Evicting domain name squatters

I recently considered starting a blog to replace Crankycode. I’m not quite as cranky as I used to be (although stuff with little or no documentation still pisses me off to no end), and I actually do more than just write code, draw flow charts, and generate pretty MSC diagrams. So, I thought to myself, why not create a blog where I could put articles on hardware and software. A place that could also offer follow-on support and ideas that tie into my books. Sounds good, now I just need to pick a name.

The problem is, that typing in anything with “maker” in it resulted in either an active website or a placeholder with nothing but a mostly blank page. In other words, a domain squatter. Sure, there’s the helpful little box that states “This domain may be for sale.” No thanks. I tried other names and various permutations, with largely the same results. The more I poked around, the crankier I became.

What I don’t understand is that if the Internet is supposed to be a universal resource, or as some have advocated, a basic human right, then why are domain name squatters tolerated? They simply take up names that others could put to good use and clog up search results with meaningless links. I understand wanting to get a good name and then perhaps hold it for a bit while other things come together, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. I have a couple of domain names myself, one of which used to be quite active several years ago, and both of which are slated for Big Things in the near future. But I’m not planning to sell either of them. Neither of them have blank place-holder pages behind them, they simply go nowhere.

I would propose that anyone who gets a domain name either have an active web site behind it, working email addresses or ssh logins, or that it not be visible at all (i.e. server not found). If someone wants to use a non-responsive name they can do a whois and find out who owns it and which registrar was used. Most registrars will let you know if a name is already in use. There doesn’t need to be a dead web pages with a “This domain might be for sale” message on it. That’s just tacky at the very least, and at the worst only illuminates the innate greediness of human beings (and yes, I happen to think that humans can be brutally greedy–why do you think there’s a 1% versus everyone else issue today?).

What would a web look like there every URL actually went to something live, or at least went nowhere so it wouldn’t clutter up search results? A web where the local no-kill animal shelter could get a domain name that didn’t sound like something from a Dr. Seuss book, or where people wouldn’t have to sit down with Scrabble tiles and dice to try and come up with something unique (and sometimes just weird).

Perhaps it could be argued that the squatters force the rest of us to be more creative, and I won’t argue that. But I don’t think that squatting should be allowed in the first place. We don’t tolerate people putting a tent or a camper trailer in our backyards without our permission, nor do we allow people to randomly set up mobile homes in a local vacant lot unless they’ve actually purchased the lot. And we definitely don’t let them just move into our homes while we’re away on vacation or temporarily working in other city or country (although that’s actually been attempted). Why do we tolerate it on the Internet?

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