Whois Hijacking My Domain Research?

Opinion: Leave it to the domain-squatting industry to come up with a way to jump claims.

One of the most popular subjects readers contact me on is domain theft and abuse, and more messages came in after my recent story on "domain tasting."

If you thought that practice was distasteful, you havent seen what I found next. It involves a domain-testing firm. But thats not whats most interesting.

It all started with a message from a reader. She was planning to put a Web site up and needed to register a domain name.

She chose to use her first and last names for the domain (just as I own larryseltzer.com) and checked it on at least one service for availability.

She went back in a day or two to register it and, lo and behold, it had just been registered to an outfit named Chesterton Holdings.

Its obvious that Chesterton Holdings is a domain squatter. The domain was not just registered, there was a Web page up on it.

The page was covered with the sorts of ads you usually see on squatted pages, and the ads were all syndicated through information.com.

Several days later, Chesterton released the domain, probably having had few or no hits on it. Chestertons own Web page contains the following statement:

"We acquire domain names through an automated process rather than by any process that would intentionally infringe on any persons rights. If you have any questions about a domain, please submit your query to us below. It is our policy to transfer a domain name to any entity that, in our reasonable opinion, has a legitimate claim. We will promptly transfer a domain name to you if you can show us that you have a legitimate claim."

So the question remains: How did Chesterton Holdings get hold of the readers domain name and register it before she did? Is it part of this mysterious "automated process"?

The main site she had used to check for domain availability was the CNet Domain Search page.

This is a "meta-search" page, meaning that when you enter a domain name in it, the page checks several other services for domain availability, consolidates the reports and delivers them back to the user.

The actual search is performed by search.com, also a CNet property. The reader had gotten results for web.com, dotFM, e-nic, and APlus.net.

I decided to run some tests, so I picked three names out of the air and checked them with the CNet Domain Search page including myfuzzycat.com and lickmynose.com.

I let the matter go and about 30 hours later I checked with a separate whois service and determined that the domains belonged to Chesterton Holdings.

The same ad-based Web pages were up on them. Bingo. Click on the thumbnail image nearby to see the page.

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We tested a third domain, IWantToSexYouUp.com, which was subsequently grabbed by Chesterton Holdings.

Click here

to see screens of the ads being served.

Next Page: Whois stealing my whois?