01|08|2008 02:42 pm EDT
A story is developing regarding domain name registrar Network Solutions front running domains. According to multiple sources on DomainState.com, it appears that domains searched via NSI are being purchased by the registrar thereby preventing a registrant from purchasing it at any other registrar other than NSI. As an example (at the time of this writing), a random domain which DNN searches such as HowDoesThisDomainTasteTaste.com can be seenÂ in this whois search to now be unavailable to register at other registrars but at NSI it can be purchased
The whois contact now says :
Registrant: Make this info private
This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com
13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300
HERNDON, VA 20171
The domains are likely being purchased and held in NSI ownership until the potential registrant comes back to purchase the name through NSI. If the purchase is not made at NSI within 5 days, NSI uses the same 5 day grace period that domain tasting operations use and they delete the domain. Once a search for a domain is conducted at NSI the domain name is registered and only available to be purchased by a registrant at NSI. It is not clear if NSI has increased prices on domains that have received multiple whois searches and that they are front running.
NSI also apparently has no problem taking over control of trademark domains using this practice as well. Searches for names such as microsoft-dell.com and ibm-microsoft-dell.com all appear as registered now by NSI and only available for purchase at NSI.
Front running domain names is a bold move by any registrar as it breaks a certain level of trust that the general public places in using a whois search. ICANN SSAC has conducted a “study” on front running recently in which they wrote “ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement and Registry Agreements do not expressly prohibit registrars and registries from monitoring and collecting WHOIS query of domain name availability query data and either selling this information or using it directly,” Warehousing domains in order to sell them to “potentially interested parties” isn’t specifically forbidden in the registrar contract with ICANN but is addressed in points 3.7.9 and 4.2.5 of the contract in which they leave room for new rules or revisions to the contract. In a quick look search it appears that other registries have addressed this issue. As an example, the SGNIC for example has a contract that expressly addresses this issue.
it shall not engage in and shall prohibit bulk access to Registrantâ€™s data, warehousing of or speculation in Domain Names, and shall implement any policies SGNIC may from time to time prescribe to prohibit or restrict such activities. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Registrar shall not (i) submit any application for the registration, renewal, transfer, modification or cancellation of a Domain Name registration or any other request or transaction relating thereto purportedly on behalf of any Person when it is not in fact so authorized, or on behalf of a non-existent Person; (ii) accumulate or warehouse Domain Name registrations with which Registrar or such Person has no reasonable connection, for the purpose of removing them from availability for others, transferring them for immediate or deferred direct or indirect gain or profit or for any other reason whatsoever, nor shall it knowingly participate in any such undertaking.