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Beginning today, the Kamusi Project will undertake a slow transition to our new domain name: Kamusi.org - "kamusi," of course, is the Swahili word for "dictionary." We moved the project from its university incubator to a stand-alone site a little over a year ago. At the time, kamusiproject.org was the only reasonable domain name that was available. Kamusi.com was taken, kamusi.org was taken, and even kamusiproject.com was already owned by someone else!
We registered the name kamusiproject.org and got to work with more important things, like getting the project set up on its new server. We also wrote to the owners of kamusiproject.com and asked for them to give us that domain. Kamusiproject.com was owned by a cybersquatter, a company that registers thousands of domain names hoping that someone will come along and pay them for the name. However, because the Kamusi Project was the clear legal owner of the service mark "kamusiproject", the company handed over the name at no charge. We never announced that we own kamusiproject.com, but people who accidentally type .com instead of .org when they are looking for the site are gently redirected to the right place.
What about kamusi.org and kamusi.com? Kamusi.org led to a real site, in Japanese, that seemed to have something to do with the Swahili language. We did not wish to interrupt fellow Swahili lovers in developing their site, so we did not ask them if they would give up their domain name. Kamusi.com was clearly owned by another cybersquatter. We decided to just stick with the kamusiproject domain names and move on.
Last month our technical lead, PK, had the bright idea of running the Japanese text of kamusi.org through Google Translate. It turned out that the Japanese site basically said, "We are really interested in Swahili and dictionaries, and would welcome any help in making this site useful." PK wrote to their address, and we soon received a friendly reply from the site owner, Kazuya Shimada. Kazuya was a long-time user of the Kamusi Project, and he was quite willing to transfer the name. In exchange, we offered him his choice of goodies from the Kamusi Project Duka. This sounded like a fair trade to him - so the brand new Twiga Tote Bag that he selected is already on its way to Japan, with our sincere thanks and appreciation.
I am happy to report that the kamusi.org domain name transfer is now complete! As of today, you can use the short name "kamusi.org" to access and move around in the site. The old name will also remain active, and you might find "kamusiproject.org" in various site pages for some time to come - we have tens of thousands of pages, and a complicated server structure, so the complete transition will take many months. But the important part - having kamusi.org available to welcome our guests - now works perfectly.
This leaves the question of kamusi.com. We don't really need that name, because we will continue to exist as a non-profit ".org" instead of a commercial ".com", but ownership of the kamusi.com domain name would be a friendly service to our users. Well, there's a funny story...
Kamusi.com is listed as belonging to a company called "Domains by Proxy." PK wrote to their address at the same time he wrote to Kazuya, but he never got a reply. After Kazuya wrote back, I thought I would give a call to Domains by Proxy. The man who answered the phone, who was quite pleasant, told me that Domains by Proxy is a holding company that exists to hide the real owners of a domain name. If the owners didn't want to reply to our email, he said there was no way he could get in touch with them on our behalf. However, he noted that the "registrar" for the account, the company that actually routes their traffic to the internet, is a big corporation called GoDaddy that specializes in domain names. He told me that GoDaddy has something called their "Domain Buy Service", through which you pay GoDaddy a fee and they promise to do everything in their power to find the actual owner of a domain name and make a bid for it on your behalf. There are no guarantees that they will actually succeed in getting you the name at a price you can afford, but they will at least make the effort and pocket the fee.
I reported this back to PK, who observed that it was just possible that GoDaddy was the actual owner of the name kamusi.com. Nah, I thought, they are such a friendly and above-board company - in fact, we use them as the registrar for the domain names we already own. But PK's comment nagged at me. I looked a little more at Domains by Proxy, and saw that they own more than 7 million domain names, so they are definitely a major player in the cybersquatting market, meaning they must have substantial corporate muscle behind them. Then I looked at their phone number: (480) 624-2599. What do those random 10 digits say? Not much, until you look at the phone number for GoDaddy's Domain Buy Service: (480) 624-2515. Those numbers are far too close - in all likelihood, they are served by the same switchboard, ringing at phones in the same building. So, GoDaddy owns kamusi.com, and they want us to pay them a lot of money to get the name.
Even if we had the money, we wouldn't fritter it away trying to get the domain name. After all, we just want it as a courtesy to visitors who can't quite remember the .org address - users would never actually see ".com" on any of our pages. However, it would be a helpful thing to have. So, we will continue trying to make contact, and see if GoDaddy would be so kind as to transfer the name to us. I don't hold out much hope, but you never know - and if they do, we'll be happy to send them a tote bag!