Splog Prevention

Why I ended up taking ownership of the domain where my late-2000s newspaper lived—and why you might want to consider doing the same.

By Ernie Smith

On the one hand, the paper I worked at in the late 2000s, the Virginian-Pilot-owned Link, never got the digital kickstart that the format really deserved.

Mostly a print affair, its content-website apparatus, built on a poorly suited CMS that wasn’t WordPress or Drupal, had only been online a few months by the time its shutdown was announced, and its mission was mostly limited to arts-and-entertainment coverage, rather than the news coverage the print paper did.

(As the resident music nerd on top of being a designer, I did post a few things there: I took photos of Hold Steady shows at the Norva and reviewed Deerhunter shows. It was a pretty cool time!)

But on the other, Tribune let the domain expire recently, something I spotted last month, and it was only a matter of time before someone else bought it and turned it into something bad.

Tuaw christina

This is not Christina Warren. (Christina Warren/Mastodon)

“Something bad,” to be clear, is a huge, very real risk, and it’s been happening all over the internet in recent years. On Tuesday, my online pal Christina Warren had it happen to something she cared about—The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW), the Apple-centric site where she first cut her teeth as a blogger in the late 2000s. That site, which shut down way back in 2015, was part of the Weblogs, Inc. network, best known for giving the world Engadget. Per Engadget, it appears the domain was quietly sold by its most recent owners, Yahoo, to an entrepreneur who specializes in AI-generated splogs. (It’s actually his second Apple-themed splog; he also owns iLounge.com, a famous iPod-era Apple site.)

The Dumb Domain Store

Want to own a domain for some reason, but not sure what to name it? Check out the Tedium-produced domain name generator The Dumb Domain Store, which makes coming up with a bizarre domain as quick as a website reload. Best part: Buying a domain through the site, and its partner Namecheap, supports Tedium. Cheers!

But it was worse—the site, despite not having a deal for the old content (which is still live on Engadget and reportedly was not part of the deal), pulled an archive of old posts from the Internet Archive, rejiggered the old with AI to make it “new,” pulled the old author names, and published the content with everyone’s names attached. Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen if you ask me!

As has been a theme in recent months, as I was just starting to dig into the issue on my end, 404 Media was just hitting publish on a story about another good website being pulled into the spammy underbelly of the internet. The result of the interest in the story was that the author names were changed to things that didn’t match the names of the actual humans who worked there. I’m happy that resolution happened, but still, another splog lines the internet.

The fact that this is allowed to happen is my least favorite part of the internet. Even worse than spammers. Even worse than engagement farming on false pretenses. The fact that domains are not designed to be owned and operated permanently by one host just makes zero sense to me. Like Creative Cloud, there should be a one-time-purchase option for internet domains.

I think, if you want to see an excellent example of why the software as a service model breaks down over time, just look at the way we serve up domains. They aren’t free, and there’s no way you can prevent them from falling into the wrong hands if your credit card expires. Recently GoDaddy changed some policies on Russian ownership, and because an old address was attached to the domain, I nearly lost control of the 30pin site I’ve been hosting for Yuri Litvinenko since 2022, when the Ukraine war kicked off in earnest and complicated domain ownership for Russian nationals. It should be possible to host domains permanently without having to go through this rigamarole, but it’s not.

So it’s in this light that I saw Christina’s post on Tuesday. Soon after, I did a search for the Link website, Link757.com. And I saw that it was available. So I scooped it up.

I couldn’t buy it on NameCheap, whose affiliate program powers The Dumb Domain Store, but I could get it on GoDaddy. So that’s what I did.

0905 link2006

An example of a Link cover from the mid-2000s.

If companies we used to work at are going to let go of old domains, it only makes sense that former employees scoop them up before spammers get the chance to ruin it. If you worked somewhere you care about and their domain is offline, do yourself a favor and take a close look at domainr.com, and see if they’re doing a good job at protecting their domains. If they aren’t, it might be an opportunity to protect former coworkers from spammers ruining their search results or beloved old products from being exploited.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my Link domain. (It will fit nicely next to my Link newspaper box.) I like the idea of building something that nods to the cool thing that once existed, nothing more, nothing less. Beats the alternative.

Splog-Free Links

Don’t let it be lost that Paramount backed off a merger, deleted a bunch of content to make the company more attractive for a sale … then decided to do the merger anyway. That content should be put back online.

Speaking of reliving your history, I have been listening to The Connells’ “’74-’75” recently, and I gotta say, I’m actually shocked it was as big of a success as it was during the era it came out. No offense meant, but it is easily the wussiest song of 1993. But the thing is, it stands out because it contrasts so much with what was popular during that era. (Also worth watching: The video, which plays into the passage of time. And yes, there’s a follow-up that will tug your heartstrings.)

For the person who has everything, buy them a Nintendo PlayStation prototype controller, which appears to be going up for auction soon. It’s just a Super NES controller with PlayStation branding, but it’s still beautiful.

As a sorta-follow-up to our piece on Friday, I like how Plausible is trying to balance open-source needs with business realities through changes to its open-source product. (↬ Ben Werdmuller)


Find this one a fascinating read? Share it with a pal! And back at it in a couple of days.

Want a dumb domain? Check out The Dumb Domain Store, a Tedium product. Really.

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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