Google Takes Aim At Domain Tasting Profiteers

In January 2007, the top ten registrars engaged in domain tasting accounted for 95% of all deleted .com and .net domain names, according to VeriSign.
Google is planning to introduce a system to detect a form of domain registration abuse known as domain kiting. In so doing, the company stands to lose millions in advertising revenue, though it may gain far more in user trust and goodwill.

Registrants of Internet domains generally have a five-day grace period between the time a domain is registered and the time payment for the domain is due. This five-day period is used by domain profiteers for domain tasting -- testing the ad revenue generated at a given domain and then returning unprofitable domains -- and for domain kiting -- deleting newly registered domains within the grace period then immediately re-registering them to reset the grace period and postpone payment.

Because domain kiting is essentially a perpetual motion scheme for domain tasting, curtailing kiting will limit tasting. In January 2007, the top ten registrars engaged in domain tasting accounted for 95% of all deleted .com and .net domain names, according to VeriSign. These registrars deleted 45,450,897 domain names out of 47,824,131 total deletes.

"We have long discouraged domain kiting as a practice," Google said in an e-mailed statement. "In order to more effectively deter it, we are launching a new domain kiting detection system. If we determine that a domain is being kited, we will not allow Google ads to appear on the site. We believe that this policy will have a positive impact for users and domain purchasers across the Web."

As of Feb. 11, Google plans to begin blocking AdSense for Domains ads from appearing on kited domains. The company did not provide further details about how its kiting detection system will work.

Google's AdSense for Domains program allows domain registrants to generate Web pages full of ads where no Web site content yet exists. The idea is that putting ads on these "parked domains" provides a useful service to online visitors who would otherwise encounter error pages or "site coming soon" notices. Typically, these pages full of ads perform best when they're associated with and relevant to a domain name someone is likely to type directly into a browser's address bar. Critics of the practice consider such pages little more than spam or doorways to malware.

In June, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), the organization that oversees the domain name system, issued a report on the possible consequences of domain tasting, including the destabilization of the domain name system, greater consumer confusion, increased costs and burdens on legitimate registrants, and the facilitation of trademark abuse and criminal activity.

Two months later, ICANN solicited feedback from the Internet community about domain tasting, an inquiry that hinted at possible willingness to curb abuses.

Google has had to contend with the problems ICANN foresaw. Having stepped up its involvement over the past two years in keeping its index free of spam sites, malware sites, and trademark exploiters of various sorts, Google appears to have finally come to the conclusion that the revenue generated by catering to domain profiteers isn't worth the cost.

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