Network Solutions Gets Pwned - Dropping the Ball
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In October 2007, ICANN assembled a seven member Security and Stability Advisory Committee to look into and write a report about domain tasting abuse. One of the members was Jonathon Nevett, Vice President of Policy at Network Solutions. The report stated, “ICANN's Registrar Accreditation Agreement and Registry Agreements do not expressly prohibit registrars and registries from monitoring and collecting WHOIS query of domain name availability query data and either selling this information or using it directly.”
The registrar contract with ICANN doesn't prohibit warehousing domains in order to sell them, but it does leave room for revisions to the contract: "3.7.9 - Registrar shall abide by any ICANN adopted specifications or policies prohibiting or restricting warehousing of or speculation in domain names by registrars. 4.2 - Topics for New and Revised Specifications and Policies. New and revised specifications and policies may be established on the following topics: 4.2.5 - prohibitions on warehousing of or speculation in domain names by registries or registrars." Whether it's front running or warehousing, Network Solutions has definitely found itself stuck in jam.
The main reason customers are going to be so disconcerted is because there was no warning or notification of any kind on the Network Solutions site. They also claimed the program would prevent someone else from monitoring potential domains and registering them. Instead, all reserved domains get directed to dns1.reserveddomainname.com. Andrew at domainnamewire.com points out that anyone can monitor NSI here.
Frankly, it looks as though Network Solutions came out firing indiscriminately without any thought as to how this would affect the registrar community. How would they like it if GoDaddy was reserving domains and preventing customers from registering through Network Solutions; or if a GoDaddy ad was parked on a site with a domain using one of their trademarks?
Perhaps Network Solutions was trying to curtail front-running, but apparently they couldn't resist an obvious business opportunity when it presented itself. The question is: who is more of a threat to potential registrants, the front runners or the companies trying to stop them, albeit in a questionable way? But there were plenty of things Network Solutions could have done (e.g. provide more notice to customers and make their search data less transparent) that should have been obvious to a “reputable” business. Clearly there is more to choosing a registrar, or any service provider, than price and popularity.
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