Google has removed over 11 million .co.cc websites from its search engine results pages on the basis that most of them are far too "spammy".
The .co.cc space is not an officially authorised second-level domain like .co.uk or .com.au. Rather, it's offered independently by a Korean company (http://co.cc/) that just happens to own the domain name .co.cc.
Google classes the firm as a "freehost", and has exercised its right to block the whole domain "if we see a very large fraction of sites on a specific freehost are spammy or low-quality", according to Matt Cutts, head of Google's web spam team.
The company said in a recent blog post: "To help protect users we recently modified those [malware-scanning] systems to identify bulk subdomain services which are being abused. In some severe cases our systems may now flag the whole bulk domain."
According to a recent report (29-page PDF/2MB) from the Anti-Phishing Working Group, the .cc top-level domain hosted 4,963 phishing attacks in the second half of 2010, almost twice the number found under any other extension.
That was due to a large number of attacks originating from .co.cc addresses, the APWG said.
The .co.cc "registry" offers single sub-domains for free, and enables customers to bulk-register 15,000 addresses at a time for a mere $1,000, or about seven cents a name.
The company claims to have 11,383,736 registered domains and 5,731,278 user accounts. That would make it one of the largest domain extensions in the world, bigger than both .org and .uk by over two million domains.
The .cc top-level domain belongs to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a small Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Regular .cc websites are unaffected by Google's changes. ®