Typos Costing Half a Billion Dollars a Year

How Much Can a Typo Cost You?

Everyone who’s ever used a keyboard has made a typo – hitting the ‘y’ key instead of the ‘u,’ for example. Users of devices such as mobiles make twenty times as many typos as keyboard users, since the keys and screen are smaller. When people are typing URLs – website addresses – their typos actually cost the website owners, since a typo can send an unwitting consumer to a competitor’s website, and the website the user intended to visit never got the sale. This side effect of typos created while searching for web addresses even spawned a mini-industry called ‘typosquatting.’

Typosquatting

Typosquatting is a practice wherein a person registers a domain name that correlates with a likely typo for a popular product or website. For example, if a website is called ‘hotboots,’ a typosquatter could buy the domain name of ‘hotbots,’ and instead of making a website, he would just have paid links to other websites competing with the ‘hotboots’ website. He could take a few variations on typos of hotboots. Or, if hotboots was a .com website, he could take the .net domain, and possibly get a good stream of users seeking the .com, and never getting it.

Typosquatting for Profit

Typosquatting can be profitable in the sense that someone is reaping the rewards of millions of slight mistakes committed by people seeking a commodity or product that has spent millions of dollars getting their attention. Google has recently estimated that typos cost online vendors half a billion dollars a year. Typosquatters sometimes hold their typo domain names for ransom, only selling them when a large sum is offered by the owners of the original website. They also make money linking to competitors websites. However, typosquatting has moved out of the gray zone of quasi-legality, and there are now legal precedents and laws that deal with typosquatting cases. Typosquatting is considered a form of cybersquatting, and it is addressed in the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999. This law has helped settle numerous lawsuits, however, many other still go unresolved.

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