Marchex Tests Domain-Parking Waters, and They’re Murky

Marchex Inc., the Seattle-based online marketing company, has been testing its own “domain-parking” program. When I took a look at some of the sites participating in the service this week, I found dozens that appear to infringe on the trademarks of major corporations, including American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Adobe Systems and 1-800 Contacts. More than 50 other sites are adult-oriented, such as adult-sex-fetishpics.com and adultxxxgalleries.com. Marchex doesn’t own the domains, but shares pay-per-click advertising revenue generated through the program with the domain owners and other online-advertising partners, such as Yahoo Inc. The “parked” sites feature text ads related to the domain name. (For a description of how domain parking works, go here.)

Ethan Caldwell, general counsel for Marchex, a public company, said the program, known as Marchex SiteBox, is in “fairly early” beta testing. He said the company doesn’t have all the controls it ultimately plans to have in place to screen names that may infringe on trademarks. He said Marchex planned to look into a list of domains I sent it, which included americannairlines.com, adobeacrobet.com and 888travelocity.com. Those three domains, and scores of similar names in the program, are owned by Digi Real Estate Foundation, which has been accused on a number of occasions of “typosquatting,” a type of cybersquatting in which famous brands are misspelled. Cybersquatting is the act of registering domains associated with the trademarks of others, and seeking to profit from it.

Caldwell pointed out that other companies offering domain owners the opportunity to “park” their domains have wrestled with similar issues. “None of the parking services are deploying an army of trademark attorneys or manually previewing domains prior to entering them” into their systems, he said. Still, he said, Marchex believes “third-party intellectual-property rights should be respected online,” and its parking program will reflect that.

Caldwell said the company also planned to take a look at its policy regarding adult names. He said Marchex has said for a long time that “adult has always been an insignificant part of Marchex’s business.” Many of the adult names in the parking program used to be owned by Marchex (more on that below).

The potentially trademark-infringing names, as well as some of the graphic adult names (which I won’t print here) appear at odds with the requirements listed on the terms-of-use page for partners in Marchex SiteBox. The page says the program requires that “none of the domain names submitted for inclusion is inappropriate, including, but not limited to, domain names that infringe intellectual property or privacy rights of others and domain names that are obscene, vulgar, pornographic or sexually explicit in nature.”

Marchex, which has about 220,000 of its own domain names, describes the parking program as invitation-only. I asked if the initial partners had gone through a vetting process, and Caldwell said they had not. He declined to comment on Digi Real Estate Foundation. When I called the phone number listed for Digi Real Estate Foundation in the domain-registration records for several of its names, I learned it was not a working phone number. An email to the address listed was not immediately returned.

Many of the adult-oriented domains in Marchex’s program are owned by Grant Media LLC, a San Francisco-based adult company run by Gary Kremen, who founded Match.com and used to run Sex.com. He was recently profiled here. Grant Media has purchased many adult-oriented domains from Marchex, which acquired them when it paid more than $160 million for the portfolio of domains owned by legendary domain investor Yun Ye. Caldwell said Marchex made a conscious decision to unload the adult names in that portfolio. (Ye’s list included tens of thousands of controversy-free generic names, such as debts.com and lasvegasvacations.com.)

Caldwell didn’t have a number at his fingertips for how many of the adult monikers had been sold to Grant Media. He said the company was close to finishing selling all of the adult domains. He declined to discuss how much money Marchex had made from the transactions. “I will tell you, once we bought these domains and we stopped monetizing them, any kind of dollar figures went way down,” he said. “Getting value was not our priority.”

Grant Media did not immediately respond to an interview request. The launch page for its sites involved in the Marchex program warns users that if they hit “enter,” they’ll see sexually explicit content.

Marchex still owns some domains, such as gettingsome.com, that might be considered “adult” by some observers. But Caldwell said such domains featured advertising mostly for personal ads and were not “adult” in nature. Other dating-oriented domains Marchex owns include extremepersonals.com, alllesbian.com, latinhookup.com, exoticmate.com, easyadultads.com and adult-comix.com.

For a list of some of the domains Marchex has discussed publicly, check out this recent press release.

 

 

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18 Responses to “Marchex Tests Domain-Parking Waters, and They’re Murky”


  1. 1 Jay November 17, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    Good detective work David! After reviewing the data it appears to me Marchex may be covering something. I am not sure how trueful they are being. So they bought a huge set of domains in 2004, then they sold the adult ones of the group, however the domains never left Marchex’s datacenter, they still point to Adult content ads at Marchex. It would seem to be they have a deal where even when a domain is sold off from their portfolio it still remains in the monitization program. I guess that is what they mean by inventation only. Why doesn’t Marchex run an adult ad serving system?

    If they sell adult names off they should ask that the domain get hosted on other servers outside of Marchex’s company. Or it could be argued they never really sold the domain. They appear to have a deal where someone else just takes on a shell registration for them.

  2. 2 Rob November 17, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    There’s porn on the Internet? And people are making money off of it? There’s gambling in Casablanca?

    I’m not really sure why this is truly noteworthy. If you look at either Yahoo or Google and do a search on any objectionable adult search term, it is clear that both are monetizing adult as well as typo traffic. I have no idea what Google or Yahoo make off of these kinds of searches but I’m sure it is more meaningful than whatever Marchex is making. For example, if you do a search on Google for “disnayland” (your example) you will see 10 search ads on Google. Doesn’t this make Google as guilty of making money off of trademark typo traffic?

    As you know, direct navigation is a legitimate business that does have some seamy players in it. From my analysis of the industry, Marchex is one of the more up and up companies. This seems to me to be a test program on parking where by your count 50 questionable websites (out of how many thousands of legitimate sites?) became participants. As a test program I’m guessing that the contribution is immaterial to Marchex’s financial results. My two cents, unfortunate that these slipped through into a test program, yes; scandalous or a cover-up, highly unlikely.

  3. 3 Jon November 18, 2006 at 1:29 am

    http://www.americannairlines.com/ & http://www.adobeacrobet.com are owned by Marchex. See the © 2006 MDNH, Inc. at bottom of page. That is Marchex. See here.

    http://biz.yahoo.com/e/060505/mchx8-k.html

    I do like the zip codes. http://www.myzip.com

    Also, http://www.Delis.com is one of their improved websites.

    Search “delis” on google. #4 ranking. Awesome. If they can expand this to hundreds and thousands of sites…$$$. So they can get much more trafffic from search engins as well as direct navigation.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=del

  4. 4 Frank Michlick November 19, 2006 at 1:59 am

    Jon, those domains are not owned by Marchex, it just means that they are pointing to their parking system. You need to check the whois to see who the owner of the names is.

    http://www.iwhois.com/americannairlines.com
    http://www.iwhois.com/adobeacrobet.com

  5. 5 Jon November 19, 2006 at 8:00 pm

    Understood you can you whois, register.com, etc to try to determine ownership. I still think those are Marchex owned sites/companies. Where do you see they aren’t from whois?

    Look at http://www.videocamera.com and http://www.hardware-update.com/. Both are absolutely 100% certain owned Marchex sites. Same MDNH.

    I think MDNH sites are some of the older sites they own but have not began development on yet,

  6. 6 Andrew November 20, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Great job and investigation. These domains are still resolving to MDNH parking pages as of this morning.

    Caldwell is wrong to say that “none” of the parking companies screen for trademarks. Dotzup does. Granted, that’s just one of dozens, but “none” is a strong word that should be avoided.

  7. 7 Rob Leathern November 21, 2006 at 2:00 am

    That http://www.delis.com content is probably coming as a result of their acquisition of OpenList (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/060530-084912) which was co-founded by one of my former colleagues, Matt Berk. They’ve been doing some cool stuff and these domains are a nice playground for this type of localized content — that for me is a much better domain parking model, where you can actually provide some decent consumer value even if in a very automated, aggregated way (vs. running mortgage ads everywhere ;-).

  8. 8 John November 30, 2006 at 8:30 am

    Anyone in the domain industry knows that Marchex is and was completely aware of their trademark infringing domains and where the revenue was coming from for these. Anyone in the industry was also fully aware of the “bad apples” in the Yun Ye Ult Search portfolio that was purchased by Marchex. For Marchex to feign ignorance in this matter is humorous. They knew.

    The big problem that I see in Marchex’s case is that they are a public company involved in squatting on obvious trademark names, either via cyber or typo squating. I would think the history and continued participation in this activity that many consider “traffic or customer theft” would open Marchex up to some serious risk if the professional stock shortsellers get ahold of it. All they would have to do would be to sell blocks of Marchex short and then publish information in the financial journals about specific Marchex activity and potential liability.

  9. 9 Jon January 1, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Poor execution below for shareholders…

    Sites they developed using Openlist are not even indexed in search engines yet. Not even sites from several months ago in the beta launch. Below are several sites not even in google. There are many more examples.

    Just go to google and type in the name (www.XXXXXX). Nothing indexed. They may not be in other engines either. Not even myzip.com is in google, their “gateway” site to zip codes. This is poor execution and lost revenue opportunities. This is not rocket science. Being an investor, I may take a few minutes to submit them myself…

    http://www.myzip.com
    http://www.restaurantonline.com
    http://www.newyorkbagels.com
    http://www.dimsum.net
    http://www.chicagoluxuryhotels.com
    http://www.shanghaihotel.com
    http://www.bostonmotels.com

  10. 10 Domain Drag Queen March 4, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Who the f cares? Are you jealous or what?


  1. 1 Domain Name Wire » Blog Archive » Marchex tests domain parking service, full of trademark typos - The Domain Industry's News Source Trackback on November 20, 2006 at 3:17 pm
  2. 2 Bronte Media » Direct Navigation Skeletons Trackback on November 20, 2006 at 6:55 pm
  3. 3 Dolla’ Store » Blog Archive » Marchex, MDNH, domain names, and CyberBandits Trackback on November 30, 2006 at 6:22 pm
  4. 4 BlogForward : Money » Sedo, and the Boobtube.com problem Trackback on June 7, 2007 at 12:34 pm
  5. 5 VentureBeat » Sedo, and the Boobtube.com problem Trackback on August 10, 2007 at 6:40 pm
  6. 6 Sedo, and the Boobtube.com problem Trackback on January 16, 2008 at 4:08 pm
  7. 7 Marchex to Discontinue their Domain Parking Program | Domain Name News (DNN) Trackback on March 30, 2012 at 3:47 pm
  8. 8 Marchex to Discontinue their Domain Parking Program | Premium Domain Names For Sale Trackback on March 31, 2012 at 4:14 am

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