Kevin Ham, Cameroon, and the Domain Name Industry - The Cameroon Play
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But the thing that is really pulling people up short, both inside and outside the domainer community, is Hamís no-longer-secret deal with the country of Cameroon. Cameroon, as it turns out, holds the country code of .cm. That is just one typo away from .com. It was not an easy deal to set up; over the course of a year, Ham built contacts in the Cameroon government. His company made a pitch to the prime minister. As a result, Cameroon installed special ďwildcardĒ software with Cameroon. Now, when someone types in a .cm address that doesnít actually exist, the traffic is rerouted to Hamís Agoga.com servers.
Users began to notice the effect late last summer. When the request reaches Agoga.com, the visitor sees a page full of ads that are relevant to their query. This can make for a lot of visitors; Ham admits that he receives about eight million per month at Agoga.com.
This kind of redirection can be very annoying to people who just want to get where they were going. David Ulevitch, founder of OpenDNS, has had customers of his DNS service who were less than happy with the Cameroon wildcard. ďI think itís doing a huge disservice to users and it tastes bad. If I were an advertiser, I wouldnít want my ad on those pages, especially if the page is a typo of a trademarked name,Ē he said when asked his opinion of Hamís Cameroon deal. ďUsers donít appreciate it. Thatís why people start using OpenDNS. We give people a better Internet experience.Ē (I wrote an article about OpenDNS a few months ago ).
Another question one must ask is whether this is legal. The instinctive response from some of us who are at least somewhat familiar with the special legal issues concerning the Internet is that this is typo squatting. The only problem is that it isnít, not really. The wildcard only does the redirect for domain names that donít actually exist. If the domain name doesnít exist, then technically Ham doesnít own anything. If he doesnít own the name, then how can he be said to be typo squatting?
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