Short DNS and brand ownership

I cycle home Wednesday evenings and back in on Thursday morning, it’s a 22-mile drag from Round Rock to Down Town Austin, with some quiet bits, some busy bits and some dangerous bits. While spinning up North Lamar heading south  towards 183, I was thinking about the rise of web URL shortnening websites such as tinyurl.com, which was the first I was aware of that offered a free service to take a long url such as this blog entry https://cathcam.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/short-dns-and-brand-ownership/ and turn it into http://snipurl.com/shorterdns

The main reason these became really popular was becuase some systems, such as Lotus Notes used to produce bizzare, very, very long URL’s for pages in Notes databases. It was easier to remember tinyurl.com/ae5ny than it would be to remember the page name, try it… Now, people these days know these services for twitter.com where every character counts, but thats not how or why they started.

There are a bunch of these services, tinyurl.com, snurl.com, is.gd, bit.ly etc. I tend to use snurl as it allows you to save specific names, I’m sure other shortners do too. What I was thinking about last night was the ownership, rights etc. to shortened URLs.

When my son wanted some cards from http://moo.com to help him promote his DJ work, I created them for him, but his myspace URL didn’t easily fit and flow, and what if later he wanted to create a website, he’d have to get new cards.

Answer, use snurl. So Oli and his alter ego Kaewan are now http://snurl.com/kaewan – It currently points to his myspace profile, but I can change it whenever I want. 

So these services have become, in some way, analgous to Domain Registrars. Sure a short URL isn’t a domain, but effectively it’s the same as one, except you don’t own it, and you didn’t have to pay for it. For fun I created http://snurl.com/redmonk – It actually points to Redmonks home page. But it could easily point elsewhere. And there’s the rub. With a traditional Name regsitrar there is an established right of review and appeal if you believe that someone has registered a domain that impinges on your brand and trademarks.

Not long after I created this blog, original DNS http://ibmcorner.com _ I got a “cease and desist” call from IBM legal pointing out that this wasn’t allowed and I should stop using it and not re-register the domain when it expired. SO where does http://snurl.com/ibm point to? Well not IBM and is was nothing to do with me.

1 Response to “Short DNS and brand ownership”


  1. 1 David Singer March 5, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    I’ll bet that the http://snurl.com/ibm URL is one which was auto-assigned by them in sequence, not one that was deliberately claimed. Ditto for http://tinyurl.com/ibm.

    I find it interesting that http://snurl.com/dell goes to a Dell page, and http://tinyurl.com/dell fails completely — could Dell have more aggressive lawyers than IBM?


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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formaly a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.

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