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What's the story behind those filler pages you see when you look at unused domain names?
August 4, 2009 4:29 PM   Subscribe

What's the story behind those filler pages you see when you look at unused domain names?

I always enjoy looking at the faux-websites that pop up when you type in a domain name that is apparently owned but not actively used ( see, for example, www.ipotty.com or http://www.poppoppop.com) .
Their combinations of computer-generated text and stock photography are often laughably bad, and I can't imagine ever actually confusing one for a real site. What's the story behind these? I'd guess they're put up by domain name squatters to generate profit from unused sites, but I can't seem to find out anything else about them. Who makes them? Are people actually making money off of them? Why are there so many different designs and formats for them?
posted by jeisme to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Here is a very interesting article about a very profitable domain squatter I read a few years ago. Long story short, people actually generate profits from unused sites, and recently companies like godaddy have started "squatting" websites their customers buy before they begin hosting content on them.
posted by shownomercy at 4:42 PM on August 4, 2009


If you let a domain registration lapse, it's in limbo for something like 45 days if I recall correctly, during which time no one else can buy the name, but you can renew. During that time, your registrar has control of the name and often (always?) puts up a page like that to try to score some advertising revenue on the cheap. (Others may be just plain squatters; I'm not saying this is the only source for those pages.)
posted by Zed at 4:45 PM on August 4, 2009


They're put there by a variety of domain name squatters. The whole thing is automated; a domain name squatter can own millions of domain names.

I'm not even sure that above squatters have to pay anything to maintain those domain names. See this thread for an example of "domain tasting". So I guess it costs almost nothing and even though each site has a very low chance of success, owning millions of these things can be potentially profitable, just like spam.
posted by meowzilla at 4:46 PM on August 4, 2009


Look for 'domain name parking' (ref). Profits are in the hundreds of millions of dollars (ref).
posted by Paragon at 4:49 PM on August 4, 2009


Seconding shownomercy's link to the Kevin Han article. Fascinating stuff.
posted by wfrgms at 4:51 PM on August 4, 2009


Their combinations of computer-generated text and stock photography are often laughably bad, and I can't imagine ever actually confusing one for a real site.

You'd be very, very surprised to sit in user labs with real world Internet users. Users are far more naive than you could imagine. Heck, not even random other people, but my own wife :) People, in general, are quite dumb and wouldn't know what non-laughably bad text and photography are when it comes to Web sites. They just scan the page, and click on something that feels right to them - whether that's an ad, an affiliate link, or whatever.

All these people need are enough domains and just either a few clicks per year on each domain (or one successful pass through an affiliate link that results in a purchase) and it's a profitable enterprise.

You don't even need to do much more work at the higher end (when you want to make thousands a year). I know the guy who owns PCs.co.uk (along with 100s of other similar domains) and he paid serious money for that domain but it also makes him serious money back.
posted by wackybrit at 4:53 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Registrars frequently have entire departments (or at least several positions) dedicated to domain monetization. You might want to check out the company Skenzo -- they provide a lot of the content for this stuff. That's probably more detail than you need to know, but still.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:45 PM on August 4, 2009


I commonly see them on mis-spelled domains, or common assumptions of names that aren't correct. As an example, I was looking for www.funimaiton.com (the Anime publisher), but typed www.funmation.com - the result was a clear rip-off of what I was actually looking for, with links to all sorts of anime stuff, but it was not the actual site. If I hadn't been savvy enough to look for the Funimation logo, I could see someone falling for it.
posted by GJSchaller at 5:59 PM on August 4, 2009


I know a guy who makes so much money off parking that he stopped running his company. He didn't quit his job, he closed his entire company because he'd accumulated 12 - 15 excellent domain names and the money was just. so. easy.

I'm in awe.

He's a super-nice guy by the way, not a scammy huckster at all.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:15 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


In large part, the sites aren't an attempt to fool humans, they're an attempt to fool search engine crawlers. If google recognizes a site as a parked page, it won't get indexed (or it'll get penalized severely), which means that when somebody searches for the terms on it, it won't show up, which means the owner doesn't make any money. So the domain owners put together sites that look just enough like real pages to not be easily distinguishable.

Also, some fraction of clicks on ads are from spiders, not from humans -- you don't actually have to fool any humans to make money. (Yes, this is in violation of whatever terms of service the advertiser has, but in practice it's impossible to identify all the robots, and the domain owner doesn't have an incentive to work hard at it.)
posted by inkyz at 12:14 AM on August 5, 2009


It's not squatting unless it involves something that isn't owned *legally* (in other words - TM terms are squatted illegally) and outright. Please stop using the term in this way. Yes, there are bad apples - of course there are, just like in any industry - but not all who hold large portfolios of domain names are infringing on TM rights, etc.

Domaining, domain investing, etc. is the practice of registering domain names for investment or revenue generating purposes.

Yes. Money is made. Lots of money. There is an entire industry around it.

The leading companies in the space are DomainSponsor, Sedo, and Trafficz. There's many others as well.

Registrars - almost all of them - park client domain names which they are not actively using as well as any domain name that expires.

Domain investors come into the scene with things like generic terms and brandable domain name holdings. There is HUGE money to be made with holding generic terms. That's why domains like candy.com and the like sell for millions of dollars. People type those terms into their browser expecting a website. When there isn't one there are ads relevant to the term - therefore extremely targeted traffic delivered right to advertisers.

If you would like more information about the industry you can visit sites like DNJournal.com, DotWeekly.com and TheDomains.com. If you're really interested you can go to LA in January to hit DomainFest and learn all about it in person.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:04 PM on August 18, 2009


Also, some fraction of clicks on ads are from spiders, not from humans -- you don't actually have to fool any humans to make money. (Yes, this is in violation of whatever terms of service the advertiser has, but in practice it's impossible to identify all the robots, and the domain owner doesn't have an incentive to work hard at it.)

Um, you are mistaken. It is something that is caught all the time. Google and Yahoo! are the two major partners for ads. Google detects this pretty effectively. As a matter of fact they are a bit overzealous and take a very draconian stance on their blocking of domains.

There are groups that specialize in this type of fraud and it's the reason why Google and Yahoo! have had to get so good at this.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:09 PM on August 18, 2009


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