Is the world’s biggest registrar typosquatting some of the world’s biggest brands?
Typosquatting refers to registering domain names similar to popular sites but with misspellings or missing/added characters. For example, typosquatting would be registering yaho.com instead of yahoo.com. Millions of people type ‘yahoo.com’ into their browsers every day, and many of those accidentally neglect the second ‘o’. Typosquatting is a big business, and typo domains regularly sell for over $10,000.
But is it possible that GoDaddy, the world’s biggest registrar, is an active typosquatter? The culprit is GoDaddy’s TDNAM.com service. TDNAM is a domain name aftermarket at which people can buy and sell domains (similar to Sedo and Afternic). However, GoDaddy also auctions off expiring domains that are currently registered at GoDaddy. This is a common practice — all of the big registrars auction off such domains through services like SnapNames. But GoDaddy parks expiring domains on its servers for a couple weeks before auctioning them at TDNAM. This allows the company to calculate the amount of visits the domain receives and the associated revenue from pay-per-click ads. It then sets higher starting bids for expiring domains that produce revenue.
For example, TDNAM started an auction for privatebankruptcy.com at $140 rather than TDNAM’s standard $10 expired domain start price because privatebankruptcy.com receives valuable web traffic.
No problem there. But what if the domain in question is a typo of a trademarked term? That was the case with FootLoocker.com, which TDNAM set a starting price at $1,000s of dollars. (It receives a lot of type-in traffic.) You could rightfully argue that GoDaddy shouldn’t have to screen all of the expiring domains it lists to ensure it doesn’t include trademark typos. But what if no one bids on the domain? What happens to it then?
It appears that GoDaddy keeps the domain and tries to sell it under cover on TDNAM. FootLoocker.com didn’t receive any bids during its expired domain auction, but it’s currently listed for sale for $3,630 at TDNAM.
I believe that GoDaddy still owns the domain. As proof, the domain is currently registered via DomainsbyProxy. It appears that all of the domains that aren’t successfully auctioned off but are retained are registered through DomainsbyProxy. Second, FootLoocker.com currently resolves to a standard GoDaddy.com parking page. The company makes money from the sponsored ads on that page. If someone other than GoDaddy purchased this domain they would immediately park the domain at a service that would create revenue for the owner.
What’s worse is that it appears the company is trying to cover up its tracks. I recently purchased a number of domains from TDNAM that were expired domain auctions that ended with no bidders (I didn’t buy any trademark typos, mind you). All of the domains showed DomainsbyProxy as the registrant. Although it appears GoDaddy is the seller, I received an e-mail from a random web address offering to complete the transaction by transferring the domains to my GoDaddy.com account. What shows up if you go to that web address? A GoDaddy.com parked page. I suspect GoDaddy doesn’t want the e-mail to appear to come from the company to cover up its tracks.
To sum it up, I believe that GoDaddy is retaining high traffic expired domains that it fails to successfully auction off at TDNAM. It lists the domains on TDNAM as “Buy it Now” sales, and parks the domains at GoDaddy to earn revenue from pay-per-click ads. GoDaddy is profiting from typosquatting.