Domain Extension Typos

There has been quite some negative media coverage of .CM lately. .CM is Cameroon’s ccTLD and it is also a common typo of .COM. That is why Kevin Ham from Reinvent Technology has helped Cameroon monetize the traffic to its unregistered domain names by setting up a wild-card that forwards the .CM error traffic to parking pages with relevant ad links. This procedure has caused lots of negative press and deprecative comments from journalists and bloggers. For example, Michael Arrington has a post on his TechCrunch.com blog titled “The .CM Scam“:

Business 2.0’s Paul Sloan has been digging into the .CM domain name scam.
(…)
This is actually one of the cleaner scams occurring in the extremely dirty domain name business.

Michael Arrington is not completely right. The .CM wild-card is no scam just yet. It is disputable but legal, because only unregistered domains are being monetized, as I pointed out in another post on this blog yesterday. By the way, I don’t understand how somebody who worked in the domain business for a relatively long time (Michael Arrington worked at Pool.com) can say that the domain business is “extremely dirty”. Cybersquatting is a problem, but it’s only done by a handful of black sheep. The domain business as a whole is certainly not dirty or a playground for scammers.

Now, why am I writing this if I have already expressed my opinion on .CM in an earlier post on my blog and in comments on other blogs? I’m writing this because I want to point out that there are companies who are earning much more money from domain name typos than Cameroon and Kevin Ham: Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)! And not only them, the following companies are also in the game of monetizing error type-in traffic: Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), Gateway (NYSE: GTW), Sony (NYSE: SNE) and several others. These companies are the big profiteers of domain name typos.

For example, I have a Dell desktop computer. Dell and Google have a partnership and all Dell computers have software preinstalled that automatically forwards error traffic to a Dell/Google web page with ad links served by Google. So if I accidentally type “loan.xom” instead of “loan.com” I get to a page that looks as follows (click on the image to go to the actual site):

Dell/Google making money from domain typos

As you will see, the page is filled with targeted ad links. Google is upset that Yahoo is making money from Google.cm (Yahoo serves the ads for the .CM domains), but .CM is only one extension. Google is making money from almost all other possible domain extension typos (.xom, .cpm, etc.) and they get paid for every click on an ad on Yahoo.xom, for instance. It is almost impossible to get rid of Google’s spyware. Dell and Google preinstall a little program on every Dell computer which is only very hard to find and remove.

As I said, Gateway, Sony and others are having the same partnership with Google. So Google is actually one of the biggest domain typo profiteers on the planet, although they say they are a “do not evil” company. They do not only monetize generic typos, but they also monetize TM typo traffic (e.g. yahoo.xom, bankofamerica.cpm).

Moreover, Google also forwards you to a parking page if you type in a domain that is not registered or if you want to visit a domain that cannot be reached in that moment. So they have a sort of wild-card on every Dell computer generating millions of dollars in annual revenue from domain name typos.

I don’t want to point the finger at Dell only, so here are two screenshots of Google pay-per-click pages designed for Gateway and Sony (again you can click on the image to visit the actual PPC site):

Gateway/Google making money from domain name typos

Sony/Google making money from domain name typos

And Google goes even further. They have a partnership with the Firefox web browser, too. So if anybody types in loan.xom in Firefox he or she gets forwarded to a parking page as well.

Microsoft is doing the same with Internet Explorer on computers where Google’s typo program is not preinstalled. If you type a wrong URL into the address bar of Internet Explorer you will be served a pay-per-click page, too.

You see, as soon as somebody like Kevin Ham profits from the typos of others, there is lots of bad press. But Microsoft and Google are much bigger players in this game! Let me repeat this: These companies are not doing anything illegal, because it is allowed to serve pay-per-click pages based on a wild-card that sorts out traffic to unregistered domain names. It is not allowed, on the other hand, to register a domain that infringes the trademark of another company. People registering TM domains and TM typos are the black sheep who harm the image of the domain name business. Strictly speaking, Kevin Ham does not belong to this group of people, although I don’t support the .CM wildcard and I see where some of the critics are coming from, especially considering that people from Cameroon cannot register their own country’s domains because they’re too expensive for the average citizen in Cameroon.

However, if people like Michael Arrington say the domain business is an industry full of typosquatters and scammers, what would they call Microsoft and Google then?

Personally, I don’t feel good about .CM either, but it is legal and it has been the country’s decision to monetize their own ccTLD. Google and Microsoft do not own .XOM, .CPM or any of the other possible domain extension typos, so if they serve pay-per-click ads on error pages that’s much worse, in my opinion.

Related blog posts you should read:

* Is Google Pushing Spyware? And If They Do, Is It Of A Better Quality Than Competitors’ Spyware?
* Yahoo Outsmarts Google, Google Gets Pissed
* Google turns the page… in a bad way
* Google and Dell Team Up For Evil/Spyware?
* Funding ICANN, “Shawdow TLDs” and the Next Domain Name You Really Want to Buy
* Microsoft Quietly Making Untold Millions

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8 Responses to “Domain Extension Typos”


  1. 1 Sumbini

    Excellent information that I was not aware of.

    I agree with your comments.

    Great research.

    Regards,

    Sumbini

  2. 2 Frank fernandis

    When you type those “shadow domain extensions” in your address bar, the browser will take that traffic away by redirecting it to paid search pages of their own.

  3. 3 Domaining or Domaineering

    Domaineering is the web-based marketing business of acquiring and monetizing Internet domain names for their use specifically as an advertising medium rather than primarily speculating on domains as intellectual property investments for resale as in domaining where generating advertising revenue is considered more of a bonus while awaiting a sale. In essence, the domain names function as virtual Internet billboards with generic domain names being highly valued for their revenue generating potential derived from attracting Internet traffic hits. Revenue is earned as potential customers view pay per click ( PPC ) ads or the Internet traffic attracted may be redirected to another website. Hence, the domain name itself is the revenue generating asset conveying information beyond just functioning as a typical web address. As the value here is intrinsically in the domain name and not in a website’s products or services, these domains are “parked” and not intended to be developed into conventional websites. As with traditional advertising, domaineering is part art and part science. Often to be the most effective as an advertising tool, the domain names and their corresponding landing pages must be engineered or optimized to produce maximum revenue which may require considerable skill and keen knowledge of search engine optimization ( SEO ) practices, marketing psychology and an understanding of the target market audience. Domaineering generally utilizes a firm offering domain parking services to provide the sponsored “feed” of a word or phrase searched for thus creating a mini-directory populated largely by advertisers paying to promote their products and services under a relevant generic keyword domain. Occasionally content is added to develop a functional mini-website. Domaineers and some of those who advertise online using keywords believe domaineering provides a useful, legal and legitimate Internet marketing service while opponents of domaineering decry the practice as increasing the ubiquitous commercialization of the world wide web. Domaineering aka “domain advertising” is practiced by both large organizations which may have registered hundreds or even thousands of domains to individual entrepreneurial minded domaineers who may only own one or a few. The earliest known verifiable identification and defining of domaineering as a distinct Internet advertising practice is attributed to Canadian Professor William Lorenz

  1. 1 High End Web Names Blog » .CM domains no longer monetized by Hitfarm?
  2. 2 ICANN: New generic TLDs at Dominik Mueller - Domain Name Brokerage and Consulting
  3. 3 Verizon monetizes typo traffic | Dominik Mueller - Domain Name Brokerage and Consulting
  4. 4 McAfee: What’s In A Name: The State of Typo-Squatting 2007 | Dominik Mueller - Domain Name Brokerage and Consulting
  5. 5 Kevin Ham, Amazon.cm and eBay | Dominik Mueller
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