NWS Domain Names and NOAA Groupthink

After being alerted by a manager to some deceptive use of the domain “nationalweatherservice.com”, I decided to check on this myself.

See, the National Weather Service brass in power during the mid 90s never had the foresight and/or Internet savvy to buy up the domain names for itself. One long-time meteorologist informed me that he and one of the other pioneer webmasters in NWS tried to convince his superiors to grab these domains back around 1996, and were scoffed aside. Presented below are the results. It’s messy. And I’ve only examined variations of the entire word “nationalweatherservice”.

nationalweatherservice.org – No website (anymore). Owned by AccuWeather, a private weather company out of State College, PA, which portrays itself as a victim of, and behaves as a merciless competitor to, the NWS. Formerly displayed AccuWeather pages, presently empty. The handy site archive.org originally grabbed many examples of AccuWeather’s hijacking of the NWS name in this manner, however only a few on that list are available at this time. The reason: AccuWeather has employed a bot called robots.txt that a web operator can use to exclude automated systems from crawling their sites. Here’s the publicly available full text of AccuWeather’s robots.txt file, courtesy of archive.org:

    # /robots.txt file for http://www.accuweather.com/
    # last updated 4/11/00 by jf
    # “We are the robots[.txt]” –Kraftwerk

    # Keep away from everybody
    User-agent: *

    Disallow: /mib/area51

What are they trying to hide? A directory called “area51″…what’s the deal with that? And why would AccuWeather ever want to snatch a domain with the name of the National Weather Service included to begin with? Just what are those people up to anyway? Lots of questions.

Here is the status of some of the other variations on the NWS brand, some hijacked, some not.

nationalweatherservice.biz – Vacant.

nationalweatherservice.com – Redirects you to “nationalweather.com” and displays a lame, worthless, text only “weather” page comprised of advertising links, links to ad links, and links to links to ad links. Owned by FABULOUS.COM PTY LTD., a Vietnamese domain broker also doing business as FIG Vietnam.

nationalweatherservices.com – Also displays a lame, worthless, mostly text “weather” page comprised of advertising links, links to ad links, and links to links to ad links. Owned by The Registry at Info Avenue D/B/A IA Registry, also doing business as Ventures Inc. out of Hong Kong.

nationalweatherservice.net – Gives no website. Owned by an entity called ENOM, Inc., which apparently deals in domain names.

nationalweatherservice.us – A page for something called “Consumer Information Center” with tips on heat safety and such. Provides a disclaimer and link to the real NWS in very small print at the bottom of the page. Owned by some outfit called Wild West Domains, also doing business as Webtrading LLC, out of Phoenix.

nationalweatherservice.info – Document contains no data. Registered to an individual using the name Charles Christopher, of “Salt Lake Citry” (sic). A “whois” search also reveals several comment lines reading “Our domains are NOT for sale,” or a misspelled variant thereof. What’s up with that?

All these inauthentic and misleading domain representations can’t help the weather information seeker who is not particularly computer savvy.

Of note, NOAA (NWS’ parent) has bought up variations of the “noaa.___” domains. Is their failure to do so for NWS part of a larger strategy of NWS brand dilution and elimination already manifest in other ways, as documented by my BLOGging pal bc and by my NWSEO union? Will the Orwellian “One NOAA” groupthink lead to the elimination of any identity for your National Weather Service? I don’t know the answers, but the questions must be asked. Time will tell.



Comments

One Response to “NWS Domain Names and NOAA Groupthink”

  1. Anonymous on August 23rd, 2007 5:41 am

    DOJ Snooping on Li’l Ol’ Me?

    According to my activity log for 22 Aug 2007, the domain 149.101.1.129 of the US Dept. of Justice ran a search for “accuweather” on the Weather or Not BLOG at about 1525 EDT (Washington time). Make of it what you will.

    ===== Roger =====

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