“Make America Great Again” has become a ubiquitous slogan: emblazoned on bumper stickers, stitched onto baseball caps and resounding loudly at every Donald Trump rally.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, Trump supporters and undecided voters may be typing www.makeamericagreatagain.com into their web browsers to learn more about the candidate. The site’s popularity is near its all-time peak, according to Google Trends, which tracks trends in web traffic.
Those visitors are in for a big surprise.
The website features presidential campaign videos for Trump and Hillary Clinton. It also includes an offer to buy the domain and links to external pages about green farming and sustainability.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Donald Trump.
That’s because the site is not owned by Trump or his campaign. Rosa Max, a 44-year-old Silver Lake resident, bought the website last month and is trying to use it to support an urban farming project in Los Angeles. She said she’s been contacted by Trump supporters who are confused by the website.
“I ask, ‘Did you see the city farm project? Would you support that?’ Then they hang up,” she said.
Max is a self-described “wannabe environmentalist” and proud naturalized citizen from the Netherlands who said she doesn’t know who she’ll vote for on Tuesday. Her resume lists more careers than most people have in a lifetime, including one as an entrepreneur spraying sunblock on beachgoers in southern Spain and, more recently, beekeeping and raising sheep. Her goal is to “make America green again” by piloting an urban farm in Silver Lake and expanding it to other cities, among other ideas.
When Max discovered that the makeamericagreatagain.com domain was for sale, she thought she could cash in on the site’s popularity to drive traffic and funds to her own project. “I thought, ‘I need immediate traffic. I need hits. I need as many people to see the project as possible,’” Max said.
The Trump campaign did not respond to email and phone requests for comment on Max’s use of the domain.
Max already has a fledgling farm in place on a sloping half-acre of land at the corner of Silver Lake and Glendale boulevards. She has rented an apartment around the corner for years and said she used to fantasize about setting up a farm and community center to teach children and other local residents about farming and sustainable practices.
When she heard that the neighboring land might be developed, she befriended the owner and ultimately convinced him to let her house sheep on the property for a weed abatement project she was running elsewhere. Now she also tends to several chickens, a guard dog and beehives, and she’s begun composting soil so she can plant corn, tomatoes and herbs.
A single mother of two young children, Max doesn’t have a traditional full-time job, and money is tight.
“Mostly charity and credit cards” is how she described funding her farm work.
She houses volunteer farmers at her apartment in exchange for their labor, and she has relied heavily on friends and on the generosity of Richard Nagler, the investor and developer who owns the land where the farm now sits.
Nagler plans eventually to build three luxury homes on the land, but while he waits for the permitting process to be completed, he said he’s been happy to humor Max.
“I like quirky people,” he said. “I like that she’s trying to make something of herself.” Plus, Nagler said, he believed Max’s project could bring value to the community.
Nagler was even willing to put up $5,000 so Max could buy the web domain makeamericagreatagain.com on eBay last month. He figured that buying the website did involve some risk, but also that it could pay off in a big way.
“I thought it was possibly going to be worth a lot,” he said.
It’s hard to pinpoint an absolute market value for domain names, according to experts.
“Only a buyer can determine how much having any given domain name is worth to them and how much not having it will affect their success,” said Tessa Holcomb, a domain broker. Holcomb said similar domains had sold from anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000.
That said, Holcomb noted that four-word, 21-letter domain names tend not to be very valuable, and she expected the value of makeamericagreatagain.com to decrease as the slogan becomes less relevant.
Frank Schilling, the CEO of Uniregistry, a web domain name registry, estimated that the domain name makeamericagreatagain.com was worth $100 to $500 before the campaign began.
“But now as a part of popular culture,” Schilling wrote in an email, “this name could sell for upwards of $25,000 and will likely never trade for less than $3,000 to $5,000 again. Win or lose, the shadow Trump's campaign has cast on global popular culture ensures MakeAmericaGreatAgain.com (while awkwardly long) will continue to have value after the campaign.”
Max said in an ideal world she would prefer not to sell the website and instead use it “for the greater good.” She hoped to set up a crowd-funding platform to raise money for her farm and sustainability center.
The platform was not yet live, though, and Max was running on empty.
On Friday afternoon, she packed half a dozen sheep, including one of her most prized animals, into the back of her pickup truck to take them to the butcher.
“I need money to pay for search engine optimization on the website,” she explained.