Is Microsoft really trying to protect hotmail users from URL Squatters?

NPR revealed (to me) this morning that Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against an exercise equipment firm in CA for buying domains similar to hotmail.com in hopes of catching fat-fingered users. So I’m laughing riding alone in my Volvo at the absurdity of Microsoft pursuing this action against a small firm exploring a very popular tactic for capturing traffic. At least they should be happy it is not (another) porn site.

On a more serious note, registering domains similar to your own is a very smart approach, especially if you have a hard to spell or hard to remember domain. For instance, we have a client named Stien. Every time I try to send him email, I spell his name Stein in the classic way of Ben Stein. It would be a logical choice for this man to register both spellings of his name as a URL just in case folks make an error.

For that matter, Microsoft probably should have had the foresight to register these mispelled names themselves. How often do you fat-finger a site and find yourself redirected to the place you really wanted to go to begin with? Businesses are smart enough to already be taking this approach and if they aren’t, they are learning fast.

The other savvy approach marketers are using is to not only register variations of their own domains but variations of their competition, too. Why not? If it allows you to get the traffic you’re looking for, it is a completely legitimate strategy and one you should explore. It’s no coincidence that GoDaddy.com suggests alternate variations on  domains when you register them. Take advantage of their offers then use some creativity and come up with a few more.

As for the exercise equipment company’s domains, you can bet that Microsoft will probably be buying those shortly anyway.

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