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Happy New Year, everyone.  If you thought the porn-napping activities of
2001 gave you a headache, 2002 may well redefine the word migraine.

With the new year comes new ways of turning words into money.  What I am
about to explain is not about porn-napping, though pornographers are taking
advantage of it and it will have impact on many of you.

My personal web site is http://www.concentric.net/~awolinsky  but that's
not a very catchy URL.  Wouldn't it be great if I could get something with
a little more pizzazz? How about http://listen.to/wolinsky ?  Well, either
one of those links will lead you to the same place.  The first leads to the
original web site.  The second goes to servers maintained my the V3 Group,
where you will be redirected to my original web site.  It didn't cost me a
cent.  However, you will see a banner ad.  The ad is not pornographic or
inappropriate, but it is an ad.

So, where am I going with this and what's the big deal?  Bare with me...

We have all seen URLs that end in two-letter abbreviations. These letters
refer to the country in which the site is
registered.  http://www.myschool.k12.nj.us is in the United States,
http://www.yourschool.de is in Germany, and so on.  (Here's a listing
http://www1.ics.uci.edu/pub/websoft/wwwstat/country-codes.txt )

In my case, the .to indicates that the site is registered in Tonga.  No,  I
didn't register it in Tonga.  The V3 Group registered listen.to.  They then
set up a web site http://listen.to and offered free redirects that read
http://listen.to/your-name  (or any word you choose).  They also registered
go.to, come.to, run.to, and a few dozen other combinations in Tonga (.to)
and other countries that create phases.

Are you starting to see where this might lead?  Just as I can have
http://go.to/wolinsky , someone else could have (I'll be restrained here)
http://go.to/hell , and indeed they do.  The point is that ANYONE can
register ANY name and have it redirected to ANYWHERE at NO COST.

I can come up with a catchy URL and have it point to my web site.  I can
come up with an innocent word combination and have it link to a pornography
site.  I can come up with a nasty word combination and have it link to a
site of someone I don't like.   Getting the picture?

I did some random name dropping and found all kinds of use, misuse, and
abuse of this system.

What brought this whole thing to my attention was a porn-napping report I
got just before Christmas.  Someone, apparently with all good intentions,
registered a listen.to URL that used a school name and linked to the school
web site.  At first glance, this may seem like no problem, because the name
was appropriate and the URL was catchy and fitting, but there was the
banner ad.  That could lead someone to think the school was endorsing or
accepting advertising from the company when the school had nothing to do
with it.  I suspect the link was created by a well meaning individual who
supports the band.  When students catch on to this, it could get very
interesting as they make links to school sites in earnest and as pranks.

There is some good news. For those of you who want to promote your name or
your school, the banner ad can disappear for $17.95. Also, for each
redirect you create, you must supply a unique valid email address.  This
will limit wholesale abuse.  Sure, I could easily establish multiple
hotmail accounts and use them, but that's too probably too much work for
many people, even if they think of it.  The V3 Group has a detailed TOS
(terms of service) agreement that prohibits many abuses.  However, I don't
see any evidence that they are policing it.  That means the only way abuses
will disappear is when they are reported.

What's next?  I don't know, but when you spot it, you can report it to
http://oii.org/html/porn-napping.shtml or http://go.to/porn-napping .

Take care,

  Art Wolinsky                        awolinsky@oii.org
  OII Technology Director         http://oii.org
  (609) 597-9481 ext
I am perfectly capable of learning from my mistakes.
I will surely learn a great deal today.

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