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Quote of the Day - Keyboard work creates a class of unwanted things - one-letter typos, failures of phrasing, bad punctuation. If you don't want to delete these entirely, you can use the Return key to push them to the bottom of the screen. - Nicholson Baker
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How Much Is A Typo Worth? How Do You Spell Verizon?

If you're like a lot of people who let their fingers do the walking through the Internet, then you likely know how easy it is to end up at the wrong website due to a typo.  Verizon certainly knows, especially because many people mistype it as "Verison" or even "Vaerizon," according to the company.

When you end up on that wrong website, several things typically happen in a very short period of time.  First, you learn that you're trapped there due to some fancy HTML code that disables your back button, commonly based on a tricky programming technique called an onUnload event, if you really want to know.

The technique both prevents you from going back and if your browser figures out how to avoid it, then the website programmer adds in a forward command, which takes you right back to the page with the typo name.

While not for your benefit, you've just clicked on the typo page at least two more times, driving up the typo page's website statistics, which advertisers use to pay for real estate on the page.

If all this seems utterly boring or highly technical, hang on for a minute.  I'll get to my point.

It's all about the money.  But since you already knew that, what's your hurry?  Stick with me here now.  Don't hit the back button.

For Verizon, the problem lies in the virtualness of the Internet and the fickle nature of its surfers.  Think about it for a moment. 

Here's what happens:  You think you might want to buy a new cell phone like the one you saw someone else using today.  OK, well maybe not buy it right now, let's just look at it.

Right.  Verizon wireless.  That's who you use as a carrier, so off to Verizon's site you go.

But you type in "Verison" by mistake.  Your not on the Verizon webpage, but lo and behold, there's a phone that looks just like the one you saw.

Aw, forget Verizon you say - you just click on the picture.  Then you're over on Sprint's website and looking at the phone you wanted anyway. 

Cool.  Nice phone.  "I think I'll buy it," you say.  A few clicks, a new account and several hundred dollars later, and you've got yourself the newest whiz-bang gizmo phone you could have ever wanted. 

But think back.  You started out possibly buying the phone from Verizon, but instead ended up buying from Sprint, all due to a typo.

Verizon has invested a lot of money in its name and dutifully trademarked it, along with the other names attendant to the company like Verizon Wireless and the annoying, "Can you hear me now? phrase. 

Only to be defeated by a typo.  240 of them, to be exact.  That's right, there are 240 variations of Verizon that are owned by others - not Verizon. 

The people that buy up those typo names didn't just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, as my Grandpa Walker used to say.  They know what they're doing, and they're paid handsomely for it - by all those other phone companies who benefit when you and I type the URL wrong. 

So to protect itself, Verizon filed this lawsuit in Virginia seeking turnover of the URLs, $100,000 in damages from cybersquatting and even treble damages. 

We'll watch this one, but my bet is on Verizon.  They'll get all those URLs back, plus shut down the typo sites. 

All over a cell phone. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, February 05, 2009 at 07:38 Comments Closed (2) |
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