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Front-running and domain-tasting

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Friday January 11, 2008 )

Have you ever searched for a good domain name, found one available, gone to register it a few minutes later only to discover it’s just been registered? This may have been a case of front-running; a practice that’s been in the spotlight lately due to accusations against a high profile registrar.

Finding unregistered good domain names is pretty difficult these days – you can spend many hours doing so and you’ll likely burn through dozens of possibilities at the very least, particularly names that are comprised of generic words.

What is front-running?

If you’ve ever found a great domain name and then within minutes it’s not available, this may have been a case of front-running; the practice whereby a registrar registers a potential domain immediately after a search is performed. This prevents the person from registering it elsewhere and can result in the domain registration price charge being higher.

The practice of front-running has come to the fore in recent days. According to this CNet report:

“Network Solutions holds the domain for up to four days, during which time a customer can register it only from Network Solutions and after which it again becomes generally available if unregistered”

Network Solutions says it’s a practice to *prevent* front-running. Read their spin on it in the CNET post and you be the judge. I’ve read elsewhere that by registering and then dropping the names after 4 days, the deletion process will announce these names to domainers and domain tasters (see below) anyway.

So, is this fighting fire with fire perhaps.. or not? Hmm. I haven’t had a front-running incident happen to me in the last couple of years when registering domains elsewhere.

Domain tasting

This 4 day lockdown period by Network Solutions is just under the “Create Grace Period,” implemented by ICANN for global registries. The CGP is a five-day period in which a registrar may delete a newly registered domain and get a refund of the registry fee. This means that this pre-emptive registration practice doesn’t cost Network Solutions a dime.

Some shady registrar/domainers have abused this feature – it’s called “domain tasting”. During the CGP period, domain-tasters tests viability of generating revenue from ads placed on the domain’s web site. If it doesn’t create any cash, they simply dump it and get a refund; which usually involves a registrar who knows what’s going on. While Network Solutions don’t attempt to monetize with PPC ads, the domain can’t be registered elsewhere.

If what Network Solutions says is true and they are doing A Good Thing, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if they had competitive pricing, but they still charge $34.99 for 1 year’s registration for a .com name. You can register a name through other quality companies for under $9.50 – I grabbed a couple yesterday at this price.

Related

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1 comment for Front-running and domain-tasting
  1. I work at Network Solutions. I have to say that this is a really good round up of the issues. We’ve seen a lot of commentary on front running and are now starting to act on your behalf.

    At its annual conference in Paris next week, ICANN can vote an important issue to resolve to resolve front running for once and for all. Network Solutions is advocating that ICANN acts now, and we have published an official statement on our web site to that end.

    Comment by Shashi Bellamkonda — June 20, 2008 @ 10:31 am

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