Qihoo 360
A sign advertising the Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. is hung with the U.S. and Chinese flags outside the New York Stock Exchange before the company's initial public offering in New York March 30, 2011. The company has taken new initiatives to promote itself in the U.S. Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Qihoo 360 just spent $17 million to purchase 360.com. The news, widely believed to have been leaked by Qihoo as a promotional stunt, comes as the company has sought to raise its profile outside China.

Qihoo 360 has not confirmed the purchase, but sources told China Daily that the company spent “a huge fortune” to acquire 360.com from Vodafone. What exactly the Chinese security company plans to use the website for wasn’t immediately clear, though visiting the current incarnation of the site leads users to haosou.com, which Qihoo launched as its primary search engine last year.

The deal, which was finalized Wednesday, appears to be the most money spent on a domain in 2015. If accurate, the total is enough to rank 360.com at fifth on the list of most expensive domain names ever. Insurance.com (sold in 2010 for $35.6 million) appears to be the most expensive ever, with VacationRentals.com ($35 million), PrivateJet.com ($30.1 million) and Internet.com ($18 million) rounding out the top five.

Founded in 2005, the Beijing-based Qihoo 360 is best known for its mobile hardware, antivirus software and Web browser. The company, which has been compared to China’s largest smartphone manufacturers, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in 2011 but has sought to increase its name recognition for potential customers outside China.

“This news was almost certainly leaked by Qihoo, since companies pay large sums for domains all the time and the news never makes big headlines since it is kept private,” Forbes contributor Doug Young wrote in a post Friday.

“That hints that Qihoo may have big plans for 360.com, most likely as a platform to unify its current stable of domains and brands. ... This strategic news leak also looks at least partly designed to breathe some life and excitement back into Qihoo’s sagging stock.”

Xiaomi used a similar strategy in 2014, spending about $3.5 million to acquire mi.com in place of the less Western-friendly xiaomi.com.