Domain Name Wire

Domain Name Wire

  • Network Solutions Faces PR Nightmare Over Domain FrontRunning

    1. BY - Jan 08, 2008
    2. Policy & Law
    3. 33 Comments

    Domain registrar locks domains searched on its site.

    [Update: see Editorial: Where Network Solutions Went Wrong] Network Solutions has implemented a program that locks users from registering domains with other registrars. According to the company, it’s goal is to keep criminals from “frontrunning” domains searched at its site.

    Here’s the deal, as reported at DomainState and a couple blogs: If you try to register a domain at Network Solutions, but decide not to register it, you won’t be able to register it anywhere else. Network Solutions registers the domain in its company name with the words “This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com”. If you return to Network Solutions you can register it, but otherwise you’re out of luck.

    This may be a form of domain frontrunning, in which a registrar screens name availability searches and buys domain for itself based on these. Ironically, Network Solutions says they are actually trying to protect their customers from domain frontrunning with this service.

    I just got off the phone with Susan Wade, who heads PR for Network Solutions.

    “This is a customer protection measure to protect customers from frontrunners,” said Wade. “After four days, we release the domain.” According to Wade, Network Solutions instituted this program as a test over the past few weeks. I asked if Network Solutions is actually acting as a frontrunner by doing this and she said there’s a distinction. First, they are not monetizing the domains. Second, they have no intention of keeping the domains. All domains are released after the four day period.

    With regards to monetization, it appears that Network Solutions isn’t putting pay-per-click ads on the domains, but is creating an ad for their own company at each domain it reserves:

    Network solutions

    I’m not sure there’s a distinction between pay-per-click ads and these billboards, other than the lack of trademark infringement on a URL. However, if you search for a competitor’s name then it would be trademark infringement. For example, I just searched for DotsterDomainNames.com and RegisteratGoDaddy.com. You will now see an ad for Network Solutions at these domains. [Update: In part due to this article, Network Solutions has since changed its parked page to ‘under construction’, and soon they will not resolve at all.]

    According to Wade, Network Solutions believes the frontrunning problem is occuring somewhere between when domains are searched at a registrar and when the registry VeriSign (NASDAQ: VRSN) is pinged. Someone is selling the data, she says, and Network Solutions has implemented this solution to stop it. Network Solutions will not release the domain if you request, and anyone who visits the domain or Network Solutions can register it. This seems to create a new opportunity for frontrunners: just monitor NetSol’s reserve domain DNS for new domains and register anything its customers are searching for. (Pssst. If you want to spy on NetSol customer domain checks, see comment #8 below.)

    Domainers are starting to have fun with Network Solutions’ new program. I tested this with a Dell trademark, since Dell is a member of CADNA (an organization fighting domain trademark infringement). I searched at NetSol for “DellisaTrademark.com”. Sure enough, the domain was reserved. And a whois search at Netsol reveals:

    Registrant: Make this info private
    This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com
    13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300
    HERNDON, VA 20171
    US

    Domain Name: DELLISATRADEMARK.COM

    This Domain is Available
    600,000 domain names are registered daily! Don’t delay; there’s no guarantee that a domain name you see today will still be here tomorrow!

    Register it Now

    Administrative Contact :
    Network Solutions, LLC
    domainsupport@networksolutions.com
    13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300
    HERNDON, VA 20171
    US
    Phone: 1-888-642-9675
    Fax: 571-434-4620

    Technical Contact :
    Network Solutions, LLC
    domainsupport@networksolutions.com
    13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300
    HERNDON, VA 20171
    US
    Phone: 1-888-642-9675
    Fax: 571-434-4620

    Record expires on 08-Jan-2009
    Record created on 08-Jan-2008
    Database last updated on 08-Jan-2008

    Domain servers in listed order: Manage DNS

    ns1.reserveddomainname.com 205.178.190.55
    ns2.reserveddomainname.com 205.178.189.55

    Show underlying registry data for this record

    If Network Solutions doesn’t stop this practice immediately, they are guaranteed of lawsuit in the near future. And ICANN will certainly get around to investigating it eventually

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