Guess who owns facebook.co.za? Not Facebook.

It looks like Facebook doesn’t own facebook.co.za, its South African domain? I’m surmising this from the fact that:

1. it appears from the co.za registration data that the owner of Facebook.co.za lives in Cape Town.
2. it may be that the domain was registered on behalf of Facebook by the local, but I have my doubts because when you go to Facebook.co.za you are presented with a stark page containing nothing but Google ads, and I doubt Facebook would do this.
3. if it was Facebook’s domain, it would have been diverted to Facebook.com

If this is what I think it is, not registering facebook.co.za was a big oversight by the Facebook owners. This is especially so if you consider there are now more than 100 000 South African users on Facebook, making it the sixth biggest country, after the US, Canada, the UK, Norway and Australia, based on the number of registered users. (According to FM Tech’s Duncan Mcleod).

Depending on when the domain was registered, Facebook may or may not have a claim of cybersquatting. If it was registered after Facebook.com launched the domain, the owner could be in trouble. But if registered before Facebook.com launched, then the owner of facebook.co.za could be in for some money and have a legitimate claim… but only if its around another legitimate local business.

But I can’t see where the legitimate business is. The solitary block of Google Adsense on the single page that is facebook.co.za looks like a cynical attempt to make money from users that waywardly and mistakenly end up on the local site, looking for the genuine Facebook site. There is really nothing else, no content, that would attract them to the co.za, otherwise. The idea is that they would end up clicking on one of those Google ad links, netting the co.za owner some dollars.

In fact it’s also illegal, because Google insists you put Adsense on legitimate content pages. And there is no content on this rather sparse local branch of the international runaway social networking success that is Facebook.

If you go to co.za who administrate local South African domains, you can do a whois to find out more about when the domain was registered and who owns it. See screenshot of Facebook.co.za below:

Facebookcoza screenshot

Comments (30)

  1. AndreSC wrote::

    Me thinks ironically a bit of content, even a link to the actual facebook url would probably yield better contextual ads. Can’t imagine much success with the ads he is getting now 🙂

    Tuesday, July 3, 2007 at 11:51 pm #
  2. Ivo Vegter wrote::

    I’d agree, but it appears AdSense can surprise you. Friend of mind hasn’t posted to his blog for over a year, but the pain is dulled by the continuing stream of dollars from the Google ads.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 12:47 am #
  3. Anja wrote::

    It’s called parking and is not actually illegal. Google is however cracking down on some adsense specific sites such as this one. Google has had some criticism in connection with click fraud that they are trying to address. You might want to read my post on this. http://anjamerret.com/?p=173

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 1:35 am #
  4. JBagley wrote::

    This in my books is just as bad as being a spammer.

    Click on the “ads by Google” and report the site.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 8:48 am #
  5. Wezzo wrote::

    I took two guesses either Adii or Chris from imod.co.za & webtrepreneur.co.za, turns out to be the latter. I’m taking the day off to put 500 on red.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 9:41 am #
  6. Melt du Plooy wrote::

    the .com was registered in 1997 and the .co.za domain was registered in April 2007. This is a huge oversight by FB as you said Matt, they should have registered it long ago. Adsense may surprise, but like Andre said, i think the content, or lack thereof, adds no value, thus its purely to make money or to try and get FB to buy the domain.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 9:44 am #
  7. Tyler wrote::

    This is surprising since Facebook has localised sub-domains, eg. pta.facebook.com (for Pretoria / TUKS). They should’ve registered the .co.za ages ago.

    The bad side for Facebook:
    1. Loss of potentially new users, which means a loss in revenue (even if it is marginal).
    2. The process of trying to gain ownership of this domain.

    A quick Google for Facebook and it comes out tops, but do a local search on Google and it doesn’t even show.

    The site itself is pretty useless. If it had more content, perhaps a blog about Facebook and educating South Africans on about Facebook then the adsense would make a lot more.

    Loss for Facebook: Marginal
    Gain for Domain Holder: Fairly Moderate (Potentially)

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 10:02 am #
  8. Chris wrote::

    The domain now points to facebook.com

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 1:11 pm #
  9. JBagley wrote::

    Hey Chris, can you enlighten us on how much you were making from that ad? Would be interesting to know. 😉

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 1:31 pm #
  10. As far as I understand it facebook can lodge a complaint at co.za and reclaim the domain.

    The bigger question is if they can get remuneration for lost income due to his “sqautting”?

    Could be a ground breaking case on the co.za ruling.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 3:51 pm #
  11. AndreSC wrote::

    It’s nice of you to have a link to the real facebook in the ‘join now’ link on the blog about facebook you have up there now Chris. I certainly don’t have a problem wit a bit of domain prospecting, but me thinks you still owe facebook a prominent link on the home page, if not all pages of the blog.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 11:03 pm #
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    Anyone seen where it’s pointing now?

    Might this have been a motivation? http://webtrepreneur.co.za/proof-is-in-the-pudding

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks (9)

  1. A case of cybersquatting and Facebook on Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    […] Matthew Buckland published a post yesterday about the domain “facebook.co.za” and how it hasn’t been registered by the real Facebook company (which is just silly given that it costs about R100 to register a co.za domain name for the first year and about R50 each year thereafter). The only thing you see when you visit the domain “facebook.co.za” in your web browser is a Google AdSense panel so the intention of the registrant of the domain, Chris Mills, is pretty obvious – make as much money as is possible from people who navigate to the page looking for the real Facebook. […]

  2. […] It seems that facebook.co.za is taking more spotlight time than facebook.com. There is a interesting read over at MattewBuckland.com about it. I’m not to straight up on the legal issues, but in my opinion i think it was negligence from Facebook and smart going from facebook.co.za. Currently facebook.co.za is a fan site for Facebook and providing some tips and tricks for us facebook addicts. Go take a peak at a site that i reckon has huge potential – http://www.facebook.co.za […]

  3. […] Recently I pointed out that the international hit social networking site Facebook didn’t own its South African domain, facebook.co.za. I thought this was strange considering South Africa is purportedly the sixth biggest country on Facebook, by registered users. […]

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