Josh Bourne ⬥ 9 January
Back in September, we published a Perspectives paper about a survey scam that targeted social networks: when Internet users mistyped the domain names of popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others into their browsers’ address bars, they were led to a website that was formatted similarly to the target homepage, but displayed a survey in place of the expected content. The surveys promised prizes for answering questions and – surprise, surprise – never delivered on those prizes. Instead, they stole users’ valuable personal information.
In the study, we noted that shortly before we published, Facebook had filed a lawsuit against 25 defendants over 104 different domain names, many of which we identified as hosting this survey scam. Now, according to Fusible, Google has come out on top in its own struggle against survey scammers. The search engine giant, and owner of YouTube, filed a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) complaint with the National Arbitration Forum over the domain names youtbe.com, youtub.com, youtue.com, youube.com, and yutube.com, all of which had popped up in our study as hosting the survey scam.
Recovering these domains was by no means a bad move on Google’s part, but it amounts to a drop in the bucket: in total, we had identified 81 typos of YouTube.com that had been squatted to host this scam, many of which receive extremely high volumes of traffic (by our calculations, a single domain receives over 19 million visitors annually). These five domains receive fewer than 300,000 visitor per year, accounting for only 0.72 percent of the total traffic that all the squatted Youtube.com typos in our study receive. Conversely, if Google had targeted the top five typos that receive the most visitors, it could have recovered over 90 percent of traffic, or more than 35 million annual visitors, that are exposed to these survey scams. That would have gone a long way in protecting YouTube’s users, and in turn would have stemmed a significant portion of the damage that these scams have inflicted on the YouTube brand.
But on the bright side, Google is clearly aware of the survey scam problem, and the UDRP Panelist reached a fairly open-and-shut decision. These two factors bode well for the company, should it decide to pursue more of these typosquatted domains.