Domain Cybersquatting On The Rise, Report Suggests

Dennis Faas's picture

A brand specialist says more and more web domain names are being registered solely to cash in on existing firms' business.

The report from MarkMonitor examines five types of 'abuse' related to domain names of varying legality. The biggest problem, which is also the fastest growing, is cybersquatting: buying up a domain name that is the same as an existing business with the intention of selling it back to a firm at a profit.

According to the report, that problem affected almost 450,000 domain names during the last quarter of 2008, up 18% on the previous year. Approximately 80% of the sites noted in last year's research were still active this year, suggesting the rightful domain owners have been unsuccessful in gaining control of them through the legal system. (Source:

'Cybersquatting' or statistical confusion?

It's worth noting that the actual figures may not be entirely reliable because there are legitimate situations where there's genuine dispute over who is the rightful owner of a brand name online. It's possible that some of the domain owners identified as cybersquatting may in fact have a legitimate claim to the name, or may be genuinely unaware it is in use for a brand.

There's also some confusion over the figures themselves with some outlets reporting 1.7 million sites affected during the year when the report itself gives the results by the quarter, meaning many sites will be counted in each set of results. But with the 2007 and 2008 reports researched in the same manner, the rise in cybersquatting is visible.

Domain Name Typos Equal Bucks

The report also noted four other types of brand-related abuse which are on the rise. The most common involves domain owners actively trying to trick users into thinking their site belongs to the better-known firm. Of these, there's a rise of almost 46% who attempt to exploit this confusion by selling goods and services on the site. (Source:

Other abuses include using a website to display offensive content, and trying to make cash by filling a page with links to advertisements for which the site owner is paid per click. The most common way of doing this is to register a misspelled variant of an established website address to catch those unlucky few who mistype it.

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