ICANN to Probe Network Solutions' Domain Registration Policies

The company is backing off of its policy, but questions remain.

ICANN will investigate Network Solutions' domain registering policy in the wake of reports that the company was automatically registering domains based on user searches.

ICANN's decision to investigate comes just as Network Solutions reportedly is changing the policy.

In a brief note to eWEEK, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the international body in charge of TLDs (top-level domain name registrants) and Internet addressing, stated that it will be looking into Network Solutions' new policy of registering any domain name that is searched for on its site.

However, Network Solutions told ICANN about this policy change before it implemented them.

"Network Solutions informed us when they launched this process," said Jason Keenan, ICANN's media adviser. It was only after Network Solutions quietly implemented this policy and users noticed the change and protested about it online that ICANN took note of it. Now, "ICANN has begun looking into the matter to see if it is in compliance with the Registrar Accreditation Agreement," said Keenan.

Others, however, have no doubt about whether what Network Solutions is doing is right. A representative of major domain registry company GoDaddy said, "We think the situation speaks for itself. It's not good for the industry and, more importantly, it's not good for the customer."

Joe Wilcox calls Network Solutions a domain squatter. Read why.

It's not just Network Solutions' rivals that see it this way. In his blog, Sun Microsystems Chief Open Source Officer Simon Phipps wrote that he "lost all respect for Network Solutions a long time ago, but this behaviour ... shows they deserve no trust from anyone. Certainly not a company I ever want to do business with again."

Network Solutions has also recently updated its FAQ (frequently asked questions) page to address its new policy. In it, Network Solutions states, "When a domain name is initially searched, Network Solutions may reserve that domain for up to four days from the date the name was searched. This allows our customers to come back within a few days to register." It also states that Network Solutions is only reserving .com sites.

The company also claims that it's not making money from this behavior and assures users that they can always register the site at another domain registrant, after its four-day hold expires.

Network Solutions officials have not replied to numerous requests for a comment. However, in a letter to DomainNameNews, Susan Wade, senior public relations representative for Network Solutions, wrote that the company will make some changes to the policy, though in some instances it will still automatically register domain names.

"We will remove our customer protection measure from our WHOIS search page, so that no domains searched on this page will be reserved," Wade said. "We will continue to reserve, however, domains searched from our homepage."