Network Solutions Sued For Front-Running Domain Names

Earlier this year we noted that Network Solutions is “front running” domain names—that is, automatically purchasing domain names that customers search for and holding them for four days before releasing them again. During that period, the only way customers can buy the domain names is through Network Solutions for 3 to 5 times more than what you can pay elsewhere. Now “search engine expert” Chris McElroy has filed suit against them, named ICANN as a defendant, and is seeking class action status.

Network Solutions is sticking by its story that its domain holding program is intended to combat front running, rather than just opportunistically finding a way to grab a piece of the front running pie. In a suspiciously pro-Network Solutions article in Direct Magazine, a spokesperson explains their position:

What Network Solutions is doing is registering the names for a four-day period to avoid having these unscrupulous operators start a series of rolling four-day periods in which they monopolize desirable or high-traffic domain names without having to pay for them. “Likewise, we’re not placing any advertisements on these domains to monetize their traffic while they are in the reservation period,” Wade said.

Well sure, you don’t need to monetize the traffic when you’re charging $35 to register it.

“Network Solutions Taken to Court for Domain Name Tasting” [DailyTech]
“Network Solutions Targeted In Class Action Over Domain Name Sales” [Direct]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. sickofthis says:

    I don’t understand why people search for domain names at Network Solutions when they have no intention of buying there. I know GoDaddy’s domain name search is every bit as good as NetSol’s, and AFAIK they are not locking up the names like NetSol is. So just search there.

    NetSol is scum, but the solution to this is to search for domain names somewhere else. Even a WHOIS search will tell you whether a name is registered.

  2. John Whorfin says:

    I wouldn’t be suprised if GoDaddy is guilty of this as well.

  3. Chongo says:

    @tmccartney: while *I* know what you are saying and agree with you, I would say most people do not.

    I know many people who just type “domain registration” into search engines and go from there.

  4. midwestkel says:

    GoDaddy have done it in the past also. I dont know why you would use GoDaddy or Network Solutions, they are like the Best Buy and Comcast of the web hosting world.

  5. IndyJaws says:

    I’ve been looking to reserve a domain name. If GoDaddy and Network Solutions are bad, with whom should I go? Open for suggestions.

  6. APFPilot says:

    Does anyone know of a reliable place to get an idea of what a domain name is worth?

  7. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    @IndyJaws: Yahoo! has them for $10/year. I’ve used them in the past and they’re pretty good.

  8. Eilonwynn says:

    @IndyJaws: I use a small company in michigan called vervehosting – they’ve always been kind and attentive. They do domain registrations as well as hosting, and they’re inexpensive for what I’m doing.

  9. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Yes, GoDaddy is guilty of domain tasting also. Of course they totally deny it.

    The lesson here is, come up with a list of domains you’re interested in. Then check if any are available. If any of them are available. BUY IT IMMEDIATELY! Don’t wait and think about it. Because by the time you decide you want the domain after all, it’s probably already been registered by an automated script.

    @IndyJaws:
    I just bought a domain last month through Yahoo Domains. The process was painless, and my domain was active in less than an hour. They’re having a promo where it’s $2 for the first year, and $10 a year afterwards. I kinda wish they offered Whois privacy for free. But I went ahead and bought that too. The only drawback to registering with Yahoo (so far), is that the actual registrar is located in Australia. So if you have questions or technical issues, it can take at least 24 hours to get an e-mail reply.

    I’ve also heard that 1and1 is another registrar worth considering. I believe they’re in the UK.

  10. IphtashuFitz says:

    @IndyJaws: I used domainspricedright.com for two domains I own and another that I manage. I used them because it’s the partner site of domainsbyproxy.com, which lets you keep your personal information confidential. I don’t like the idea of my home address & phone number being listed in the domain registrations, so domainsbyproxy hides it for you.

  11. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    We use GoDaddy, Register.com, and Yahoo. GoDaddy is the cheapest but not for the feint of heart. They are a minefield of asking for more $$ for every little thing they do. I think Register.com is the easiest but not cheapest. And they will call you every day for a month before your domains need registered. Yahoo! is probably your best bet. Easy to use. $10 a year.

  12. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Use a website called bustaname.com for name availability. It rocks.

  13. Coelacanth says:

    Sometimes I do domain name searches on Network Solutions out of habit. At least when I started getting into web development, they were the only direct registrar.

  14. Coelacanth says:

    Speaking of hassle-free cheap domain names, I’ve used http://www.namecheap.com quite happily for many years and never had any problems with them.

  15. ldavis480 says:

    Folks, don’t use registrars’ web sites for domain RWHOIS requests, use a whois client. I don’t know what there is available for Windows users, but for those who use Linux or a variant of UNIX, I recommend using the GeekTools proxy (it’s free):

    $ whois -h whois.geektools.com domain.com

    You can also substitute the domain an IP address, ccTLD suffixed domains, gTLD suffixed domains, NIC handles, etc.

  16. Propaniac says:

    In response to the “I don’t know why ANYONE would use these inferior websites” comments: because they haven’t happened to stumble across an article like this one telling them why they shouldn’t! The average person thinking of registering a domain name isn’t going to do research just to find out which site he should use to tell whether a domain name is available, let alone actually registering it.

    Those condescending “I just simply cannot fathom this bizarre, irrational behavior” comments get really annoying.

  17. jtheletter says:

    I’ve used 1and1 to register a couple domains and it’s always been zero hassle with them and it was only $6.95 to register a domain for a year. Unlike Godaddy their site doesn’t look like an advertising server barfed all over the page. I also use a different hosting provider and 1and1 was no problem redirecting to my host.

  18. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    Personally, I use MagicRegister.com

  19. Buran says:

    @jtheletter: I registered with godaddy (the upsells ARE really annoying and having to bypass them is annoying) but I host elsewhere, and DNS for my domain is handled through zoneedit.com. Don’t know if I want to bother transferring it or not since all I use the registrar for is handling the registration. At the time I got the domain, godaddy was the place that got recommended a lot; now they seem to be hated. Go figure.

  20. surgesilk says:

    Its not actually tasting or front running (in its scummiest form)…its hijacking. NS is registering the domains but they are still offering them for sale…but only to people who purchase thru NS. They are still scum.

  21. clevershark says:

    Reminds me of SiteFinder, a service that Verisign/Netsol tried to force on everyone by abusing their position as custodian of the .com TLD back in 2003.

  22. ezacharyk says:

    I use Godaddy for my domain registration. I have never hada problem with them. Sure they try to upsell you, but that is fairly easy to bypass. I have handled domains through them for three years now and have never been hurt by them.

    I host my sites elsewhere. I am not particularly fond of their service plans. I prefer something close to home and easily available for support.

  23. MercuryPDX says:

    @BloggyMcBlogBlog: I know AOL was also “selling” domains, but AOL retained ownership of it so it’s actually closer to renting. In the event you wanted to transfer it to another registrar (with a cheaper renewal rate or better domain tools for free), you couldn’t.

    Can you confirm that Yahoo is not doing the same thing?
    ——————————————-

    I used to work for a registrar (that I cannot name and will not endorse), and want to also warn people that your choice of registrar is important. You want to pick a stable company with a good reputation so you don’t wind up in a mess like what happened at Registerfly.com. In a nutshell, their actions caused thousands of domain names to “go back into the pool” and get bought by someone else despite taking money from the original owners for renewals, as well as a host of other fraudulent activities. When ICANN finally stepped in it was too little, too late for some and all the remaining domains were transferred to Godaddy.

    Affiliate programs make it even harder to discern who your are buying your domain from. “Joe Blow” can set up a storefront and sell domains for NetSol, GoDaddy, or any other company that uses Domain Tasting to hold the domain names you search for in their tool as hostage.

    You can perform a Whois search with relative safety at the registry in control of the domain extension: [www.internic.net], not at a registrar they sell the domains through.

  24. ClutchDude says:

    dyndns.com has been wonderful to me so far. It is great for those wanting to host from home but have a DHCP from say comcrap.

  25. sickofthis says:

    @Propaniac: I guess I assume that anyone savvy enough to register a domain name and run a web site is also savvy enough to figure out how to research its availability without just drooling their way through a Google search.

  26. midwestkel says:

    If you are looking for the best place to check domain status goto [www.whowas.in] They dont record searches. It is what I recommend to all my clients, I do website design.

    I own a web hosting business my self, domain is the same as my username. But I am not trying to self advertise. Another great company to use is [www.springshosting.com] they have great customer service, they are not affiliated with me.

    Thats my little helpful hints for today.

  27. rhombopteryx says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat:
    While your point is valid, the lesson doesn’t need to be “buy up everything to prevent them from hijacking you.”
    Why can’t it just be “hey, these askhats are committing fraud, bust them.” This practice is wrong and fraudulent.

    Consumers shouldn’t have to get into some type of technical arms race (using anonymized whois clients), or forced to avoid lookups until they are certain of what they want, or get shafted by monopoly-abusing registries.
    Consumers should be able to get market information (“is this product for sale, and for how much?”) without having the monopoly vendor lock down the goods and say “well, since I know you are interested, it’ll be $20 more for you than the usual price…”

    The solution to fraud isn’t be faster or sneakier – it is to call it fraud and put a stop to it.

  28. JustinAche says:

    I use 1and1 hosting for all my stuff, and their domains cost like 5-6 bucks a pop (when I bought them)…they now have domains for $ 6 something…

  29. drawp says:

    well would you look at that…

    I go to GoDaddy.com and wakkawakkaboomslap.com is already taken.

  30. MercuryPDX says:

    @rhombopteryx: The problem is, it’s an exploit of a very consumer friendly 5-day grace period policy. There’s no legitimate way to distinguish who’s Domain Tasting from a legitimate customer purchase.

  31. Chris Walters says:

    The second linked article (Direct Mag) says ICANN is considering a change that would stop Domain Tasting:

    Separately, ICANN has proposed implementing a 20-cent fee for holding a domain name, a surcharge which, according to Wade, will make automated harvesting of queried names unprofitable.

    Wikipedia mentions something similar (third paragraph), but says it would be 25 cents and that ICANN has already decided to move ahead with this plan. ?

  32. skipjack says:

    I searched on their website for the domain name I wanted, then went to another provider to register it. All I had to do was call network solutions to release the four day hold. I actually appreciated the hold since it meant…or felt like it meant that someone else wouldn’t swoop in and take what i wanted before i chose a provider. They released it, and yahoo was able to grab it immediately.

    But that was just my isolated experience…and i can see why this would be a HUGE problem. On the other hand..i don’t know if this is really a big problem or not. Are squatters able to see what was recently searched for and buy it up causing someone with a legitimate purpose for the address issues?

  33. MercuryPDX says:

    @Chris Walters: That could help with nonsensical domains, but even less so with domains being tasted from typosquatting. Google has already vowed to disallow Adsense on any domain that is less than five days old, but other companies (Yahoo, Microsoft, etc.) need to follow suit.

    What good is a 25 cent penalty when it only takes a small portion of the “profits” made on a “free” domain making 10 times that within the grace period?

    While the odds are against you earning more than a quarter tasting ‘ierwuier.com’, tasting ‘cansumerist.com’ (or any typo/domain variant of consumerist.com) could very well pay off.

  34. f3rg says:

    @IndyJaws: I use 1&1.com and I love them. $9.95/month for 250 gigs of server space and 2.5TB bandwidth. Customer support is always great (during the weeks; hold times last forever on the weekend) and I’ve never run into a hassle with them. I run 5 sites off my one host plan right now and never have down time.

  35. evixir says:

    I had a domain registered with Network Solutions and let its registration lapse so I could re-register it with another company (this was eons ago before transfers were so easy to do). They held it hostage for several weeks before officially relinquishing it… so a porn site could immediately register it. Took me two years to get it back. I’ll never do business with them again.

  36. MoxxeeMedia says:

    I have approximately 50 domain names registered w/ godaddy, some hosted with them, as well as earning click dollars on some. I became, by necessity of volume, a reseller but have never really promoted it. I HAVE NEVER had a problem in approx 5 years dealing with them…in fact early on when I did get a tripped up in their cluttered upsell maze…they actually called me to offer me a refund on my unnecessary, overlapped purchases. WHO DOES THAT!? NO ONE
    I appreciate the OCCASIONAL reminder call or email when one or 2 are up for renewal…which YOU CAN lump into ONE date if you like…and have NEVER felt annoyed by that level of service! Im busy – I appreciate it!
    This article I didnt start ot about godaddy…why did you turn it into one…I havent read any solid evidence here to indicate a problem. and yes Ive gone back later to find my researched name still available…but I DO usually buy them straight out now. espec at my discounted wholesale rat.
    As far as who is- I only benefited by NOT keeping anything private…just sold one for 1000. and it wasnt even for ‘sale.
    :)