Don’t Use Network Solutions To Search For Domain Names

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, January 14, 2008 at 03:28 PM with 7 comments

Please do not use the Network Solutions Web site to search for available domain names! If you do you may lose the ability to purchase the domain name - allow me to explain.

There are two extreme schools of thoughts on keeping customers. One is by providing an excellent product and service with a strong customer focus. The other is to lock in customers with restrictive practices and contracts, making it prohibitive for customers to leave or go elsewhere. In the competitive market of domain name registrations, Network Solutions (NS) is using the latter to get customers to register domain names with them.

When a person, company or entity desires to register a domain name or names, they search the WHOIS database which contains all registered domain names and registry information, including the owner, contacts and domain name servers among other data. If you do a search on the database for a particular name and it is not found, then the name is available to be registered new. Many domain name registrars and other third-party services offer a gateway to the WHOIS database. Unfortunately some of them track what names are searched upon and can use this information to register a domain name before the person searching on the name actually registers it themselves. This is called domain name front running, and though not technically illegal, it crosses many other ethical barriers.

Last week, it was reported by many domain name blogs and journals including Domain Name News and CircleID that NS was engaging in front running. If someone searched for a domain name on NS’s Web site and it was available to be registered, NS was actually registering the domain name and holding it for up to 4 days. You could proceed to buy it from NS for their inflated prices of $34.95, but you could not purchase it from any other registrar until it was released by NS. At first they were displaying a Web page saying the name was for sale, and this morphed into another form until not displaying anything for a domain name that has fallen prey to NS’s tactics.

I tried this myself last week and again today and they are still front running domain names. In my example I used the domain name thehotironisthebestestever.com – one that was never previously registered. Once I did so, I checked within minutes at DomainTools (a domain name search site that does not record searches) and GoDaddy.com and the domain name was listed as being registered to “This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com” and was unavailable, except if I searched for it and purchased it at NS. I did so again today, and you can see the WHOIS data on DomainTools.

As many people search on a domain name at one time and register it later, this causes great confusion, especially when NS’s site does not say they are committing front running and the domain name will be available in a few days. The bottom line is to avoid Network Solutions altogether – there are better WHOIS search interfaces such as DomainTools and other registrars that charge much less for domain names. Even for my own consulting business Dunkirk Systems, as we actively manage domain names for clients, we don’t charge that much either!

Though NS is one of the, if not the, oldest domain name registrar, they have lost touch with how domain name registrations cost and are handled today. Sure, they may gain some customers this way, but what's left of their reputation has been damaged and neutral opinions of them have shifted to negative.

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