Does Google profit from ‘typo-squatters’?

Kitteh (image by anomalous4, Flickr, CC)

A quick update for you all today as I found this fascinating article over at New Scientist, which looks at projections on how much Google might be earning from typo-squatters – those annoying people who buy up wrongly spelled domain names in order to make a quick buck (such as fisney.com).

It turns out that Google might earn up to $500 million dollars a year from the commission it gets out of its advertising schemes on these sites – a considerable cash-cow.

Such activity is almost certainly covered as a prohibited in Google’s own terms and conditions in at least two instances.  The first being that typosquatting sites indirectly generate queries and clicks through deceptive means (directly so for impressions).  The second, and slightly more ambiguous instance, is that these sites engage in “action or practice that reflects poorly on Google or otherwise disparages or devalues Google’s reputation or goodwill“.

By Google’s own rule-book, these sites should not be allowed to generate revenue; and yet by doing so Google might actually be profiting to a very large degree.  Even a conservative estimate would see the company bringing in an extra $100 million a year!

Typosquatting sites are one of those awful bastions of internet greed – the get-rich-quick schemes that require no talent or creativity aside from getting there first.  There are countless people who run hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of these dummy sites; earning far more than an average wage through doing nothing at all other than capitalising on inherent short-comings in internet technology.

In my opinion typosquatting is a despicable practice that truly displays some of the most base levels of the human entrepreneurial mindset, and it seems like Google might be turning a blind eye simply because of the massive profits to be made.  Of course, they might just be unable to win the never-ending battle against those who would exploit the automated system they developed and put into place.

Google revolutionised internet advertising, and in many very positive ways.  This very site uses their technology to great effect to provide you with relevant ads that fit the context of each page they are seen on.  This is not an attack on Google as a company by any means, but I am questioning whether or not they could be doing more to stamp out behaviour such as typosquatting.

Of course, it would take quite a lot of resources to keep ahead of the curve – and I don’t doubt that they are trying to one degree or another – but if anybody can do it, it’s a company with the resources and talent pool of Google.

What do you think about typosquatters?  Is this a clever way to make some easy money in a free-market environment?  Or does it cheapen the very fabric of the internet with its inherent capitalist greed?  It’s certainly an ethical question worth asking…now lets see if our Adsense account gets cancelled because of this article eh?

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