Reverse Typosquatting

March 2, 2009

Type a name into Google or Yahoo and the first few results are their suggestions. What the %#@$? So, let me get this straight, if I don’t make a typo, then they’ll make one for me?

With all the talk, and people getting bent out of shape about others using typos to their advantage, here we have the two major search engines doing it – in reverse. Unfortunately there is only the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and no Reverseanticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. From a typographical point of view, that’s probably a good thing.

Seriously though, one of the key problems in this case is the commercial interest of Google. Using this technique they are able to direct traffic toward sites which generate income for them. I’ll give you an example. Type the name of a typical non commercial site like voxigo into the search box and what do you get? Yep, your usual “did you mean …?”. Bah!

Typosquatting is done for many different reasons. Sometimes just for satire, social commentary, or other fair use. Often there is a bad faith intent to profit. I think that is what is happening here. Besides, to assume that I made a typo is just plain rude anyway. Check out Wikipedia for more details.

I never did have a problem with typosquatting in the first place. I figured it was my own fault for not getting it right. However it looks like you can’t win. Reverse typosquatting is probably here to stay. That’s just the way of the world.

One thing that is looking more and more desirable though, is changing your search engine habits. I often use the Scroogle Scraper. They have the added advantage of not keeping your search terms for a long time. Give it a try, and if you like it – bookmark it and use it again. Notice that they don’t question your searches either.


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