Website Domains Available One Minute, Registered The Next

“Front running.” “Kiting.” “Domain tasting.” Maybe you’ve never heard of these terms, but they are central to a controversial new practice by Network Solutions.

Here’s what’s happening. It seems that now, when a customer searches for an available domain name at Network Solutions but decides not to purchase the name immediately after conducting the search, the name is put in some sort of “reserve.” During this reservation period, there are four days in which to purchase the domain. If the domain name is not purchased within four days, it will be released and will again be generally available for registration.

In this article here, Jonathon Nevett, VP of Policy at Network Solutions, explains:

“We’re trying to take an arrow out of the quiver of domain tasters – the largest front runners. Due to no fault of registrars, front runners purchase search data from Internet Service Providers and/or registries and then taste those names.”

So what the heck does that mean? It means nefarious types are registering URLs you search for moments after you decide not to buy them. Then they squat these names for about a week, abusing a 5-day grace period before having to pay for the domains. In the meantime, they evaluate the URL’s ability to attract eyeballs to advertisements, or, more dubiously, to see if the person who originally searched for it wants to buy it at a significant profit.

Several angry bloggers have confirmed that when they conducted a WHOIS search on Network Solution’s site but didn’t register it, Network Solutions would register it immediately and offer it for sale for $34.99.

Bottom Line: If your financial institution is considering a new URL, be careful who you use to check domain name availability. You could find a URL available through Network Solutions one day, then mysteriously “unavailable” the next.

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