Can Google Solve The Domain Tasting Problem?

from the worth-a-shot dept

The issue of "domain tasting" (or "domain kiting") has been getting a lot more attention lately. Dell sued a company for pulling a domain tasting scam to make ad money off of domains without having to pay for them and ICANN has recently started to look into the problem. Of course, at ICANN's snail's pace, it didn't seem like anything was going to happen any time soon -- so it appears Google has decided to step up with a potential solution.

For those who don't know, domain tasting is used by certain companies to register a bunch of domain names and place ads on them. Since ICANN's rules say that you can register a domain for five days before deciding if you actually want to pay for it and keep it, the domain tasters just hold onto the domain for five days, put Google AdSense on the domain and collect any money before returning the URL. If a domain is particularly valuable, they might actually buy it -- but the more recent scam is to have a series of shell companies repeatedly take the domain for five days at a time, quickly reregistering it seconds after the previous "holder" gives up the domain.

It's clearly a scam and wasn't at all what was intended with the five day grace period. However, with ICANN taking the slow road towards dealing with it, Google has now announced that it will not allow any Google AdSense ads to appear on a site during the five day grace period. This is a bit of a surprise, since Google likely makes plenty of money from this practice. While domain tasters will quickly gravitate to other ad platforms, Google was probably the most effective one, and hopefully other leading ad platforms will follow Google's lead.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:13am

    No Easy Solution

    This is a regulatory nightmare. Any proposed solution would probably be considered blatantly unfair.

    One solution. ICANN requires that a bond be posted before allowing a domain to be registered. Also, when a domain is given up, that it cannot be be used for something like six months to pull a figure out of thin air.

    Thus if a domain is used for an illegal activity, those hurt could recover something. Additionally, the domain could not be easily rolled over.

    Of course there will be innovative workarounds for this type of solution.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:16am

    So if Google can monitor/regulate/enforce where all of its ads are placed, why can't they make sure copyright material doesn't show up on YouTube?

     

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  3.  
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    magscanner, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    domain tasting

    Why doesn't some public-spirited ISP sue ICANN to force them to stop allowing domain-tasting?

    I've read extensively about this problem, but have yet to see any justification for the "first five days are free" policy.

     

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  4.  
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    nmw, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:22am

    Danny Sullivan (searchengineland) says Google will

    Danny Sullivan says he has been informed by Google, Inc. (GOOG) that the search engine service plans to continue advertising with domain names using "domain tasting". Here's the quote by Mr. Sullivan: "Domain kiting is when someone registers a domain but never pays for it, then keeps registering it. Google said the policy will only apply to kiting. Those doing domain tasting -- registering a site, trying it out with ads and then actually paying for it -- will not be impacted." URL: http://searchengineland.com/080125-081815.php

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:31am

    Re:

    They can't make sure that their adds aren't placed by a domain taster either - but they can withhold their payment to said company for violating TOS, which is just as powerful (arguably more powerful, actually) as simply preventing it.

     

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  6.  
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    4-80-sicks, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:34am

    Re:

    So if Google can monitor/regulate/enforce where all of its ads are placed, why can't they make sure copyright material doesn't show up on YouTube?

    I have yet to hear an explanation as to how that would be possible. Should every video that is uploaded receive human review before approval?

     

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  7.  
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    nmw, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:41am

    Google takes all will not satisfy advertisers / IP

    If Google keeps the money, I doubt that will satisfy either the disgruntled advertiser communities and/or the victims of trademark fraud (or similar intellectual property crimes) -- I expect this will be insufficient to head off most of the legal issues Google is trying to avoid. The best thing for Google would be to simply stop being involved in these illicit schemes and get entirely out of these shady markets.

     

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  8.  
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    nmw, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    Re: Google takes all will not satisfy advertisers

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 10:51am

    Why in the world is a grace period needed anymore? .COM domains cost $6.95 nowadays. You decide you don't need a domain after you bought it... you're out $6.95, big deal.

     

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  10.  
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    keybored, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:04am

    huh?

    How can they drive enough traffic to the site in just 5 days to make any money? I don't get it.

     

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  11.  
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    some other guy, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:13am

    Re:

    I guess it works like this:

    Check age of domain. Less that 5 days? No Ads for you!
    >*trivial*

    Check copyright status. 1) Invent strong AI. 2) Train it as a copyright law expert. 3)? 4) Profit!
    >*non-trivial*

    Maybe Google can manage the AI thing, though.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:19am

    Re:

    algorithm for placing ads:
    if registration date>=5 then do
    algorithm for copyright:
    you tell us.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:20am

    Re:

    > So if Google can monitor/regulate/enforce where all of
    > its ads are placed, why can't they make sure copyright
    > material doesn't show up on YouTube?

    What a troll. There are a lot of answers here, but the most simple is that a lot of copyright holders *want* their content on YouTube. How is Google to know the difference? Also, it's several orders of magnitude simpler to parse text-based ads than it is video.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:29am

    i dont get it either

    doesn't it cost like 6 bucks to register a domain for a year? it is more cost efficient to "setup a series of shell companies" than to pay 6 bucks to register it legitimately?

     

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  15.  
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    Overcast, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:29am

    Why don't Google just place a 5 day wait on putting ads up?

    Simple... I'd think

    More or less '5 business days after putting the the order, it will be fulfilled'.

    Or even 3..

     

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  16.  
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    Jon, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:34am

    Re: #2 Coward

    If this isn't a legit question, it sounds a lot like a troll or shill.

    In the case it is a legit question.. there is a major difference between delaying payments for advertisements you (Google) are providing and policing content for copyrighted material that you (again, Google) didn't create, provide, or initiate. That is very much an apples/oranges.. wait.. apples vs. bottled water comparison. The only similarity they have is they are both on the internet.

    To reduce the effectiveness of these domain tasters could be done by simply delaying the initial payment till the 6th day and checking to see if the domain is still registered to the same person/company. An incredibly simple solution.

    To effectively police copyrighted content, you would have to have a means of fingerprinting all content in a quick and efficient manner. This would mean identifying content in countless formats/compressions/etc and in countless pieces/parts/subsets of the original. Beyond the challenge of matching these fingerprints, you would also have to have a significant investment of time and resources from the copyright holders to provide the fingerprints or a source for the fingerprints. Then you start talking about the storage and computational resources required to process these fingerprints in a timely manner. While these all sound like challenges that could be overcome in time and with SIGNIFICANT cooperation from the copyright owners, it is all moot since the DMCA Safe Harbor provisions state, it is not Google responsibility to enforce or policy a copyright holders content.

    In short, even if the technology and resources were not an issue, it is not their problem to deal with.

     

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  17.  
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    nmw, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    Domain Tasting has nothing to do with copyright

    Copyright law and trademark law both fall within intellectual property law, but they are nonetheless distinct -- domain names have virtually nothing to do with copyright.

    All of the questions re: "why don't they place a 5 day wait period?" >> Yes, that would seem logical, but apparently makes alot of money from advertising on domains using the domain name tasting method (so if they stopped, then they would lose too much money).

     

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  18.  
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    CHL Instructor, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:53am

    Re: i dont get it either

    You think that the series of shell corporations only handle one domain at a time, or what?

    They do as many as they can run through their 'bots. That can be several thousand active domains at any given time. Yup, it's more cost effective.
    --
    Do Article IV of the COTUS and the 2nd Amendment really mean what they say, or should we just scrap the whole document?

     

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  19.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:57am

    Ahhh, The Paradox

    RE #2: "So if Google can monitor/regulate/enforce where all of its ads are placed, why can't they make sure copyright material doesn't show up on YouTube?"

    Thanks for demonstrating this brilliant non-sequitur. But your insightful point reminds me of another conundrum:

    So if I can ride a bicycle uphill/downhill and on many kinds of road, why can't I make sure dolphins don't get caught in commercial fishing nets.

     

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  20.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 11:57am

    Excellent news

    This is welcome news, especially since (as observed in the parent article) there is no chance at all that ICANN will do anything effective about this in any reasonable timeframe.

    One of the other frequent uses for domain tasting, by the way, is spamming. Since any SMTP server with any sense will reject outright connections from hosts with either (a) no rDNS (b) rDNS that points to a non-existent domain (c) SMTP greeting banner that names non-existent domain or (d) SMTP putative sender from non-existent domain, and since domain names used in spam runs quickly find their way into blacklists, spammers have been using domain tasting for years to set up quick spam runs. They'll burn through a lot -- I mean a lot -- of domains at a ferocious rate, then switch registrars and do it again. Combine that with domain tasting for spam target domains and even for spam DNS servers, and what's often observed is an entire infrastructure that's completely ephemeral.

    I hope other search engines follow suit. If they do, then there might be a fighting chance of killing this practice, which in turn will cut down drastically on abuse -- and will help reduce the cruft in DNS.

     

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  21.  
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    wnyght, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 12:27pm

    I'm a bit confused about something: who exactly gets hurt by domain tasting? just curious how this affects the public in general.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    Off the cuff... The public is hurt because businesses lose money on advertising that is ineffective and pass those losses onto the consumer. Which, is why Google has an interest in the first place. If they can curtail ‘kiting’ then they have one more reason for why Google adSense is an effective advertising medium.

     

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  23.  
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    syN-acK, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 2:21pm

    "I'm a bit confused about something: who exactly gets hurt by domain tasting? just curious how this affects the public in general."

    One way this affects the public is by companies such as networksolutions.com that grab the domain based on a search. Then if you decide to purchase the name, you are forced to use their service.

     

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  24.  
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    Tack Furlo, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 4:40pm

    Why Google did this

    I just wanted to answer a question that, if nobody has asked it, I assure someone has thought it: Why would Google do this? I mean, AdSense is their only really profitable venture (sure, things like Google Checkout will turn a profit one day, but at its core, Google is an advertising company, and nothing will change that.) In short, there are 2 good reasons for this.

    1) It's not evil. Willingly and knowingly allowing AdSense to be used as a tool by people cheating ICANN rules is makes Google appear, even if only by association, evil, and every decision at Google is (even if it's monetarily a bad idea) run through the "is it evil" filter before it ever exits any employee's mind. Evil things at Google are thought of and then immediately discarded, because the moment they start putting profit ahead of users, they start losing both. Google learned the golden rule of web search and advertising early and has stuck to it, and that's the sole reason they have the market share they have in both.

    2) It makes their advertisers happy. If you're wal mart, and you pay to run 500 ads, and 100 of those end up on one of these 5-days-and-it's-gone pages, you feel like you've been cheated to a certain extent. Whereas, if those pages are blocked, and instead your 100 ads go on a good, popular blog, you feel like you got your money's worth, even if nobody does actually click it. In this way, Google will actually make their advertisers happier. Companies don't want to place ads just anywhere. If they have a 1% click through on one site and a 1.1% click through elsewhere, they'll pay well over 10% more to raise that chance, especially with an ad costs them a nickel and their product sells for $10+.

    Anyhow...I agree and applaud Google for this. I just hope the likes of yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Microsoft, and other major players in the online ad space will follow suit. Do Google a favor and click an AdSense ad now. Can't afford to buy anything? Fine, wait for an ad for something like "don't use drugs" and visit and really browse the non-proft's site. Help Google get a better ranking amongst their ad market competitors and let Google know you're glad they still put the user above the dollar however you can afford to.

     

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  25.  
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    John, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 4:46pm

    Why a grace period

    Like the other posters say, why is there even a grace period? I could understand a "taste period" if you're going to make a large investment, but when domains are $6 or $6.95 for a year, why a grace period?

    And really, how much "tasting" can be done in the first 5 days? Can you really say your e-commerce site isn't working in 5 days, so you'll give the domain back? And, look, you just saved yourself $6.95!

    If I was conspiracy-theory person, I'd suspect there was more to this "domain tasting" issue than we're led to believe. If this was such a huge problem (and obviously it's a problem for us, but not ICANN), then ICANN would do something.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2008 @ 5:19am

    Re: Re:

    "The public is hurt because businesses lose money on advertising that is ineffective and pass those losses onto the consumer"

    But is this form of advertising ineffective? So once again the question is who exactly gets hurt by this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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