The Shine Is Fading: New gTLDs Drop From 2018 to 2019
The latest information from ICANN reveals an interesting statistic. The number of NEW Top Level Domains in service actually fell by 444,747 from 2018 to 2019. This is not a good sign, and indicates folks are wise to the fact that a lot of new TLDs have no set renewal and some have skyrocketed in price upon renewal. The Legacy TLDs, like .com, .net, and .org, actually increased by 2,544,947 from the same time period. The country code TLDs also showed a healthy increase.
Below is the news release from ICANN, with the links so that you can download their spreadsheet file and study it yourself.
LOS ANGELES – 9 December 2019 – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today announced the release of updated industry metrics as part of its Domain Name Marketplace Indicators initiative. The initiative presents statistics related to generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) with the aim of fostering greater transparency for reputable information on the evolution of the domain name marketplace.
The metrics released as part of this initiative encompass three categories and six dimensions:
- Robust competition: registrant choice, registrant domain adoption, service provider marketplace entry, service provider competition.
- Marketplace stability: service provider contractual compliance.
- Trust: industry safeguards.
ICANN plans to continue to expand the initiative’s coverage of shortlisted indicators and publish these statistics twice a year in order to track progress against its goal of supporting the evolution of the domain name marketplace to be robust, stable, and trusted.
A community Advisory Panel worked with ICANN to identify relevant indicators that form part of the current schema. Concurrent to the release of these Version 1.0 marketplace indicators, the ICANN organization will continue to work with the community and the Advisory Panel to evaluate additional enhancements that might be incorporated into this initiative in the future.
ICANN‘s mission is to help ensure a stable, secure, and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet, you need to type an address – a name or a number – into your computer or other device. That address must be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN helps coordinate and support these unique identifiers across the world. ICANN was formed in 1998 as a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with a community of participants from all over the world.
Industry Leader Michael Cyger Has Put Together a Comprehensive Free Guide to Determining The Value of a Domain Name.
We Are Posting Some Domain Names For Sale in Categories. Available January 1, 2018.
If You Do Nothing Else, Get a Great Name That Fits Your Business
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The California Credit Union Domain Story Unfolds Into The Internet Void.
by Ed Murray
Once again a major Credit Union has failed to secure its name and all aspects of the name, suffering among other things, an invisible assault by the Internet Buccaneers. High weirdness as the trail of the Internet Buccaneers leads to the Hermit Kingdom.
Los Angeles Teachers Credit Union
California Credit Union began in the mid-1930s as the Los Angeles Teachers Credit Union. Today it has about 70,000 members, 13 branches, and $1.3 billion in assets. The membership is open to public and private, current and retired, educators and school district employees in California. It is also possible to qualify for membership if you or your children attend school in California. It is a strong credit union, but if you look at their all-important internet domain situation, their web marketing strategy comes into question. Although a well-established operation when the internet came along, they missed both the early opportunities and the more recent ones. Most of the best net domain names were snatched away, including the ones of their very own name. Were they sleepwalking through all these recent years as the internet exploded on civilization? Many companies were, much to their own distress later on.
In previous parts to this series, it has been shown that the internet buccaneers cruise the internet ocean looking for opportunities to obtain names that business organizations have failed to get and register for themselves. Sometimes businesses, in this case credit unions, have failed to get even their own names, which others have grabbed. The internet buccaneers will set up “pay-per-click” web pages and actually direct traffic away from the place it would ordinarily go, and making some money along the way. Let’s look at the situation at California Credit Union. Although they have been around since 1933, they must have slept through most of the dot com boom. Their website is CaliforniaCU.org. They registered this site on November 23, 2000. They also registered CaliforniaCU.com, although it is only used to “redirect” traffic to their main web site, CaliforniaCU.org. At that time, in November 2000, many possibilities existed to protect their name, including domains of their own name: California Credit Union. Why they did not at least protect their full name is a mystery. Maybe they wanted to get the shortest name they could think of, and the heck with the rest? If you have been following this series of articles, you can guess what happened.
The Internet Buccaneers Discover California Credit Union
You remember the Brisbane Blokes? The Aussies from Fortitude Valley (Brisbane area) who took a bite out of the Lockheed Missile FCU that became Star One Credit Union? The Brisbane Blokes found California Credit Union.com available and floating on the internet sea untethered on November 22, 2001. This was one full year after the “real” California Credit Union started their website as CaliforniaCU.org. The blokes got busy and put up a “pay-per-click” page, where there are links on the main page, which go to other links, which continue to other links, an inverse pyramid of hundreds of “click through” links, providing them with a stream of income from anyone clicking on a link. The main page links are distinctly finance related – banking, mortgage, offshore banking, internet banking, and much more. This is all legal, and anyone trying to find California Credit Union by typing that name into a browser with a dot com on the end will be taken to a website set up by the “Brisbane Blokes”, as I call them. Imagine how many folks have tried to find the “real” California Credit Union since 2001, over ten years ago, and been directed elsewhere? We will never know. For California Credit Union, it’s like throwing away money and customers. The main I.P. server is not in the United States, and CaliforniaCreditUnion.com is holding forth up north, in Burnaby, Canada, at IP 18.104.22.168., The story, unfortunately doesn’t end there.
California Credit Union Gets A Trademark But UnableTo Protect It With A Domain Name
On June 4, 2007 California Credit Union filed for a Trademark. The logo showed an orange, with the words “California Credit Union.” This was already six years after the Brisbane Blokes had found their domain name unprotected and snagged it, so although they had a trademark filed, they could not use it to acquire the domain, because the trademark was so long after the date of the domain filing. The trademark was finally registered on November 4, 2008 and it does offer some protection, but as far as the domain names, it was too little, too late. They had lost their own name, and unless they want to pony up some substantial cash in the future to buy it from the Brisbane Blokes, they will never get it as cheaply as they could have back before November 22, 2001. A lesson learned? It does not seem so.
Strange Connections Revealed
Five years after the Brisbane Blokes found the unprotected CaliforniaCreditUnion.com, the other group from the Land of Oz, the ones I call the Nobby Beach Boyz, grabbed CaliforniaCreditUnion.org. This was created on November 17, 2006. The web page on this currently is re-directed to CaliforniaCreditUnion.com. The bewildering network of IP servers, registrants, and hidden ownership continues to look like a larger and larger spider web, impossible to determine who is the actual owner. Consider this: Although CaliforniaCreditUnion.org was registered to the un-named group or blokes from Nobby Beach, Australia (The Nobby Beach Boyz as I call them), the main server is listed as 22.214.171.124, in Nassau, Bahamas. This is the same server that the “Panamanians” were using to house PremierAmerica.org. The same IP server that houses all the “craigs list” misspellings (see Domain Name Games – Part 2 to follow this). So we have some links, the CaliforniaCreditUnion.org, (the Nobby Beach Boyz), have redirected their site to CaliforniaCreditUnion.com, the Brisbane Blokes site, but their stated IP is the same as the “Panamanian’s” PremierAmerica.org IP server. Do the connections mean the owner(s) are the same or are they business partners? Hold on, it gets stranger.
The Buccaneer Trail Leads To The Hermit Kingdom
Remember that the California Credit Union began as the Los Angeles Teachers Credit Union. And remember Big Jim’s stern instructions to always protect all your names, past and present, with domains. Because you never know. Here’s some interesting things that have happened to the old Los Angeles Teachers Credit Union name over the years. The short version or abbreviation would be LATU, that would be the best name for a dot-com domain. So who got LATU.com? Just a few years ago, May 30, 2005, LATU.com was registered by an outfit called MediaBlue, a domain registration company in Gwangju, Korea! If you go to LATU.com you will see a familiar page layout with things to “click” on, in this case a lot of links to getting a PhD, an online Bachelor Degree, Psychology School, an Accounting Associates Degree, and similar online educational opportunities, with links that go to links which go to other links. The listed server 126.96.36.199 is in Nassau, Bahamas, the same IP server that hosts StaroneCreditUnion.org, registered to the “Brisbane Blokes” (see Domain Name Games Part 2). What does this new revelation mean? Is MediaBlue shielding the group that is really behind all these faux sites? Are the Koreans the real owners of the domains registered in Panama, Nobby Beach, Australia, Fortitude Valley (Brisbane), Australia, Burnaby, Canada and other offshore hide-outs? Could it be that it is actually a shadowy group of Korean businessmen, not “Aussies”, or “Panamanians” or “Canadians” behind this web of “credit union” sites? A world-wide net of off-shore IPs housing these hundreds of websites? We may never know. Until now, it is an important clue, a startling link from the Hermit Kingdom of Korea to the IP server in the Bahamas hosting StarOneCreditUnion. Again, as Dave Emory is fond of saying, “Food for thought, and grounds for further investigation.”
LATU names Grabbed Up.
While we are exploring the old LATU name, let’s look at a couple of other extensions. We observe that possibly a mysterious group of Koreans got LATU.com, but who got .org? The LATU.org was created on February 5, 2003 and registered to Alliance for Development in North Carolina. It currently hosts Mountain Shepherds, a community owned travel company designed for South Indian tourists and travelers choosing to explore the Garwal Himalayas. Their web page says “North Welcomes South”.
LATU.net, the other logical extension that was up for grabs, was created on April 7, 1999. The registrant is Lance Turner of Winter Park, Florida, with the main IP server in Hernden, Virginia. The site is for creative development of web-based modules for ecommerce stores.
More Names Go South and East
Some other names and abbreviations that were not protected include the great abbreviation CCU.org. This was left on the table by the California Credit Union, and was picked up on October 31, 2000 by a Mr. Tim Flannery, and registered in Drums, PA. (The same town where Premier.com, the Pet Products company is registered. ) CCU.org is now Colorado Credit Union. This credit union started in 1973, as a small cu for Johns Manville employees. In 2009 they merged with the Brighton, Colorado, Federal Credit Union, and expanded their membership. Their 2010 annual report states assets of $100,978,656. So at least in this instance, another “real” credit union benefited with the great name left by California Credit Union.
But what about CCU.com? This site is possibly for sale, and if you type the name into your browser you will go to a familier looking links page, that lists “checking accounts, loans, credit union online, online map, and credit union credit card” links to click on. More of interest, something I hadn’t noticed on any other “link” sites, some of the links are in other Asian characters, Chinese, Korean, etc. Although I printed out this page, the next time I went to it all the names were in English, and the Asian links had vanished. This site was registered on May 16, 1995. A long time ago in internet terms. The registered owner seems to be a group in Washington, DC, called Telepathy, which states to be the parent of a company called State Ventures, the publishers of website regional guides. They operate such sites as Pennsylvania.com, Maryland.com, Annapolis.com, etc. The main IP server is 188.8.131.52, and is located on a server farm at Nassau, Bahamas. A familiar site. As described in Domain Name Game Part 2, the “Pompano Beach Surfers” were operating PremierAmerica.com from the same IP server in the Bahamas. It is also the same IP server farm housing LATU.com, the MediaBlue-Korean connection. More connections than a switchboard. The “Pompano Beach Surfers” now connected to Washington DC and the Telepathy group? And did the momentary Asian links on CCU.com mean a connection back to Korea?
And then there is the name of California Credit Union that was turned on its head to become CreditUnionCalifornia.com. This website was created recently, July 4, 2011. How could that happen, you ask? July 4th is an American holiday. Yep, but not in Panama. That’s right, CreditUnionCalifornia was registered at Fundacion Private Whois in Panama. It’s like the PremierAmerica.org site, also registered in Panama, the unwanted “child” of Premier America Credit Union. My, my, what a tangled web gets weaved when we leave our names floating out on the internet sea. CreditUnionCalifornia.com is just like all the other “pay-per-click” sites, with “credit union” links you can click on that take you to hundreds of other links, a forest of links. The main IP server is in Nassau, Bahamas, a familiar address, 184.108.40.206 to be exact. It is the same site that hosts PremierAmerica.org that we explored in Part 2 of this series, and also hosts CaliforniaCreditUnion.org, owned by the Nobby Beach boyz Buccaneers.
The Strange Case of the Reverse Hijacking.
On April 8, 2010 a somewhat strange complaint was filed with WIPO, which is the World International Property Organization. This is the organization that handles domain name disputes. A company from Tulsa, Oklahoma filed a complaint to obtain a website called “freebird.com” from the companies that owned it, mediablue of Gwangju, Republic of Korea, and DomainCA of Seoul, Korea, a “Whois Protect Service”. (Remember that mediablue had registered LATU.com) The claim was that the Tulsa company, called Blue Financial Corporation had received a trademark on October 17, 2006 for the name “FreeBird”. They said that the trademark was for providing temporary use of on-line non-downloadable software for use in electronic authorization, processing and management of card present and card not present credit card, debit card, electronic check transactions and payments conducted via global computer networks.
Blue Financial further claimed that the other party had no rights to use the domain name because Blue Financial had a trademark, and that the domain was being used as a pay-per-click website and that it was being held in an effort to resell it. Looking back on this case, one wonders if these guys from Tulsa and their high-end lawyers knew what they were up against. Probably not, or they might not have bothered to waste their time and money. As it turned out, they were facing not just a little internet domain company, mediablue.com, but one of the most powerful forces in the world engaged in internet technology.
The first thing that happened was that the respondents, mediablue.com, joined by a company called DomainCA, asked that the proceedings be in the Korean language, as the original registration for freebird.com was done in Korean. The Tulsa boys wanted English. The panel allowed the proceedings to be in English, but the respondents could file in Korean. Mediablue and DomainCA further said that the disputed domain name dated back to June 22, 1997, way before the Tulsa group filed their trademark. They said that the complainant was “trying to hijack the Respondent’s domain name.” WIPO found for mediablue and DomainCA, saying that the domain existed six years before the Tulsa group started to use freebird to obtain a trademark. WIPO said that “circumstances warrant a finding of reverse domain name hijacking”. The Koreans were victorious, and the case shows how hard and potentially expensive it is to get names that are registered in foreign lands. Freebird.com remains in the custody of the DomainCA organization to this day.
The View From The 16th Floor Must Be Exhilarating.
Tracking mediablue.com is difficult, it is protected behind high security, but doing so provided some worthwhile information. The registrar of this website, created May 14, 2002, is one of the most powerful internet technology companies in Asia, the Korea Information Certificate Authority (KICA), doing business as DomainCA.com. The KICA was established in 1999 and is accredited to act as a licensed domain certification authority by the Korean government. Over the last few years it has worked on various electronic and internet projects in Costa Rica, Cameroon, Vietnam, the Philippenes, Mongolia, Indonesia, Iran, and Panama. It is highly involved in such things as Public Key Infrastructure to insure secure electronic transactions in many countries, as well as electronic commerce, banking, and stock trading. It’s major shareholders are some of the largest technology companies in the world: Daoutech, Inc., SK Planet Co., Samsung, LG Electronics, Korea Telecommunications, and others. With its subsidiaries signgate.com, and DomainCA.com, a whois protect service, it occupies the 16th Floor of one of the most unique and futuristic building complexes in all of Asia, and perhaps in the world, at 1605 Sangam Dong, Seoul, Korea. The building complex is a gigantic media center, and is referred to as the Nuritkum Square Building.
Nuritkum Square, in Digital Media City, was designed by an American architect, Paul Davis and his partner Steve Ryder. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Davis divides his time between Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea, which he refers to as “the Paris of Asia.”. His project includes a 500,420 square foot 22 story business tower and a 15 story research and development facility. Contained in this are a production studio and editing suites, a digital pavillion for product exhibition, retail space, a 1,052 stall car parking structure and a central plaza. A bridge spanning between the two towers contains exhibition and meeting spaces. You can “Google” photos and search for Nuritkum Square in Seoul, Korea to see photographs of this stunningly beautiful complex.
Built for, and owned by the Korean Information Technology Industry Promotion Agency, the complex is designed for up-and-coming information technology businesses and provides a space for industry collaboration and interaction with the public. From their perch on the 16th floor of this magnificent structure, the KICA lads surely must have an exhilarating view of the surrounding area, and some of the windows must be able to see the beautiful Hangang River Front, a short distance away.
The Four Clues
What in the world does the reverse domain-name hijacking case, the KICA, mediablue, and freebird.com have to do with all this? How are they all connected to the orphaned credit union names and how do they tie into the Internet Buccaneers? Throughout this trek, four interesting clues appeared:
1. A clue, a faint one, appeared on the web page of PremierAmericaCreditUnion.com. The site that advertises the Micro Bikinis. The English on the page is just not 100%. It’s like a very well-educated foreigner would write things that are almost perfect, but just a little off. When I listed the link categories that appeared on the page, I copied them exactly. Here’s one: “Women Fashion”. Not quite right, it should have been “Women’s Fashion”. Another example was “Bikini String”, which should read “String Bikini”. And then there is “Employment Jobs” wedged between McDonalds Jobs and Walmart Jobs. What kind of a “job” would it be if it were not “employment”?
2. The next clue is from the website CCU.com, the abandoned abbreviation from California Credit Union that was picked up by Telepathy in Washington, DC. The first time I visited the page, half the links were in Korean script. The next visit, which was a day later, it had all reverted to English. The curtain parted for a second, and who was visible behind it? You don’t have to be psychic to guess.
3. Clue #3 is mediablue.com, which was listed as the owner or operator of LATU.com. MediaBlue had its IP server in Gwangju, Korea, but as the reverse-hijacking complaint showed, mediablue.com was tied into KICA and its dba DomainCA.com, operating out of the 16th Floor of the Nuritkum Square IT Complex in Seoul, Korea. A Whois search led to the fact that DomainCA is the registrant (owner) of mediablue.com. DomainCA.com and its parent are the very powerful Korean internet technology companies.
4. The last clue is also from the reverse-hijacking case. The dot com that was the center of the fight was called FreeBird.com. This was at the time owned by mediablue.com, a defendant (respondent) in the case. FreeBird.com is now claimed openly by DomainCA.com. A visit to the FreeBird.com website reveals some interesting things. First, it claims that it is “the Leading Free Bird Site on the Net.” This would be hard to argue. The website page is the all-too-familiar pay-per-click links, half of them for Tablets, PC Tablets, Tablets dorid (sp) and Airline, the other links are for Bird Net, Bird Photos, Bird Sitting, and Oriole Bird. Note the similar “stilted”, not quite right names, Bird Net should be Bird Netting; Oriole Bird should be Oriole Birds; Tablets dorid should be Droid Tablets, etc.. There is no mystery as to the owner of this site, it is the mighty Korean technology company. It is hosted on an IP that is well known by now to the readers of this series, 220.127.116.11, the server farm in the Bahamas that is also hosting CCU.com, Telepathy.com, LATU.com, PremierAmerica.com, and StarOneCreditUnion.org. It’s where the DC Telepaths, the Pompano Beach Surfers, the Brisbane Blokes, and the Mediablues all rub elbows. What a coincidence!
The Vanished Galleons of the Internet Buccaneers.
The Internet Buccaneers. Imagine them dropping anchor in the Bahamas, at the old port of Nassau. They troop into the town, settling into a sleazy pub. The Brisbane Blokes, the boyz from Pompano Beach, the Panamanians, the Nobby Beach bunch, they all sailed the Internet Spanish Main, attacking the big Galleons. In the pub, they’re drinking and wenching, swapping tales of the domain treasures they’ve wrangled from galleons like Star One, Premier America, California.
But these are just imaginations. The dreams of today with the trappings of yesteryear, the romantic times of old on the Spanish Main and other places where the waters of the seven seas lap up against distant lands. The dreams fade as the morning of a new day comes. As the dew on the grass gives way to the morning sun; the laughter in that old pub in Nassau slowly goes silent. The mighty galleons of the Buccaneers become fuzzy, the image starts to dissolve, then fade in the new day.
The stark new day.
Should Credit Unions Read The Good Book?
Maybe the Credit Unions should read the good book once in a while. Especially Ephesians 6:12. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers….” The flesh and blood Buccaneers are one thing. They are nothing now but a dream, and in their place could be something far more ominous. A powerful corporation, world-wide in scope, with intimate ties to a major government, owned at least in part by some of the largest and most powerful technology companies on earth. Partnered with smart techies from the finest foreign universities. A network that reaches far beyond the Spanish Main, to Africa, Asia, America, and to places not universally known by the average member of our credit unions. In spite of the strength of the credit unions and their several billions in assets, very powerful corporations, focused on the Domain Name Game, can play an international chess game second to none with the credit unions. The buccaneer fleet has vanished and in its place we may have glimpsed a new fleet, a modern navy, so to speak, backed by a large modern State, with virtually unlimited assets and information knowledge. Is it possible that behind the matrix of names and domains, grabbing the unwanted “children” of the Credit Unions, who so foolishly cast them out, is a far bigger player than anyone has imagined? A power that itself is involved in registering domains and issuing certification? A power that has a web that spans the globe, running information technology even to some State Intelligence Agencies? Food for thought, especially for the marketing departments of the credit unions and the executives who have ignored this situation for decades. The domain name game is getting serious.
On shore, I could see the glow of the great camp-fire
burning warmly through the shore-side trees. Someone was
singing, a dull, old, droning sailor’s song, with a droop
and a quaver at the end of every verse, and seemingly no
end to it at all but the patience of the singer. I had
heard it on the voyage more than once and remembered these
“But one man of her crew alive, What put to sea with
Shiver My Timbers, shiver My Soul/Yo Ho He Ho/There are men
whos hearts as black as coal
And they sailed there ship across the ocean blue/A Blood
thirsty captain and a cut throat crew./Its a darker tale as
was ever told/Of a lust for treasure and a love of gold…/
—-Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
Hacking Through The Web of Mysterious Faux Web Sites That Plague the Credit Unions
By Ed Murray
The Nobby Beach Boyz Take a Bite Out of Star One
I call them the Nobby Beach Boyz because their domain is in Nobby Beach, the heart of Australia’s Gold Coast. Way down in the land of Oz, nowhere near the Northern California headquarters of Star One Credit Union, is the hidden lair of a domain name that was unprotected by Star, and has fallen into the hands of “someone” in Nobby Beach, hiding behind a wall of privacy. The Nobby Beach Boyz own the nameStarOneCreditUnion.com. How the real Star One left this unprotected is baffling. But on 23 November, 2008 they snagged the name, and what they have done should be a lesson learned to any company. By the way, PrivacyProtect.org of Australia is the shield now around the real owner or owners of StarOneCreditUnion.com. And don’t bother to write, as “all postal mails rejected”.
Nobby Beach sounds like a great place to vacation, wedged between Mermaid Beach and Miami Beach on the famous “Gold Coast”. Nice places to stay for families, picnic areas, BBQ pits, theme parks like Sea World, Wildlife Sanctuary, Outback Spectacular, Warner Bros Movie World, cycling, swimming, bushwalking and much more. Not a bad place to operate a world-wide buccaneering operation.
So what happens when you type in StarOneCreditUnion.com. Firstly, for some reason, the Nobby Beach Boyz don’t want to use this real name, even though, as we have seen, the real StarOne failed to get the Trademark for it. Be that as it is, the web site is some kind of a static page, which redirects to another page. This page looks like the actual page, but the name is actually miss-spelled, on purpose. The web address you are taken to is 1starceditunion.com Notice that the name is “cedit”, not “credit” union.com.
When you hit the front page a series of links appear: Names like Credit Services, Loan Application, Pay Bills Online, Online Banking, Small Business Loans, Wealth Management, Credit Counseling, Business Lending, and more. A click on the very top link, Credit Services, takes you right to a link to bankofamerica.com. Talk about sending your potential customers to the enemy! This credit service click-through page lists 10 linked “ads”, including Discover Card, other credit card companies and finance companies. The front page list of links goes to other pages of links, which go to other links, search engines, banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, credit card and finance companies, on and on, an inverse pyramid that opens wide to the sky. Most of the links seem to be “ads”, probably paid for on a “click through” basis, as most are these days. In the forest of links they have even thrown in links to the “real” Star One Credit Union, but it is not that easy to find. Staroneceditunion.com is mainly directing customers to the big banks and finance companies. Their pages of links could be providing the Nobby Beach crowd quite a revenue stream. All thanks to the fact that “Lockheed’s” Starone.org did not protect their name.
One thing is clear: the Nobby Beach Boyz are well protected, hiding behind a phalanx of security. They are good, very good at what they do. The main server they are operating from is in Ashburn, VA, an amazon server. Under this IP server is a group of websites, including a porn site that is hosted in Nassau, Bahamas, another sex site hosted down in Dallas, Texas, a nominal “health” site with click-through ads, and a site for sale that is hosted in the UK. One of their sites is registered in Panama. This web of servers totally shields the real owners, we don’t know anything about them, and the Nobby Beach Boyz, as I originally called them, could simply be one guy. Where is he? Nassau? Nobby Beach? Panama? Houston? Living near amazon.com in Virginia? It would sure be enlightening to sit down with whoever the main bloke is, and chat about all this. I’m sure he would have some funny stories about buccaneering on the world-wide web.
The Brisbane Blokes also take a bite of Star One.
As if it wasn’t enough to throw away staronecreditunion.com, the “real” Starone.org also somehow managed to lose staronecreditunion.org. So who has this? The registration filed for the .org is also in Australia, not that far from the Gold Coast and the .com. This is in Fortitude Valley, near Brisbane. I’ll call these guys The Brisbane Blokes, another fun loving bunch of internet operators, who claim to be “The Leading Star One Credit Union Site on The Net.” As opposed to any other “buccaneer” Star One sites! When you visit staronecreditunion.org you see a very similar page to the dot com page: Credit Union Savings Accounts, Star One Credit Union, Credit Union Online Banking, Loans, more and more. Clicking on the first link takes you to more links, in this case bank sites like Barclays, and some credit union sites that are listed under “sponsored listings”, which means in English that they are paid ads.
These blokes do have a sense of humor. One link, Starone Credit Union takes you to a page packed with links in New Jersey! So folks looking to get to the “real” Star One in Santa Clara are directed to banks, job searches, credit unions and more, about as far away from Sunnyvale as you can get. And this includes sites that offer rapid STD testing! The New Jersey page links say “ads by Google”, so it looks like the cash flow is moving here too. Are the many credit unions listed on some of these links paying for these ads? It appears so. Ironic, isn’t it, that the “real” Star One, would have to pay for an ad on a site using its original name, now owned by someone else. Big Jim is right again, always protect your name! Right now, the Brisbane Blokes are raking in a pile of dough because they were wide awake and moved fast to get a great name very cheaply from a dithering credit union. What was Star One thinking? And how does this look to someone trying to contact the “real” Star One in Sunneyvale to open an account?
Once again, tracking down the location of the main ISP is enlightening. The address for staronecreditunion.org is a server farm in the Bahamas. Here, we find a multitude of websites being run off one IP. Many of their other websites are for sale. They are mostly “links” sites, organized by product categories with links to other sites. A few examples:
**pajas.com – adult links, gay dating, xxxdating, etc.
**xnxy.com – adult dating links, nude girls, lesbian chat, adult online dating sites
**antervesana.com – girls hot, nude girls, hot sex, plumpes sex, sex dildos
**banat6 – arabix video, xxl video, Egypt Girl, Arabic Girls, Arab Six (Arabic for Sex?)
**freevideodownloads.com – title tells all
**hakers.com – links to spy software, password software, gold assay
**cupcakes.com – a domain name for sale, and a really good one at that! I can’t believe they have had this since Nov. 2000. Great names like this are few and far between.
In theory, at least, the Brisbane Blokes should be taking in a lot of money from the click-throughs. The similarity of the staronecreditunion.com and .org sites, although on different servers in the Bahamas might indicate a connection. Could the Brisbane Bloke be the same as the Nobby Beach Bloke? Or are these just some fun loving internet buccaneers who move in the same circles? There’s no telling, because they are hidden from view. They only come out of the fog briefly, just long enough to snag another good name, then retreat from sight behind walls of security.
The Premier America Credit Union – Another Domain Name Debacle
Premier America Credit Union was born out of the old 1950’s Litton Employees Federal Credit Union. This great credit union has 64,000 members and over 1 Billion in assets. It is a worthy place to put your money, as is Star One and Lockheed, and we urge you to support all these institutions with your money. If you want to strike a blow against the big banks, move your money now, then you can laugh when you see Jamie Dimon squirming in front of a Congressional Hearing. But Premier also has also felt the sting of the internet buccaneers, or maybe they haven’t noticed all the name follies going on around them for the last 12 years.
Premier decided to use the name premier.org for their credit union. This was in early internet days, December 18, 1995. Maybe they would have been better off keeping the name Litton, and using that with some other name that they could have connected to internet domains. From the get-go, Premier was stymied. The greatest of the names, Premier.com was taken in the dim mists of the internet beginnings, March 1, 1993. This was grabbed by Premier Pet Products, and they are still using it today, 19 years later. “Your Pets, Our Passion” say these nice folks in Drums, Pennsylvannia. So the “real” Premier took Premier.org, and figured that was all they needed. Just think about how many folks, in the last 19 years, typed in Premier.com and ended up looking at pet products instead of a credit union? We’ll never know. Whooof, whooof. Meow, meow.
But as the years went by, the names they left behind started to get noticed. Well, most of them. Some are still floating out there, unbelievably not attached to a bouy. I found that PremierAmericaCreditUnion.org is still available, 17 years after they created Premier.org. Also still hanging around is PremierAmerica.net. Hey, it’s a big ocean out there, even the buccaneer fleet can’t patrol everywhere. But the Internet Buccaneers did come sailing in near the shores of Fort Premier.org, scooping out the rich clam beds right in front of them.
Oh, You Were Looking For a Credit Union? How About a String Bikini Instead?
In February 2004, some fun loving bunch, hidden behind a wall of security in downtown Los Angeles, California, discovered one of Premier’s unwanted step children, this called PremierAmericaCreditUnion.com. It is certainly puzzling that even though Premier has trademarked that very name, they forgot to get the domain. No worries, it’s being put to good use in the fashion business. Hit the website and you’ll find a lot of cool links. How about a job at McDonalds? Or Walmart? Or hey, Micro Bikini See Thru and Bikini String, Sheer Bikini, Mode Fashion, Women Fashion, and more. As their slogan at the top of the site says: “What you need, when you need it.”
Did The Internet Buccaneers Cut Their Teeth on Premier? The Panamanians Find A Treasure Floating on the Internet Ocean.
I call them the Panamanians because I don’t know who “they” are. They are hiding behind the walls of Fundacion Private Whois in Panama. Back in August of 2000, while patrolling the Internet Seas, they stumbled on to a treasure chest just floating out there. Opening it up, they discovered something valuable: PremierAmerica.org. This was one of the unprotected domain names from Premier America Credit Union. This might have been the lab they used for the credit union web page template. With a slight twist.
When you go to PremierAmerica.org you are re-directed to Prmieramerica.com. Look at that carefully, Premier is misspelled as “Prmier” Why? Possibly because the “real” Premier America has trademarks: Premier America TM filed in August of 2001, and Premier America Credit Union TM filed in March, 2000, five months before the Panamanians snagged PremierAmerica.org. Maybe it was wiser to just use this as a holding page, and re-direct traffic to a similarly named site that is intentionally misspelled, and has a .com behind it. This site is also hosted in the Bahamas on a server farm.
The same brilliant website design page that is seen on all these morphing sites is here. An index page full of bank, credit union, and financial links. Click on these and you go to more links: more banks, search engines, finance and credit card sites. Go almost anywhere except where you might have intended to go in the first place. The “real” Premier America is having its potential customers directed elsewhere, all because they left their name unprotected and set adrift on the choppy, dangerous seas of the internet. All legal, you snooze and you looze, as they say on the street. If you were savvy, you could actually find Premier America Credit Union through those sites, if nothing else by using search engines that you can get to through the forest of links. But how many average folks are savvy? And so what, when you click on anything on the buccaneer’s websites, it’s “ka-ching, ka-ching” baby! They make their money on clicks, even yours. And even mine, come to think of it. How much did I put in their pockets while researching this article? Lordy, lordy…..
The Pompano Beach Internet Surfers Find a Treasure Chest, Too!
I’m calling them the Pompano Beach Surfers because I don’t know who they really are, so that’s as good a name as any. Imagine the surprise these boyz had, sailing and surfing the Internet Seas of the Spanish Main back in June of 2002, when they also discovered a treasure chest, just barely floating on the surface of the shallow waters. Something the Panamanians had missed on their patrol two years before. Opening the chest, they peered inside to find another unattached web site, PremierAmerica.com.You don’t have to call these guys twice to the barbeque pit. They moved into the web space and set up shop. You see the same type of design as we have seen on the others, an index page with a lot of banking and finance links to click on, and clicking on these takes you to other pages packed with links that click-through to even more links. A blizzard of links, and the clicking sounds you hear might be sending a torrent of ad revenue to the Pompano Beach Internet Surfers, wherever they are, maybe into off-shore bank accounts. Although the registration was in Pompano Beach, Florida, the hosting is a server farm in the Bahamas.
The Pompano Beach Surfers snagged PremierAmerica.com way back in 2002. Looking back at the name games at StarOne, we find that StarOneCreditUnion.org is fairly recent, created in April 2010 by the Brisbane Blokes. And looking even further back in archives, the Nobby Beach Boyz created StarOneCreditUnion.com back in November of 2008. So PremierAmerica.com is one of the early creations, although the “senior” treasure here, possibly used as the template, so to speak, for more recent activities, was PremierAmerica.org, created in August of 2000. A large part of this is speculation on my part, of course, because everyone involved is hiding behind walls of security around the world, and they probably aren’t eager to give any interviews.
So You Failed at Spelling? The Buccaneers Make Money Off That, Too!
You say you can’t spell? That’s OK, the internet buccaneers make money off that too! Looking through the web sites stashed on one of the Bahama I.P.s which hosts PremierAmerica.org (which re-directs you to PrmierAmerica.com, the miss-spelled web name),I stumbled across a stash of website names that were miss-spelled. This is the secret port where the Panamanians dock, in the middle of the Caribbean. Sure, we could write this off to a foreigner’s ignorance of English. The dummies can’t even spell. You would be wrong about this, though. Firstly, although the .org is registered in Panama, it doesn’t mean that these guys are Panamanians, they might be blokes from the Land of Oz. Second, the miss-spellings are a deliberate ruse to direct those of us mortals who try to type in web sites although we didn’t graduate from grammar school.
Take a look at some of these gems, just a few: you all know about craigslist.com, right? The site with the great job ads, personal ads, and stuff for sale, all free? Well how about cragslist.com? Or criagslist.com? Clever, eh? One of these is a re-direct, actually taking you to the real craigslist. Is this paid for? Or just a public service from the Panamanian amigos? Then there’s gmai.com for all you gmail lovers. And ansestry.com for those looking for their humble beginnings. Other things are hidden here, a hip hop stars site and porntube.com, just to mention two. So keep being a bozo when you type in that website name, the internet buccaneers are making money from your mistakes.
What Would Edgar Allan Poe Say?
If you go to one of my favorite sites, www.poestories.com, and look up the words “Ignes Fatui” you will find something that describes what you have just read. Poe was famous for using a lot of obscure words, and this Poe website has a dictionary of words and phrases to help you out. His expression in this case, fits perfectly the situation with the domain name games. Ignes Fatui means foolish light. This old term refers to the strange lights sometimes seen in swamps and marshes, caused when seeping methane gas self-ignites, creating flickering lights. To travelers, these lights could act as a dangerous lure, tricking them off the safe path and on to treacherous ground. As in old times, still true today. These faux credit union websites are like the strange lights in the swamp, luring the internet surfers who are looking for the path to a specific credit union site, beckoning them off the path into a swamp of links and confusing weeds, from which they may never come back to the sound road.
The Ultimate Question: Who Are These Guys? One Mastermind or a Gang of Fun-Loving Internet Buccaneers? The Criss-Cross of Clues.
I’ve asked around. Big Jim says I should contact the NSA, maybe they know who these mysterious guys are. The Brisbane Blokes, The Panamanians, the Nobby Beach Boyz, The Pompano Florida Surfers. Are they a group of fun-loving buccaneers, businessmen who may or may not know each other? Or is this entire matrix of domains shown in this article (and I may have only scratched the surface), the work of one true mastermind. A shadowy Mr. X, who travels between his digs in the Australian Gold Coast to the Bahamas to check on his server farms and maybe his off-shore accounts where the click-through ad revenue pours in? Then it’s on to the States, stop by amazon.com to look things over, then maybe scoot down to Pompano Beach or Miami for a few days of sunshine, before jetting off to the UK. As one famous radio personality, Dave Emory, says often, this is all food for thought and grounds for further investigation. One tantalizing thing did pop up though. The IP address in the Bahamas, 18.104.22.168, which houses PremierAmerica.com, is the same one for StarOneCreditUnion.org. The battery of web sites housed are the same, just one big happy family. And residing there is the old web site 40something.com that takes you to horneywife.com. Although now holding forth in Luxembourg, 40something.com is an old site, created way back in 1998 and was registered years ago by an Australian company, Fabulous.com. Could Mr. X be from the Land of Oz? A fun-loving, but hard bitten Aussie businessman like Rupert Murdoch, operating around the world in Luxembourg, Panama, Los Angeles, Pompano Beach, The Bahamas, Virginia, Brisbane and our favorite, Nobby Beach? Hiding behind walls of security and internet I.P.s world-wide, a true modern-day internet buccaneer? We may never find out.
These often wild internet name games at times seem not only incomprehensible, but totally incredible. I can only say that if you don’t believe me about all this, these complicated tales of the domain name games, you could ask Big Jim about it.
If he were talking.
Which he ain’t.
Domain Name Games – Domain Buccaneers Sail the Internet Seas Looking to Grab the 2 Most Valuable Assets Your Company Has
by Ed murray
Reprinted with permission from www.SupportCreditUnions.com
What’s In A Name?
According to creditunions.com, plenty:
“We are programmed to think, organize and connect by name, starting with our own, one of the first words we learn. Names are special words that hold magic. The very best names are easy to pronounce, appealing to the ear, sticky to the memory and whenever possible, link us to an associated emotion. That means the very mention of a name should be a complete mini-selling pitch of your brand. Pretty efficient.”
A lot of thought goes into picking a name for your business. Since we have been looking at some interesting name problems that credit unions have had, especially Lockheed Federal Credit Union, this line of investigation will continue, and now delve into the shadowy world of international domain name buccaneers. Be aware that SupportCreditUnions.com is just that, an activist group supporting credit unions against the big banks. When we point out the sometimes disastrous mistakes some of the credit unions are making in the Name Game, we do so to warn of the consequences and problems that will follow.
The excellent article that we quoted from in the opening paragraph was written by Mr. John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy at Bancography. His article goes on to list a number of things that are important to selecting a great name, in this case for a credit union. Down at the bottom of his list is probably the most important point: The name should be available as internet domain addresses.
When we look at how the Name Game has been played in the last few years by some of the biggest credit unions, it will become shockingly clear how lax attention to domain names has led to the worst case scenario for some of these organizations. Not that they are in danger necessarily of going out of business, but that they are losing a big chunk of the two most valuable things they posses:
1. The company name, in all its possibilities as domains on the internet.
2. The second most valuable asset, the customers and potential customers.
Look at it this way, imagine your credit union is a ship, a passenger liner. Your ship, with your name on it, is pulling into a major port to pick up passengers. Little known to you, a merrie band of buccaneers has stealthily boarded your ship during the night and infiltrated the crew, even placing their guys in your engine room. You dock at night in a thick fog, and in the morning, as the fog lifts, you see around you hundreds of other ships also at anchor, and they all have similar names as yours. The infiltrators then proceed to escort waiting passengers to these other ships, much to your consternation. The buccaneers have just legally taken your two most valuable assets, all the names similar to yours, and a big boodle of your customers. You’ve just been morphed, and some customers hijacked, and it’s all perfectly legal.
Big Jim: He Plays His Cards So Close To The Vest That You Think They Are Part of His Skin.
Big Jim is tall, about six foot four, a little on the thin side. He’s middle aged, sports a mustache. His sandy brown hair is thinning, so he often wears a baseball cap. In his college days he played football, usually an end or a linebacker. He had speed more than bulk. But an injury changed his life; things happen like that. Athletics took a back seat to the new computer stuff. Big Jim became a computer geek. I’ve known him for over ten years, and during that time Jim never discussed domains or names with me. About a year ago I wanted to get a domain for something, and I started asking questions. After some time it came out that Big Jim was not only a computer geek, but a domain whiz. He had been buying and selling domains since the start of the internet. He keeps it quiet, real quiet. But I listen and learn. And Big Jim knows a lot about domains.
Big Jim’s Mantra #1
Big Jim’s number one Mantra, told to me many times is simple: Protect your (business) name at all costs. Get every single extension, .com, .org, .us, .net, dot everything. Get all the possibilities that you can think of. Then think some more and get all of those. If you don’t do this you are a “freaking” idiot and you are going to get what you deserve. Big Jim uses more colorful language than that, of course, but I’ll leave it there. He says that you have to protect your trademark also with all possibilities that you can think of – Trademarks also have to be linked to domain names. That’s just how it is. End of story. If you think anything else you are dumber than a donkey.
When Lockheed’s Missile Boys Moved North From Burbank, They Took Their Money With Them.
The old Lockheed Aircraft Company was a fixture in Burbank for a long time. My dad worked their during World War II, as a technical writer. He was very proud of the fact that he wrote most of the Tech Manual on the Lockheed P-38 fighter. When the cold war got going in the early 1950’s Lockheed opened up a Missile and Space Division in Sunnyvale, Northern California. In 1957 Lockheed transferred a chunk of dough from the old credit union in Burbank to a new credit union in Sunnyvale. 1,350 accounts were more than enough to start the Lockheed Missile Employees Federal Credit Union. By 1971 they had 22,225 members, and assets of $92 million. The cold war was good for Lockheed, and it was on the verge of the boom years.
In 1981 Lockheed Missile Employees Federal Credit Union became LMSC Federal Credit Union. By the end of 1985 the assets were $435 million and they had ballooned to over 43,000 members. The furious pace of growth, fueled by space and military, continued. In 1995 they again changed their name, now dropping the word Lockheed, and becoming Star One Federal Credit Union. A few years later they got a state charter and dropped the “Federal”, and the official name Star One Credit Union has been in use until today. Assets claimed now are $6 billion and membership is at about 89,000 members. If you live, work, or attend school in Santa Clara County you are potentially qualified to join.
But as the cold war wound down a new boom came rushing in: the great tech/computer boom of Silicone Valley. With that came the internet. And everything changed. The thousands of domains became millions of domains, and 2011 saw something like 300 million domains added for a total now of over 550 million. We are full-blown in the new technological age, like it or not. Look especially at the young people under 30. Everyone is clutching smart phones. Laptops and ipads rule. Ignore all this at your peril.
In the old days, the executives at the big companies like Lockheed protected their name by filing a trademark. That was about it. Copyright a few things and done. But the new age came like a whirlwind, shredding old companies, birthing new products, exploding the human universe beyond the comprehension of anyone at the helm of a company in 1950 could ever imagine. The execs at the helm of Star One Federal Credit Union in 1995 were ill-prepared for what was happening. For this, they can’t totally be faulted. But by the end of the 1990s and the approaching millennium there were plenty of warning signs that things were different. Information was pouring down like raindrops in a fierce storm, and tens of thousands of people came into companies to set up computers and keep track of things, like the company’s domains. In the mid 90s the web site design business took off. What should have been a yellow brick road to company success at times became the yellow goldbricker’s road, as executives spent too much time daydreaming about their next golf game instead of learning the new technology. There were, however, a lot of people who were learning about things computer, and the domain name explosion was an attractive lure. While most of us were struggling to learn Windows 95, others were learning to play the name game. A secret tussle began, worldwide, to buy up and control the great names of businesses and products. Around that time, people like Big Jim got into it, buying up really cool names and sitting on them until a customer appeared with cash in hand, or actually auctioning the names on domain auction sites.
The Star One Domain Name Saga Begins.
In 1995, as Star One Federal Credit Union was growing like weeds, so was the search for great domain names. The obvious name for this is starone.com. The executives at the credit union missed it, and in March of 1995 this great name went to a real estate company in Ohio, where it remains until today, 17 years later. Star One Realtors would be insane to ever let that one go. Which brings us to…..
Big Jim’s Mantra #2
If you have a name with any kind of number in it, you MUST get all possibilities, including both the written number and the Arabic number. This also goes for anything that can possibly have a “dash” in the name. You get them all. If you don’t, as Big Jim says, you are insane, a total walking zombie idiot who doesn’t deserve to be called a thinking human. He actually says more things, but I can’t repeat them here.
Let’s take Star one. Starone.com is in the hands of a realtor in Ohio, so what about Star1.com? It’s owned by one of the domain name boys, and is advertised for sale at $10,000. If you type it into your browser, you might come up with a “holding” website, leader2leader, a tech company advertising file sharing and other web services. When you consider that Star One Credit Union is claiming assets of $6 billion, the $10,000 asking price seems like pennies. You could spend that much advertising on bus bench ads for a few months. So why don’t they buy it?
Maybe Star One Credit Union is fat, dumb, and happy, that’s one answer. Why buy it, they own www.starone.org. That’s enough. But in violating Big Jim’s Mantras, both of them at once for God’s sake, they open up a can of internet worms, because the domain buccaneers are wide awake, and they are looking to take your two most valued possessions and make money off them. With a big company like Star One Credit Union, when you look closely, the buccaneers are like hundreds of mosquitoes who have landed on the company’s body, sucking the booty from its treasure room, interdicting customers and re-directing them to the dreaded enemy, The Big Banks. This is the horror that is now visited on Star One, an invisible attack, ruthless, conducted by shadowy figures around the globe. And all legit. Nothing personal, as my friend Jordan Maxwell would say, it’s just business.
Star One Credit Union’s Old Heritage Not Even Protected. The Germans Move In.
So remember that back in the old days, when they were just starting out, Lockheed had changed their name to LMSC Federal Credit Union. The interesting fact is that until this day, they have not protected their old name. Why bother? That’s a tough question to answer in any sensible way. Big Jim told me simply, “Look, don’t be stupid, you protect EVERYTHING about your name, past, present, and future. You never know what sh*t can come down on your head when you least expect it. What kind of reflection on your company would it be if someone grabbed your old name and made it a porn site? How many prudes would be writing letters or wagging tongues?” When I checked this in the process of researching this article, I found that LMSCfederalcreditunion.com was available. Incredibly, since the 1995 first name change to StarOneFederalCreditUnion, the old LMSC name is still available, for $12.99. And so is the .org, .net, .biz, and many of the other dot extensions. All for chump change, really chump change, like one lunch for one exec. One name that is not available is LMSC.com. This was taken back in 1997 by some Germans who are running a string of websites in Europe, through a web server in Austria. The LMSC.com currently goes nowhere, it’s just in their war chest, for what reason nobody knows. What is known is that Lockheed Star One does NOT own it. Luckily, the German owners seem to be web designers or hosting legitimate companies. Looking at their operation, they don’t look like buccaneers, so good for now. But what about later? Things can turn on a dime.
Even more incredible is that Star One has failed to secure trademarks with their name. A search of the trademark sites shows that both Star One Credit Union and Star One Federal Credit Union are available. The cost of getting these filed is also miniscule: One site offers a starting filing of $159.00 for each of the names. It’s a strange situation, and I for one, am afraid to even mention this one to Big Jim. I’m just writing the story here, but the tirade would be almost unbearable.
End of Part 1
Coming in Part 2: The Nobby Beach Boyz take a bite out of Star One….The Brisbane Blokes also move in…….So You Failed in Spelling? The Buccaneers Make Money Off That, Too……Server Farms in the Bahamas……From Pompano Beach to Panama, From the Bahamas To Brisbane, The “Clicking Sound” you hear is a roar of cash and it’s going into the Buccaneer’s Treasure Chest….Star One Ravaged From All Sides…..Premier America Credit Union Also Under Assault….What Would Edgar Allan Poe Say?…..The Ultimate Question: Who Are These Guys? One Mastermind or a Crackling Gang of Buccaneers, The Crisscross of Clues.