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Not every coronavirus domain registrant is a douchebag

Kevin Murphy, March 16, 2020, 23:13:32 (UTC), Domain Sales

While there are plenty of domain registrants apparently trying to make a quick buck out of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve managed to dig up several that appear to have less parasitical motives.

I spent some time today poking around gTLDs where one might reasonably expect to find coronavirus information, products or services. In each TLD, I looked up the second-level strings “coronavirus”, “covid-19” and “covid19”. I did not check any ccTLDs, IDNs or geographic gTLDs.

In the large majority of gTLD cases, the domain was parked, offered for sale, or displayed default web host information.

Some were being monetized in other ways, and at least one appears to be actively dangerous to public health.

These are the ones that don’t seem to be purely out to make a quick buck or get people killed:

  • covid19.health — a web site, attributed to one Steven Liu, has been produced containing interactive data about the current state of worldwide infections, deaths and recoveries.
  • coronavirus.live — redirects to the pandemic data page at the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, which resembles a scene from War Games (1983).
  • covid19.news, covid-19.news, covid-19.live and covid19.live — all redirect to covid2020.com, a web site run by somebody going by “CovidDataGirl” that appears to be at the very least a serious attempt to build a web site containing actual information. It does, however, also solicit small “buy me a coffee” donations to support the site, so it might not be fully altruistic.
  • covid-19.com — frames Chinese-languages news and data about the outbreak from two other web sites, as it has since day one. I can’t fully verify the sources are legit, but they appear to be at first glance.
  • coronavirus.com — this has been registered since 2002 and reportedly belongs to GoDaddy following its recent acquisition of Frank Schilling’s portfolio. It bounces visitors to the World Health Organization’s coronavirus web page. GoDaddy didn’t really have any choice here — any appearance of an attempt to monetize would have been public relations suicide.
  • coronavirus.app — more hard data overlaid onto a fairly slick world map.
  • covid19.care and covid19.today — somebody is attempting or has attempted to make a useful web site here, but it’s either a work in progress or abandoned.
  • covid19.consulting — bare-bones pandemic data.
  • coronavirus.media — a news aggregator that looks like it was abandoned over a month ago.
  • coronavirus.rehab — all the information is copy-pasted from sources such as WHO and Johns Hopkins, or fed in via open news APIs, but at least it’s therefore factual and there does not appear to be any overt attempt at monetization.
  • covid-19.rehab — Russian news aggregator with no obvious monetization.
  • coronavirus.horse — I had no particular reason to check this one out, other than I know the internet’s penchant for putting wacky stuff on .horse domains. To my surprise, it resolves, bouncing users to the nightmare fuel at the aforementioned Johns Hopkins site.

There were no registered domains in tightly restricted spaces such as .loan, .insurance and .pharmacy, as you might expect.

And now the bad news.

I found no clearly non-douchey uses in .blog, .doctor, .center, .clinic, .education, .equipment, .fit, .fitness, .flights, .healthcare, .hospital, .lawyer, .supplies, .supply, or .wiki. Just parking, sales and host default pages.

Sadly, coronavirus.science is being used by a bunch of irresponsible quacks to peddle dangerous pseudoscience.

I found one Spanish-language splog at coronavirus.consulting and an Amazon affiliate page selling hand sanitizer and face-masks at coronavirus.equipment.

One guy has registered one of the three strings in at least 10 different new gTLDs — including .deals, .host and .enterprises — each of which invites visitors to click on a link to the next in a never-ending cycle. None of the pages are monetized.

Somebody is attempting to make money selling merchandise featuring a cartoon cat in a face mask at coronavirus.shop and coronavirus.rocks. I have mixed feelings on this one, but I am a sucker for cats.

I was close to featuring the three .org domains in the “good” list above, as they actually present a great deal of content related to coronavirus, but they appear to belong to the same guy who’s currently arguing with Andrew Allemann on Domain Name Wire about whether it’s acceptable for domainers to profit from tragedy.

For the record, I agree with Allemann: serious domain investors should never attempt to exploit these kinds of crises for financial gain. Not coronavirus, not anything. It casts the entire profession in a terrible light and will probably harm domainers’ collective interests in the long run.

There’s a reason the Internet Commerce Association has a code of conduct banning such activity.

It’s a lot easier to ignore their complaints about, say, price increases in .com or .org, if you can easily characterize domainers as a bunch of ambulance-chasing assholes. Verisign has already done this and ICANN could well be next.

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Comments (7)

  1. Snoopy says:

    “For the record, I agree with Allemann: serious domain investors should never attempt to exploit these kinds of crises for financial gain.”

    /////////////////////

    Mostly because there is no money in it. The general public will never be cast domaining in a good light. We are as popular as used car salesmen, lawyers and politicians.

    Nobody is in this industry is here for the good of the world, we are all middlemen trying to add a few dollars more on. Let’s simply accept that rather than trying to paint a picture of domainers wearing halos.

  2. Roger says:

    Interesting and well-researched recap.

    But…

    First, so no one can buy a domain name with an intent to make money from reselling it, or put up any content that might make them a few dollars in revenues if it does not meet the approval of the Board of Appropriate Domain Name Usage and Community Standards? Cmon.

    Second, Verisign can scour all the domain registrations for covid-19 and try to uncover abuses and use it to paint a bad picture of domain investors, as it desperately tried to do in the letter it submitted to ICANN. But keep in mind, anyone is free to register a domain name, including the average Joe who knows nothing about trademark laws, and does not know anything about professional standards in the domain industry. It’s not appropriate or fair to equate those uninformed Joe Six-Packs with professionals.

    Besides, who knows if someone related to a registry might just go out and register a contentious domain or a bunch of them, hide behind privacy, and put up offensive content and slap a $50,000 price on it, then they let it leak out just to try to make “domainers” look bad. Unlikely they would stoop to that, but is it not possible when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake to do what you can to undermine your opponent (in this case their customers?)

    On the topic of domainers, anyone who fixates on domainers and calls them derogatory names because they risk their own money to make a living in the Internet age has their head so far up their arse they cant see the rampant corruption and abuse of consumers in the world for the trees. (Not speaking about the writer of this article, just generally speaking)

    Case in point: anyone read the recent New York Times expose on banks and private equity?

    “Hundreds of thousands of single-family homes are now in the hands of giant companies — squeezing renters for revenue and putting the American dream even further out of reach.”

    Now that’s the real abomination in the world today, and those are the real scumbags – the big money corporations. But somehow if you hide behind a big corporation or are part of a venture capital or private equity firm, you are morally beyond reproach and it’s okay for you to rape people financially and evict them from their houses. But those pond scum get a free pass and instead it’s domainers who are such a huge problem in the world? Get real.

    Scumminess, taking advantage of others, and blatant opportunism is the hallmark of modern capitalism and everyone plays the game. And most of it coms from big corporations that strongarm regulatory bodies, compete unfairly (if they have to compete at all), and average consumers have to pay the bill because of the lack of protective regulatory oversight that might mitigate such corporate abuse.

    But it’s not just big corporations. Domainers have a bad reputation? How about lawyers? they have a fairly shite reputation, don’t they? Or that esteemed bank that opens multiple accounts in your name and doesn’t tell you about it? Ever go to that honorable doctors office and the next month find you are hit with thousands in “surprise” charges that somehow the trustworthy insurance you pay thousands to each month doesn’t cover it? The average person is ripped off left and right, and no it’s not by domainers. It’s by upstanding

    Back to abuse of consumers and the corrup…, or rather the multi-stakeholder regulatory system in the domain industry with regard to contract agreements, price hikes, removal of price caps… If you hear any large domain registry trying to distract attention by calling domainer’s names, as is cited at the end of this article, it’s most likely because they are trying desperately to distract attention away from the things they are doing that they don’t want anyone to talk about or debate. No registrants are notified when prices are raised on their domains on purpose so that no one knows when or how to submit opposing comments during the comments period. That way, the price increases can be pushed through with no opposition. When someone makes an effort with their own money to try to notify registrants, then ICANN and their partner registry try to just delegitimize the opposing comments.

    But of course some big powerful companies need to try to do such a thing because they want to get their way, maybe it’s driving up prices on registrants, or maybe it’s selling a registry some have disputed they have the right to sell, and they need a scapegoat to distract everyone with.

    The forest for the trees.

    It’s the big companies with the sharp elbows and teams of lobbyists, inside connections, writing their own contracts, setting their own price increases, running over the average consumer in the pursuit of ore millions, including rightful, rules-abiding domain registrants (who are paying customers of theirs no less).

    So, let’s quit the bullshit and misdirection and admit the truth. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

    And, no, domain investors are not the problem here.

  3. Frank Wang says:

    Just some feedback on the website: covid-19.com, when you open it in China, the data in the left of your screen is the data of COVID-19 cases in different provinces of China and the cases in the rest of the world. the data is about one day behind the WHO’s data; in the right side of the screen, according to the IP address you are using to login in this website, it can tell you the nearst COVID-19 case around you, so you can avoid visit these places. its a very usaful tool for local household to check if there is any case in my neighborhood.

  4. domainers says:

    check Covid19.com, they are straight up jack asses

  5. Emiliano Pasqualetti says:

    What kind of coronavirus websites do you guys think should be taken down and why? Do you have any examples?

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