Google’s entire web presence in Argentina was last week briefly redirected to the website of a 30-year-old designer who bought the company’s domain name for just £2.
Nicolas Kuroña, a resident of Buenos Aires, says he noticed that the company’s services were down when he began receiving messages from friends on WhatsApp. But rather than doing what many would have, and shrugging before returning to work – or taking the outage as a sign to have a tea break – he headed to the Argentinian domain name registry, NIC Argentina, to see if he could work out the cause.
There, he says, a search for Google’s URL, google.com.ar, revealed that the domain name was available for the low price of 270 pesos – £2.09.
“The domain expired, I was able to buy it legally,” he tweeted that evening, as other Argentine web users began to spot his name on the new records. “I have the purchase invoice, so I’m calm.”
“When the purchase process was completed and my data appeared, I knew that something was going to happen … I was really anxious,” he told the BBC later. “I could not believe what had just happened.”
“I want to make it clear that I never had any bad intentions,” he added. “I just tried to buy it and the NIC allowed me to.”
“Domain squatting”, the practice of buying up domain names for no reason other than their desirability to others, is a fairly common practice, and many countries have put in place policies to ensure that the rightful owner of the domain name can claim it for free. But the Argentinian case is unusual, since Google’s domain name shouldn’t have been up for sale at all: its licence was not due to expire until July this year.
Even so, Kuroña hasn’t been able to keep the domain name he briefly held. It was transferred back to Google’s control shortly after he registered it – with no refund of the 270 peso fee.
Google has been contacted for comment.