In the murky, cut-throat world of internet domain names, not all domains are created equal. This article explores the different types of dark domains and how you can shield your domain portfolio from savvy domain pirates and squatters.
First: An ownership primer
One of the most common misconceptions about domains is the issue of ownership. It is often misconceived that by registering a domain you become the owner, whereas the more appropriate term is “tenant”, because you are in fact leasing the right to use the domain name for a period of time and if you do not renew the domain yearly, then it can be registered by someone else.
If a domain name tenant unintentionally allows a domain to expire, then it might be hijacked by someone, who’s sole intention is to sell the domain back for a ransom fee. The domain sniper might redirect visitors to a website with ads, click-bait or adult content in order to force a quick sale.
One way to prevent domain pirates from sniping your name, is to enable automatic renewal of your domain names, a service offered by most major registrars. Still, domains are not deleted immediately after they expire — a grace period of 1–3 months is provided, where the domain is simply disabled and not possible to be snapped up by a third party. Email notifications are usually sent to the domain registrant during the period, so be sure to update your contact details with your registrar.
- Enable automatic renewal of domain registrations.
- Keep your registration contact details up to date.
Domain parking is most often an indication that the domain has been acquired as an investment and is held until it can be resold with a profit. You might notice that the domain is pointing to a web page with sponsored search terms or targeted ads, which is a way to generate revenue while the domain is parked. You will likely also find a link to make a purchase offer for the domain.
At Webxtrakt we estimate that more than half of all registered domains are in one way or another parked. This is one of the reasons why it can be really difficult to find available domain names.
- Parked domains are usually for sale.
Imagine someone has registered your company name, brand or trademark with the intent of selling it to you. Luckily there are specialists that can help you settle these types of disputes and you will have a strong case, if you have trademarked the name and are seeking usage of an EU country level domain name. Apply here for your EU trademark.
The dispute process is unfortunately not centralised and you will need to follow the local guidelines for every top level extension you want to address.
For generic top level domains the process is more complicated, partly because trademark regulations might not apply, and while it is possible to have registration of brand names locked at top extension level, it may be futile or too costly in some cases, take for example these available Ikea domains: ikea.mom, ikea.review, ikea.bank.
- Register your business name or brand as a trademark.
A typo squatter relies on human fallibility to type in the domain name correctly. An example might be appel.com or googel.com, where the latter actually resolves to google.com, which indicates that Google. has deemed it necessary to acquire the misspelt domain name — either as a service to fumble-fingered users or to avoid it falling into the hands of a third party.
Some businesses take care to cover common typo squatting variations of their trademarks, but like domain squatting, this can quickly become time consuming and costly to monitor.
Examples of typo squatting:
- Alphanumeric swapping: eg. appel.com
- Missing alphanumerics: eg. aple.com
- Adjacent alphanumerics (QWERTY or AZERTY): eg. applr.com or p0lice.com
- Misspellings: eg. abble.com
Typo squatting can also occur at top domain level, take for example tv2.dk and tv2.sk — on a QWERTY keyboard this is a common typo.
Similar to typo squatting, phishing domains are registered with the intent of appearing identical. These domains are rarely typed in by mistake, but can be used as links to lure users to malicious websites.
- Lookalike numerics: eg. app1e.com
- Internationalised domain name (IDN) homographs: eg. ɑpple.com
- Sub domains: eg. apple.store.com
Phishing domains can be especially tricky to spot if they are used in emails or if your computer’s system font lacks clear distinct between glyphs.
Got you interested in domain names?
Webxtrakt has compiled 6 billion domain data points and our constantly growing database has exceeded 206 million searchable domain names. Be sure to also check out the list of top ranked domain names.