Scam File; domain names

There are hundreds of scams online. It’s a dangerous world out there. One recurring one is the email from some (fake) domain name agency, informing you that someone is claiming domain names in Asia and you need to Act Now to avoid missing out on these names which include your brand name. Sometimes they refer to spurious trademark or intellectual property legislation.

It’s a scam. You can safely delete the email.

I get a question about this roughly once a week, yet the scam has been around for years. So how can you be sure you’re not caught? What if you see a domain name they’re offering and you think you want it?

First thing is to make sure you are proactive on your domain name acquisition. This requires knowing your company’s brand names and global footprint, and combining that with some knowledge of risk around various domain name registrars. (We used CSC Global to help us figure this out). You should also decide how far down the track of protecting similar spellings you should go – Siemens may regret not buying Seimens.com for example, given how many people have trouble spelling their name.

If you do this, and keep up to date with changes in your company and in the domain name industry, you can be confident that you have the domain names you need for your business to run.

So when the email comes in trying to scare you into paying for domain names you’ll be able to confidently ignore it. This goes for small and large companies.

Very, very occasionally there might be a domain name in the list sent you that you want.  What should you do?

Nothing.

Wait a couple of weeks.

Acquire it yourself – it will still be available.

 

Short is Good

Short is good?

So you’ve only got 140 characters to write wittily and get your point across AND  you have to add a URL!? The simple answer is to use a URL shortener, but which one?

There are a lot to choose from, bit.ly, is.gd, tinyurl.com to name a few. Or perhaps you’d like to build your own as Coca Cola have done.

It needs to do more than give you short URLs, it needs to be fast and it needs to be reliable.

Now there’s a way to monitor which URL shortener is the most reliable thanks to Dutch company Watchmouse.

So far today all those monitored are operating normally, but in a full month’s analysis the company found that Facebook’s shortener was the slowest by far.

I use shorteners for posting on twitter, that last URL to lifehacker is 93 characters long, the one to Watchmouse’s blog is 111 characters, leave no room witty commentary in a twitter post. Is.gd took both to 18 characters leaving me 122 characters in a tweet.

However some people are bothered by shortened URL as you can’t see what the destination is and where the URL will take you. Which is smart security thinking. But there are tools for this as well, firefox offers several add-ons, but if you’re not on firefox or you’re behind a firewall that won’t allow you to install the add-on then there’s a site that will expand the URL, called “untiny.me

Using a URL shortener saves 93 characters
display the original URL from a shortened URL

images: skirt Eurobike 2009 | babes / CC BY 2.0

 

Happy Birthday Dot Com

I was listening to BBC World Service this morning, and they mentioned that the “.com” domain is now 25 years old. As part of the item someone ( CEO Rod Beckstrom?) from ICANN talked about this being part of the internet coming of age.

Since then there have been releases of top level domains for every country, and a number of subject specific domains. But like most things around the internet it has it’s share of misuse, abuse and ‘creative practices’.

Misuse

Country level domains were originally designed for use by the companies and individuals of that country but some country level domains turn out to have handy meanings, sometimes across languages.

  • .nu is the country domain name for Niue, and it’s popular in the Netherlands as “nu” means now, so a radio add that invites you to go to “abc punt nu” gets a nice urgent ring to its slogan.
  • .ws was originally the country domain name for Western Samoa, but it’s now marketing as “dot website”. This has not become widespread and the marketing around it typically looks dodgy almost like a pyramid scheme.
  • .tv stands for television and also for Tuvalu, a country that is rapidly disappearing under rising tides. Its domain name is run by VeriSign who collect every time you sign up for a domain name. When I bought a .tv domain some years ago I was told that the registry prices their domain names based on who’s buying, so big companies are charged more.

Abuse

The most common form of abuse is cybersquatting, where a domain name relating to a brand (sometimes a brand name, sometimes a typo) is bought and held until the company in question comes looking for it. In the meantime a simple site with google ads or other paying links can be set up. Often some of the links will be to the target company – which lets the squatter accurately measure the traffic you are missing out on. Best example of this is one relating to Siemens, try typing in http://www.seimens.com, the page you reach is held by a cybersquatter.

Companies can try to recover such domain names in one of two ways; by negotiating with the cybersquatter directly or going to UDRP.

The negotiation track is best done through an independent third party, I haven’t been through this successfully recently but the costs are likely to be 5,000 to 10,000 euros if your company is a “known brand”, plus agency costs. The advantage is that it can be relatively fast, and the process is unlikely to become public knowledge.

The other route is the UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) and involves lawyers and more time, I’m part way through one at the moment.

‘Creative Practices’

I guess the most famous of these would have to be the .cm domain effort. This involves a deal with the Cameroon government and a sneaky redirect set up. An example of it is discussed on Business Insider where the amazon.cm redirected to ebay (it doesn’t any more). It’s hard to know whether there is any legal action a company can take – since the redirection may not come under trademark law.

I know there are people out there who consider themselves “domainers” and call this legitimate and smart business. I don’t agree, it’s hi-jacking a company’s brand, but because big companies are “the bad guys” it’s easy for domainers to cast themselves as the eternal David in a struggle against multiple Goliaths. In my view this is one area of the internet where the law is well behind the reality, it’s perhaps a rebel teenage phase rather than a true “coming of age”.