No doubt that the Internet is affecting popular culture, especially American society. Terms like 'dotcom', 'search engine', and 'URL' are all somewhat commonplace in various popular media outlets across the country. Everyone, it seems, has heard the stories of 20-something dotcom CEOs who started an Internet business in their parents' garage and are now multi-millionaires. Indeed, with a majority of American households now using the Internet on a regular basis, they're becoming more comfortable venturing out, even interacting within this once feared place that was solely the realm of mostly technophiles and academics.
As society has grown more comfortable with the online world, they've slowly but surely started interacting with it. It is now somewhat commonplace to see or hear about URLs for sites (e.g. www.thesmiths.com) where a family has staked out its claim in this brave new online world. Personal diaries, or weblogs as they're often referred to, are also attracting thousands of people to share their online journals with the rest of the world. With this willingness to share, many also feel the need to rise above the noise of URL confusion and register their own domain name.
Enter a company called Electronic Domain Name Monitoring, Inc. (EDNM)
I first heard the name Electronic Domain Name Monitoring when I received a fax from them claiming that a third party was trying to register my domain or a similar domain in bad faith. I was mildly amused and astonished because the domain that they claimed someone was trying to take was Oracular.net, which my company (Oracular) already owned. The fax was somewhat official-looking, and let me know that I could 'secure' the domain name before the 'third party' got it by calling them with a credit card number handy. "Obviously" I thought to myself, "EDNM is using scare tactics to pressure un-suspecting domain name owners into registering domain names they don't need and probably don't care about."
I threw the fax away and thought nothing more of it untill a couple months later when a member of the evolt mailing list, thelist, received a similar fax, and asked if it was a scam. Recalling the fax that I had received, I promptly replied that it was indeed a scam, and to pay no attention to it. A couple other people piped up and mentioned that they too had received the FAX and were questioning its validity.
On September 14 2000 I received the following message that was also CC'd to a number of other people:
I am writing you today with respect to an email circulated by you as of July 11, 2000
to various parties whereby you have made certain references about our organization.
Our office vehemently refutes the assertions put forward by you in your correspondence
and formally demands that you cease and desist of any future correspondence of a
derogatory, mis-informed nature.
Your assertions are actionable and the manner in which you contact, (and promote
others to contact) the persons and entities noted in your email borders on harassment.
You have made no effort to contact our office and speak with a supervisor or request clarification
of any correspondence that may have been sent to you or your client(s) from our office.
In addition to the above, you have conveniently over-looked the fact that we do not extract a
fee from any party that is notified by us for any service. We are paid by our channel partners
for conducting searches and notifications. If you had contacted us and sought additional
information, you would have been advised accordingly.
I am available at any time if you wish to discuss this matter. I may be contacted at any
time by calling 1-877-450-0607 EXT: 2201.
GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY
Manager Customer Service
1-877-450-0607 EXT: 2201
It took me about 20 minutes to realize what this was even about. The date of July 11th (when I responded to a question on the evolt mailing list) finally triggered the memory. I re-read the message carefully, paying close attention to the part where EDNM "formally demands that you cease and desist of any future correspondence of a derogatory, mis-informed nature", and contacted one of peole who got CC'd on the message. He mentioned to me that he had also suspected EDNM of being less than reputable and actually had correspondance with them regarding the fax that they sent him. He has an excellent website about this matter, including a step-by-step list of actions he has taken with them.
Since that time, my original post to the evolt mailing list has been archived by a number of search engines, and people across the country have emailed me, asking if the fax that they got is, in fact, anything to worry about. I thought that writing an article like this would help expose what I believe to be a company that is preying on the fears of un-suspecting customers in the hopes of making a quick buck. Further, the idea that a company (EDNM in this case) could stop a third party who wanted to register a competing domain name (e.g. mydomain.com and mydomain.net) is totally wrong. If you own mydomain.com (for example) and recieve a fax from EDNM, claiming that someone is trying to register mydomain.net 'in bad faith', I highly encourage you to file a complaint with the FTC about this matter, or call the Georgia Attorney General's office at 404-656-3790 and file a complaint with Mrs. Robinson of that office.
If you think you may have gotten a fax from EDNM but aren't sure, here is a scanned fax for reference (with relevant info removed for privacy).
The Internet is still gaining thousands of new users a day who are interested in a two-way interaction with other users across the globe. Many of them do this through their own personalized domain names. Hopefully, exposing these kind of scams early on will deter other companies like EDNM from taking advantage of Internet users, new or old.