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Network Solutions plans to reserve domain names for individual searchers

Network Solutions is developing a way to hold a domain name exclusively for a person who has searched for that name's availability. The registrar has come under fire for policies to combat domain name scams that critics have said make the situation worse.14 Jan 2008

Front-running is a domain name scam that involves someone registering a domain name that another party has searched for the availability of and then charging that person more than a normal fee for the name.

In an attempt to combat the scam Network Solutions last week introduced a new policy by which it kept control of searched-for domain names for four days, prompting accusations that it itself was front-running.

The company scaled back some of its changes, but a spokeswoman told OUT-LAW.COM that it was working on a way to ensure that only the initial searcher for a domain name could buy it in that four-day period.

One major criticism of the new Network Solutions rules had been that while it stopped other companies scamming the name, anyone could come and buy it from Network Solutions in the five-day period, not just the original searcher.

"We have been looking into possibly implementing something where we could register it and hold it for whomever originally searched on it," said Susan Wade. "It is possible, it's just the development time, how to capture the information, but it's definitely something we are looking into."

Despite the fact that the process locks any searcher who wants the domain name immediately into buying from Network Solutions, Wade said that the company was not front-running.

"By implementing this we are not front-running, we are just holding it for four days. We are not monetising it, we have no intention of keeping it or selling it in the secondary market, we are just holding it and if you want to come back to out store front and buy it you can, after that we are letting it go," she said.

The company said that it believed some registries were selling search query data to front-runners who then snapped up desired addresses.

Wade said that while it had stopped reserving domains searched for on its WHOIS service, it would continue to do so with domains searched for on its home page.

"We are still registering domains if you come to our home page and do a search for them for up to four days and in that time anyone can come in and pay our regular rate for the domain," said Wade. "For the people who go to our WHOIS a lot of people are going to see what domain is registered to whom. We have made the decision to take the registration customer protection measure off the WHOIS page."

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