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Pre-order Your .CM Domain Now, Start Making Money Off Domain Typos Soon!

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I distinctly remember reading this Business 2.0 Magazine piece published back in May 2007 about Kevin Ham, ‘the most powerful dotcom mogul you’ve never heard of’. If you’re interested in the domain name business (lovingly called the nasty cybersquatter rat nest by some), I suggest you read it in full.

Here’s an interesting passage just in case you’re a little time-stressed:

And what few people know is that he’s also the man behind the domain world’s latest scheme: profiting from traffic generated by the millions of people who mistakenly type “.cm” instead of “.com” at the end of a domain name. Try it with almost any name you can think of — Beer.cm, Newyorktimes.cm, even Anyname.cm — and you’ll land on a page called Agoga.com, a site filled with ads served up by Yahoo.

Ham makes money every time someone clicks on an ad — as does his partner in this venture, the West African country of Cameroon. Why Cameroon? It has the unforeseen good fortune of owning .cm as its country code — just as Germany runs all names that end with .de. The difference is that hardly any .cm names are registered, and the letters are just one keyboard slip away from .com, the mother lode of all domains. Ham landed connections to the Cameroon government and flew in his people to reroute the traffic.

Notably, this was after Cameroon set up its own scheme to make money off typo traffic: in August 2006, word got out that the operators of the domain name extension (state-owned Camnet) had wild-carded its ccTLD and was monetizing all the incoming traffic using ad-filled pages. Every single time someone accidentally typed in “.cm” instead of “.com”, Camnet was collecting.

That was then, and this is now: millions of people are, of course, still mistakenly typing “.cm” instead of “.com” at the end of a domain name, and they’ll probably keep doing that for a very long time, too. But beer.cm, newyorktimes.cm and anyname.cm don’t resolve any more, although you’ll notice google.cm, microsoft.cm, ebay.cm and amazon.cm don’t exactly lead you to where you’d assume they would.

And today someone pointed me to a page on eNomCentral stating that eNom and its partner, domain name aftermarket auction company NameJet, have exclusively started accepting pre-orders for .cm domains. From what I can gather, you can pre-order .cm domain names starting next week (July 15) until the end of the month (July 31st), free of charge. After this so-called land-rush period, the first auctions will start on Tuesday, August 4th and continue on a schedule that will be communicated via email with the participants in those auctions. Each auction will be 3 days in length.

They’re not even trying to hide the fact that you’ll likely register them for the type-in traffic:

The .CM registry has previously only allowed registrations under .CO.CM, .COM.CM and .NET.CM, meaning this is your chance to register a second level .CM domain name. Although best known for being just one letter and keystroke away from a few of the most highly recognizable domains, .CM provides many potential benefits.

Note that eNomCentral customers who see their domains successfully awarded through auction will be charged $350 (including a minimum 2 year registration), so even though the actual pre-ordering is free, the registration is not.

On the list of featured and popular .cm pre-orders, you’ll find recognizable (and trademarked) names like YellowPages.cm, Slide.cm, 37Signals.cm and Ask.cm. Very curious to find out what will happen to those after July 31st.

Also wondering what impact the public availability of the .cm domain name (starting August 1) will have, if any. If I’d have to venture a guess, I’d say people who dislike people who are in the ‘domain name real estate business’ will have one more thing to complain about real soon.

What’s your opinion about all of this?

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