This post is Safe For Work!
I’m sorry to say but there is no pornography here at 404 Tech Support. Why do I lead with this disclaimer you ask? Well, if you read yesterday’s PvP Online webcomic and were curious enough, you might already know. You might also understand if you’re one of the thousands of people I had visit yesterday, indirectly referred here by PvP Online. You see, the comic, which continues an arc that started last week, mentions a domain name ass-scapes.com. It’s meant to shame the character and it’s implied that it is a porn site to which Cole subscribes. You can read the strip yourself for the exact context:
Anyways, I was one of those curious people. I was also one of the early ones. When I couldn’t believe that PvP Online would actually send people to an implied adult site, I had to check it out. While peeking between my fingers I loaded the page. Much to my surprise, I just received the standard “Page not found” error message. I was curious whether or not the site’s server had already failed or if it was just a non-existent site. Somehow I wandered over to GoDaddy and found out the URL was available. The next thing I know is that I own the domain and it’s directing traffic here to 404 Tech Support. That purchase helped set a new record for visitors to 404 Tech Support in a single day.
This reminds me of the antics that ensued after a Conan O’Brien skit, back in the good old days – Dec 4th, 2006 to be exact – that started an urban legend about domains that continues to this day. Conan mentioned a domain at the end of a skit, www.hornymanatee.com (SFW), but that URL didn’t point anywhere at the end of taping. From the New York Times write-up:
There was only one problem: as of the taping of that show, which concluded at 6:30 p.m., no such site existed. Which presented an immediate quandary for NBC: If a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name, then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could potentially be held liable for appearing to promote it.
In a pre-emptive strike inspired as much by the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission as by the laws of comedy, NBC bought the license to hornymanatee.com, for $159, after the taping of the Dec. 4 show but before it was broadcast.
The urban legend that surfaced stated that if a TV show or movie mentioned a domain name, they had to control it for 10 years. I can’t find any law or FCC ruling to enforce this but feel free to correct me in the comments. Some popular examples of where this held true (the domains may have lapsed since) and TV networks bought mentioned domains:
- Europeangoldfinch.net from Prison Break
- www.whatbadgerseat.com and www.skinnerinashredder.com from The Simpsons
- www.ladyheather.com from CSI
- www.aresanob.com from CSI: NY
- thingsthatarewrong.com and lemonlyman.com from West Wing
Another problem with domains comes down to how you never really own them. You don’t have anything tangible to show for it and you only get first dibs when the time for renewal rolls around again. In fact, you can spend $5.1 million for a domain and not really have much to show for it. Domains and trademarks can also intersect in very stupid, legal ways.
Domains can expire meaning they’re free to be registered with any normal registrar again. Right before they expire or if their “owner” wants to sell them off, domains can go to auction. Where they go, is any number of places and there’s no real way to know. You can also offer to buy a domain from an owner but they don’t have to respond or even provide accurate contact information. There are also means of registering a domain through a proxy so your personal information (name, address, and phone number) are withheld from whois lookups, but that also further reduces your chances of reaching the owner of the domain to purchase it.
Parking a domain is where I start to really get ranting. Flat out, I think a domain should not be allowed to be parked. I’ll concede that it’s hard to define what a parked domain is. The general definition is that a parked domain is a registered domain that doesn’t point to a server for any practical use but instead it points to a template of ads to earn (and I use the term loosely) the owner revenue. With a parked domain you usually don’t have the additional cost of hosting to be deferred by ads. Many parked domains prey on the fact that people mistype URLs into their browser all the time. They also might grab a domain as soon as it expires to milk any lingering traffic or established search rankings. This means that when you’re buying a domain, you might give serious consideration to also buying the .com, .net, or .org variants of your domain so that others don’t try to profit from your hard work of promoting and marketing a website and your visitors definitely find your site.
If you’ve ever tried to create a new website, you’ll probably notice that finding a domain is the hardest part. If you want it relatively short and you’re not making up a word like flickr or flattr, you’ll be sure to have difficulties. I started preparing for my next side project earlier this summer and went through dozens and dozens of possible domains. 80% of those I thought viable were taken and parked. Out of the remaining 15 percent, all but one was already registered and not being actively used. I finally ended up with a domain I’m happy with but I had to scratch my head a-plenty to come up with it and re-do a few logos.
It makes me laugh every time I think about the fact that I now own Ass-Scapes.com for the next year. Oh, and apparently I now own Ass-Capades.com as well.
Finally, if you’re here from PvP Online, Greetings! I hope you stay a while and check the place out even though we don’t have adult pictures. Unless… you want me to… *starts unbuttoning shirt* …