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Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space

John Berryhill

The .cm (Cameroon) ccTLD operators have discovered that since their TLD is simply one omitted letter away from .com, that there is a gold mine in the typo traffic that comes their way. Accordingly, Cameroon has now wild-carded its ccTLD and is monetizing the traffic.

The upshot is that, if the Neiman Marcus / Dotster lawsuit over 27 domain names was properly characterized as "massive", then the Cameroonians are now going well beyond massive, and are monetizing every conceivable typographic variation of "Neiman Marcus", as well as the correct spelling thereof at www.neimanmarcus.cm.

Someone had better alert the emergency response team at OpenDNS to block off the .cm ccTLD and put up OpenDNS's parking page so that unsuspecting users don't stumble upon Cameroon's, uhmmm, parking page.

By John Berryhill, Attorney

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, Registry Services, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space George Kirikos  –  Aug 05, 2006 7:37 PM PDT

This was discussed at DomainState too. I imagine .om and .co will be next.

When thinking of new gTLDs, I want first dibs on .coom, .cmo and .como. :)

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Levine  –  Aug 06, 2006 8:53 PM PDT

I poked around the .cm TLD and found some interesting stuff which I wrote up in this blog entry.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Alex Nasundi  –  Aug 07, 2006 4:32 AM PDT

did anyone try mtv.mtv.com ? or something like in that area ?

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Ram Mohan  –  Aug 07, 2006 5:46 AM PDT

Alex, since the top level {*.cm} has been wildcarded, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, ... etc levels will all provide results that make it look as if the domain typed in actually exists.  http://mtv.mtv.cm works.

My attempts to connect to the SMTP and POP3 ports for a made-up domain were refused, which is different from what VeriSign did in 2003 (they accepted the connections, possibly read the mail and retained the ability to do anything else with it).

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Thomas Barrett  –  Aug 07, 2006 7:29 AM PDT

You could say the only "trademark" that is being typo-squatted here is ".com".  And since no one has a trademark on ".com", there is no UDRP dispute or trademark suit possible here.

These are not "registrations", so specific trademarks are not being singled out for treatment.  Every string is being treated equally, whether or not it is recognizable in a written language somewhere as a trademark.

I also do not see any "stability" issues here that would lead to systems breaking down because of the wildcard behavior.

I can see how clumsy fingers could cause a lot of traffic to hit the .cm servers.  They didn't ask for it.  But it is up to them to decide how to handle it.  right?

There are some who would call this a public service.

One suggestion: they could eliminate possible confusion by announcing themselves:  "Welcome to the .cm top-level domain.  We notice that you might be challenged in your typing! ". 

Tom Barrett
EnCirca, Inc

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Levine  –  Aug 07, 2006 7:53 AM PDT

With respect to Ram's comment, it's just an A record that points to a web server, so any other attempted connection with fail. They published SPF -all records to discourage people from sending or receiving mail, for whatever good that will do.

The trademark issue is more serious, since it is quite clear that the Canadian web site the wildcard points to is deliberately benefiting from typos.  If I were the owner of a .com web site with a famous mark such as amazon.com or espn.com, I would not be amused.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Ram Mohan  –  Aug 07, 2006 8:32 AM PDT

Tom, I've seen plenty of trademark suits for names that are trademarked ending with a ".com"…

I looked up the A record for google.cm to see if it had been cached in major ISPs around the world - an empirical test of the popularity of the .cm wildcard.  Doesn't seem all that popular as yet, but it's early days still:

Germany: [No cached answer: Would go to NS of (root)]
Ireland: [No cached answer: Would go to NS of (root)]
Israel:  [No cached answer: Would go to NS of cm.]
Italy:  [No cached answer: Would go to NS of (root)]
UK: BT Broadband & BT Yahoo A=72.51.27.58 [TTL=10m 29s]
UK: Easynet Ltd. [No cached answer: Would go to NS of cm.]
US: ATT Worldnet [No cached answer: Would go to NS of (root)]
US: Mindspring #2 A=72.51.27.58 [TTL=12m 34s]
US: UUNet #1 [No cached answer: Would go to NS of cm.]

Courtesy dnsstuff.com

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space George Kirikos  –  Aug 07, 2006 11:02 AM PDT

Google.cm is a top 100,000 Alexa site (which likely means 5,000+ visitors/day).

Extrapolate that to all domains, and I would not be surprised if that traffic is worth at least $3 million/yr.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Berryhill  –  Aug 07, 2006 2:01 PM PDT

Ram,

You might check the TTL on existing .cm registrations (of which google.cm is a rare exception).

As George points out, other metrics suggest monster traffic:

http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/

Searches done in June 2006
Count Search Term
27189 myspace.cm

By way of comparison, a popular domain like taliban.com received, yesterday, 78 visitors.  If use as a search term is any indication of accidentaly typing into the search bar, instead of the address bar, then myspace.cm alone must be generating a great deal of traffic.

(And, yes, I realize that there are people who believe it would be more "socially useful" if the Taliban had taliban.com, rather than someone who is simply "squatting" on the name.  Unlike those anti-squatters, I cannot see the usefulness of supporting terrorism.  Perhaps someone can explain it to me.)

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Berryhill  –  Aug 07, 2006 2:05 PM PDT

These are not “registrations”, so specific trademarks are not being singled out for treatment.  Every string is being treated equally, whether or not it is recognizable in a written language somewhere as a trademark.

But, Tom, that is also true of domains registered by the "domain tasters".  They are not singling out trademarks either, but are auto-registering based on various search feeds they receive - and those strings are treated equally, whether or not they are recognizable somewhere as trademarks.

Lack of intent is indeed one of the points on which the cybersquatting claim against Dotster hinges.  I guarantee you that if you are testing 200K domains a week, you are testing more non-trademark relevant strings than trademark-relevant strings.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Ram Mohan  –  Aug 07, 2006 5:01 PM PDT

So I punched in a few comparables against some of the world's most popular .com domains.  The growth in traffic (per Alexa) is noticeable.

Site 3 mos. Change
---------!--------------
Yahoo.cm --- 162,464 up 96,079
MSN.cm --- 1,306,656 up 702,853
Google.cm --- 97,576 up 9,582
Baidu.cm --- 508,062 up 418,506
ebay.cm ---2,148,031 up 908,224
cnn.cm ---1,266,192 up 743,540
youtube.cm --- 1,030,527

-Ram

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Cedric Manara  –  Aug 08, 2006 9:13 AM PDT

John, I am not sure you can write "Cameroon has now wild-carded its ccTLD."
Their policy has always been open, and did not change for a long time. I remember I was contemplating whether I should register a .cm domain name (CM are my initials...) in the beginning of this century, and the registration rules were the same as today.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Ram Mohan  –  Aug 08, 2006 9:22 AM PDT

It's not germane to this disucssion whether anyone can get a .CM name; what has changed is that even if you don't have one, or if none has been registered, it will still resolve on the web.

Try cedric.cm, a website that works automagically!

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Cedric Manara  –  Aug 08, 2006 9:34 AM PDT

My wrong! I thought "wild-carded" in this context meant "opened". My apologies!

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Carl Byington  –  Aug 08, 2006 6:52 PM PDT

I think that the BIND root-delegation-only option was added specifically to deal with the Verisign .com issue, but it nicely handles this one as well.
http://www.isc.org/products/BIND/delegation-only.html contains a suggested list of exceptions, and .cm is not on that list. Anyone running BIND that was bothered enough about the Verisign issue would have installed this long ago.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Levine  –  Aug 08, 2006 8:18 PM PDT

I poked around looking for more TLD wildcards, and found
quite a few of them.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Appolinaire NOUMBI  –  Aug 09, 2006 2:22 PM PDT

Appolinaire NOUMBI: Chairman Cameroon Federation of engineers Association
We are not sure that the government of cameroon is informed about all this. Please, give us some few days for necessary inquiries. Thanks, cameroon is a proud country and don't want its name involved in bad actions. We believe that even if there are some bad guys in our country as in each other country all over the world. There are also some cameroonians who are honest and are working hard on daily basis as members of differents civil society organisation, to built a strong country where life will be better for all, cameroonians or not.
As Chairman of the Cameroon Federation of engineers Association, member of circleid. Each of you must help me to change what is wrong. Please, even before receiving informations from the government of my country on this subject, every body who can help us to restore the image of our country should contact me and give me advice on what can be done. Their names, if they want, will be given to the government of my country. they will have an opportunity to join a think thank : (Information technology For Better Cameroon IT-BETTER-CAMMEROON) , that we have created as a section of aour federation of cameroon engineers association. This is our email contact:  solidmaison@yahoo.com . our phone number (237) 760 20 77 or (237) 991 76 24. this is my personal website www.noumbi.org if you want to see my photo.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Berryhill  –  Aug 09, 2006 3:06 PM PDT

Each of you must help me to change what is wrong.

Mr. Noumbi,

"Wrong" can be a very subjective term.  It is not clear that anyone is doing anything "wrong" here.

There are some people who believe that the practice of providing a "parking page" for unused domain names is wrong.

There are other people who believe that providing something in response to an unused name is better than nothing.  Indeed, there is browser software which does this, and there are recursive DNS providers (e.g. OpenDNS), which do this.

There are still other people who believe that providing a search function in response to a URL which contains a trade or service mark valid anywhere in the world, should not be done at any place in the world.

There are also legal, technical, and moral definitions of "wrong".  I personally do not believe that what is happening in .com is legally or morally wrong.  I defer to those with deeper understanding of the relevant RFC's to determine whether what is happening is "wrong" in some technical sense.

As far as the image of Cameroon is concerned, I am sure there is no one who seriously would argue that Cameroon should not exploit its various assets to maximum economic advantage, and there are probably many who envy or admire this development.

If anything, it certainly has attracted attention to the .cm top-level domain, and there is a saying that "there is no such thing as bad publicity."

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Berryhill  –  Aug 09, 2006 3:08 PM PDT

Typo correction: I meant "what is happening in .cm", not "what is happening in .com".

Of all of the embarassing mistakes to make in this context…

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Appolinaire NOUMBI  –  Aug 09, 2006 4:31 PM PDT

Thanks! a lot John for your information.
I'm french speaking cameroonian. Cameroon like canada is bilingual country (french and english). i do hope my english level is not so bad.

I want you or another person to help me understand better a problem.  A state owned company camtel. see www.camtel.cm is in charge of the domain name .cm

Are you saying that camtel has given the responsability to another company in the world.

to use .cm extention, so that when i type www.noumbi.cm or www.google.cm, i see a commercial page as i'm seeing now?

Even if it is the case!  The Federation of cameroon engineers association, (i'm the chairman), member of cameroon civil society network, iis not satisfied, and here are our arguments against the .cm deal.
----------------------------------------------
after www.noumbi.cm or www.google.cm,
and after faq link at the botton of the page, this what i can read.
-----------
What is this service?

Acting pursuant to the authority of the sovereign Republic of Cameroon, this service uses Unregistered Cameroon domain names (Unregistered domain names that end in ".CM") for the purpose of facilitating information and advertising. Anyone who attempts to access an Unregistered Cameroon domain name will be directed to this service.
-----------------
1-Cameroon does not have a direct benefice. There is no specific link selling cameroon image.
2- There is no direct link to camtel, the company responsible of the .cm extension management.
3- I don't see the adress of the company. Can some one tell me the company responsible of this utilisation. I want to contact them directly, so that they can give us the name of "the authority of the sovereign Republic of Cameroon," they are talking about.
4- the extension .cm has only 188 website . We are struggling since 2 years to help poors company, organisation in cameroon to register their domain name and even give them free website so that they can be present on internet
5- Tomorrow, we will try to contact Camtel administrator to learn more.
6- We want as an ngo, to receive 2% of the money coming from this .cm topic worldwide to help small size companies in cameroon to have their domain name. 
7- i take my personal case. my personal website is www.noumbi.org.  I would have prefer to have also www.noumbi.cm in my control. It was not possible for me, because .cm registration cost here more than 600us$.  is this normal?
in germany .org cost me less than 5us$

8- internet for many cameroonian, means a systhem for young black cameroonian girls to look for white husband using i love you via the web websites.  many young girls don't work any more. they don't go to school for the same reason. every day, you see some of them, Hidden behind bad quality curtains, "fighting in from of few webcam in cybercafé, to send "bad" pictures to their lovers abroad" in order to receive few us$ dollars via western union instant money transfert union to receive few dollars. Some of theses girls, have more than 90 net-lovers worldwide. Some have the opportunity to find husband abroad, using tgis technique. But they are very feww.  Even married women are seen in cybercafés at one am in the morning, while the cameroonian husband is sleeping taking care of the children, while madam is doing business in cybercafés, with webcams.
As the result of this situation.  For a population of 15.000.000 cameroonian, more than 14.800.000 , think that internet is not a good think.
We , cameroonian engineers want this situation to change. Internet can be use to give
free education to all, help them how to do télé-work, télé-translation etc…
If you where cameroonian engineer, will you be happy of the situation. this is why you should help us. Please. Even a gift of 1 us dollars can help.
-------------------------
Any how, some thing should be done, and i need the help of everybody.
For example.
1-we want to launch a hudge programm in cameroon.
[15.000.000websitesfor each of you] with .cm, or .Com or .org
extension for small size companies in cameroon.  If some body can help, we will appreciate.
Thanks a lot to you all.
2- Another project is [one children, one our in front of a connected to internet computer, at least one our per year] , in cities or rural areas.
With this second project, we want to drive out the Cameronian girls and the Cameronian old women who give up husband and children, who monopolize the few rare computers of the some rare cybercafés available for bad reasons, in order to give the place to the young schoolboys, orphans or children having poor relations who will be able then under our supervision, to use the worldwide Web to discover the good side of Internet, which educates, which makes it possible to discover the world with few expenses. 
i'm sending this post from yaoundé. it is now 23.24 gmt.
i believe , internet can help the world to be a better place for every body.
In conclusion to my post.
[We, believe that, .cm extension should help develop internet in cameroon, instead of being used as now, to redirect people to comercials website else where, and not in cameroon.]
contact: Appolinaire NOUMBI
Chairman, Federation of cameoonian Enginnees Organisation. tel (237) 760 20 77
(237) 991 76 24
email: solidmaison@yahoo.com

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Ram Mohan  –  Aug 09, 2006 5:26 PM PDT

Mr. Noumbi,
Given that you have a position of responsibility in your country, you don't really need the approval of anyone else outside of your country to change the policy of your ccTLD registry.

If you would like to change local policy, you should connect with your country's registry provider (camtel) and your country's Government Advisory Committee representative, who is:

Mr Norbert Nkuipou
Director of the New Information and Communications Technologies
Monitoring Unit
norbert.nkuipou@ties.itu.int

according to the ICANN GAC website.

Regards,
Ram

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Berryhill  –  Aug 09, 2006 5:28 PM PDT

Mr Noumbi,

One must keep the perspective that the internet is simply a computer network.  As a social force, it is what people choose to make of it.  Human nature remains more consistent than technology, and some professions are much older than engineering.

I believe you will find that Camtel is receiving a share of the revenue from the advertising, and your suggestion that such revenue be used for socially beneficial purposes in Cameroon, however one might choose to define that, is certainly a good idea.  Presumably, as Camtel is a government agency, then by at least one definition of "socially beneficial" then we might presume that the revenue is being used according to the degree to which the Cameroon government represents the political will of its people.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Ram Mohan  –  Aug 09, 2006 5:29 PM PDT

Oh, and in addition, you could chat with your local Internet Society (ISOC) chapter - they may have an opinion on this, and may be able to help you.

Area:Cameroon
Name:Internet Society Chapter of Cameroon
Contact:Vitalia Mungvi Ngala
Email:vi_ngala@yahoo.com
Web site:
Notes:Chartered April 2000

Source: ISOC website

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Appolinaire NOUMBI  –  Aug 10, 2006 12:12 AM PDT

Hi every one!
Hi John!
Hi Ram!
Thanks for these informations. i will do my best to follow the file. Each another help will be welcome. In our organization, we believe that the best help is not dollars, but good ideas as those you're giving us Have a nice day!

contact: Appolinaire NOUMBI
Chairman, Federation of Cameroonian Engineers Organisation, for Global Development.
tel (237) 760 20 77
(237) 991 76 24
email: solidmaison@yahoo.com

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Sys domain  –  Aug 10, 2006 5:09 AM PDT

all domains including monster.cm , flowers.cm seem to be down.
anyone has more info on the recent developments?

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Appolinaire NOUMBI  –  Aug 10, 2006 8:52 AM PDT

Latest!
hi all!
i am writing from yaoundé, capital of cameroon.

i'm have had a telephon contact with Antic, thet is deciding on every thing on this subject.

I have a meeting with them today.

You will have a worldwide breaking news on this topic.

We really want the situation to change.
contact: Appolinaire NOUMBI
Chairman, Federation of Cameroonian Engineers Organisation, for Global Development.
tel (237) 760 20 77
(237) 991 76 24
email: solidmaison@yahoo.com

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space David A. Ulevitch  –  Aug 17, 2006 7:30 PM PDT

The wildcard is back on.

And in response to your original post John, We give users the tools they need to decide how they want it to work for them: nxdomain, have it redirect .cm to .com as a typo correction or be a wildcard as it is now.

-david

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Berryhill  –  Aug 17, 2006 10:10 PM PDT

I'm not surprised that someone figured out the FAQ:

This service is specifically authorised by the sovereign Republic of Cameroon, and will be used to produce revenue for the Republic of Cameroon.

...which is certainly a laudable purpose, and which may help obtain some good quality curtains for a change.

I would estimate annual revenue at the low end to be at least 1% of Cameroon's currently reported foreign exchange reserve.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Levine  –  Aug 17, 2006 10:28 PM PDT

We all know what the FAQ on the wildcard page says. But I'm not sure how much of it I believe.  Your estimate of $10M/yr for the clickthroughs is plausible, but what we don't know is how much if any of that is going back to Cameroon, and how much if any of the amount that gets to Cameroon is spent on something useful.  My guesses would be precious little, and none.

Since the operators of the wildcard page decline to identify themselves, and we have yet to find anyone in a responsible position in Cameroon who is aware of this, the whole thing smells fishy to me.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space David A. Ulevitch  –  Aug 17, 2006 10:33 PM PDT

I have to agree with John Levine.  Furthermore, if this is being done by the Government of Cameroon, why all the secrecy?  It only benefits from more transparency. I still view the entire operation as suspect.  Even if the Government of Cameroon is behind this, how much money will make it to the Cameroonian people?

-david

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Berryhill  –  Aug 18, 2006 2:04 AM PDT

how much if any of the amount that gets to Cameroon is spent on something useful

Yes, the last people who should be deciding what to do with money in Cameroon are Cameroonians.  It's a good thing the world is arranged in such a way to keep them from having too much, or they might do foolish things with it.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05308/600836.stm
Google Inc.'s two billionaire founders, both 32 years old, will soon be cruising the skies in a Boeing 767 wide-body airliner. They bought the used plane earlier this year, Mr. Page says.
[...]
As for what they plan to do with it, Mr. Page wouldn't be specific. He says "part of the equation for this sort of machinery is to be able to take large numbers of people to places such as Africa. I think that can only be good for the world."

Perhaps the Cameroonians should just donate the money to Google, so that Mr. Page can grace them with the presence of wise white people.  It's good for them.

Even if the Government of Cameroon is behind this, how much money will make it to the Cameroonian people?

Good point, David.  My dividend check for the .us ccTLD must be late this month.  I'll have to look into that.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space John Levine  –  Aug 18, 2006 6:36 AM PDT

My, aren't we snarky this morning. I presume most people can tell the difference between a national government and a private business, so I won't belabor the irrelevance of what Google's owners do. 

But I will point out that the economic history of Africa since 1960 has been a consistent pattern of westerners providing aid and loans for development which instead disappear into the Swiss bank accounts of the local leaders.  Cameroon isn't the most corrupt country in Africa, but it isn't the least, either.  Cameroon is a poor country with an infant mortality rate ten times that of its former colonial powers.  It has 2 million phones for 17 million people, compared to 75 million phones for 60 million people in France.

If the typosquat money is building rural cybercafés so cocoa farmers can check commodity prices and is connecting rural clinics for telemedicine, that's great.  If, as seems more likely, most of it is ending up in a bank account in Vancouver and the rest in Zurich, that stinks.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Larry Seltzer  –  Aug 23, 2006 1:21 PM PDT

I was doing some follow-up on this and the wildcard seems to be down again; was there some resolution on it?

But there are some good typosquats up. Try www.youtube.cm.

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Stephane Bortzmeyer  –  Sep 04, 2006 11:57 PM PDT

As everybody noticed, wildcards in ".cm" are gone but, since yesterday, there is a new wildcard in ".tm".

Re: Nation of Cameroon Typo-Squats the Entire .com Space Stephane Bortzmeyer  –  Feb 16, 2007 3:14 AM PDT

Wildcards in ".cm" were activated again on January 19th and seem to stay this time.

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