Those of us in the tech industry have heard the horror stories. It went something like this: some innocent soul had searched for a previously-unregistered domain name for a website, found it was available, came back a few days later to register the domain, but it had gotten snatched up. During the time between searching and attempting to register, a domain name frontrunner – sometimes known as a domain taster, because they “taste” a domain time for a short period to see if it may be profitable on the web – had come seemingly out of nowhere and registered the domain for themselves. If the original party were still interested enough in the domain name, they would be forced to pay more than what the registrars charge in order to obtain it.
Could this be true? Do frontrunners really have access to domain search data and jump at the chance to register domains before those who first searched for them are able to? People have theorized this because the circumstantial evidence surrounding this has happened all too frequently and coincidentally. Time and time again it felt as though domain names that no one in the history of the internet seemed interested in registering before had gotten registered after a simple domain search on a registrar’s website.
Just a few days ago, Jonathon Nevett, Vice President of Policy at domain registrar Network Solutions, had confirmed what webmasters had feared: domain search data was getting out. Nevett contends that this leak and/or purchase of search data was “no fault of registrars” and that these frontrunners “purchase search data from Internet Service Providers and/or registries”. What was more shocking was Network Solutions’ own method for “protecting” their customers: they were doing something nearly identical to frontrunning themselves.
Network Solutions takes unregistered domains found in domain name search data and registers themfor four days. During this time, no one else is able to register the domain through Network Solutions or any other registrar. After the four-day period is over, the domain will be released back to the registry and be available for everyone.
Nevell insists, “This protection measure provides our customers the opportunity to register domains they have previously searched without the fear that the name will be already taken through frontrunning.”