Help Combat Domaineering, part II

posted in: Tech | 3

Back again with more prosetylization, but this time the stakes are higher.

I direct you to an article written in CNN money online. It profiles a man named Kevin Hamm: businessman, self-taught low-level programmer, devout Christian, and the world’s most profitable domainer. His portfolio is currently worth approximately 300M, he makes about 70M per year in click-thru advertising, and runs the site “agoga.com”, which if you’ve ever typed a misspelled or generic url into your url bar, there’s a good chance you’ve seen it.

His latest deal? A bargain with the COUNTRY OF CAMEROON.

Cameroon owns the “.cm” top-level domain (TLD). For example: “www.widgets.cm” would be the Cameroonian equivalent of “www.widgets.us” (the United States TLD). However “www.widgets.cm” is remarkably close, in fact, only a typo away from “www.widgets.com”. Do you see where this is going?

The deal that Hamm struck up with the Cameroonian government is that every time someone goes to an unregistered “.cm” address, their servers automatically redirect the traffic to his agoga.com website. So if you type in “www.alskjlakweranleka.cm”, it should (and I believe, DOES) redirect you to agoga.com. But so would legitimate misspellings, like “www.microsoft.cm” or “www.wordpress.cm.” Cameroon gets a small cut of any profits from redirection, of course, but that’s a small price to pay given that this deal virtually registers a near-infinite amount of domains, BY DEFAULT, with Cameroon.

Hamm is also pursuing similar deals with Colombia (.co — also a .com misspelling), Nigeria and Ethiopia (.ne and .et, respectively; Both misspellings of .net). To continue my analogy from my last post: This situation is like if you had a town (with the people with sandwich signs standing around on sidewalk tiles) and if you went looking for something that no one had heard of or something where you aren’t pronouncing the name correctly, they direct you to Hamm’s sidewalk tile.

This isn’t what the Internet is about. People hoarding domains and controlling traffic in this way is an unfair, unnecessary practice that leeches from the experience. As the number of these domaining-ad-aggregates increases, there will be more junk websites, clogging up search engine results and interjecting themselves into the path to your information destination.

There was a similar recent case with some alleged spyware companies such as Zango.com, Roundads.com, etc. The case I read went like this:

  1. You install their third-party software (either in the form of a toolbar, “cool email smileys”, a cute puppy screensaver, etc.) and it runs in the background as you search the web.
  2. You go to a website, such as blockbuster.com, and decide you want to register with one of their subscription programs, so you click the link to go to the registration form.
  3. The spyware, running in the background, identifies this click and hijacks it — instead of taking you to the normal registration form for blockbuster, it takes you to the same registration form, but with the referral information crediting the spyware’s company with the referral as if you had “found” Blockbuster while looking at Advertisements placed by the Spyware company
  4. Blockbuster then sees the referrall information, and must then pay the Spyware company a sum of money, around 10-20 DOLLARS each time. And the company did NOTHING to benefit Blockbuster.
  5. See how this is a problem?

    This is the type of capitalizing and profiteering that serves only the self-interest of the person doing it, but affects us all. It’s like a Tragedy of the Commons; Everyone knows that this will eventually die out on its own, so they’re all jumping aboard as fast as possible to get a piece before it croaks.

    My clarion call to you, fair reader: Don’t load toolbars, advertisement software (and scan regularly!), and don’t click on Domaineer’ed sites! Only by ceasing to reinforce this business model can we force them to stop polluting our Internet.

3 Responses

  1. Open For Business

    Some of those domaineering landing pages can generate a hefty return on investment relative to their minimal cost, i.e., just owning the domain name. Some mini-sites may or may not do better, income wise, it depends on many factors, including the domain name. Might have to experiment with both to see what works best to bring in the profit.

    • Aaron

      I think you’re missing the point. I’m not saying it’s not profitable; obviously it is profitable or people wouldn’t be doing it. I’m saying that it’s a waste of informational namespace being used by people who don’t contribute any useful content.