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Weekly Alibi Typos on the WWW

www.oops.com

By Devin D. O'Leary

JULY 27, 1998:  Many moons ago, while an impressionable young pup in high school, I took a typing class--it was that or vocational agriculture. Little did I know how well that blow-off class would serve me. Having chosen a career in writing, I can now exercise my near mystical ability to type 30 words per minute on a daily basis. Then as now, however, my biggest problem is the preponderance of typos in my work. Normally, thanks to the invention of a wonderful little device called "SpellChecker," this is not much of a problem. Occasionally, though, problems do pop up. Take, for example, the World Wide Web. Millions of surfers out there are cruising to millions of Web sites on a daily basis. Billions of fingers are banging on billions of tiny keys, and every once in a while, one of those fingers missteps. Leave it to the innovative exploiters who created the Internet to take advantage of this common and seemingly insignificant error.

There are, in fact, hundreds of site in Cyberspace just waiting to take advantage of a mistyped address. The practice came to public light earlier this year when hoards of space-happy surfers decided to cruise on over to NASA's congested Web site to ogle the freshly downloaded images from the Mars Rover project. Those who mistakenly entered www.NASA.com instead of www.NASA.gov were greeted with a Web Site advertising pornography. Needless to say, the real NASA wasn't too happy, and the faux site was closed down within a few weeks. Civic-minded surfers thinking of taking a computer trip over to the White House would do well to remember the NASA lesson, however. Type in www.whitehouse.gov, and you'll find yourself inside the cyber-Oval Office. Make a mistake and go to www.whitehouse.com, and you'll find yourself at another porno site. So far I've heard no governmental grumblings over this particular site. I guess "white house" isn't as unique as "NASA," The folks at Whitehouse.Com at least get bonus points for tailoring their smut selection toward the stolen appellation. At Whitehouse.Com, "Our nation's young teens, hot lesbians and hardcore nymphomaniacs all gather here to serve their country." Aside from the usual porn pic categories, there are also a section of "First Ladies" and the "White House Intern of the Day."

Not all of those in Cyberspace willing to exploit the .gov/.com paradox are smut peddlers, however. Tap out www.CIA.com, and you'll wind up at the home page for a Canadian software company called Cybersurf Corp. The design of the page and the credentials of the company seem quite respectable, so I'm not sure why the company has resorted to subterfuge to lure unsuspecting consumers to their Web site. I'm not sure why people looking for the Central Intelligence Agency would be interested in purchasing Canadian software. Still, I suppose the logic these days is, "Any hit is a good hit."

Of course, the most frequently hit sites on the Internet are America's overworked search engine. Naturally, there are plenty of folks out there ready to exploit this. Mistype Yahoo's address as www.ahoo.com, and you'll wind up with something called "ABCsearch.Com," a cheesy ad page masquerading as a search engine. There are a couple plugs for Pamela Anderson's nude video at the bottom of the page. Type in an actual search query, and the site will kick you over to Infoseek. Misspell the address as www.yaho.com, and some kindly page by the name of typo.com will inform you of your mistake and send you over to www.yahoo.com. Hurriedly bang out www.yhoo.com and you'll end up on a largely blank page with a picture of a watch on it, "The future home of Yhoo.Com." Someone has obviously registered the domain name, but has yet to come up with a way to exploit it.

The other major search engines are not immune to name stealing, either. Do you want to consult Lycos? Make sure you don't skip the "L." Enter www.ycos.com, and you'll end up at Madonna's.Com, another page run by the pirates behind www.ahoo.com. Screw up Alta Vista's address by trying to access either www.altvista.com or www.altavist.com, and in both instances you'll get a small advertisement for CoastLine, a Web hosting service. To CoastLine's credit, the company does state at the top of the page, "You have made a typo--we are not affiliated with your targeted destination." Thanks for the help, guys. What would we do without yoo?


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