Corporate Eye

Website Squatters and Ghost Sites

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In a previous existence, I used to enjoy debugging code. I also like to proof-read and sub-edit content… But it doesn’t take an expert to spot some problems.

As I’ve said before I spend a lot of my time these days exploring corporate websites. Sometimes I’ve been invited to sub the site to look for problems; sometimes I’m out hunting interesting new ways of doing things.

And sometimes I end up, uninvited, down a deserted back alley of the internet, where sites have been forgotten about, and are being left to rot gently.

Today I came across an old corporate website. The company has been taken over, and this particular URL, while owned by the company until about six months ago, is now being squatted by someone else.

The content is all still the same corporate content—right down to the copyright statement—but the site has been infiltrated by inappropriate adverts and links.

The result is a sad dissonance… and though I know that the company is not responsible for this version of their content, it does, nevertheless, taint my impression of the company.

Given that some people will still look for a company under an old URL for some time after the company has moved on, I suggest that:

  • ownership of old URLs should be retained for some years
  • there should be a page explaining what has happened to the company (with a link to the new company) hosted there for a while (again, for some years)
  • and then the domain name should be forwarded to the new one.

In this particular case, I suspect it wasn’t the main domain name for the site, but was a variant used to catch and redirect visitors to the correct (former) site. So maybe the squatter has simply copied and pasted code from there in an attempt to make it look official.

At least the worst they’re doing is adding adverts; someone with a grudge could do something much more unpleasant.

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Lucy is Editor at Corporate Eye
 
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