5 Important Websites That Somebody Still Somehow Let Lapse
Running a business is hard. There are so many things you have to remember to do: pay your employees, not commit white-collar crime, and oh yeah, facilitate access to your goods and/or services through an operational website. But things happen. Maybe you registered your domain name with the email address you use to take personality quizzes that hold your results hostage until you sign up for their newsletter, and the next thing you know, you’re selling Hungarian sex toys. (To be clear, that was not your business’s intended purpose.)
Whatever the case, something clearly happened with the corporate and political entities below, because some very severe, clearly unintentional things occurred with important URLs in their purview.
An Old Heinz Promo Led to German Porn
You’ve probably got more QR codes in your house right now than Cheeto crumbs. A corporation farts out a promotion, slaps a QR code on their packaging for the next month and forgets about it as soon as it ends. That might be fine for something like chewing gum or novelty hats that get used as soon as they’re purchased and then never thought of again, but the people at Heinz failed to consider that a big bottle of ketchup can last a while. Especially if stored in the fridge, correctly.
They entered their “find out” era in 2015, when a German man scanned the QR code on his ketchup bottle expecting to be led to information about personalized labels only to be slapped in the face with a whole bunch of dicks. It seems that after the promotion ended the year before, the domain name was bought by a German porn site. After he complained to the company, they promised to keep an eye on such things in the future, and the porn site threw in a free subscription. The fact that he complained makes that seem redundant, but it would be an impressive long con.
The FBI Redirected Visitors to a Malware Buffet
When the FBI shut down file-hosting site Megaupload for, you know, file-hosting shit, a lot of nerds got mad. One of those nerds was some guy calling himself “Earl Grey,” who noticed in 2015 that a domain used by the Bureau to redirect traffic from seized websites was set to expire. He snapped it up, and instead of being taken to an FBI page, typing in the address of a seized website brought you to a cornucopia of porn (a pornucopia, if you will) and other pop-up-y type advertisements, some of which were riddled with malware.
Weirdly, it took more than a week for anyone at the FBI to notice, but it turns out that using your domain to spew viruses like a wedding party in June 2020 is against most providers’ terms of service. The domain was suspended. Either way, the agency apparently stopped using it because it’s currently for sale again. Just like an ex whose number they can’t bear to delete, they don’t want it, but they don’t want anyone else to have it, either.
Thousands of Maryland License Plates Advertised Filipino Gambling
In 2012, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Association teamed up with the absolute dorks at the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission to slap together a commemorative license plate to celebrate, you know, that. The license plates were the default option for everyone who bought a new car that year, so hundreds of thousands of drivers got stuck with plates that directed onlookers to the organization’s website and implied they were hyped as hell about a 200-year-old war.
Then the bicentennial came and went, the commission underwent its existential crisis, and everyone forgot about the website. Even in 2023, however, it was still being advertised on nearly 800,000 license plates. That’s important because those nostalgic for nostalgia who visited the site that year were redirected to a Filipino gambling website. It seems to have been a short-lived hijacking, as the website now redirects to the Maryland DMV, who we like to think won it back in a high-stakes poker game.
Australia’s Prime Minister Didn’t Know
It’s mostly a problem of comparison, but by right-wing politician standards, Scott Morrison is pretty average. Like, he downplayed climate change and hates gays and everything, but he never used campaign funds to pay off any porn stars, as far as we know. Still, one disgruntled constituent couldn’t turn down the opportunity when he noticed the then-prime minister’s domain was about to expire. In fact, it was the “most fun (he’d) had with $50 in a long time,” which just tells us he’s not doing Australia right.
So did he turn Morrison’s website into a pamphlet on the importance of climate change policy and gay rights, as others have done with politicians of similar views? No. He just threw up a photo of Morrison smiling and a clip of the song “Scotty Doesn’t Know” from EuroTrip, a 2004 movie almost entirely forgotten but for a song about banging another dude’s girlfriend that is the bane of every man under 50 named Scott. The prank was so successful that the website immediately crashed, but the troll ended up giving Morrison the domain back within a few days, probably because the disgruntled constituent would have been forced to do so under Australian law eventually anyway. Unlike Fiona, they don’t fuck around.
Google… Just, Google
If you expect anybody to be on top of things, it’s Google. Hell, they probably know when you are going to expire. Still, somehow, they let the Google.com domain lapse for exactly one minute in 2015. A former Google employee who’d been getting webmastery emails about the domain (and just, like, ignored them, apparently) was informed about the expiration and decided that, yes, he would pay $12 to own Google.
His triumph lasted all of 60 seconds before he got an email that Google had canceled the order because, you know, Google owns Google Domains. The company offered to pay him for it anyway, but only in their “evil entity wearing a clown costume” way in the amount of $6,006.13, the closest they could come to numerically spelling “Google.” They doubled it when he said he would donate it to charity. And so, an organization that runs schools for poor children in India got a tidy sum, and Google learned their lesson.
Wait, no, the same thing happened in 2021 to Google Argentina. That guy didn’t even get a refund, probably because it wasn’t whimsical enough.