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Profetting from Mispelling

“Before the Internet came along, poor spelling by the public was by and large not exposed,” says Paige P. Kimble, the director of the National Spelling Bee. And before the Internet, who knew poor spelling could be so profitable? No, we’re not talking about Nick at Nite and Lite beer. We’re talking about a “labtop” or a “camra” for sale on eBay.

A New York Times story today describes how some savvy shoppers hunt for misspelled items because they attract fewer bidders and can be snatched for a bargain – then resold (with the correct spelling) at a higher price.

Along the same lines, VeriSign, a company that assigns Web addresses, figured out how to take advantage of misspelled Web queries. Instead of responding with an error message, VeriSign would redirect your browser to its own page, which featured paid advertisement links. Last fall, however, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers asked VeriSign to suspend the service. It argued that a web registry administrator was a neutral party and shouldn’t generate revenue from “mistake traffic.” VeriSign agreed to stop the practice temporarily.

Is ICANN stifling an Internet innovation as VeriSign claims, or does redirecting errant surfers spell trouble? Take the Fast Company poll.

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