Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Cybersquatters can redirect your users to porn

By ever so slightly misspelling a url or adding an incorrect .com when it should be .org there's a very high chance you'll end up looking at porn.

It's happened to me twice in the last two days.

First of all i was attempting to direct an IT colleague to www.videolan.org in order to download VLC media player and inadvertantly directed him to www.videoland.org, something very different.

Secondly i was meaning to type in the domain www.veganza.org to view the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster however i forgot the .org and typed in www.veganza.com and was yet again viewing naked ladies.

Now 'accidentally' looking at porn isn't the most painful experience you can have but with a computer screen that everyone in my open plan office can see, being caught viewing animated gifs and rotating flash graphics of unhygienic sex acts isn't a desired career move.

The only way to avoid this surreptitious adult surfing is obviously by being a bit more careful and possibly finding a website through Google so you can get a text preview before the onslaught of technicolour karma sutra.

Telling you how to not view porn isn't the point of this article though, what my recent experiences highlight is the importance of your url and how it's important to be aware of 'cybersquatters'.

"Cybersquatting, is registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The cybersquatter then offers to sell the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price."

There has been a number of high profile cases of this happening, notably to Harrods in 2001; they won the case and got the domains. Harrods is a big brand name and was seen as an easy target for cybersquatters of the early noughties but as the two examples at the beginning of this article show, anyone can be a victim of cybersquatting.

With 108,810,358 distinct websites and still counting even picking a domain name without standing on someone else's toes becomes tricky.

  • So when picking a new domain name try and be original and have a look around. Are there sites with similar URLs that could confuse your users? If they are cybersquatters you may be able to evict them but if they have a genuine claim to that URL there's little you can do (bar pay for it like the BBC did).
  • If you already have a domain name then have a check for cybersquatters on similar URLs
  • If you're doing any link building make sure that when somebody links to your site they get the right domain name
By doing this you can hopefully make sure your users only look at porn when they want to.

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