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The Internet

Drop-Catching Domains Is Big Business 197

WebsiteMag brings us news from the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) about a recent study of drop catching —'a process whereby a domain that has expired is released into the pool of available names and is instantly re-registered by another party.' The eleven day study showed that 100% of '.com' and '.net' domain names were immediately registered after they had been released. CADNA has published the results with their own analysis. Quoting: "The results also show that 87% of Dot-COM drop-catchers use the domain names for pay-per-click (PPC) sites. They have no interest in these domain names other than leveraging them to post PPC ads and turn a profit. Interestingly, only 67% of Dot-ORG drop catchers use the domains they catch to post these sites — most likely because Dot-ORG names are harder to monetize due to the lack of type-in traffic and because they tend to be used for more legitimate purposes."
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Drop-Catching Domains Is Big Business

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  • What needs to change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FredFredrickson ( 1177871 ) * on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:18PM (#22257250) Homepage Journal
    What needs to change is getting your domain back if you accidentally let it expire.

    Just days after I accidentally let one of my domains expire with godaddy, they told me it's in a probation period where it was protected and only I could re-register it if it was a mistake- the catch was that it'd cost $80, as opposed to the $10 it normally costs.

    That price is arbitrary, as it's no skin off their backs to re-register it for standard cost. They're banking on drop-catching. Drop-catchers snatch domains faster than I've been able to, even using godaddy's service that watches and grabs a domain the minute it expires.
    • Early on when I was broke and just starting out I thought domains should be cheaper now that they are I wish they were at least more than an impulse purchase. Drop Catching has turned into nothing more than legalized extortion. I was similarly stung by wasnt a url that anyone else would likely want so I decided not to play that game and let it go.
    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:44PM (#22257412) Homepage
      Maybe you should switch to a different registrar if you forget to renew your domain. My registrar sends me email notices 2 months before mine expires, then again at 1 month, then a couple more times after that. They make it really hard to forget. Also, if you don't remember to renew it, maybe it wasn't worth that much to begin with.
      • My registrar let me put the thing on 'auto-renewal.' Is that unusual? They just charge me once a year, and if I wanted it gone, I'd have to tell them to make it gone.
      • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:56AM (#22257840)
        My registrar sends me email notices 2 months before mine expires, then again at 1 month, then a couple more times after that. They make it really hard to forget.

        Actually, so does goddady. I get all kinds of reminders from them. They also have auto-renewal options.

        I suppose the only way to blow it would be to have your contact address some spam catcher address you never check. But that's not godaddy's fault.
          • by vux984 ( 928602 )
            Re:No one should take that as a recommendation.

            Indeed. Then again if you want to host some throwaway site for your friends and family or some non-profit or club or whatever, or you want to squat on a dozen typo-squat domains to redirect them to your main page, while preventing real typosquatters from grabbing them godaddy is just fine.

            But no I wouldn't trust a million dollar business site to godaddy.

            Godaddy's not right for everyone, but its perfectly fine for a lot of applications.

            And as for the site you li
            • Well, if you google Dreamhost horror stories, most of the stuff you'll find is actually recommending people to dreamhost after they've had some horror story with another hosting company. Sure they have some problems, like their recent accidental billings, but I've been pretty happy with their service over all. For the price you pay, you definitely get way better service than you'd expect.
            • GoDaddy is far, far worse than you say, I think. For example, GoDaddy tries to exploit the ignorance of most people who buy from them by offering many, many services of poor value. That makes GoDaddy's web pages difficult to navigate because they are so cluttered with ads.

              I wasn't talking about them hosting a web site. I was recommending not even buying a domain name through GoDaddy.
      • by macshit ( 157376 )
        Which registrars are good, BTW (for reasonably low cost "individual" service)? Seems like the only comment I ever hear about domain registrars is of the "Scum-sucking hell-parasite! Damn you, damn you forever!" variety...
        • I no longer own a website, but when I did seemed good for me. Their auto-renewal was effective, it just billed me once a year for the domain name.
        • by TheLink ( 130905 )
          I used Gandi before, they seemed decent to me.

          I think their T&C states clearly that in their opinion YOU own the domain name.

          Whereas many registrars appear to say that THEY own the domain name and you get to use it as long as you pay.

          What's the difference? The difference is how you are treated when the domain name expires or when stuff happens. Those registrars typically start squatting on names you let expire or letting "Partners" a first go at squatting on it,

          The other plus is Gandi is based in France
      • I had registered my domain with an email address that is no longer valid and a physical address where I no longer live. I had forgotten all about renewing it until I saw this article. Turns out my domain expires on Feb 7th and I was able to renew it (and update my contact information) in time!
    • by D'Sphitz ( 699604 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:48PM (#22257430) Journal

      About 6 years ago there was a domain I found that was a month or so from expiring. I checked it every day and it wasn't ever renewed, it entered a hold period and presumably was going to be released to the public after n days (30 i think).

      As the date approached I wrote a script to check the domain availability every 30 seconds, and alert me via email, phone, and loud annoying .wav file as soon as it became available. That never happened, it never officially became publicly available.

      I emailed the new owner and his response was simply "$4000.00". It has now been parked for over 6 years rather than being used for a legitimate purpose.

      I didn't know how the domain name business worked back then, but I learned then how sleazy it really is. These people are in bed with the registrars, and an individual who just wants a domain name less than 40 letters long is SOL.

      • by Yez70 ( 924200 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:49AM (#22258126)
        Your post gave me an idea. Domains are 'property' in a sense and they have a value. Let's charge 'property taxes' on them. If a domain has a market value, it has a taxable value. It could generate some nice tax revenue for states, or countries. It could also spur some pricing wars with domains other than .com and .net as different countries charge different tax rates. The majority of people own domains worth $10 or less, so it would cost them at most $1 a year per domain. Anyone who owns more than 100 domains would have to pay an incrementally higher rate per domain. It's just an idea, I'm sure a politician would love it.

        Imagine being able to forward the '$4000.00' response to the Internet tax office - he's now liable for the $400 in taxes on his $4000 domain, every year. I bet he'd drop the price, or the domain pretty quick.
        • Imagine being able to forward the '$4000.00' response to the Internet tax office - he's now liable for the $400 in taxes on his $4000 domain

          Normally, real estate is not valued on what the seller asks, but rather on the price for which comparable property actually is sold.

        • by dodobh ( 65811 )
          So who collects the taxes (Which country)?
        • I'm not aware of any taxes on property that you're holding... Is this a purely hypothetical thing or are their actual taxes on just possessing things on that side of the pond?

    • We just had an incident where our customer decided they didn't want a certain domain name, so they let it expire. Then they changed their mind, to keep it for one more year, just in case they found a use for it.

      The tech guy renewed it, and told us it was $200. As he described it, the domain was in its second grace period (meaning that it got picked up by a bottom-feeder), and that was the charge. I doubt that the customer realized that he was making a $200 decision, when he said "oh what the heck, let'

  • by ContractualObligatio ( 850987 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:24PM (#22257300)
    It's an interesting study, although it seems you safely ignore drop catching. Things have to become available at some point, so it's what happens after the "drop catch" that's important. As the paper itself concludes:

    "Drop-catching alone is not what has led to this problematic environment, but rather it is the abuse of the Add Grace Period in connection with drop-catching that appears to be the cause."

    Gotta say domain tasting and parking spoil the internet for me. I've been thinking about setting up a website, and most of the names I checked were domain parked. I could easily live with the registration fee going up significantly if it meant that only people with a real use for domain bought it. The paper suggests that $100 (which isn't too much) is about the cutoff point where it starts to become financially stupid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sssssss27 ( 1117705 )
      And perhaps setting aside a TLD for personal websites that would have a cheap fee and punishing anyone who used them for anything else.

      My dad set up a server for our family, immediate and extended, that we all use for e-mail, to share pictures or videos, and anything else that you would want a server for. It would suck to have to add an extra $100 to the server costs.
    • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:38PM (#22257376)
      At a recent ICANN meeting, it was voted that ICANN will cease to refund the ICANN domain fee. The result of that will be that registrars won't refund it either, which in turn is expected to be a bullet to the heart of domain tasting.

      ICANN's fee is not a lot - 20 cents (US) per year - but that is expected to be sufficient to make domain tasting unprofitable.

      Article here: []
      • Agreed. Still need to do something about parking though.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bepo ( 709117 )
          Would we really want to do anything about it? Who decides what is appropriate for a website and what isn't? This could be a good intentions project that quickly gets hijacked into Internet censorship.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Yes, some of us really do. ICANN currently holds that power. At the time when fees were higher, the Internet was held up as a vision of free speech - is there some difference in in free speech principles between a $10 fee and $100 fee that I'm missing?
            • by rhizome ( 115711 )
              At the time when fees were higher, the Internet was held up as a vision of free speech

              Not to rain on your prelapsarian parade, but in the days when domain fees were higher there were a lot of other restrictions that obviated domain parking.
              • That's not a counterpoint to my post, it's a supporting argument!

                I'm not saying things were much better back in the day before some great Fall where domain parking ruined the world, or whatever metaphor you had in mind when you made your pretentious prelapsarian comment. I was pointing out that if we have freedom of speech now with a $10 fee (as the GP implies) and we had freedom of speech back then with much higher fees (as I can attest), there is no reason to fear the impact of a minor rise in fees.

    • I'm paying $10/year.

      Are you suggesting that I pay $100/year, or $100 registration fee, and then $10/year 'upkeep' fee?

      The former would price me out of the market (personal vanity domain), the latter I could probably deal with.
      • Good question. I would say the latter, on the assumption going a year without knowing whether an "investment" is going to pay off is a sufficient deterrent to abuse.

        That wouldn't address existing parked domains, though. Maybe in addition to the pricing change there could be a mechanism whereby you can apply to have a parked domain treated as "available" for the purposes of someone wanting to register a new site i.e. you get to transfer it against their will for $100. For the "parker" to reclaim the site wou
    • by houghi ( 78078 )
      That could become costly for many people who just have fun with the website.
      Many of those people will be willing to put adds on their sites, where they do not so now.
  • by kylehase ( 982334 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:58PM (#22257494)
    Why are people complaining about this. Most registrars send out several email warnings prior to an expiration almost to the point where it's annoying. Secondly, if a domain is that important to you shouldn't you be using the registrars auto renewal service?

    It's not like they're frontrunning (sniping) domain names. []

  • Guess who the biggest offender is? WEB HOSTS! I lost my old domain because I had my old domain host use their registrar. And guess what happened when I didn't renew with they cuz they sucked? They re-registered it "for my convenience" and sat on. I had to go to .net instead! That should be soooooo illegal under monopoly/anticompetition laws.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @02:57AM (#22258414) Homepage

    Most of the "ICANN accredited registrars" [] are fronts for domain tasting. There are only a few real registrars; the rest are dummies for picking up dropped domains. Enom has a huge number of dummy fronts - "Enom1, Inc" through "Enom469, Inc".

    One step needed is for ICANN to enforce the provision of the registrar agreement which allows ICANN to prohibit registrars from owning or speculating in domains. And the provision which requires that a registrar have assurance of payment before activating a domain. With that, the end of the "grace period", and Google refusing to monetize domains for the first five days, we should see this problem decrease. The .org TLD recently got rid of their grace period, and domain transactions dropped 90%.

    We're working on this from the browser end. The general idea of our SiteTruth [] system is to filter out the bottom-feeders. It's the next step after ad-blocking - make the link pages, directory pages, typosquatters, and similar junk far less visible.

    It's not even clear that advertisers benefit from all those junk pages. If you advertise with Google ads, and get clicks from junk pages, do they really result in sales? Or is this just a way to take money from the real advertiser and divert it to some bottom-feeder?

    • enforce the provision of the registrar agreement which allows ICANN to prohibit registrars from owning or speculating in domains.

      Does that provision really already exist? It would be very hard to prove, though, because one could set up a registrar that does the registrations on behalf "of their customers", and ICANN is not really in the position to trace whether those customers are the same organisation as the registrar.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mspohr ( 589790 )
      I don't know how you judge junk and 'bottom feeders' but I just checked about five sites that I know are legitimate and they all came up as red and yellow... you may need to refine your methods.
  • And how do these people know when a domain has expired back into the available pool? Do they track whois records which list expiry dates, get the listfrom registrars, are registrars themselves, or what?
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @05:16AM (#22258982)
    $100 to register, Free to renew for the first 10 years. $10 to renew every year after that. That way it works out to $10 per year for those who stay with a domain, and there is a big incentive not to register a domain you do not wish to keep. In combination with trademark law that would probably take the sting out of most of this nonsense.
  • I agree that this is a huge problem, but I don't think pricing domain names out of the range of po' people (like me) and putting more money in the pockets of the registrars is a valid solution. The only theoretical solution I can think of is to limit the number of domains you can register at one time, or better yet within a certain time frame. But even that is flawed. Retailers do this all the time by limiting the amount of a certain sale item you can buy -- if widgets are normally $20 each, and they are pu

  • What about laws? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Friday February 01, 2008 @06:50AM (#22259384) Homepage
    We have trademark laws, we have copyright laws, we have laws that deal with telemarketing, why not have laws that deal with domain grabbing?
  • by Anonymous Freak ( 16973 ) <`' `ta' `revird.suirp'> on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:27PM (#22263364) Journal
    I own the .org and .info domains of my last name. A distant cousin owned the .com. He let it lapse, and it was picked up by a domain squatter instantly. They want over 500 Euro for the domain. Which is silly, since my last name is so uncommon, there are only 40-ish people in the WORLD with my last name. None of us are famous, none of us own a business with our family name in it. (There are a few of us who own businesses, but none with our name in it.)

    I've waited three years for the name to expire, but they keep re-registering it. I've told them outright that I'm willing to pay $35, and that's it. By my measure, they'll hit that mark in their own spending next year.

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