things were not inclination in favor of Airbnb.
Online vacation rental market Airbnb recently failed to win a cybersquatting case to reclaim the premium domain name, Tilt.com, which was wrested from the company.
However, this is not a case where a registrant forgets to renew a domain name. The story behind this case actually involves a clever online thief who noticed a pretty big oversight on Airbnb’s part.
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In 2017, Airbnb acquired Tilt, a once-promising crowdfunding startup that was formerly called Crowdtilt. Airbnb’s acquisition of the company comes with two domain names: Tilt.com and Crowdtilt.com.
Fast forward to 2021. Earlier this year, the Crowdtilt.com domain sold on the secondary market for the domain name to an unknown buyer for over $17,000 after it expired.
Why did the domain name sell for so much? It could have had significant SEO value because of all the links and press mentions it received when Crowdtilt was a thriving tech startup. However, it looks like the buyer may have noticed something even more valuable: Airbnb didn’t update listing information for Tilt.com after it acquired the company.
As a domain industry blog DomainGang pointed out when the domain was first reported stolen over the summer, the email the domain name Tilt.com was attached to was [email protected]. By purchasing the Crowdtilt.com domain, the thief gained access to the “[email protected]Then they reset the registrar password in order to gain unauthorized control over Tilt.com.
In July 2021, the thief tried to sell Tilt.com to James Booth, a well-known domain name investor, in the secondary market.
It’s unclear how much the investor intended to spend on Tilt.com. A short four-letter dictionary word with a .com domain name could fetch top prizes. Remember, the thief apparently spent $17,000 on Crowdtilt.com in order to carry out the theft of Tilt.com.
The deal between the thief and the estate’s investor was nearly complete. The two parties went so far as to complete a transaction on Escrow.Domains, a third-party escrow service, before reports that the domain name was stolen from Airbnb spread.
Escrow services act as an intermediary between buyer and seller for large transactions. In a domain name registration, the seller would submit the domain name to the registration service before receiving money from the buyer. The transaction was so advanced that the law firm that operates Escrow.Domains now owns the domain Tilt.com.
According to the press point of the domain domain name thread, the company has been working since July to return the domain to Airbnb. However, there was a disagreement in the settlement between Airbnb and the law firm over legal fees related to the case.
So Airbnb filed a UDRP dispute against the lawyers in September. The UDRP is the official process for dealing with cases of cybersquatting by the Internet Society for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization established to govern the global domain name system.
But Airbnb lost the case because the UDRP is not set up to handle theft cases.
It looks like Airbnb will eventually take over Tilt.com. But this whole ordeal could have been avoided had he just renewed Crowdtilt.com or kept Tilt.com’s whois information up to date.
Moral of the story: Make sure you have control over the email address linked to your domain name.
Mashable has contacted Airbnb for comment and we’ll update this post if we receive a response.