Cybersquatting 2.0

Posted on May 29, 2008 5:12 pm by | Ethics | FriendFeed | RSS | Social networks

When FriendFeed announced the availability of “rooms,” my podcast co-host, Neville Hobson, set one up for our show, FIR. We’ve implemented a variety of means by which our listeners can connect, from a traditional discussion forum to a Facebook group, but the FriendFeed room seems to have produced far better results, with 30 listeners joining and robust discussions emerging around links participants have submitted.

As Neville and I were discussing the room before recording today’s episode of FIR, Neville noted that he’d done a Google search and found that there are now about 1,600 rooms—not bad for something that’s been around for less than two weeks. (There’s no way, evidently, to see how many rooms there are directly on FriendFeed.)

Some of these rooms have been set up by companies. Comcast, for example, has set up a room called Comcast Q&A. “Got Comcast Questions?” room administrator Scott Westerman asks. “We’ll try to get you answers.” Frank Eliason, Comcast’s point man on Twitter, is among those posting to the room.

But a lot of the company and brand names that have been assigned to rooms don’t appear to have any relationship to the organizations themselves. Blogger and Bay Area photographer Thomas Hawk, for instance, is listed as the administrator of a room called Comcast. He’s also the only member and nothing has yet been posted there. Hawk also set one up called Amazon. Bwana McCall set one up called Wii. Hutch Carpenter created on called Coca Cola.

I have to wonder how many of these rooms associated with trademarked brands represent a new form of cybersquatting. Companies learned the hard way the cost and risk of letting someone else create domains using their marks, leading them to purchase the domains from the squatters or go to court seeking to have them relinquished. While a company can’t acquire every possible domain—I remember Nabisco’s dismay when, after acquiring every Oreo cookie domain they could imagine, someone registered (which isn’t an active domain today)—they can certainly obtain the most basic ones.

Will organizations be forced into the same actions to claim ownership of FriendFeed rooms bearing their marks? Of course, they’ll first have to figure out what FriendFeed is, but as the service grows more popular and more useful, that’s inevitable. In the meantime, I can imagine a land rush of early adopters snatching up every company and brand name in site.

At least this time, if they’re gonna squat, it’ll be in a room.

Update: Turns out Matt Dickman from Fleishman Hillard had a similar topic in mind today—he talks about securing your company/brand accounts in Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

05/29/08 | 5 Comments | Cybersquatting 2.0



  • 1.Do you own your corporate domain name? It sounds kind of silly in 2008 doesn't it? Let's go a level deeper. Do you own your

  • 2.Nice post, Shel. It's mind boggling, really, to think of all the places on the Web where an organization could conceivably need to protect its name!

    Donna Papacosta | May 2008 | Toronto

  • 3.Donna, you lead me to wonder whether someone ought to start a list over at The New PR...

    Shel Holtz | May 2008 | Concord, CA

  • 4.I honestly don't see the FriendFeed rooms as important as the domain names.
    The company name will be picked up as a room name. So what? If FriendFeed would be an important place a really really important place I would say that maybe it can be a problem.
    But while it's a nice site, it's nowhere near as important as the actual domain name.
    I would risk it rather falls into the irrelevant category in this sense

    Roland Hesz | May 2008 | Budapest

  • 5.Nice post, Shel. It?s mind boggling, really, to think of all the places on the Web where an organization could conceivably need to protect its name!

    Toronto Lofts | June 2008 | Toronto

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