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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Domain Name Search Hijacking by Google

Yesterday, I mentioned the term googleganger. I wondered if anyone owned the domain. The domain does exist and there is a site hosted on the domain (see the whois lookup and domain name search results from DomainTools). Knowing that direct navigation via search box is a trend, I took a look at Google search results for that domain name:

google domain name search

Clearly, Google is aware that this is a domain name search. Note the "results from websites with similar addresses" and "try another domain name" suggestions. Could you imagine your reaction if you walked into a library, asked a librarian for a specific book by name and the librarian came back with other books she recommended saying, "Oh, yes, we do have that book but it's a work in progress. I've retrieved for you these other books I think are more relevant." Next time, wouldn't you just go to the shelf yourself? Or, what if you hopped in a taxi and gave the driver your destination address and they refused to drive you to the specified address and instead dropped you off somewhere else they thought was a nicer location. Would you ever use that taxi company again?

Blocking domain names from the Google search index is nothing new. I haven't noticed this domain name search hijacking before, though. It seems a bit arrogant on Google's part to block a domain itself, simply because it is parked or under construction. Keep in mind that Google runs AdSense for Domains. They profit from parked domain revenues. Why hijack domain name searches? Isn't this akin to domain hijacking or browser hijacking? I can see not listing parked domains in standard search results due to a lack of original content, but shouldn't Google display results for any domain on what's clearly a domain name search? They are a domain registrar, after all, and appear to be using whois registrar data.

With the inception of universal search, they could insert domain name specific search results above their standard search results. For example, much like they rely on Wikipedia for many of their search results, they could display whois lookup results for a given domain name from a reliable source (like Also, since they display malware information (more here) about a site, they could include the domain itself in the search results with a "parked domain" or "under construction" label. I think it'd be better for the end user to display the domain (even with some kind of a warning label) rather than hiding the searched domain and suggesting other domains. Seems very contrary to Google's stated policy of "providing the best user experience possible" or their "mission to organize the world's information."

Maybe the web needs a new librarian? Or, if you like the taxi analogy better, if policies like domain name search hijacking erode confidence in Google, perhaps their fleet of shiny taxis will become, well, parked. ;-)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

. is "hosted by Yahoo" one of Google's competitors.

Contrary to the manner Google wants to portray themselves to most of the world -- as an effective "library" of the world's information -- they are in fact a commercial enterprise selling a product (advertising) to other businesses. (Pretty obvious stuff for you, I know, but a good answer to your comments.)

To look at your taxi analogy; if a cab service was offering free rides, but made their money from a commission they received from the destination they took the rider to, would you expect them to take the rider to the taxi stand of a competing "free cab" service who would then take the rider to a destination where this second taxi would receive the commission?

Google offers their search service to people for "free." Those using it should expect to get what they pay for.

Mon Oct 29, 01:33:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Richard said...

That's a fair point. I think, internally at Google, there's a bit of a dichotomy. Those working on the organic search engine seem to act as if they're working at an academic institution or for a non-profit. They don't seem to realize the inherent conflicts of interest when it comes to the business side of things. OTOH, those working on the advertising side at Google seem to be ignoring the code of ethics espoused by those on the organic side.

Tue Oct 30, 12:48:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fri Oct 30, 04:15:00 AM EDT  

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