Did Someone Steal Your Domain Name?
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If you had a domain name all picked out, only to discover that someone seemed to have registered it after you looked it up but before you bought it, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would like to talk to you. The agency opened an investigation to discover whether this practice is going on, and if so, what to do about it.
It’s called “domain name front running,” and only someone with inside information can do it. Basically, you need to know what queries are being made to the whois service, and which ones don’t resolve to existing domain names. When you find a query that fits that description, you buy it, park it, and figure on selling it later for a large profit. Oh, and of course you get whoever wanted to buy the domain name rather annoyed.
This is totally different from other forms of domain name speculation you may have heard about. It’s not unusual for someone to buy a generic-sounding domain name – like cowboys.com, to coin an example – and then sell it for a profit based on the kind of traffic it can generate with the right web site built around it. A good, dedicated domainer might even put some work into building the site up in a way that fits with the suggested theme before selling it, to at least make back the initial investment.
Domain name front running gets its name from a similar practice in the finance industry, namely “stock and commodity front running.” This happens when a client orders his stock broker to make a purchase, and the broker first makes a purchase of his own based on the order he just received from his client. Stock and commodity front running is illegal.
Domain name front running is not, however. That should come as no surprise, both because the Powers That Be often try to err on the side of less regulation when it comes to the Internet, and because, as I mentioned in the introduction, there is some dispute as to whether it actually exists. A recent announcement by VeriSign seems to indicate that if it doesn’t exist yet, it will very soon.
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