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Déjà vu all over again?

I'm guessing this node's title is vaguely familiar to you. You may be scratching your head, thinking "Where have I seen that before?" You may even realize you've seen it dozens -- no, hundreds of times during your Internet travels. Where have you seen it before?

Perhaps, nearing your high school graduation, you decided you wanted to Get Into Hollywood. You realized you suck at acting, and tried to find a Super Cool School. Frustrated by your search, you decided to take a break and go check out some Library Girls. Careful; if you actually find a Library Girl, you may soon need to Rate Your Doctor. (How embarrassing.)

Throughout your journey, your fruitless journey, one promise shines like a beacon atop each web page: What you need, when you need it.

Hey. This is not what I needed at all.

Okay, okay. I'm sure you've already realized that sites that promise "what you need" tend to have nothing of the sort. They're filled with relevant-looking text links to "related searches" and "sponsored results." The entire page is an ad, and a pretty shabby one, at that. What's the deal?

These sites are parked domains. Some people register dot-coms with no intention of making a website. They know that someday, someone will. And that someone must have the perfect domain, damn the cost. In the meantime, registering that domain costs money. Don't waste it, throw an ad up there! It works because some people, notwithstanding the existence of Google, really do just open up Internet Explorer and type in "whatever they happen to be looking for, dot com."1 It also works because some operations grab domains whose registrations have recently lapsed, thus reaping ad revenue from a well-established visitor base. Their tactics can be more or less scummy, but that's for another writeup.

Whence, then, cometh the slogan? You've probably found a site monetized by Domain Sponsor, which makes all sorts of pretty landing pages just for domain parkers to use. They're not the only ones in the game. Google, for example, markets AdSense for Domains. Same idea, rather more austere styling.

This is why we can't have nice things.

There's not much to respect about a business where you buy something simply to charge someone else more to buy it from you. Speculating on domain names has benefited a few people at the expense of numerous organizations that just want a relevant dot-com. The worst thing is that ICANN, the organization in charge of the domain name system, is entirely complicit. Each time ICANN creates a new top-level domain -- .info, .biz, most recently .xxx -- it rakes in millions2 in registration fees from speculators, and from organizations that need to protect their good names. My university is in the odd position of purchasing a .xxx domain, to prevent its name being associated with a porn site.

And while it's good to do something with a domain you aren't using, advertising on parked domains only makes money off of users' mistakes. We aren't going to these domains just to click ads, we're looking for something! I can imagine a lot of people simply assuming that a Domain Sponsor landing page is the website they sought. The domain name matches up, after all. People are tricked, speculators make money, they pour it back into registering more domains. It's like the spam of the Web, worsening the domain signal-to-noise ratio.

The people have spoken!

So rise up! Shout at your screen -- "You lying liars! This is not what I need!" And please, please, don't click the ads on those landing pages. If they broke their promise to you the first time, you can bet they'll do it again.

Related searches

1 It's called "type-in traffic."
2 .xxx, for example, will earn ICANN a tidy $200 million. That's a lot of Playboys.

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