Business 2.0’s Paul Sloan has been digging into the .CM domain name scam. A domain name broker managed to convince the government of Cameroon, which controls .cm, to do a deal where any mis-typed domain name, like Google.cm (instead of google.com), takes the visitor to an advertising-filled landing page (the ads are served by Yahoo).
While this is true, articles such as this (and the resulting firestorms), completely overlook the the fact that nearly every major company on the Internet is involved in similar practices:
- Google & Yahoo: Both of these companies knowingly provide ads to domain parkers. Google offers AdSense for Domains, and in fact built AdSense off of its Applied Semantics acquisition (the original domain advertiser). Yahoo has been supplying ads to domain parkers since YSM was Overture. In fact, Applied Semantics was a top 10 Overture partner when Google bought it. You cannot opt out of showing your ads on domain park pages - Google considers them ‘search pages’.
- Browsers (Microsoft & Firefox): If you’re running IE, type google.xom into the address bar. You’ll see Google Ads. Some estimates place their income at $600M from this practice. I’ve heard claims that Firefox does the same, but I haven’t been able to verify them.
- PC Manufacturers (Dell & Gateway): They seize error pages by default and show Google ads by default. More at SearchEngineLand
- OpenDNS: Perhaps the most disingenuous of the bunch. They are very vocal about all of the other organizations on this page, and are quick to promote their DNS servers as a solution. However, they do the exact same thing. When a nonexistent domain is typed, they show ads. In fact, their entire ‘free’ service is funded this way.
- ISPs (Earthlink, Charter, AOL, etc.): They work similarly to OpenDNS. They’ve modified their DNS servers to show ads (‘search results’) on mistyped domains that don’t have a URL.
- Hosting companies (1and1, etc.): I don’t know how widespread the problem is, but I noticed that the 404 pages at my old hosting company now display ads. See an example.
- Domain parkers: There are plenty of typo domains registered and receiving traffic.
- Verisign: Well, not at the moment. In 2003, Verisign tried to seize this market, but backed down under threat of lawsuit.