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What's in a Name?

DW staff / AFP, DPA (tt)January 23, 2007

Google, the world's biggest web-search engine, had its German Web site cut off from the internet early Tuesday, apparently after somebody reassigned the rights to its google.de address.

Computers displaying the Google search interface
Google is the world's leading web-search companyImage: AP

German surfers who tried to enter the German Google site on Tuesday morning landed instead on the unfinished Web site of a client of the small Internet hosting company Goneo, based in Wiesbaden in western Germany. The site crashed quickly under an avalanche of Web surfers.

"The problem was fixed in a short space of time," said Stefan Keuchel, a spokesman for the German branch of the US company, which earns most of its revenues from online advertising.

It remained unclear how nobody had noticed the unidentified hijacker when the domain -- the ownership of the Internet address -- was re-registered late Monday. Much of the process of registering Web addresses is automated. Domains often expire and go to new owners.

Rightful owners

A computer hacker sitting in front of a laptop
Whatever happened to Google?Image: AP

As of Tuesday, Google and its officers were once again registered as owner and contacts with Denic, the German agency that distributes all domains with the suffix ".de."

An online news service, Heise, said the hijack lasted about 12 hours, beginning Monday evening, and had resembled a 2004 attack in which an individual seized control of the Ebay domain.

Heise quoted Goneo's chief executive Marc Keilwerth saying one of his customers had used an automated ordering process and secured control of the google.de name as of 8.30 p.m. Monday German time. He apologized and said all applications would be checked in the future.

According to Heise, Goneo told Denic to undo the change, but somebody else then secured the rights instead of Google until about 9 a.m. Tuesday.