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Testing the front running practice with Network Solutions

I red about the practice of Network Solutions to register every name looked-up via their registration-site WHOIS, but I couldn’t believe it, so I tested it myself.

I choose the domain name “justadomaintastingtest.com”.

I tried it with the whois at register.com (that I trust and I always use): the domain name was available.

register.com

I tried it with the whois at Network solutions: available.

Network Solutions

Go back to register.com: still available.

Try it with whois.sc: surprise! The domain name was already registered by Network Solutions!

Registry Data

ICANN Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
Created: 2008-01-10
Registrar Status: clientHold
Name Server: NS2.RESERVEDDOMAINNAME.COM

whois.sc

All these happened in less than one minute!

Network Solutions says it isn’t “front-running” domain names, contrary to reports that claim otherwise, and that the practice that triggered the accusation is actually an attempt to counteract front-running from external threats.

Front-running occurs when a company or individual registers a domain immediately after a prospective buyer searches to see if it’s available, which gives the registrar an advantage because he can then prevent the customer from purchasing through a competing registrar and sell it at an inflated price.

Jonathon Nevett, VP of policy at Network Solutions says that what it is doing is a pre-emptive security measure to protect customers from domain tasters and that Network Solutions is providing them the, “opportunity to register domains they have previously searched for without the fear that the name will already be taken through front-running.” (Whir News)

Shashi Bellamkonda from Network Solutions says that: We are not monetizing these domains, nor do we intend to keep them after the holding period. We are not front running. “ Front Runners” are people who register domain names known to have been searched, for the purpose of monetizing them and then selling them at inflated prices either directly to the customer who searched for the domain or through aftermarket channels. We have started protecting all domain name searches at Network Solutions by holding the searched domains for our customers for a short period of time before releasing them. This gives our customers the opportunity to register names later without fear that the name will be registered by a “Front Runner.”

One person claims that they contacted ICANN, and the response was that although they believe it to be an unethical business practice, it is legal and there is nothing they can do to stop it.

The domain name business is booming in our days, with a volume of domain name transactions in 2004 up 300 % from 2003. Data from DNJournal, Domain-Spiegel.de and Sedo.com, three leading independent companies tracking the domain name marketplace, shows the average sale price of dot-com domains is more than US$9,700.

ICANN just released a report about domain tasting and illegal practice of the registrars, and it is still available for comments.

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