Saturday, October 24, 2009

Darned Typosquatters!

Here's how typosquatting works. I register a misspelled site name like BritishhAirways.com. Then I start an "Adsense for Domains" Google campaign whereby pay per click ads are displayed on my site, which is otherwise devoid of content. Because of the context-sensitive nature of this ad program it's quite possible that among the ads displayed will be some from British Airways themselves. Google and I therefore get paid when people who mistyped the name select the ad and go where they wanted to go in the first place. Google knows this happens and pays big legal bills to keep it happening because the huge profits from advertising pay for the losses in YouTube, Gmail and the company dining room. So says Harvard prof Ben Edelman in a recent Forbes online article
"In the study we're finalizing, [Harvard post-doctoral fellow] Tyler Moore and I have got hundreds of thousands of examples of typosquatting sites targeting the Web's top 3,000 domains. No one has ever come up with such a comprehensive list of typosquatting domains, as far as we know. We estimate there are around 3 million typosquatting sites on the Web in total, and we've found that 75.9% of those sites host Google ads."
Read the article and I suspect you'll agree that here we have another example of the profit motive inviting regulation by avoiding responsibility.