In January 2016, a story became public about Google – you know, the one who runs Google.com, Gmail, supports the Android operating system – forgetting to renew the registration of their top domain, Google.com. By a pure stroke of luck a former Google employee, Sanmay Ved, was able to purchase the domain for the low, low price of $12, right then and there with his Discover credit card. Assuming that at some point, the system would correct itself and alert him that there was an error, returning the domain to its proper owner, Sanmay was shocked to find the access details sent to him through his email address, along with a slew of Google related emails from customers, users, and staff.
Within a few moments, Google (and the domain registrar) had realized their error, and stopped the process, while offering Sanmay $6,006.13 (GOOGLE in dollar figures) for his time. When Google talked further with Sanmay, they found out that any profit made from the error, Sanmay was going to donate to the Art of Living India Foundation. Google doubled the offer, giving Sanmay $12,012.26 to donate to the charity.
While Sanmay and Google’s interaction was quick and had a great outcome for both parties, similar circumstances have plagued website owners for years, and usually with much less public outcomes (and much smaller payouts). But the past week has shown us two very public instances of politicians losing control of their domains, and in ways that go beyond just simple political shenanigans.
As the Jeb Bush campaign continues its push for the White House in 2016, internet users last week looking to view what they thought was the candidate’s website, JebBush.com, found themselves redirected to DonaldJTrump.com instead, the official website of Trump’s own 2016 presidential run. While it would seem that the Trump campaign was behind the stunt, his team has completely denied responsibility for the act (By the way, if you’re interested, Jeb’s actual domain is Jeb2016.com).
In fact, there are several domains that a usual Google searcher would think would be directly related to the Bush 2016 campaign – JebBushforPresident.com, JebBushforPresident.net – all run by people or groups outside the Bush campaign, but definitely not on the side of the candidate.
In an even weirder turn of events for another campaign, Ted Cruz this week spent some time dealing with a domain name issue of his own. Another URL that you would think links right to the campaign, TedCruzforAmerica.com, started pointing people to a recreation of the Canadian government’s immigration page, a not so thinly veiled poke at Cruz’s birth country.
If there’s one thing that you can learn from both these incidents, it’s don’t run for president unless you have all the possible combinations of your name, the year you plan on running for president, and America bought and ready for your presidential run. And if you’re not running for president, make sure that when your registrar sends you emails, letters, and starts calling, you respond promptly and keep your important domains from changing hands.