Did Someone Steal Your Domain Name? - Get Your Lookup Data Here
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Domain Name News broke the story late last month. Citing sources, it revealed that VeriSign is mulling the idea of selling access to selected root DNS server lookup data to registrars. This data contains failed lookups. When you know what sites people are trying to find that don’t actually exist, you can make estimates of how profitable they might be, and then buy them.
Domain name tasters can already get this information from some ISPs. But VeriSign manages two of the 13 root name servers, so getting the data directly from them cuts out a middleman. It’s rumored that this data won’t come cheap or easy, however. VeriSign allegedly plans to offer a batched service which would let registrars upload a list of names and then receive a report detailing which names saw “lookup traffic” over a specific period of time.
That covers the “not easy” part. The “not cheap” part is pretty exorbitant, as you’d expect when speculators may be involved. Rumors peg the price of the proposed service as high as one million dollars – with the fee to be waived if the resulting volume of domain name registration warrants it.
Are you angry yet? ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee is, if not angry, at least a bit put out. They released an 11-page PDF report on the issue. They did concede that there has been no guidance on the matter. “ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement and Registry Agreements do not expressly prohibit registrars and registries from monitoring and collecting WHOIS…domain name availability query data and either selling this information or using it directly,” concedes the SSAC. “In the absence of an explicit prohibition, registrars might conclude that monitoring availability checks is appropriate behavior.”
The SSAC noted in its report that “Registrants have filed complaints with ICANN, registrars, and with Intellectual Property attorneys that suggest domain name front running incidents may have occurred.” Numerous suspicious incidents have undoubtedly gone unreported. Our own CTO, a man with many ideas for cool and useful web sites, estimates that it has happened to him “a minimum of 10 times.” The Internet used to be a place where you could start a business on a shoestring; if someone else has grabbed the domain name you want to use and is trying to sell it at a profit, that’s not true anymore. Multiply our CTO by all the people who have great ideas for an Internet business but not a lot of money to get it started, and you begin to see a real economic impact to this practice.
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