Some users may not like Network Solutions' new domain name registration policy, but Network Solutions says it's all about protecting users from "front-runners."
Many people are angry at Network Solutions' new domain name registration
policy, but in an eWEEK interview, Network Solutions Senior Public Relations Representative
Susan Wade said the company's goal was simply to "defend our customers
Wade explained, "We believe that some of our customers are having .com
domain names taken from them because we've received a lot of customer
complaints. They believe that they have come up with unique names, but after
searching for them, they now find that the name has been taken."
In front-running, a company, usually a domain squatter, will discover that
someone is searching for a given domain name. The domain squatter's automated
search and register tools will see this happening and register the domain name.
The domain squatter will then try for a small, quick score by placing an
advertisement page on the newly acquired domain name, and hope for a bigger
payoff by forcing the original searcher to pay a high price for the preferred
reports of domain squatters front-running activities
go back for years.
Most domain companies and ISPs, however, deny that it's happening. Or, if it is
happening, they say they would like to see some solid proof of it. For example,
Ken Schafer, vice president of marketing for Canadian ISP Tucows, wrote in Tucow's
"If Network Solutions has evidence of registries--or
any service provider for that matter--actually being involved in front-running,
I urge them to share this information with the Internet community so that we
can all make sure that these people are called out for the practice and our
customers can be told to avoid them in the future."
Wade's reply to this kind of question is that while Network Solutions
has no hard
proof, it does have the word of its customers that domain name stealing is
happening. She also said Network Solutions' technical staff has looked into the
matter and found numerous ways for an unscrupulous business to snatch domain
names from people.
The list includes:
software (freeware and shareware client
applications, Browser Helper Objects, extensions, plug-ins or cookies) that
relays DNS (Domain Name System) look-ups, WHOIS look-ups and other system
activities to software developers or their affiliates via undisclosed back
third-party abuse of query data at WHOIS
portals (any portal that runs a WHOIS query and records those names submitted
that do not resolve to a Web site);
analysis of DNS data to target (NxD) nonexistent
domain queries (obtaining a list of domains that do not resolve and are
reported as a 404 error--front-runners obtain this error report to determine
domains that are searched for);
exploitation of availability check data by
registrars, resellers or registries (the selling of their own search data);
mining of cross-TLD (top-level domain) availability
checks (if you search for a domain in one extension and then it is registered
across other extensions); and
exploitation of unintentional or premature
corporate information leaks.
Which methods are actually being used? Which companies are pulling any of
these tricks? That's something Network Solutions doesn't know, Wade said. It's
the company's position that the best it can do is to protect its customers by
automatically registering any site searched for from its main page.
Wade said that by the end of the business day on Jan. 11, Network Solutions
will no longer be automatically registering sites from searches that originate
from its Whois page.
She also said, "We are including additional customer notification of
our protection measure on our home and search Web pages." This
notification is taking the form of an information
page, which is now available on the company's Web site.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers), the international body in charge of TLDs and Internet
addressing, is continuing to look into the matter. Jason Keenan, ICANN's media
advisor, told eWEEK.com that ICANN has been considering Network Solutions' new
registration policies since it adopted them several weeks ago.
Despite protests from many individuals that Network Solutions is itself
front-running, Wade insists that this is not the case and that it's simply
protecting its customers. She also added that, contrary to some rumors, Network
Solutions has not jacked up its domain registry prices.