Peter VanRysdam / Digital Marketing / December 27th, 2007

The Great Domain Name Scam

I had the good fortune of vacationing in Ireland the week before Christmas with my wife and parents.  Quick off topic note…it’s cold in Ireland in December.  Could be why it’s not the high season for holiday goers.  However, if you can put up with the cold (I live in Florida, so I actually welcome the break from the heat and humidity) you’ll have the run of the place.  We had museums, tour buses, and bed and breakfasts all to ourselves. 

Back on topic.  So as I toured around the country, I noticed a constant theme.  Every business had a great domain name.  Here in the states, a new small business is stuck with what’s left like my brother’s company, www.allamericanaclennox.com.  Don’t worry…they have some shorter names that redirect there.  But in Ireland, they’ve all adopted the .ie domain extension.  And with a population of only 4.3 million, that means there are still good domains left. 

What was especially interesting was the names that are typically associated with major brands here were owned by smaller businesses over there.  For example, look at www.absolute.ie.  I’d expect it to be vodka.  There were too many examples to mention, and frankly it made me jealous. 

On the plane ride to Ireland (or it might have been to Seattle the week before…they’re all running together) I read an interesting blurb in Inc magazine (or it could’ve been Maxim…they’re running together too) about an evil genius named Kevin Ham.  He’s the reason when you try to go to www.greetings.com to send your mom a hallmark card, but you forget to add the “s” at the end of the word, that you get a site like www.greeting.com.  Apparently there are enough dumb people in the world that think they’re at the right page and just start clicking around. 

Well, Kevin Ham owns that page and about a billion others, and each link is an ad.  Therefore, each click is money in his evil pocket.The article in question was about his latest plan…to cash in on our trouble typing the letter “o”.  You see, the country of Cameroon has the same story as Ireland.  They have their own domain extension, and about 17 million citizens.  However there are two main differences from Ireland: Cameroon’s URL extension is .cm, and only about 6 of the country’s inhabitants are online.  So one shady deal later, and Ham has another $70 million a year coming his way. 

That’s right…Cameroon has sold the rights to all unregistered names.  Ham’s company serves up targeted yahoo ads so the site at least seems on point.Just try going to a site like…oh, lets see…www.scam.cm.  It takes you to www.agoga.com, a site created by Ham’s evil empire. 

If Ham get’s his way, he’ll soon do the same with Colombia (.co), Oman (.om), Niger (.ne), and Ethiopia (.et).  I can’t tell if I really respect the guy or flat out hate him.

So here’s my plan…I’m going to go at it a different route.  I’m going to petition the domain registry powers that be to provide me a URL extension for my new country, the Republic of COMtopia.  Or I may call it NETamatamia. 

<open hand extended/>  Money, please.