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Web site dedicated to Puerto Ricans

Islander purchases Web address, www.puertoricans.com, for only $400

July 13, 2000

By EILEEN AJ CONNELLY
ADVANCE BUSINESS WRITER

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What's a good domain name worth to a start-up Internet company?

Rumors have simmered for the last few years about companies willing to pay big bucks for prime dot-com names. After all, what comes before the dot is what matters when people are surfing the Internet, right?

Eduardo Santos thinks so.

NEWS PHOTO

(Advance Photo/Jan Somma)

St. George resident Eduardo Santos recently launched www.puertoricans.com, which includes information on clubs, education and culture.

The St. George resident said key names on the Internet make all the difference in terms of what Web sites will generate traffic and, in the long run, make money.

That's why even though Santos was able to register www.puertoricans.net easily, he was willing to pay to link that address to www.puertoricans.com.

But he didn't have to pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for what seems like an ideal domain name. The person he purchased the address from, an attorney in Europe, asked only $400.

Santos thinks there is a huge market for his site, which aims to bring together the 4.5 million people living in Puerto Rico with the millions of Puerto Ricans and their descendants living elsewhere. There are 10 million Puerto Ricans living on the East Coast of the United States alone, he noted.

"The main goal of the Web site is to become a bridge between Puerto Rico and everyone else," he explained. This goal is one of the reasons the site is bilingual, offering a taste of Puerto Rico to both English and Spanish speakers.

One of the key ingredients to the site is its news from Puerto Rico. With links to a number of Puerto Rican news outlets and chat rooms, it's a central location for people who want to keep up with current issues, such as the protests over U.S. Navy bombing of the island of Vieques.

The updates about the situation in Vieques is one of the things that keeps Vanessa Colon-Ortiz of Minneapolis coming back to puertoricans.com.

"It's really hard to find anything about it in the mainstream media, but here they have all these news reports," said Ms. Colon-Ortiz, a 26-year-old model born in Puerto Rico. "My dad's actually one of the Vieques protesters. I can keep in touch with him and I know what's going on."

"That's really positive," she said. "That's one of my favorite features."

Santos said he thought about the site for a some time before starting to build it. The native of Juncos, Puerto Rico moved to St. George a year ago after 11 years in New Jersey, picking the North Shore neighborhood because it offers an easy commute to his full-time job in the Wall Street area.

Santos works an early morning shift as a LAN administrator for the Depository Trust Co. in order to have more time to dedicate to building his site. He said he has done most of the site development himself, estimating he spends 40 to 65 hours each week on the project, which was launched last August.

"It's not an easy job, but it pays off," he said. "Not in terms of money, but in terms of recognition." The site had generated 10,000 hits, or individual visits by Internet users, by December, a number that climbed over 67,000 this week.

"After beginning it, it became more than a business," Santos said. "It wasn't as much about making a business on the Net as leaving an imprint in the history of my country."

Martha Vega Rudolph said the news is one of the main attractions for her, as well. The Los Angeles resident stumbled upon the site while surfing the Net and said she visits every week. "It's just good to have that opportunity to reach out and be informed," she said.

The site contains photos from various events Santos attends, including the Puerto Rican Day Parade, OpSail and the Fourth of July and a tribute to Tito Puente held in Manhattan last Sunday.

Frequently, Santos uses the photos he takes at area events as a way to draw people to the site. He has photographed dozens of people holding a banner that reads "Puertoricans.com presents" and posted them on the site, a double form of advertising that gets the site's name out among the public and gives them a reason to visit.

Nevertheless, many users visit not for the pictures taken in New York, but because it reminds them of home.

"Once a month I'll start getting homesick," said Ms. Colon-Ortiz. "To me, this site is kind of a home away from home. Maybe that's overstated, but it's a link back to my heritage. It reminds me of who I am."

It's been over eight years since Ms. Vega Rudolph visited Puerto Rico, but she said visiting puertoricans.com can offer her a mini-visit. "It feels like it," she said. "It really does."

"One of the good things about the Internet is if you want to you can keep very close to your heritage, there will be reminders of who you are, without totally denying your new culture," she added.

A popular feature on the site is an animated picture of the Island, complete with sounds of Puerto Rico. "I love the animated picture of the island, with the water movement, its neat," Ms. Vega Rudolph said. "And the sound of the coqui's is priceless."

The site also includes the names of many of the towns and cities of Puerto Rico, with links to home pages of town governments, businesses towns and other related sites.

A cousin and some friends in Puerto Rico are working to sell advertising to companies there seeking to connect to Internet users who are potential visitors or are looking for merchandise they can't find at home. "This will encourage the community to visit their establishments," Santos said.

"Anything I need about Puerto Rico, it's right here," Ms. Colon-Ortiz said. "I can just look and it's really exciting."

Santos links his site to numerous Puerto Rican social clubs as well as to businesses that sell items such as Puerto Rican music. Connecting celebrities, including Olympic ice skating hopeful Kristen Stone and Gold Glove boxer Glen Ghany, for whom Santos has developed sites, to their fans is one way he thinks he can promote the talents of Puerto Ricans.

He also plans to sponsor about 75 educational and cultural websites that will be linked to puertoricans.com, mostly for schools, libraries and musicians. Santos sees these links as a way to open doors to other people.

"There are so many people who have been very successful in life and ... they don't want to help others," he said. "That's not me."