Recently, we came across a good example of domain names that should be considered by both the owners of commercial and content projects and those who are looking for ways to make money on the Internet. Take a look at the screenshots:
Trump.com is a corporation site made for a well-known person. The owners registered the .com top-level domain only. It seems they don’t know what full domain protection is, which also involves securing alternative domains. Someone with a grudge took advantage of this and registered a .org with the same second-level domain, and now many people who want to visit Trump’s site unwittingly land on the anti-Trump site.
The technique used is called ‘typosquatting’, which is the registration of a domain name similar in spelling to the domains of popular sites.
Typo searches are quite common. According to statistics, typos appear in 11% of queries for women and 12% for men. Logically, typing a domain name in the browser's address bar often happens with typos. Some profit by luring inattentive website visitors instead of the intended destination. Think how many times you typed a website address with a typo. For example, instead of ‘google’, you typed ‘gogle’, and instead of ‘facebook’, you typed ‘facwbook’. All because you missed one key.
Today, domain owners register not only the "main" domain but also several domains with typos. Otherwise, you might see a case like Donald Trump. And officially, there is nothing you can complain about.
There are also plenty of examples to be found offline too, just like the popular brands Adidas and Abibas.
Typosquatting can mislead users and be used against the original site or in the creation of adult sites to gain unsuspecting traffic.
Common examples of typosquatting
Substituting ‘www’ before a name without a dot, e.g., www.yelp.com or wwwyelp.com.
Rearranging letters, e.g., disneyland.com or dinseyland.com.
Permutations of adjacent keys on the keyboard, e.g., microsoft.com or mivrosoft.com, and combinations op/po, as/sa, etc. People often type such combinations with two fingers of one hand, pressing the keys almost simultaneously and confusing the sequence.
Skipping a letter, e.g., download.com or donload.com.
Skipping a letter at the beginning and end of a word, e.g., download.com or downloa.com. People press the keys that match the beginning and end of a word with less effort.
Skipping a letter in the domain zone, e.g., .com or .cm.
Replacing letters, e.g., amazon.com or amapon.com
Permutation of letters horizontally, e.g., instead of o, use p or i.
Permutation of letters in a circle, e.g., instead of h, use j, n, b, f, y, and u.
Doubling a letter, e.g., etsy.com or ettst.com.
Interestingly, in most developed countries, trademark typosquatting and cybersquatting are illegal. However, this only bothers a few take google.by which belonged to a Belarusian hoster until 2009 and was taken only through the courts.
Image hosting service pict.com received traffic from 128 different ‘wrong’ domains, and bet365.com casino collected traffic from 326 of its competitor’s wrong domains!
There are some examples where it has happened in reverse. Shortly after Google bought youtube.com, a company selling real used pipes and owning utube.com, suffered from a wave of erroneous traffic, and their server simply could not stand it, receiving tens and hundreds of thousands of visitors a day. The company even wanted to sue the video portal but changed its mind!
Typosquatting - a method on the edge
In general, typosquatting is a method that is called ‘on edge’, and the consequences depend on the moral standards of the typosquatter. After all, if the example at the very beginning is still acceptable, then someone for the ‘missed’ visitor can create a phishing site that completely duplicates the original and thus obtains user data.
In the UK, the domain owners twtter.com and wikapedia.com were recently fined £100,000. True, not for the domains themselves, but for content fraud.
The Godai Group even carried out an experiment where they registered the twin domains of Fortune 500 companies, omitting the period (like uscompany.com instead of us.company.com), and installed mail services there. Over 120 thousand letters have accumulated in ‘traps’ for six months. Among the letters were personal data of employees of different companies, personal identifiers, payment documents, internal network schemes, and so on.
In practice, there are very few cases where typosquatters have suffered. The notorious cases include Microsoft's trial with people who bought a group of domain names that were similar to Windows products, or Google's trial with a domain owner from St. Petersburg, who registered names like googkle.com, ghoogle.com, gfoogle.com, gooigle.com and posted viruses there. In the latter case, direct damage was done to Google, so taking these domains to court was easy. Discovering the ‘wrong’ domains is far more difficult in other situations.
By the way, where do you think typosquatting is most popular? Surprisingly - in Cameroon. It's just that the country domain of Cameroon is cm, and when typing names in the com zone, one letter is often omitted. Therefore, a couple of years ago, every third site in the .cm zone was type squat.
H2: The main models for earning typosquatters
net sale to owners of the main domain
earnings from contextual advertising
redirecting traffic to other sites
Examples of successful direct sales include doppelgangers donwload.com, downlaod.com, dawnload.com, sold for $80,000.
Matthew Chambers, a security expert, analyzed one typosquatting .cm group of sites (espn[dot]cm, aol[dot]cm, and itunes[dot]cm and others) and found the sites were visited approximately 50 million times per year.
Some experts suggested that search engines are interested in “domainers” because the latter gives them a large chunk of profit since they place contextual advertising on such sites. We know that only 10 years ago, Google typos brought in up to 500 million USD a year!
Now that you’ve learned more about typosquatting, are you thinking about registering some alternative domain names, as well as your original?