Was Network Solutions front running, or just bad PR?
Posted in: Domain Names at 16/01/2008 16:33
Now that the dust is settling on the domain name front running story, what is the true story away from the hyperbole? Well, to me it seems that, for whatever reason, Network Solutions deemed it a fabulous idea to reserve for a set period of time domain names people search for on their registration site. However it turned out to be a PR disaster.
Network Solutions, being one of the more expensive registrars, were effectively locking in domain names that people searched for using their "find a domain" search. The benefit here was the person searching for the domain name was supposedly the only person who could then register the domain name for the next four days.
But then, should the potential registrant then see Network Solutions was way more expensive than, say, EuroDNS, they then could not go to EuroDNS or any other registrar or reseller and buy the name there.
Registrars around the world have been quick to distance themselves from the Network Solutions proposal. Tony Lentino, CEO of instra Corporation said Instra, nor any of its subsidiaries such as AmericaRegistry.com, have any plans to introduce front running or such practices and strongly distanced instra from the Network Solutions initiative. Other registrars such as Go Daddy, Tucows, EuroDNS and DirectNIC have also distanced themselves from the practice, while the president of DomainRegistry said he was surprised a company like Network Solutions would implement such a policy, believing this to be more in the domain of smaller registrars.
Network Solutions have gone on the offensive following the negative criticism, making it very clear the name is locked up for four days following a "Find a Domain" search and after that only the person who searched for the domain can buy it, and only from Network Solutions. Network Solutions continues to be adamant the process was to help combat front running.
So was Network Solutions front running? To me it seems no. But it seems they took advantage of their market position and locked in potential registrants to, most likely, registering the domain name through them. It seems they, initially at least, were not very open about what they were doing either.
I guess you could then ask how many potential registrants would, after searching for a domain name, shop around for cheaper registrars/resellers. I presume not many.
The key to the problem seems to be the lack of transparency in the whole process. Had Network Solutions been upfront about what they were doing and given potential registrants the opportunity to opt in, or opt out, of their idea, then this PR disaster may have been avoided.
Meanwhile, the E-Commerce Times reports ICANN is known to be looking into the domain tasting and front running worlds, and exploring possible ways to minimise the practices or prevent them from harming legitimate registrations.
During a single month the E-Commerce Times report continues, the five main registrars deleted more than 1.7 million domain names during the grace period and retained fewer than 11,000 after that window closed, according to a report the group released last year.