What Else Do Google Ads Finance?

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2005-06-10 Print this article Print

Opinion: The search company probably isn't deliberately working with adware sites, but how much does Google know about the domain parking problem?

I was as disturbed as the next guy to see our story about how Google ads are indirectly financing adware campaigns. Disturbed, but not entirely surprised. I had already come across another unsavory use of Googles AdSense program. Its not quite in the same league with malware distribution, but its a problem nonetheless. Have you ever stumbled across an unused Internet domain for sale and the home page had ads on it? Its very common. Try this domain broker, Sedo. Pick out a domain; dont click on it, but open a new window and view the domain Web page. The ads you see have long, complicated URLs, but you can pick "googlesyndication.com" out of the middle of them.
The cost of acquiring domains has gone down precipitously over the last few years, and the cost of parking has gone down too, but neither are completely free. A profitable domain broker needs to do whatever it can to cover costs. Google AdSense to the rescue.
The ads on some of these sites are clearly more profitable than others, but its not hard to imagine some of them covering the few bucks a year of cost to the owner of the domain warehouse. Any actual domain sales then become pure cream. Ad revenues also become a major input into the calculation of pricing for the domain by the broker. As you can see from the Sedo home page, some of these are expensive. You have to wonder about the whole business of domain warehousing. One observer I know calls it a tax on small businesses trying to enter the Web markets, and he has a point. All you have to do is think of a name first, spend a few bucks registering it, and you own it. You dont have to do anything with it. I contacted both Google and ICANN, which sets domain registration policy, and neither responded about the issue. Of course, ICANN does have policies in place to deal with abuse of domain registration, and Ive written about them before. Imagine, for example, that some broker owns the .com version of my trademarked business name, and has it for sale. I can file a complaint with one of several arbitration services approved by ICANN and, for not a lot of money by the standards of legal proceedings, I can get my domain back within a couple of months, if its a straightforward case. Click here to read about new domain names from ICANN. But not a lot of money is not nothing, and its usually cheaper and more expeditious just to buy off the domain broker. If youre Microsoft or McDonalds or Exxon you can afford not to let these clowns push you around, but for most people paying the broker is just taking the path of least resistance. Im sure that most people who end up having to pay off a domain warehouse view it as similar to having to pay off the mob just to get your garbage collected. Read details here about Googles arrangement to update its crawler with outside site maps. Its just another way that the Internet is ruled by those who add no value to it or live by threats. Im not sure how the authorities could eliminate domain warehousing, but Im sure it doesnt help for Google to be financing it. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at larryseltzer@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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