The Spam Diaries

News and musings about the fight against spam.
 by Edward Falk

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two strikes against Domain Kiting

Domain Kiting (also known as Domain Tasting) is a practice that exploits a loophole in ICANN rules which allows a domain owner to return the domain name within five days for a full refund. This loophole allows spammers, speculators and other bad-faith actors to register tens of thousands of domains for no cost. The practice is primarily used by spammers hiding their origins, by search-engine spammers trying to game search engine rankings, and by speculators hoping that typos or other misguided links will bring enough traffic to the domain to make it worth keeping (domain tasting).

This week, two seperate announcements may have heralded an end to the practice.

First, Google announced that their AdSense program would exclude domains that fit the pattern of domains being repeatedly dropped and re-registered, thus taking away the financial incentive for search-engine spammers and domain tasters. See Yahoo! article Google combats domain name loophole.

The second, and more significant, word comes from ICANN. In their 23 January 2008 meeting, they voted to make their 20-cent-per-domain fee nonrefundable (see items 5 and 6). This fee may not sound like much, but when domain kiters are registering thousands and tens of thousands of domains every week, it may be enough to make the practice unprofitable.

This may also have an effect on Network Solutions' new policy of grabbing up domains it discovers people are thinking of registering.

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