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Cum to Fresno

Fresno, Ca- A Web site meant to lure high-tech industries to Fresno now serves as a gateway to hundreds of pornographic images.

Choosefresno.com was launched in October 2004 by the Economic Development Corp. serving Fresno County, a private nonprofit organization, as part of an advertising campaign designed to persuade high-tech companies and workers in the Bay Area to move to Fresno.

But after the EDC failed to renew its ownership of the address, choosefresno.com was purchased Dec. 6 by a man in the United Kingdom who relaunched it as an adult site.

On Friday, officials at the EDC said they were unaware of the ownership change. They said the Choose Fresno advertising campaign was still active, but they weren’t sure whether materials used in the campaign still featured the choosefresno.com address.

“I would hope not, but I can’t say for sure,” said Kent Karsevar, vice president of membership and marketing for the EDC.

Both Karsevar and Steve Geil, president and chief executive officer for the EDC, are new to their jobs. Karsevar, who has been at the EDC less than a year, said he was not aware of the Web site until Friday. Geil, a former member of the board of directors for the EDC, took over as CEO after David Spaur announced his resignation in November.

Spaur said that throughout the campaign, the Web site generated very little traffic.

“Overall, the campaign has done very well; we got a lot of phone calls and a lot of interest from workers. But we didn’t get very many hits on the site,” Spaur said.

Attempts on Friday to reach the new owner of the domain by e-mail were unsuccessful.

News of the name change came on fresnofamous.com, which linked to a posting by blogger Mark Kraft of Santa Clara. Fresnofamous.com is an alternative news and opinion site owned by The Bee.

In an e-mail to The Bee on Friday, Kraft said the incident shows that businesses need to pay attention to their Web presence.

“I think the issue of what happens to old domain names like choosefresno.com is interesting and unintentionally amusing,” he said. “People buy used domain names for sex-oriented Web sites based on site traffic, and no Web site is really exempt from this, unless the owners choose to renew the Web site in perpetuity.”

Ben Butler, network abuse manager for godaddy.com, the company that transferred ownership of the domain name, said this isn’t the first time a Web site established for one use has been taken over by other users.

Butler said that in recent years, his industry has established safety nets to help companies maintain their domain names, which include sending multiple notices that the domain name is about to expire, both before and after the site is taken off the Internet.

Butler said the best thing a business can do is make sure its contact information is correct, so that a company such as godaddy.com can reach it before its domain name is sold. Butler said renewing a domain name typically costs less than $9 a year, depending on how long the renewal contract will last.

Spaur didn’t know who at the EDC would have been responsible for renewing the domain name. The employee who started the site left the EDC, Spaur said.

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