Google is smart, and it proved it with its “we are not evil” approach to domain kiting.
I knew those engineers at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) were smart. But they also have smart PR skills.
Last week, Google decided to let the world know it was going to stop monetizing kited domains — those domains that are continually dropped and re-registered during the 5 day registration grace period. It found a mule to report this to the world and show how Google was a great company. (The initial report said that Google wouldn’t monetize domains less than five days old. This was incorrect — they will only stop monetizing kited domains.)
And we bit. The story got 944 Diggs. The Associated Press picked up the story: Google was good. It wasn’t fair to monetize these domains. So it would stop doing it.
But then some smart people started asking questions. Sahar Sarid asked why Google would suddenly stop doing this, after not bowing to pressure from lawsuits. Bret Fausett pointed out that just one domain taster was making millions each month.
So why would Google stop serving ads?
Well, it turns out it wasn’t such a “change of heart” and “do no evil” after all. You see, the day prior to this story breaking, ICANN’s board voted to change the fees for domains to include a “return” fee on domains returned during the five day registration period. I hadn’t read the minutes from this board meeting yet, as hadn’t anyone else with a voice. (What, you don’t get juiced up to read the latest ICANN board minutes??)
So Google learned that ICANN was going to effectively make domain kiting unprofitable, and decided to come out ahead of the news and say it would no longer monetized kited domains.
It was brilliant, and almost everyone fell for it.
[Editor’s note: I wrote this article for publication Wednesday morning. In the meantime, Domain Name News followed up with Google and clarified Domain Tools’ originally misleading report. Adam Strong did a great job following up on this issue and analyzing what it means for domain tasting and kiting. You need to read it. And you need to add Domain Name News to your RSS reader as well.]