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10 Aug 2006
As of 9 Aug, the typosquat domains at Rackspace have all stopped working. They still have entries in .CM, but the Rackspace servers to which they are delegated no longer have data for them. Wow, people actually read my blog.
Also, there are some interesting comments both on my blog entry as well as on the original Circle ID message from Appolinaire Noumbi, who says he is the Chairman of the Cameroon Federation of Engineers, asking for help to understand and fix the problem.
This leads to an interesting question: what's the problem and what's the best thing to do about it. There's no great technical problem with a TLD wildcard. The problems are non-technical ones of confusion and sleaziness. People who type google.cm into their browsers are almost certainly looking for google.com, so when they end up instead at an anonymous faux web directory, it's confusing to non-technical users, and it's sleazy because a certain number of people who land there won't undersand what happened and will click through links to Google's competitor Overture.
It's also sleazy because the page gives absolutely no hint of who is running it. The new FAQ link at the bottom says "This service is specifically authorised by the sovereign Republic of Cameroon, and will be used to produce revenue for the Republic of Cameroon." Cameroon could surely use the money, particularly if it is used for something appropriate like technical infrastructure development and training, but there's no hint what their cut is (pretty small, I would guess), and we don't know who's getting the rest of the money.
So what would you do? At the very least, I would have the landing page explain where you are, identify this as courtesy of the Republic of Cameroon (if it really is), and have a big no-charge link to the .com page the user doubtless really wanted. If they want to have a link farm, it would be nice to make the links at least somewhat relevant, which wouldn't be hard using Overture's existing keyword search.
So what would you do? If you were runing the Cameroon registry, would you allow a TLD wildcard? If so, what would it do?
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