On 4 November, Elon Musk’s X AI corporation announced the launch of their new artificial intelligence chatbot, ‘Grok’, named after a concept introduced in 1960 by author Robert Heinlein. Currently, the Grok product – which sources information from the content of postings on the X platform (formerly Twitter) – is only offering early access to verified users.
As is almost inevitably the case following a new brand launch – particularly one which appeals to the followers of the current online buzz surrounding AI products – the announcement was almost immediately followed by a flurry of brand-related domain registrations, many of which resolved to live websites incorporating other types of brand infringements. In addition, large numbers of pre-existing domains containing the Grok name also suddenly became considered ‘premium’ commodities, commanding high prices on the domain brokerage market. An article from two days after the launch of the brand stated that the Grok name had already been taken (as a second-level domain name; the part of the name to the left of the dot) across 162 different domain extensions (TLDs).
In this article, we take a deeper dive into the landscape, considering all domain names containing the Grok name (utilising wildcard, rather than just exact-match, searches), based on an analysis carried out five days after the brand launch (09-Nov-2023).
As of 9 November, the analysis found over 5,700 domains containing ‘grok’, including pre-existing registrations. Of these, over 3,100 featured the brand name at the start – i.e. the domains most likely to be relevant to the brand, and excluding ‘false positives’ such as ‘agrokemical’, etc. Significant numbers of these also contained high-relevance keywords relating to AI or Web3 concepts, with common terms including ‘ai’, ‘bot’, ‘gpt’, ‘chain’, ‘coin’ and ‘token’. Of the 1,292 domains beginning with ‘grok’ and registered in 2023, 1,078 (83%) were registered in the five-day period between 4 and 8 November (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Daily numbers of registrations of domains beginning with ‘grok’, since the start of October 2023
360 such domains were registered on 5 November; prior to one day earlier, the previous highest daily number of registrations during 2023 had been five. Even the apparent end of the ‘spike’ after 6 November may be an artefact caused by the fact that there is sometimes a delay of up to a few days between the registration of the domains and their addition to the respective zone file, so some of the most recent registrations may not be reflected in the analysis.
Overall, the peak in activity immediately following the launch is unsurprising, and follows similar trends seen previously for many other brand launches and news stories, where bad actors take advantage of the emerging brand ‘buzz’ to construct related infringements, carry out fraud, and misdirect web users to their own content.
Amongst the approximately 360 ‘grok’ domains which also contain keywords deemed to be high relevance were a wide range already resolving to live website content, as of the date of analysis. Many of these had been monetised through the inclusion of pay-per-click links or resolved to pages explicitly offering the domain names for sale. Several of these were asking prices of several thousand dollars, with some of the most expensive including groknfts[.]com ($109k), grokcloud[.]com ($500k), and grokcoins[.]com ($889k). Within the set of other live websites, one of the most common themes was cryptocurrency-related content (e.g. sites offering AI-powered cryptocurrency exchanges or offering users the purported opportunity to ‘invest’ in Grok-related currencies) (see Figure 2). Overall, over 20 distinct sites relating to cryptocurrency were already found to be live within the dataset, many of which were making use of xAI branding. Many of these were hosted on ‘niche’ new-gTLD extensions (including .app, .live, .site, .space, .tech, .top, .vip, and .world), many of which have been noted previously as being popular with infringers,.
Figure 2: Examples of cryptocurrency-related sites (potential fraud and/or infringements) hosted on ‘grok’ domains
Other examples of sites of potential concern include those which are themselves purporting to offer AI products (either Grok or otherwise) (Figure 3), and others distributing malware (Figure 4), offering Grok downloads, providing information on the product, and a smaller number of other instances of uses of the same brand name by what appear to be unrelated third parties.
Figure 3: Examples of websites hosted on ‘grok’ domains and offering their own AI products
Figure 4: An example of a malware site hosted on a ‘grok’ domain
Looking also specifically at the blockchain domain ecosystem (Web3 domains based on the same underlying technology as cryptocurrencies, and providing potential for the construction of decentralised websites), the analysis on 9 November found that 25 .eth blockchain domains containing ‘grok’ had been registered via the ENS provider in the previous 30-day period, all of which had been registered since 5 November (many of which also contained crypto-related keywords). As of the date of analysis, none were found to resolve to any live website content, though they do present clear potential for fraudulent use in the future.
This analysis highlights the speed with which infringements can spring up following a high-profile brand launch, and shows the importance of a proactive programme of monitoring and enforcement for brand owners. The findings also provide a sobering illustration of the importance of general Internet users being wary of online content, particularly where it relates to new and potentially unfamiliar brands.
 Analysis is carried out using zone-file data from ICANN’s Centralized Zone Data Service (https://czds.icann.org/), covering over 1,000 gTLD extensions. All results were obtained using the versions of the zone files downloaded on 09-Nov-2023.
 Considering the set for which domain creation dates were available from an automated whois look-up
 ‘Brand Protection in 2023: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities: Developments in Web3, AI and new-gTLDs’, forthcoming webinar