Open Thread: is Network Solutions Evil?

What if you found the perfect URL for your new online company, only to find out that the company that you used to check it bought it themselves to sell to you for an inflated price?

Network Solutions has run afoul of bloggers, domain registry industry watchers and others in the last few days when it became clear that using its popular domain registry checking service automatically triggered a buy order from the Herndon, VA based company.

While promising to amend the practice Friday, checking a URL today such as bigyellowtimer.com at Network Solutions WHOIS page automatically locked you out from buying the domain elsewhere. If you wanted to buy bigyellowtimer.com tomorrow, your only option is through Network Solutions for $34.99 – over three times the price as compared to other popular domain registrars.

Network Solutions claims the practice is to prevent “front running” although others say it is exactly that practice.

“The domain name you want is available for registration only at Network Solutions because we want to make sure that our customers do not lose the domain name to disreputable individuals (or entities) that snatch up domains after a domain search has been made,” says a Network Solutions Tech Support article.

To thwart the efforts of these sneaky individuals, Network Solutions reserves unregistered domains for up to four days from the date they are searched on our Web site. This customer protection feature provides our customers the opportunity to register names at a later date without fear that the name will be registered by the “Front Runners.” If the domain you searched is available and one that you really want, we suggest that you register it immediately to ensure that you will not lose the name.

So is Network Solutions engaging in exactly the practice it says it’s trying to protect its customers from?

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