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10|23|2007 01:36 pm EDT

Verisign to Profit from Rootserver Data?

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Editorial, Featured, News, Registries

Traffic WatchAccording to sources, Verisign, the operator of the generic TLDs .COM & .NET registry, is considering selling access to selected root dns server lookup data to registrars. The root servers are what make domain names work on the Internet, meaning that many domain queries hit these servers on their way to a site or an email recipient.

Why is this data so interesting? It contains the majority of failed lookups, meaning the Verisign nameservers will be hit and log the query, when someone enters a domain name that does not exist. While many domain-tasters have obtained this information directly from ISPs, getting this directly from Verisign would be a step up the chain, since Verisign manages two of the 13 root name servers.

It appears that Verisign will not be selling the entire lookup data, but rather provide a batched service which allows registrars to upload a list of names, and in return receive a report which lists which names encounter “lookup traffic” over a certain period of time. While it is not known how much will be charged for access to this service, sources speculate of costs up to a million dollars. There are also rumors circulating that if the resulting registration volume is deemed appropriate, the fee might be waived.

This data would basically allow to further define and qualify domain traffic before running domains through a real traffic tasting cycle. Why would people pay for this data though, when they still have to generate lists of names on their own? After all, tasting domains is essentially free, due to the full refund of the registration fee if a domain is deleted within the first five days. However this might change in the future, just like it already has for .ORG domains (the registry, PIR, now charges a penalty for an excessive amount of registration deletions) and in that scenario this service from Verisign may become more useful for a company searching for unregistered domains that receive traffic.


  • Joe Baptista

    This is a serious privacy issue. I have been warning people about this for years. Click on the URL provided for detailed information.

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  • Verisign to Offer “Pre-Domain Tasting”

    As reported by Frank Michlick on DNN Verisign plans to provide a batched service which allows registrars to upload a list of names, and in return receive a report which lists which names encounter “lookup traffic” over a certain period of time. [...]

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  • Sergio Rodriguez

    This news sends shivers up my spine. I agree with Joe Baptista (first post), this is a serious privacy issue and it also gives these registrars a very unfair advantage over the little guys. I truly do believe that this industry should be regulated properly so as to avoid this type of renegade-like practice. “Tasters”, as they are called, are not putting in all of the hard work and time that certain individuals spend in order to find a good-quality domain name. The registrars should not give access of these names to anyone. All it does is encourage domainers to purchase a name on impulse, that he/she may otherwise have not purchased after a second look. It is often wiser to sleep on a name for a few days before buying it. Knowing that these “Tasters/Reggers” are out there unfairly encourages me to purchase on the spot. This is another scheme for these registrars to reap in the profits while others get stuck with a name that they didn’t really want.

    Sergio Rodriguez

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  • Alexa Raad

    I saw with interest your report on the possible move by VeriSign. However, until they themselves confirm or deny, this is a supposition. Therefore, I leave it to VeriSign to address the veracity (or lack thereof) of the news.

    So until then, let’s instead look at the idea in general.

    Who cares what Internet surfers are looking at? In fact, the data is extremely useful because it shows the lookups that failed – the situation where someone entered a domain name that does not exist. The information is available today from some Internet service providers, but root operators such as VeriSign have the best and fastest information by virtue of their control of the namespace data.

    So if you know what lookups failed, you get a good idea of domains that can be registered so as to get more clicks (resulting in more “pay per click”) or a site that can be used for scams such as pharming and phishing – the tricks that are used to steal users’ identities.

    This kind of massive domain tasting has other negative aspects. It is getting more and more difficult for legitimate users of domain names to find new names that convey meaning to Internet users. When computer programs are used to register millions of names per day, real people are left in the cold. Even worse, on occasion, names abandoned by legitimate users have been re-registered by unscrupulous users to take advantage of the original registrant’s good will.

    This new service is not good for end-users. It puts the legitimate user at a disadvantage, and it wrests the economic power from the hands of many to the hands of a few already economically advantaged players. As a registry, PIR is critical of and would not support any scheme of this type.

    Alexa Raad
    Public Interest Registry (.org)

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  • Ken

    This is only a rumor, with no basis in fact. Verisign confirmed that they have no plans to offer such a product. If they do, I’ll be among the first to buy!

  • Frank Michlick

    Ken, we have this information from attendees to two separate meetings where Verisign (amongst other things) described this service as something they intended to offer. They were presenting this as a service to be offered to accredited registrars.


    It is too bad, so only we face a tragic situation that, if we search and wont register a domain name. the very next day it just got disappears. Even though it is not possible to guess those keywords. the root server contractors like verisign ETC sell part of the queries for cash. for domain tasters it will reduce their work but cause a problem to genuine domain buyers.

    Best Regards

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