Domain Squatting in Google Apps

You want a unique domain name? You register it. If the name is not already taken, it can be yours for a price – indefinitely.

And this is what squatters do: buy high-value domain names in the hopes that (a) they’ll make tons of money from direct traffic; or (b) someone else will eventually want the domain name and they’ll be able to sell it at a premium.

So, once you have this domain name, you can pretty much do anything you want with it – and it’s about the closest thing we have to an identity marker on the Internet today. You should be in full control of what happens with or on that domain name until you decide you don’t want it anymore.

Say you want to start tracking more about how your Web site is doing in Google. I would most certainly recommend that you sign up for the free Google Webmaster Tools. From there, you can add as many domain names as you want to monitor – provided you can verify that you actually own the domain names you’re wishing to keep track of and control. That makes sense, huh?

I mean, why would Google allow you to configure options for domains you don’t have the rights to control?

But that’s what they’re enabling via a gigantic loophole in their Google Apps for Domains service – currently allowing any user to squat on a domain name in their system without first requiring verification. Ouch.

We discovered that someone was squatting on LockerGnome.com within the Google Apps for Domains system. This means we couldn’t actually start using their service without first asking Google to relinquish the name to us – a name which we can readily verify, not the individual(s) who already laid claim in their system.

If you need me to put a finer point on why this is a problem, we reserved SeattleTimes.com in much the same manner – of course, we don’t intend on keeping the domain managed in Google’s system for the Seattle Times, and will absolutely pass it to someone within their own ranks as soon as we know who needs to manage it. We can’t do anything with it other than cause the Seattle Times and Google to waste time. We snagged it to further illustrate the problem, not to cause headaches for anybody. Hell, we love both Google AND the Seattle Times. 😉

To me, this is an oversight that can be remedied by reordering the process – managing new accounts in Google Apps for Domains much like Google does for its excellent Webmaster Tools suite. Not doing so is… well, it’s just kinda hard to believe that nobody else has reported on this matter yet.

We’re hoping that Google sees this as an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

UPDATE: Now, according to an official Google PR representative, a domain which is reserved on the system without validation after 14 days, reverts to an unreserved domain. Still, this doesn’t make sense – an undue inconvenience, to say the least. Someone has been sitting on LockerGnome.com in Google Apps for Domains since 2008.

3 thoughts on “Domain Squatting in Google Apps”

  1. This is more a problem with the google apps verification system and not ICANN or domain registration. Since more and more domains are using google apps to power their sites, google needs to use the registrar for verification not their CNAME or HTML hash key system to prove ownership.

    The biggest issue here is if a domain is renewed through a trusted ICANN registar, yet email is powered by google apps , the email could be sniped, squated or sent to the wrong person whom squated the domain in their own google apps domain settings in hope that an admin would miss what google is requesting.

    Google apps is a great set of tools but their proof of ownership is clunky and easy to allow for human error.
    Get with it google!
    – Jeff

  2. It’s amazing how little do we understand and we want to learn about important aspects of our business, I know legalities are freaking boring and we better leave it to the Lawyers.
    But it’s important that we put some thinks straight. Cyber-squatting it’s not only morally wrong, it’s actually Illegal.
    Anyone thinking that could make a lot of money registering High-Value Domains, well I have to say good luck. If the company has enough money to hire a Legal Firm can fight this and actually get back their domain. Just follow this links and you will learn an aspect that goes beyond just registering a domain.
    http://www.icann.org/en/dispute-resolution/#trademark
    http://domains.adrforum.com/decision.aspx

    And this is a recent dispute that has been resolved and the cyber-squatter had to transfer the domains and got no money.
    http://domains.adrforum.com/domains/decisions/1305257.htm

    So now we know we can’t register pirilloTheGeek.com, and ask for a lot of money to Chris, he will go and hire a lawyer.

  3. You’re right, this could easily be verified easily via the registration page… as you’ve said.

    With that said, this isn’t really squatting. It’s just annoying and frustrating.

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