Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Interesting article in eWeek about the business of registering domain name typos and how they game Google. "Some of the domains move around between domain parking services or between anchor domains over time as part of a 'multi-layer redirection structure' that makes it difficult to trace". The bulk of the data and analysis comes from Microsoft Research. Again, I'm not going to "judge" this business, but clearly it's a large business that is becoming exceedingly complex with some cat-and-mouse going on. One thing I wonder about is whether there is a whole lot of incentive for the cat to catch the mouse if the cat gets a share of the mouse's take.


people are already starting to call this "googlespamming"
i believe the polite term for it is "search engine optimization" was registered quite a while ago... That doesn't sound like a serious business.

Why do you have a problem judging this Joi. No value is created or service provided for the customer. It is essentially a parasitic activity rather than a symbiotic activity. You judge investments, people and technology all the time - that is what makes you a great investor, entrepreneur and commentator. So why do you have a problem with judging in public? I think I know why and it is all because of the rather dishonest culture of intellectual discourse these days, that you feel obliged not to offend.

Anon, I think you may be over reaching here.

Anyway, more importantly is what Google will think and or do about this sort of activity. Should they do anything at all? If Google allow others to operate indepedently from them and to use their services for this kind of activity, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

I think we need to distinguish between:

"Domainers" who snatch up expired domain names to "taste" them, and put advertisements on it. Call them scavengers of 404 traffic if you will, but I'm not sure their activity is reprehensible.

"Typo snatchers" who actively seek and register new domain names that are typographical variations of existing domain names -- e.g. "".
They then set up a website with an innocuous-sounding domain name containing e.g. banking-related news, have it reviewed by Google and accepted into Google's AdSense program.
The site is then configured to redirect, in a quite convoluted fashion, the visitor to the innocuous site that is serving Google-powered ads. Some of the Google AdSense ads on that innocuous site might actually be paid for by the real Bank of America.
The end result is that BoA might end up having to pay for some of the traffic coming to their website, which they might have gotten for free if the users didn't initially make a typo. The users could also have realized their mistake when they landed on a bizarre ad-laden website, and prudently decided to type in the BoA's URL manually again, instead of clicking on an ad.
So, the typo snatchers might increase BoA's traffic acquisition costs, but at least, BoA ultimately gets the web traffic, even from those users who made typos and might otherwise not have arrived on BoA's website. IMHO, it's up to BoA to judge whether they are getting a sufficient return for the traffic acquisition costs they're paying to Google.

Real criminals who register a misleading domain name like "" or "" resembling a well-known company's, and use it to phish for personal information, on-line banking user IDs and passwords. Such people should primarily dealt with by law enforcement agencies, IMHO.

It's quite unclear what, if any, role there would be here for ICANN, and whether effective regulation of such marginally domain name-related activity would even be possible.

It's such a freaking disgusting practice.

Worst form of human life.

There's a counter that can be used if the FireFox team implements it.