Posted January 9, 2008 5:44 pm by with 25 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Bill Hartzer has performed a very interesting piece of domain name research and written up a detailed synopsis on the way Network Solutions seems to be taking advantage of the consumers who use their domain name look-up tool.

After performing a domain name search using the Network Solutions search form, Bill shows an actual example of his search for an available domain. A few minutes later he is able to show that Network Solutions has registered it, forcing him to purchase it from them if he wants to own the domain.

This bothered him because he located the domain at another registrar for a significantly lower rate, but since Network Solutions has already registered the domain Bill wants, he is forced to pay the $34.99 that Network Solutions charges if he wants to own the rights to use the domain.

Bill does a nice job of documenting his experience and then leaves what I think is the ultimate question out there for each of us to answer on our own. Do we feel that the practice of Network Solutions is ethical? I would certainly be interested in what others think about this topic.

  • Roderick. I noticed this happening last year sometime, but didnt pay much attention to it. I am glad NS is being called out on it finally.

  • To answer your question Roderick, no, it is an awful practice and is extraordinarily unethical. This practice is going to severely hurt their reputation.

    They might as well give Andy a ring now. They surely will need the help.

  • Yup the shit storm of blog posts will be enormous. Time for some SOLID reputation management in the SERPs.

  • I’ve wondered for a while if registrars would be able to resist the temptation to do this. It just baffles me how they could think that they would actually get away with it.

  • Enough random garbage lookups might discourage them.

  • Is competing against the customers you purport to serve wrong? Ummm……

  • I just had this happen to me the other day. Checked if a domain was available at NS, went to get it elsewhere it was taken, checked the whois, it’s suddenly owned by NS. So unethical, I hope all the blog posts about it recently ruin their reputation and they go out of business or get sued or something.

  • Seems like the URL gold rush is still on. I only registered my name a few weeks ago, but was nervous about checking to see if it was free in case this sort of thing happened.

    It’s not good ethics.

  • I have long suspected this practice with any domain name lookup service because it makes sense (please do not confuse that last statement with “It is ethical” because I don’t think it is at all). Imagine a system that feeds you good ideas all day long with no protection of that idea in most cases. Sad thing is, us mere mortals need this type of service to do our business and unless there is an actual law against it there is little that can be done. Unethical behavior in business is rampant and I have learned to not be surprised by this kind of stuff. All I can do is make sure that I never engage in a practice that would require me to hire Andy for his ORM services!

  • It’s not just Network Solutions. So many companies are doing this. It’s called domain tasting or domain kiting.

  • It’s always unpleasant to see companies from which you’d expect something better lowering themselves to this level.

    Alan Johnson

  • Nice work, Marketing Pilgrim, on helping to clean up this nonsense. I agree, Andy, short term gain at the expense of risking hard earned, long term reputation is rarely, if ever, worth it.

  • Pingback: 5 Ways to Fight Back Against the Domain Name Companies :: UK SEO/SEM BLOG >> B10G()

  • Indeed, it’s only normal that a company who has such an approach towards both existing and potential clients faces the consequences of their actions.

    Alan Johnson

  • Pingback: » You Judge - Dirty Domain Tactics from Network Solutions? Website Marketing Journal()

  • I have had similar experiences, so it’s great to have confirmation on this.

    As far as the ethics are concerned, I have to say that this is an opportunistic move on the part of NS and I feel that this is unethical.

    Some may argue that it is their way of making adjustments to the pricing depending on the demand.

    I have not got a problem with this if it were a case of them doing this a month or two after a search was conducted – as it can be said that the researcher then has abandoned the idea; but taking it a few minutes or hours seems a tad unfair.

    There is often a window between the time you check a domain, chat to the client6 and confirm that they would like it registered, only to find out it’s taken and then having to rinse and repeat the process. This also ends up making someone look like a chump.

  • Marge Inoferror

    The problem is ICANN – they need to step in and provide the consumer with a WHOIS source that can be trusted to be safe from abuse.

    Network Solutions IS the devil, but it is ICANN’s sandbox – they make the rules. They need to tighten up their registrar agreements.

  • Highly unethical and a good reason never to use Network Solutions. Marge makes a good point that ICANN should set up a WHOIS source safe from abuse.

    I suppose one way we can all have fun is to search Network Solutions for a lot of complete nonsense domains, the kind that would never be useful to anyone and watch NS register them.

  • Just to clarify, it costs nothing for Network Solutions to hold a domain for up to 5 days.

    A rule was put into place to protect registrars from fraud so they can register a domain for 5 days before having to actually pay for them.

  • Pingback: Network Solutions Front Running and Tasting Domains for Profit()

  • Doug

    It happened to me a few days ago. I searched for domain around noon and it was available. Went back again a few hours later and it was then owned by Network solutions but for sale for $35. I called and they told me about their 4 day reservation policy which I believed at the moment. I forked over the $35 because I really want the domain. But now am very angry – especially knowing this is about 3 – 5 times the market rate. Its unethical and unconscienable (sp?). Imagine the US patent office doing the same thing. What is ICANN doing about this?

  • This has been going on for more than 5 years. I would venture to say that this practice is bordering on fraud and false advertising or at the very least a form of unfair abuse. This is highly unethical and the reason that I use!

  • I think this is relatively common but you hope that the big names in domain registration are not involved. Certainly it is pretty unethical.

  • Pingback: Beware! Network Solutions Registers Any Domain You Lookup On Their Whois | Raven Internet Marketing Tools()