09|22|2011 03:12 pm EDT
Inspired by Elliot Silver, who pointed out an article in the Wall Street Journal where the author (a reporter for the Associated Press) sent an email to his friend and mistyped the domain “VerizonWireless.com” by leaving out the “m” at the end. Apparently he received an auto-response trying to get him to click through an affiliate link.
Here’s a real-life example of how it works: An Associated Press reporter accidentally sent a message to a “verizonwireless.co” address instead of the proper “.com” and got this response, ostensibly from his contact “tom”:
“I am out of office right now on a my (sic) dream vacation and will get back to you when I return. If you don’t hear from me, my assistant should contact you shortly. You should check this site to see how I scored the best travel deal for my trip.”
That’s followed by a link to a site that advertises luxury resorts. Presumably, the owner of verizonwireless.co makes money when someone clicks through to any of the resort sites.
It appears that the domain VerizonWireless.co used to be parked at Bodis, but currently does not resolve and according to the article some other sites stopped sending replies like this as well when the AP reporters inquired about them. Quite a bit of good research for the article, since they are even explaining how domain parking works. DNN tested a few domains that are parked on Bodis and appear to have a high potential for email address typos, but none of them was set up to receive email.
The whole concept reminds of the Reply Cycle project launched in 2008. As it appears this project is not currently active any more, as their website appears to be down.