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CyberSquatters Grrrr.


There are a lot of ways to make money on the Internet, some good and some bad. This article isn't going to cover scams (that's for next week), but I want to talk a little about the lowly practice of cybersquatting.

On a tangent, I wish people would stop creating new words using the word "cyber" in it. I have no idea why it irritates me so much, but for some strange reason it does. It's been so overused and abused that it has become tiresome, but I digress, it's a free world. <grin>

Cybersquatting is the act of purchasing a domain name for the sole purpose of selling it at a much inflated price on a later date. I don't know, I guess it's not much different than the practice of buying property in the hopes of selling it later for more money, but there is one difference. Usually when real-estate buyers do this, they also develop the land in some way. Whether it be clearing off trees and whatnot so that homes or offices can be built, or actually building something on the land. Cybersquatters generally do nothing with the domain name other than to have it point at an existing site they own until they sell it.

I had my own personal experience with this when I went to register www.vbok.com for this e-zine (for those new subscribers, PCWize used to be called VBOK.) The situation was as I described above in that www.vbok.com just pointed at another existing site. Not only was there nothing on this site that remotely had anything to do with the acronym V.B.O.K., but I couldn't even think of anything those initials could stand for other than the Virtual Book Of Knowledge. Maybe this person planned to start a site called "Vince's Beer Or Keg" possibly, but I doubt it.

I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to fork out the cash to buy vbok.com from him, but in the end, decided that I would change the name. I searched for hours to find a domain name that reflected what this e-zine was about, was short, and I liked. Almost everything with the word 'net', 'PC', and 'geek' was already taken. My wife was actually the one to suggest the variation on the spelling of 'wise'. This actually worked out very well, because PCWize had two meanings. It could be thought in the context like a wise decision, and it could also be thought of in the context like PC wize (having to do with PCs.)

In my case, the cybersquatting incident was actually helpful. I am much happier with PCWize, because I don't have to explain what it means like I did with VBOK <grin>,   and I think it's much more meaningful. However, I was lucky. Some people have banked their dreams on getting a certain domain name. For example last issue's "That's the News!" article concerned a college student who wanted to purchase www.races.com for a few thousand, but in an administration error by Network Solutions, the name became available again on the open market for a brief period of time. That was all the time one cybersquatter needed to snatch it up and then put up a for sale sign to the tune of $500,000 USD.

Some of you might be saying "But hey! You snooze, you lose! This is the age of opportunity." Well, to a certain extent I agree with you. However, I see no difference between cybersquatters and people who say, buy tickets to a popular event with the sole purpose of selling them for a higher price (scalpers). If I remember correctly, scalping is illegal.

I think that maybe there needs to be a contractual agreement for intent to develop when purchasing a domain. There just aren't enough domain names at the big three level (.com, .net, and .org), especially since companies usually buy the .net and .org when they buy the .com for trademark protection.

At any rate, if you want to see just how ugly this can be, then go to http://www.greatdomains.com and take a look at the "High-profile names" section. Take a look at how much profit people are expecting to make off of their $70 USD investment.



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