Domain names on the Internet are like brands: Companies reserve site names for products long before those products hit the shelves. But on the Internet there’s a catch: Network Solutions Inc. of Herndon, Va., is the only company in the United States authorized to hand out non-governmental domains. This virtual monopoly power recently prompted the Department of Justice to launch an antitrust investigation. It also means that W ebheads who want a peek into the future can scan the firm’s InterNIC database to see what their favorite companies might be up to.

The InterNIC listing for Microsoft, for example, reveals three downright sinister domain names, registered just two weeks ago, that suggest the gang in Redmond know exactly where they want to go today, tomorrow, and forever:


These domains are all registered to Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Washington, but there is no content on them quite yet. And according to Microsoft, there never will be.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray was happy to explain the corporate stance on domain names: “We aquire and register domains that we intend to use and to communicate with customers.” When the MoJo Wire informed him that his company was listed as the owner o f the three foreboding domains in question, he claimed that an impostor had registered them, and that Microsoft would have them removed immediately. “What we’re seeing here is the Internet equivalent of throwing tomatoes at someone’s house.”

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has suffered the indignities of counterfeit domain names. In April, a Web entrepreneur named Danny Khoshnood threw a whole bushel of tomatoes at the Microsoft Network when he registered a slew of domains including “micr” Microsoft’s lawyers felt he was treading on copyright laws, and put an end to the misrepresentation with a firm request to knock it off or else. However, the lawyers didn’t say anything about relinquishing any of the domains, and Khoshn ood still holds about forty, attributed to an ownership entity called “Microsoft,” including:


Domain names like these — and the identities of their owners — can be viewed by anyone with the wits to do a whois search. To find out who owns a domain name, simply type it in. To find out what domai n names a company owns, just type in the company name — without a .com. The results are often illuminating, and occasionally just plain hilar ious.