Open Thread: is Network Solutions Evil?

32 Comments

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?

32 Comments

Dan

Nice to see they, and ICANN, are going to PAY DEARLY for what they’ve been doing.

Hooray for the lawsuit!

Allison

Shashib, I agree with Bob Walsh. I was price shopping today and paid for my domain at godaddy when, much to my surprise, network solutions had hijacked it. I will NOW proceed to badmouth network solutions to everyone I possibly can until I hear they’ve stopped this practice ENTIRELY. It’s ridiculous, doesn’t make me want to get my domain from network solutions, and now I apparently can’t get it any other way.

Bob Walsh

Sorry Shashib, that doesn’t cut it in my book, specifically “Only Domains searched on the networksolutions.com homepage and domain product page will be reserved.”

Network Solutions does not make domains – ICAAN does. If I go to say Amazon and look at a book in Amazon’s system, does that give Amazon an exclusive right to sell me that book? Of course not.

The furthest down this road I can see without it going crooked is if NetSol offers a prospective customer the option (free or paid – up to you) of reserving a domain, and the customer can say yes, or no.

Mary Baum

I just go to godaddy.com and search for availabilities. At nine or ten bucks a year, I’m going to wind up registering whatever I find, probably, so why do it in a whois search?

My other favorite tool is the pauper’s trademark search, aka Google — if a creatively spelled word comes back with no hits on Google, it’s probably good to go for a variety of uses.

chunkie

Wow, this is a truly HORRIBLE practice by NetSol.

So what other methods/websites are people using that are private, reputable ways to do a whois search for open domain names?

Just by a brief browse here, people are saying they use “other ways” to check domain availability…but no specifics. What “other ways”…via the command-line/terminal? desktop gui apps to do the same? Or are there reputable websites to do this?

Shashib

Hi Bob,

I took this issue and discussed it. Any search on the Whois page now should not be reserved. Sorry that “bigyellowtimer.com” got reserved. I believe we were running a a/b test which we have stopped. Here are the updates we made

* Domains searched in the WHOIS page will not be reserved.
* Only Domains searched on the networksolutions.com homepage and domain product page will be reserved.
* We added additional customer notification to the NetworkSolutions.com homepage.
* Information on reserved domains is not publicly available in the zone file (Jay Westerdal confirmed it and blogged about in his post today http://blog.domaintools.com/2008/01/network-solutions-is-getting-better/ )

Thank you everyone for giving us feedback and suggestions.

Shashi

Noelle

I heard about this at the beginning of last year, and this is why I will never use network solutions!!!! If they are in fact associated with Go daddy, a very fast transfer will be in order.

splint

They just did it again, I did the same thing with BLUEBOGFROG.COM (something I just made up out of thin air. It was available at GoDaddy, then I searched for it at Network Solutions, and now suddenly, it’s not available with GoDaddy.

Bob Walsh

shashib,

Here’s what I did to test this:
1. made up a domain: bigyellowtimer.com
2. went to godaddy.com, checked if it was available. It was.
3. went to NetSol. Checked if it was available. It was.
4. went back to godaddy. bigyellowtimer.com had become unavailable. Attempted whois at godaddy – got back: registration information unavailable.

BTW, Just checked now: bigyellowtimer.com is available at Network Solutions. At godaddy.com, I get that it’s already taken and the whois says:

Registrant:
This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com
13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300
HERNDON, VA 20171
US

Winston

This happened to me about a year ago when my wife’s domain name had expired (a story in itself). They sat on it and would “renew” its lock in apparently five day chunks so I put in a “on hold” order with another registrar and grabbed it in between their renewal hijack cycle.

William

I think I read that Network Solutions owns or is associated with GoDaddy. Anyone know if they were doing this, too?

ttdog

I was looking through Netsol’s site and to tell you the truth – some people said they are buying their domains through their host. If you get hosting at Netsol the domains are actually FREE!

Rob

In response to Rick O, I usually purchase my domains through my hosting provider, as it is particularly cheap. Since they make me log in to do a domain search, however, I always do searches to determine availability elsewhere.

Chuck P

I think that the idealized way to deal with this would be to set up severs to start checking every possible combination of domain names on Network Solutions locking out every possible domain name one could register. Do this often enough and people will cry foul and put an end to this strong arm tactic on the part of Network Solutions.

cyberbian

Shashi, What was the purpose of reserving the names and not telling the people who it was “Reserved For”?

Like mutually assured destruction. It makes no sense unless you tell the enemy you have the doomsday device!

See Doctor Strangelove for more details:

cyberbian

I believe from what I have read that Network Solutions is claiming to have started this just last week.

If that is a factual description of their claims, then they are the biggest liars on the planet!

I searched their site over a year ago and the first time I searched the desired name was available. I went somewhere lower priced, and the name was taken!

I repeated this with several variants and each time the site was immediately unavailable.

Gale

Certainly pretty light for ransom. Even so, it’s unethical, shady and downright fraudulent.

This is why I never never never use any whois directory to look for potential new domain names. It may be slower, but I’m not opening myself up to these sorts of practices, either.

Mark

NetSol holds domains hostage. I let one lapse in the summer and decided to go grab it. They were holding it in purgatory for a multi-month period of time, and wanted to charge me much more than $34.99 to recover it. That’s ransom.

As my domains have come up for renewal since then, I’ve been transferring them to my (mt) account. Everything at NetSol is added fees and gimmicks trying to jack your attention.

shashib

Bob,

I work for Network Solutions – I have asked internally for informaton on the domain bigyellowtimer.com

“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. ”

We stopped reserving domains that were searched using our Whois service last Thursday.

I will get back to you on this.
We are reserving domain names searched for only at the NetworkSolutions.com Home Page. We have added customer notification of our protection measure on our homepage and domain product search page

Thanks,

Shashi

Jason

Here is the Deal.

I see it as an attempt at locking up a toll position that went to far!
Info on toll positions can be found at
http://www.sowpub.com

They tried to secure a toll position to the objection of many and now they will try to recover at the dismay of a large segment of the net population.
Jason

Dan

Way to infuriate potential customers and seal your own fate as a company…

What did poor customer service do for Dell? They’re still trying to get out of the hole they put themselves in…

And this is WAY beyond poor customer service — it’s borderline theft.

Zac Garrett

Yes they are evil. The fact that they charge an arm and leg for a domain is just bad, then you add this on top of it and wow. I don’t expect this company to be around much longer.

Network Solutions is no longer the number one domain registrar and will continue to lose customers. It screws everyone over and needs to go under so non-technical people won’t even go with them again.

David Badash

“is Network Solutions Evil?” Every transaction I have had with them has led me to believe they are untrustworthy. This situation just verifies that feeling.

kathryn’s point (above) is a good one. If this practice is acceptable, it should have been made obvious up front. They should have been proud enough of it to want to make it obvious, right?

The real question (and I do not have the answer) is:
Is this practice legal, or does it violate their ICANN accreditation?

George

Certainly unethical.

Why else would they take this long to “announce” what they have been doing for over a year now!

To answer:
>> why are people searching for open Domains on NetSol and then buying them someplace else?

Netsol has a unique feature that allows you to search for multiple addresses at one time to check availability. Which saves time and you’re looking for a good keyword rich domain in a competitive market.

I used to point my clients there all the time to do their research then register the domain for 1/2 the price elsewhere.

Dave

Rick: Basically most people like to “shop around” and see which registrar can give the most service at the lowest price. If they don’t know how shady NetSol is then they pop the domain in, check the services and cost, move to the next registrar and find out it’s locked down.

Brian Carnell

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

Yes.

Any other questions?

kathryn

i encountered this just last week, and was completely dismayed at network solutions’ behavior. i feel fortunate that i was savvy enough to guess what they were up to, wait it out, and register the domain a few days later with my wonderful host (dreamhost).

if they are going to have this policy, the honest thing to do would be to post about it on the page with the form, so that you know in advance what the consequences of hitting submit will be.

however, i do think it is frontrunning and an evil practice, and am super disappointed to have had this type of interaction with that company. they will never get my business.

Rick O

This may be a silly question … but why are people searching for open Domains on NetSol and then buying them someplace else? (And if they’re smart enough to know to not buy from NetSol in the first place, why are they now surprised to see NetSol doing something shady?)

Or am I missing something?

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