I have a little extra time this week, so I decided I would find an extremely thought-provoking aspect of technology to write about.
Then I thought, forget that, I'll just put together a couple of essays from my volumes of research on the adult Web site industry. Then I thought, no, I should really save that for something big, like Columbus Day. So I landed somewhere in between for this week's column.
I found a great story on the Silcon Valley opinion page about a man who registered 5,500 misspellings of popular domain names, including 41 variations for Britney Spears. First off, are there really 41 ways to spell Britney Spears? And is Brittenie Speerz one of them?
His name is John Zuccarini. He's been sued 64 times to date and has lost 53 cases. You would think with an 11-53 record, he would give up. Then again, he has made close to a million dollars a year with this scheme, so I guess it's working. He makes his money by doing what is called mousetrapping: having endless windows pop up when going to a Web site. It's really annoying, especially when you keep closing windows, and more keep appearing. All types of sites -- gambling, pornography, you name it -- are owned by Zuccarini's clients.
So here's what happens: You are trying to get to www.yahoo.com, but you accidentally type in yallwho.com, considering you heard about the site from your cousin Milford, who just traded in his cattle and tobacco fields in North Carolina for a new computer. Anyway, the site that pops up looks like yahoo, but while you stare at the screen, browser windows open like crazy all over, even on your mousepad and in your sink. So naturally, you try to close some of those windows, then more pop up, so you are forced to restart your machine, unplug it and get your tobacco field back. At least that's what cousin Milford did, especially after he found out the Zip drive wasn't a French toast maker.
In all the literature I've read about this, everyone seems to agree: Although this seems illegal, there are too many ways around the existing rules that allow this to continue. Companies are winning the rights back to their misspelled Web sites, but unfortunately, there is no law saying Zuccarini can't try it with a different Web site. Considering that Zuccarini runs his operations out of holding companies with many different names, most of which -- I'm not joking -- have "Cupcake" in the name somewhere and that he refuses to disclose exactly where his place of residence is, it's fairly evident that he knows he's doing something wrong. But who will stop him? Brittenie Speerz? Milford?
I'm not sure if there's really any action we can take to prevent this besides reporting Web sites that appear to do this to the Federal Trade Commission. You can call (800) FTC-HELP and reference the case name "Cupcake Party." It would be nice to have an actual cupcake party, perhaps with a large vat of coconut frosting, but that's not what this is at all. Also, don't spell it kupkeak partie or else Milford will have a fit. I must leave now to finish my complex but comprehensive adult Web site research.