The .CM Scam

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Business 2.0’s Paul Sloan has been digging into the .CM domain name scam. A domain name broker managed to convince the government of Cameroon, which controls .cm, to do a deal where any mis-typed domain name, like Google.cm (instead of google.com), takes the visitor to an advertising-filled landing page (the ads are served by Yahoo).

The .CM pages are served based on a wildcard. If the domain has not been registered, the user is redirected to agoga.com. Since the redirects are taking place via a wildcard, and domains are not actually being registered, there is little trademark holders can do to fight this (other than register the domain themselves).

This is actually one of the cleaner scams occurring in the extremely dirty domain name business. ICANN, which oversees top level domains like .com, .net and .info, has no oversight or regulatory powers over the two-letter country code domains like .cm. It’s up to the individual countries to decide what is ethical and what isn’t. And when money is thrown at these small countries, it seems that they have little hesitation in giving control of their namespace to a relatively unknown speculator.

Update: Some of the comments below suggest that it’s unreasonable for me to make broad statements characterizing the entire domain industry as “dirty.” I think those criticisms are fair and worth pointing out here in the post. There are intelligent people who disagree with some of my opinions.