The Colation Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) this week released a study on drop-catching - a process whereby a domain that has expired is released into the pool of available names and is instantly re-registered by another party. Historically, drop-catching is the first step to more serious abuses such as domain tasting, domain kiting and typo-squatting.
Protect Your Domains. Seriously. The real issue at hand is that large registrars and others with the means to test (taste) domains on a mass scale have harnessed this technique to build a business model that takes advantage of ICANN's Add Drop Grace Period (AGP) - where domains are registered to test their traffic value, ads are loaded on content-sparse pages and then dropped before the expiration of the grace period if the traffic performs poorly. This behavior limits consumer choice, preys on consumers through criminal schemes to defraud them and negatively impacts the experiences of all Internet users. While legitimate domain owners may not realize the "traffic value" of an expired domain, domain tasters do - when these domains are bought in bulk.
This should act as a major warning call to renew your domains in a timely manner.
Some interesting findings from the study include:
CADNA tracked 17,000 randomly selected Dot-ORG, Dot-COM and Dot-NET domain names after their scheduled expiration on September 18th, 2007, and found that 100% of the Dot-COM and Dot-NET domains were instantly registered after they were released.
39.8% of Dot-COMs and 32.2% of Dot-NETs were added and dropped again throughout the study via a practice known as kiting. The initial registration of all expiring domains and the subsequent domain tasting and kiting that occurred points to a willingness on the part of drop-catchers to continuously register domain names since they can be repeatedly tested and easily returned with no monetary penalty.
The results also show that 87% of Dot-COM drop-catchers use the domain names for pay-per-click (PPC) sites. They have no interest in these domain names other than leveraging them to post PPC ads and turn a profit. Interestingly, only 67% of Dot-ORG drop catchers use the domains they catch to post these sites - most likely because Dot-ORG names are harder to monetize due to the lack of type-in traffic and because they tend to be used for more legitimate purposes.
The results of this study also show that the majority Dot-COM and Dot-NET domains were registered by a limited number of registrars, namely Enom, Domain Doorman, Capitol Domains and Belgium Domains. The practice of drop-catching, which is aided by abuse of the AGP, has created a landscape that significantly harms the integrity of the Internet.
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