For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Microsoft, domain kiting, domain squatters, Capital Domains, ICANN, Yellow Pages.
Domain "kiting" is a new term that can now cause us to worry. For years, we have heard of people who purchased domain names, like cocacola.com, and thought that they would hold those names hostage and then sell them back to companies for handsome profits.
In essence, the courts have outlawed this process, and substantial penalties have been handed out to some of these "domain squatters." Currently, there is a squabble between a dentist and Microsoft in which this "clever" person purchased a few domain names obviously not intended for dental use. Three of these names were aMicrosoftShop.com, aMicrosoftStore.com, and XboxOutlet.info. You can decide for yourself what the intent might have been in this situation.
The interesting story, though, is about a dentist who had an existing Web site. He hired a company to set up the site and manage it. One of the things this company failed to do, however, was put the domain name on automatic renewal. By not doing this, the dentist lost rights to the name. When you get a domain name, it is best to set it up for automatic renewal. Also, domain companies normally send notifications well in advance of the renewal date, even if it is going to happen automatically.
The domain holder, or registrar, can be namesdirect, godaddy, or a number of companies that provide this service. In this instance, it is important that you tend to several items. If you are using a third party for hosting or maintaining the Web site, be sure that you own the domain name. This is important for many reasons. If you decide to change companies, then you are in the driver's seat with the place for the hosting. Also, as we will see in this case, you are the contact person if there is a problem. When you register a name, you are asked for a hard (mailing) address and e-mail address so the registrar can contact you for reasons such as renewal. By the way, this information is publicly available (unless you choose to have it shielded) through a system called whois.
There are several methods to obtain this information. Network solutions, godaddy, whois.net and others allow you to see who owns a domain name. There are also brokers who permit you to bid on a name that you might want. If you ever wondered who is in charge of this, it is a nonprofit corporation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN, which was established in 1998, assumed this task from the federal government and now oversees Internet domain names.
So what happened to our dentist who lost rights to his domain name? He went to renew his office Web site name and found it was not available. When he entered his office Web address in Internet Explorer, it came up with an odd page called Capital Domains (capdom.com). Thus, if patients were looking for this site, as published on his office stationery and Yellow Pages ads, they were directed to this page.
An Internet search (using whois) determined that this was a front for a company called maisontropicale.com in the British West Indies. After the dentist made several attempts to contact the company, he learned the company would sell the domain name to him for 750 euros. After a negotiation process, the company finally agreed to sell the domain name back to him for $600.
Several companies have a history of "kiting," which is defined by what happened in this situation. These companies scour the Internet (electronically) for Web addresses, grab them, and hold them "hostage." The way in which they do this abuses an Internet rule. A registrar has five days in which to cancel a domain name once it has been registered. Some companies pay to register a domain name, and within the rules, cancel the name in five days, then immediately reregister it. These companies will do this for an undetermined length of time, and if no one is looking for a domain name, they eventually drop it.
The moral is to be careful, even if you own an office Web site. If you manage your site, recheck your renewal status and make sure it is automated. Also, be sure ICANN has your current contact information. If you have a company that hosts and manages for you, do a quick whois check and see who owns the domain name. If you don't, contact the Web site company and see what it will take to get the name in your hands. Remember, a Web site — just as your dental equipment — needs preventive maintenance.
Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught technology courses. A mainstay at technology sessions, including annual appearances at the Yankee Dental Congress, he is an ADA seminar series speaker. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.