During the late 1990s, as governments tried to gain some legislative control over the Internet, the practice of cybersquatting became front page news. A cybersquatter would register domain names which had the potential of becoming popular or lucrative. The cybersquatter would either use the domain name to generate traffic or attempt to resell it at an inflated price. The practice of cybersquatting became much more difficult with the passage of legislation such as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). But a savvy cybersquatter could always become an even more successful typosquatter.
A typosquatter registers domain names which closely resemble high-traffic websites, but feature common misspellings and consumer confusions. A typosquatter might register several domain names like Anazon.com, Amazzon.com, Amazons.com and so on. Customers seeking the real Amazon.com website may accidentally type the wrong URL, which directs them to one of the typosquatter's own websites. These websites are usually nothing more than a collection of lucrative click-through advertisements. In some cases, the sites are pornographic. Even using .net instead of .com can lead to a typosquatter's website.
Another trick used by typosquatters is to register domain names using one or two adjacent letters. Consumers in a hurry might type in smazon.com or hoogle.com, since the letters 's' and 'h' are adjacent to the correct letters on the keyboard. A typosquatter will often register dozens of these typo-laden domain names.
In addition, a typosquatter may register variations such as NobleandBarnes.com, BensandJerry.com or JenniferLopes.com. Their hope is that some customers will not know the exact URL of the company's website, so they will input something similar. Even an missing hyphen can cause a web surfer to be rerouted to a typosquatter's lair. From there, escape is impossible without clicking on several pop-up ads, a practice known as 'mousetrapping'.
Some cybersquatters may have believed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act did not extend to typosquatting, but they were wrong. In a landmark ruling, a major typosquatter was severely penalized for deliberately registering confusing domain names modeled after the Joe Cartoon franchise. The court ruled that his registered misspelled or similar-sounding domain names created confusion in the marketplace. The language of the ACPA does indeed extend to typosquatting, since both cybersquatting and typosquatting are not covered under fair use laws. A typosquatter depends on consumer error to earn a profit, which the court determined infringed on the trademark rights of the authentic domain name owner.