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Media Center > Cyberspace Acquisition Makes Man our Mayor - Modesto Bee

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Cyberspace Acquisition Makes Man our Mayor - Modesto Bee

May. 20, 2007
Reporter: JEFF JARDINE, Modesto Bee
Tags: Virtual World, Rick Schwartz, Modesto, Advertisers

Meet the Modesto Mayor

Meet Modesto's other mayor, and I don't mean Carmen Sabatino. He's an Internet tycoon named Rick Schwartz. He lives in Boca Raton, Fla., and unless you're really into the Web domain market, you've probably never heard of him.

He has nothing to do with Modesto beyond having "bought" the city through a Web site called Weblo.com, which sells, among other things, the titles of virtual mayor. Weblo.com bills itself as "a virtual copy of the real world and a way for anyone to make money on the Net." It allows people to create Web sites pertaining to, among other things, cities, states and famous landmarks.

For instance, an owner, or "mayor" of a city site, can add content such as photos and video that hopefully will attract visitors and, eventually, advertisers. Revenue from ads is shared by the site owner and Weblo.  Property owners also make money off other Web sites within their city or state limits, or by eventually selling their site. And, of course, it sells domain names.  That's where Schwartz really makes his living.  Schwartz bid a whopping $5 on Weblo.com to "own" Modesto when the site opened in September 2006.

He's also the mayor of 119 other cities and the "governor" of Florida, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine.

He's spent $50,000 of real money in this game, seeing only a 1 percent return so far. But that doesn't deter him. "I'm just one crazy, old guy with time on his hands," Schwartz said. Modesto popped up as being available one day, and he bought it. He said he knew the city's name for some reason — probably the three major national news stories connected to the city since 1999, though he couldn't name any of them.

"It must have been in the back of my mind when I was going through the site," he said.

His Modesto investment certainly won't pay the rent. He's made just 14 cents from it.

Schwartz said he visited the city a few times years ago, but beyond that we're nothing more than a dot on a map in cyberspace.

"I remember they have nice roses growing there at the homes," he said.