Shortly after domcomp was launched, we stumbled upon a copy-cat site! It looked, sounded, and smelt exactly like domcomp but of course it wasn't. The thieves cloned our price comparisons, pixel for pixel! On digging a bit deeper, we realised that the nefarious owners inserted their own referral links, hoping to leech off domcomps growing popularity. Just as we were weighing our options, the site vanished.
A few days ago, we noticed that domcomp was recieving a fair amount of traffic from a particular source. On inspection, we found that it was yet another clone site! Or so we thought.
Learning from last time, we first inspected the site's links. It appeared that our affiliate links had not been changed and so we'd still receive the commission from sales through this site. We assumed that these thieves had simply not got round to changing this yet. We decided to ignore the issue and get on with improving domcomp, we had new features in the pipeline and were busy. The copy-cat site was obscure and we hoped that it might, like the previous one , just disappear. Besides, until the owners change their links then domcomp would get some free traffic and sales.
A few days pass. Nothing.
Traffic was still steadily seeping in from the site. We checked again, the links had still not changed. By this point, we were confused (what were these guys up to?) but still not so worried to take any action.
A couple days later, whilst browsing Twitter, we came across a user promoting the copy-cat site which he claimed to be his own! The find was entirely by coincidence and we were more than a little surprised. The fact that this person was actively promoting the fake site caused us small degree of panic. He had (a lot) more Twitter followers than us. Where else was he promoting? Could he over take us on search engines? What if he ended up with our potential users?
What to do? We considered our options: Contact him? file a DMCA? Take legal action? Hire an assassin? We decided to try all of the above, in that order. Just as we were at the height of our hysteria, we checked the cloned site's source code. And broke down, laughing! What did we see? iframe. It turned out that this site was simply a transparent pass-through to our real www.domcomp.com. We immediately realised what was going on, though it will take a bit of explanation:
A few days prior, we had launched our referral program where our users could earn commission from domcomp. We provide users with a unique URL that landed on our main page, tracked sales made through these links and rewarded users accordingly. So back to this guy. What he did was actually to set up an entire site with the sole purpose of transparently linking to domcomp, but using his own referral link. This gave the effect of seeing domcomp content but his URL in the browser's URL bar that made us think the site was a copy. This way, he would earn comission from domcomp's referral program by promoting this dummy site.
On launching our referral programing, we definitely did not think about this use case. Rather, we assumed that participants would simply share their unique links on social media, blogs, forums etc, and most people have done, rather than constructing a whole site with the sole purpose of proxy-ing to our own, via his referral link! However, on reflection, we decided that this wasn't against any terms that we set out and, actually, this was pretty innovative, if not a little bizarre. We couldn't decide which side of genius or crazy this stood.
Though it turned out to be harmless, we did still contact this person to point out some issues with his site. Firstly, due to his iframe implementation, many of the links to providers did not work. This is due to some providers disabling access via iframes for security concerns. For the same reasons, the site actually looks like a phishing site! He has yet to respond.
So the moral of the story is... well, I'm not sure. It was just a funny and memerable experience so we thought we'd share it here!
Have a nice day!