Suspicious Network Solutions Measures

A friend of mine called me today and asked me about a “funny” problem that he is facing with domain names. He tries to search for a domain name to register it and gets two different answers from Network Solutions (domain name available for registration) and GoDaddy (domain name NOT available for registration).

Performing a simple WhoIs on the domain name in question, you get that the domain name is registered by Network Solutions and is currently available for registration at Network Solutions. I proceeded to Network Solutions and tried to search for the domain name there, the domain name was still available for registration. Trying the same thing at GoDaddy again showed that the domain name is NOT available.

I tried to query the reason behind this and the result was a very suspicious protection measure put in place by Network Solutions.
My friend tried to SEARCH for the domain name availability yesterday and it showed as “Available for Registration” on Network Solutions. He did not register the domain name. He did not even do anything else but searched to check whether the domain name was available for registration or not.

Today, he came to me to reserve the domain name and it turned out that the domain name was only available for registration at Network Solutions at the normal registration price. The reason behind this is described at the Network Solutions website as, and I quote:

In response to customer concerns about domain names being registered by someone else just after they have conducted a domain name search, Network Solutions is implementing a new security measure to protect our customers.

What is the Customer Protection Measure?

Network Solutions may reserve domain names that are searched on our Web site for up to 4 days. During this period, these domain names will only be available to register at networksolutions.com.

  • This customer protection measure may be enabled when a customer searches for an available .com domain name at networksolutions.com but decides not to purchase the name immediately after conducting the search.
    • After the search ends, Network Solutions will put the domain name on reserve. During this reservation period, the name is not active and Network Solutions does not monetize the traffic on these domains.
    • If a customer searches for the domain again during the next 4 days at networksolutions.com the domain will be available to register.
    • If the domain name is not purchased within 4 days, it will be released back to the registry and will be available for registration through any registrar.
  • This protection measure provides our customers the opportunity to register domains they have previously searched without the fear that the name will be already taken through Front Running.
  • By holding the searched domains at Network Solutions for a short period, it allows our customers to take the time to decide whether this is the domain name that they really want to register.


What Is Suspicious About This?


Network Solutions claims that this measure is being taken to protect customers from losing domain names through front running. Front running, and I quote, “is when an individual registers domains within minutes or hours after someone else has conducted a domain name search on a registrar’s site, performed a WHOIS query or typed a domain in the browser to see if there is an active Web site. Front Runners may get access to these searches through Internet Service Providers, Spyware, or registries. Front Running allows these individuals to attempt to make money from the domain through pay-per-click ads or by re-selling the domain in the aftermarket at a marked up price.”

Is Network Solutions Really Protecting You Or Abusing You?

My friend had searched for the domain name yesterday. Today, any person, including me, can register the domain name through Network Solutions. No protection whatsoever is being provided. In fact, the only thing that was done is the prevention of having the domain name registered through another registrar. This is not a protection. It is simply an abuse of the Whois service. While Network Solutions provides .COM domain names at 34.99 USD, other registrars provide the same service at prices as low as 8 USD.

This protective measure is simply preventing people from registering their domain names with any other domain name registrar once they search for the domain name at Network Solutions. This will remain the case for 4 days until the domain name is released for registration at other registrars. If you had a really good domain name to register and made the mistake of checking its availability with Network Solutions, you will have no way to reserve it elsewhere except after 4 days. In most cases, you will end up forced to reserve the domain name with Network Solutions to avoid losing it by someone else registering it within the 4 days period.


What Can You Do to Avoid This?

To avoid going through all of this hassle, simply don’t use the Network Solutions Domain Name Search Service unless you plan to register the domain name with Network Solutions. I expect many similar problems to occur with ISPs and other web service providers in the few coming days especially that clients usually search for the domain name availability prior to asking their web service providers to reserve it for them and do all the technical work of pointing and hosting the domain name. Through this “useless” security measure, Network Solutions will be simply causing web service providers that do not register their domain names with Network Solutions headaches and problems.

Spread the word around to everyone you know might face such a problem.

Victor

An expert, trainer, senior lecturer and consultant in IT technologies, IT Security, Online Digital Services and Interactive solutions. Co-founder of intouch holding, a group of companies specialized in online digital services. Senior lecturer at Notre Dame University, Lebanon since 2002. For more detailed information, please visit the "About Victor" page.

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