If you've struggled with weight loss, it's possible a doctor may have prescribed you the drug phentermine.
It comes from the amphetamine family (its name is a composite of phenyl-tertiary-butylamine) and therefore is a Class IV controlled substance, putting it in the same league as Xanax, Valium and chloral hydrate, the stuff someone's always putting in James Bond's drinks to knock him out. No controlled substance prescription, no phentermine for you.
Remember the fen-phen scare from the 1990s? The combo of fenfluramine and phentermine may have helped some people lose weight, but it also gave them heart attacks, and litigation costs are still running into the gazillions.
However, you'd never know that looking at the Web. Top among Google's organic results for a search on "phentermine" is the Web site Phentermine.com, which doesn't tell you the kind of stuff I just told you. The site is blind-registered (never a good sign -- it means someone's hiding their identity) through ENOM, and the site gives you all sorts of prompts to buy phentermine online without a prescription.
That's not the real problem, though. Look around a bit on the Web and you'll find sites hawking phentremine, phentarmine, phentirimine and just about any other spelling variation you come up with. (Whoever's trying to sell phentremine, by the way, is at least on the right track, since that's one of the drug's many actual trade names).
What's going on here? Surely if someone tried to create Web sites called vicodin.com, vicodini.com, and vico-vico.com and used them to sell variations on the real thing, at least there'd be lawsuits flyin', right?
The bottom line: Unscrupulous marketers are trying to confuse you. You could even say defraud you, but you would find yourself in an argument within the Internet domain name community, where long-standing feuds rage between a number of parties -- trademark holders and their lawyers, free speech advocates, small business owners, probably loan modification specialists if you looked hard enough.
But there's also a group of people who make a fortune engaging in this kind of activity. They're called domainers, and they're defensive about their source of income. You can get the picture from this trade publication about the controversy that ensued when Wikipedia redirected searches for "domaining" and "domainers" to "typosquatting," and a reference by the Los Angeles Times to domain speculation as a "shady world."
Is it? Not according to Philip Corwin, legal counsel for the domaining industry's lobby group, the Internet Commerce Association. If you'd like to see where the ICC comes down on all of this, wade through this transcript from the most recent face-to-face meeting of the registration abuse policy working group convened by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in Sydney, Australia, in July.
Note also the working group, chartered to, among other things, define domain registration abuse, is populated significantly by interests that make money from domain registrations -- including the founder of ENOM and one of its top executives.
Corwin argued at one point that some consumers find a value in parked pages, which are also called "link farms." (Full disclosure: As a member of ICANN's at-large community, representing user interests, I'm also in the group).
Of course, people who make money domaining or representing them in Washington are going to make those kinds of arguments. They're ridiculous. Most consumers I've talked to think these kinds of pages junk up the Internet at least, and drastically confuse consumers at worst.
Like this one, for instance, which you get if you misspell the popular drug Cialis in your browser. Note the helpful informative links – five, count 'em! -- to phentermine pay-per-click pages. There's another link for tramadol, a synthetic opiate pain killer known for a vicodin-like high without the brain fog, and an unexpected candidate for abuse.
Let's try another – here's something you might get when you mistype the name of a TV-hyped antidepressant in your browser. Kind of looks like a real Web site, right? This one's owned by Compana LLC, which has spent a fair amount of time in courts around the world facing typosquatting accusations (and recently took one to the highest authority, and won).
Unfortunately, on this harmless "parked page," you're one click away from a bogus Rachael Ray diet products "blog" -- Yummo!
So get involved. If you have an opinion on this topic, make yourself known at the least to ICANN's registration abuse panel. It needs some balanced voices from people who have to wade through the junk-laden Web every day.
Note: Parts of this column are adapted from a panel presentation given at the 35th ICANN meeting in June in Sydney, Australia.
Phentermine, Phentarmine, Phentirimine: Trust no one