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 user numbers. The owner of the facebook.co.za domain is a South African, from Cape Town.
And I also noticed that the local site that was facebook.co.za was nothing but a solitary and illegal block of Google Adsense, cynically placed (See here) to make money out of unwitting users looking for the real Facebook. After my July 3 blog criticising this and discussing the implications of cybersquatting and illegal Google Adsense use I had email contact with the domain owner and it looks like he commented on my previous blog post.
The site was then hurriedly transformed into a gushy fan blog called “Facebook Rocks: We love Facebook” about two days later (by July 5). This was its payoffline: “We are Facebook.com ADDICTS so we have set up this blog to rave about Facebook.com ALL DAY LONG.” This sudden turnaround is unconvincing.
One can appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit in which all of this was done and perhaps the facebook.co.za owner should be congratulated for spotting a gap, but my advice to the domain owner is to do the right thing: Engage Facebook and offer to sell the domain to them at a reasonable price. That’s assuming they want it.
UPDATE: Paul Jacobson in a “A case of cybersquatting and Facebook” has also commented more on the domain rights issue.