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Facebok.com had 250 million hits a year

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2011, Domain Policy

The typo domain name facebok.com was receiving an estimated 250 million visits per year, according to a Facebook attorney.

As I’ve previously reported, the domain was subject to controversy after Facebook won it in a UDRP adjudication and was subsequently sued by the cybersquatter.

“Obviously, it’s Facebook except lacking one O, and attracting a lot of traffic – 250 million was the estimate by our SEO team, 250 million hits a year,” Facebook’s Susan Kawaguchi said during a panel on UDRP here at the ICANN meeting in Singapore.

“Somebody was making a lot of money off of it,” she said.

Facebok.com bounced users to what Kawaguchi described as a “social survey scam” – a site that used Facebook’s look-and-feel to get users to sign up for expensive text message services.

After Facebook won the UDRP in September, a bogus Panama-based shell company sued Facebook and the registrar, EuroDNS, claiming to be the true owner of the domain.

The suit persuaded EuroDNS to put the transfer to Facebook on hold, and ICANN threatened to terminate the registrar’s accreditation as a result.

The situation has since been resolved, and Facebook owns the domain, but EuroDNS may find itself in trouble with the Luxembourg court.

Facebok.com given to Facebook despite “theft” claim

Kevin Murphy, May 30, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN says registrar contract trumps national court. Registrar warns of legal consequences.

The typo domain name facebok.com has finally been returned to Facebook, over eight months after it was subject to a successful cyberquatting complaint.

The domain does not currently resolve, but Whois records show it was transferred to Facebook from its previous registrant, one “Franz Bauer”, last Thursday.

The case was marked by controversy, after ICANN threatened to shut down its sponsoring registrar, EuroDNS, for failing to transfer the domain last within 10 days, as required by UDRP rules.

EuroDNS had resisted the transfer after being named in a lawsuit, in its native Luxembourg, filed by a suspicious Panama shell company going by the name Facebok.com. The plaintiff claimed the domain had been “stolen” by Bauer.

But ICANN told the registrar last week that the Registrar Accreditation Agreement only allows the registrar to defer a transfer if the original registrant – not a third party – sues.

In a letter noting that EuroDNS is “a long-standing and respected member of the ICANN community”, the ICANN compliance department said:

the only kind of documentation that will stop the registrar from implementing a panel decision ordering a transfer is evidence that the registrant/respondent has commenced a lawsuit against the complainant in a jurisdiction to which the complainant has submitted under UDRP Rules. The mere filing of a complaint by a third party does not excuse the registrar from fulfilling its obligations under the policy.

in recognition that there has been a court filing, ICANN must reiterate that failing to comply with the relevant contractual provisions of the RAA subjects EuroDNS to escalated compliance action up to and including termination of the EuroDNS accreditation.

That seems to have been sufficient clarity for EuroDNS to push through the transfer, but the registrar is not happy about the situation, which may leave it in a tricky legal position in Luxembourg.

In a reply to ICANN, EuroDNS CEO Xavier Buck suggested that the story may not be over yet:

the action you demand from EuroDNS will have tremendous consequences for our company in the pending judiciary case.

Consequently, EuroDNS reserves all rights to seek indemnification from ICANN for any damages or loss caused by the action we have been forced to take not to lose our Registrar accreditation.

The lawsuit was filed last September, just days after the UDRP case was decided, but has not yet gone to court.

Under its previous ownership, facebok.com redirected to a series of scam sites that may have proved rather lucrative.

Was Facebok.com really stolen?

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2011, Domain Policy

The domain name’s strange history raises questions.

The typo domain facebok.com is currently at the center of an unusual legal battle that has put a respected domain name registrar’s ICANN accreditation at risk.

EuroDNS, as I reported last week, has been handed an ICANN breach notice for failing to transfer the domain to Facebook, which won it in a slam-dunk UDRP complaint last September.

If it does not hand over the domain by May 11, it stands to lose its ability to sell domain names.

But the registrar says it is a defendant in a lawsuit, filed in its native Luxembourg, which has put a jurisdictional question mark over its ability to legally transfer the domain.

According to EuroDNS, the suit was filed by a company calling itself “Facebok.com Inc”, on September 24 last year, just one week after the UDRP case was decided.

This suspiciously named company alleges that the domain is its rightful property, and that it was stolen by the respondent in the UDRP case, one Franz Bauer of Munich, Germany.

The suit names Bauer, Facebook and EuroDNS as defendants.

A review of historical Whois records shows that Bauer has been associated with the domain facebok.com since August 2009, after it emerged from a few years behind a Whois privacy shield.

The address in the Whois, then and now, seems to be a hotel in Munich.

However, on September 21, 2010, a few days after WIPO informed Bauer he had lost the UDRP, the contact information in the Whois changed to a Hushmail email address and:

Company: FACEBOK.COM, INC.
Name: Facebok Domains Facebok Admininstrator
Address: IPASA Building, 3rd Floor, 41 Street Off Balboa Avenue, Bella Vista District
City: Panama City
Country: PANAMA
Postal Code: 83256

That address is shared by Panama Offshore Legal Services, a company that offers corporate formation services to individuals outside of Panama, with the promise of “global asset protection, privacy, investment diversification, tax minimization, affordability and convenience.”

Facebok.com Inc, which is suing EuroDNS, Facebook and Bauer, therefore appears to be an offshore shell company. The question is: who’s behind it?

At the time the domain’s Whois changed from Bauer to Facebok.com Inc, it was in ClientTransferProhibited status, meaning it could not be transferred to another registrar, but that the registrant was free to change his contact information at will.

By early October, the Whois record had reverted back to Bauer.

The domain facebok.com currently directs fat-fingered web surfers to a variety of affiliate scams, depending on where they live, that rely upon users completing spurious surveys and not reading the fine print when they sign up for pricey mobile phone messaging services.

With 500 million Facebook users, many of whom will be youngsters, silver surfers, or may not use ASCII as their primary script, the site is likely to be getting a fair bit of traffic.

Compete.com estimates it received roughly 4,000 to 8,000 visits per month last year. Alexa gives the site a rank of roughly 154,000. Both sites show a huge traffic spike in March.

Registrar threatened over “stolen” Facebook domain

Kevin Murphy, April 21, 2011, Domain Registrars

ICANN has threatened to terminate the domain name registrar EuroDNS for failing to transfer a typo domain lost in a UDRP case to Facebook.

But EuroDNS says it is subject to a court case in its home country, Luxembourg, which has prevented it handing over the name.

The original registrant of facebok.com lost a slam-dunk UDRP case back in September 2010. He didn’t even bother defending the case.

But over half a year later, he’s still in control of the domain, and he’s using it to recruit folk into a shady-looking (but probably legal) subscription text messaging service.

EuroDNS is the registrar of record for the domain, and like all registrars is responsible for transferring domains lost under the UDRP to the winning party, in this case Facebook.

ICANN’s compliance department – my guess is under pressure from Facebook – has therefore threatened EuroDNS with termination unless it hands over the domain in the next three weeks.

This is noteworthy because EuroDNS isn’t the kind of tiny, fringe outfit ICANN usually files compliance notices against. It’s a generally respectable business. It even shows up to ICANN meetings.

EuroDNS deputy general counsel Luc Seufer tells me that the company was fully prepared to transfer the domain – it had even sent the authorization codes to Facebook – but it found itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit claiming that the domain had been “stolen”.

Somebody in Luxembourg, it seems, has sued to reclaim an obvious typo domain that’s probably going to be transferred to Facebook anyway.

“We are therefore in an incredible position where if we transfer the name before the judge’s ruling we will be accountable in our own country and if we don’t transfer the name we are in breach of the [Registrar Accreditation Agreement],” said Seufer.

The Luxembourg case has not yet made it to court, hence EuroDNS’s delay, he said. ICANN is aware of the action, and has seen the court papers, he said.

According to ICANN’s breach notice (pdf), the only way for EuroDNS to avoid its obligation under the UDRP is to show proof that the original registrant has sued Facebook to keep the domain.

But the case in question was filed by a third party claiming to be the rightful owner of the domain, not the original registrant. EuroDNS seems to be trapped between a rock and a hard place.

Seufer said the company is prepared to hand over the domain, adding:

Should we simply ignore a judiciary court case against us in our own country – that could prevent us from operating the transfer since it is was asked of the judge – because of our RAA’s obligations?

The domain in question, facebok.com, currently redirects to a series of sites asking visitors to fill in a survey to win a Mac.

Those who are duped by it are actually signing up to a text service that costs, in the UK, £4.50 ($7.40) per week.