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Why Has Apple Been Registering Nonsense Domain Names For The Last Year?

Apple owns a bunch of obscure, new and unused domain names, including iPhone.guru, retina.camera and facetime.photography. At least these domains sound like they have a purpose, but the Cupertino company is also doing something a lot weirder. Since March last year, Apple has been registering utterly random domain names and then cancelling them a few days later.

Internet marketer Bill Hartzer stumbled on the odd domains, which he calls “nonsensical”. He’s found a total of 26 domains registered by CSC Global, a third-party brand protection and domain name management service, on behalf of Apple’s US headquarters.

The domains have completely indecipherable Web addresses that seem to be randomly generated, like hs76ksgxebfh2md.com and ntcfiniplfbresibfjnuszrnmyfisc.net and wiclcpmnonvco.info. One particular address, trollqtkhoverlaysbynk.biz (perhaps not coincidentally the closest to English, with the words ‘troll’, ‘hover’ and ‘lays’ in it), was deleted after Hartzer found it and subsequently re-registered.

All the Apple-owned Web addresses use Amazon cloud hosting, rather than Apple’s own in-house hardware. This points to it being a test run for a larger, more scalable service for Apple customers rather than a corporate site. What could this be? It’s possible Apple is testing some kind of one-click website creation service for hosting iCloud content publicly. It could also tie-in with Apple’s recent purchase of a wide range of .camera and .photography top-level domains (and .guru, too).

The random nature of the domain names also points to this being an entirely automated process — something run in the background by a server script. If this is the case, someone might have just forgotten to disable it after whatever tests they were using it for. For the time being, every nonsensical Apple domain points to its own Amazon Linux AMI image sitting on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud — a network of remote servers, each with its own processing power and database capacity (as opposed to Amazon S3, which is storage only).

Imagine an Apple service where with a couple of clicks, you could set up your iPhone or iPad or Mac to share photos directly to a website that your friends could visit. Of course, it’s also entirely possible that someone within Apple is running some completely abstract tests. Or someone is using Apple’s $159 billion cash reserve to muck around on the Internet.

In any case, it’s very weird, and slightly unsettling. I just hope the Apple robots are gentle overlords. [Bill Hartzer]


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