Domain Name Blackmail

January 20th, 2008

Whatever you do, never use the domain name registrar Network Solutions, ever. If they are your registrar for any domain names now, then immediately pull your business from them, and get your names registered with another registrar, like GoDaddy. A policy Network Solutions enacted in just the past few weeks showed them up to be predatory, unethical, and downright anti-consumer.

In short: when you do a search for a domain name on Network Solution’s web site, they claim the name for themselves and force you to pay them more than three times what the competition charges, or else risk losing the name to cybersquatters.

Although it’s been in the news over the past few weeks, I had not heard of the controversy. I got wind of it today, when my father told me that he’d fallen into their little trap. A family friend needed help getting a domain name, and together they came up with the perfect name–the only name, in fact, that they felt would be good for the situation. He went to Network Solution’s web site to see if it was available. The web site informed him that it was available for purchase–but prices for other dot-com domains were listed for $15 on the page, so he assumed that was the price (actually, that also is misleading–the domains are “from” $15, and most are $35) and went to GoDaddy to see if he could get a lower price. To his surprise, GoDaddy informed him that the domain name was taken. When he did a “WhoIs” search, he discovered that Network Solutions had reserved the domain name, blocking any purchase from anywhere except Network Solutions. If he went to their site, the domain name was listed as “available.”

It turns out that there is a new twist in cybersquatting, called “frontrunning.” Apparently, cybersquatters have worked out ways to see what domain names people are enquiring about on services like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. When they see that there is interest in a name they deem worthwhile, they will move in and snap it up before the person who originally searched for it can make up their minds.

What Network Solutions claims it is doing is protecting people from the frontrunners: when someone searches for a domain name, they put a 4-day hold on it. The idea is that frontrunners would be foiled from snatching it up. That’s the claim, in any case.

And, as it turns out, the claim is completely bogus. Network Solutions is doing nothing but blackmailing consumers into buying the domain name from them, and nobody else. How can we tell? My father and I did a little experiment: we ginned up a domain name that we didn’t really want, and I searched for it at GoDaddy: name available! For $10/year.

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I then searched for the same name at Network Solutions: name available!

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I went back to search for it again at GoDaddy: Sorry, that name is taken.

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We did a WhoIs search: Network Solutions has taken that name.

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But the key was to do one final search: while I had done the original search, my father–not only on a different computer, but from a different continent–searched for it on Network Solutions: that domain name is available!

In other words, anyone could get that domain name–but only from Network Solutions, and only for $35–more than three times what GoDaddy charges.

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How does this protect you from Frontrunners? Not at all; they could buy the domain name if they wanted, from Network Solutions. In fact, the block on the name helps the Frontrunners–if you decide to wait four days for the domain name to become open again, that give the cybersquatters that much more time to grab it out from under you.

In other words, if you are afraid that someone else might grab the domain name you want, then you are essentially blackmailed into paying steep prices to buy it from Network Solutions.

Network Solutions does not even tell you about the 4-day lock before you do a search. A week ago, they claimed they would add that to their web site–something that would take only minutes to add–and yet no warning appears today when you do a domain name search.

Network Solutions claims that they “hide” the data from frontrunners, but when the WhoIs search actually advertises that the name was searched for and held by Network Solutions, their claim falls apart as an utter crock. In fact, until just a few days ago, Network Solutions would actually go so far as putting a billboard ad for themselves on the domain name someone searched for, calling out for other people to snap up that domain name! Yeah, sure, they’re doing a great job of “hiding” that information. And up until last week, they were putting holds on domain names that people checked out under WhoIs searches–not even asking on their web site.

Now, if they allowed customers the option of a domain name lock for four days so that only they could purchase the domain name, that might be a different story. But that’s not what Network Solutions did. Instead, they decided on a policy that essentially tricks people into divulging their original ideas for names, and them blackmails them to pay usurious prices, fast, or risk losing their idea to cybersquatters.

Scummy. Really scummy. I believe in sending businesses a signal. I will never touch Network Solutions as a registrar (luckily, I never did before), and I urge everyone else to do the same. If you have domains registered with them, then leave. Get out. A company that treats potential customers like that is bound to burn you, sooner or later.

Update: My father says he called Network Solutions and asked them to release the domain name he’d searched for, the one he and the family friend needed–and Network Solutions freed the domain name. Which is great for my dad and our friend, but is another bit of proof that Network Solutions isn’t trying to stop frontrunners. They had no proof whatsoever that my dad was not a frontrunner himself; they just released the domain at his request.

  1. January 20th, 2008 at 04:02 | #1

    Submitted to StumbleUpon, DIGG, and Slashdot. Excellent work, Luis.

  2. ykw
    January 20th, 2008 at 04:29 | #2

    I think the internet allows companies like network solutions to lock names for 4 days so that when one buys a name, the computers in the internet get 4 days to update w/ the new information. If they are not given this time, then I think the internet can get out of sync w/ some servers programmed one way and others programmed another way. I think icann is involved in regulating how this works, and if someone (e.g. network solutions) is not playing nicely, then I think the regulators (e.g. icann) will step in.

  3. Luis
    January 20th, 2008 at 10:34 | #3

    Sean: Thanks! I think it’s already been on the blogosphere quite a bit, but probably not nearly enough…

    YKW: From what I understand, there’s a 5-day grace period intended to allow for buyer’s remorse, or whatever you might want to call it–effectively, give a legitimate purchaser time to decide if they really want it or not. Probably this dates back to when you couldn’t get a domain name for less than $35/year anywhere. Today, most people would probably be OK with the loss of ten bucks and no refund, it falls below the threshold or too much remorse, I think. But Network Solutions is now using that grace period to scam thousands of people–staying within the law, but acting wholly unethically. If they don’t stop this, word is going to spread so far and wide that they’re going to run themselves into the ground, and deservedly so–regulators or no.

  4. January 21st, 2008 at 06:50 | #4

    Funny…a few years ago I was doing something similar for my cousin and his band. I checked a name on Network Solutions and noted it was available. A few weeks later I went back and saw the .com version I’d searched for was taken….I thought it was just me forgetting….guess not.

    Great information here.

  5. January 21st, 2008 at 06:53 | #5

    Sorry for the 2nd post (you don’t have to add it)….I just went to NS and searched and found an available domain…..30 seconds later GoDaddy said it was already taken…whois said Network Solutions owned it. That’s criminal……

  6. Tyler
    January 22nd, 2008 at 00:04 | #6

    I just did a random site that popped into my head on both and in 3 seconds it was gone what I tried was SURESIDERETIREMENT just like that godaddy says its gone and the whois said it was taken by guess who and this has to be illegal some how.

  7. James P
    January 22nd, 2008 at 09:08 | #7

    Just make a script to search for hundreds of random hexadecimal domain names every minute. Wouldn’t that put NS out of business? Or at least stop this practice?

  8. January 22nd, 2008 at 23:58 | #8

    Yeah, sorry chief. GoDaddy is just as bad as Network Solutions in this department, except the domains they swipe show up on their front page.

    Oh, did I mention that after telling me that they were having difficulty with the settings of my domain which made it impossible to renew, they advised me to allow it to expire and immediately renew it within that day.

    Guess what, I let it expire – knowing full well they had a record of the ownership and circumstances, and when I went to renew that same day as it expired (a few hours actually, according to GoDaddy), it was snatched up by squatters who used GoDaddy to register it out from under me.

    How nice of GoDaddy. They said they couldn’t help me, even though the new page on the domain was nothing more than a squatter page of linkbait designed to take advantage of my previous traffic, as well as even directly naming software I had on my site under “Looking for ?”

    Yeah I was pissed. Domain squatters and the companies who are more than happy to take their money regardless of the consequences are just scum of the earth – period.

    The domain I lost to this happy horse-***t? which is converted into a forum filled with fake posts by two people to attract traffic.

    Just nice. Go Daddy and Network Solutions can … well, use your imaginations, cause the scammers aren’t and neither are the domain registrars.

  9. Luis
    January 23rd, 2008 at 07:10 | #9

    WB: That sucks, but it sounds like a case of a really dumb tech support guy rather than an unethical policy set by the company administration. I would never let a domain of mine expire, no matter what a tech support person said or promised; there are people lined up to snatch up domains as soon as they become available. If I had trouble with GoDaddy that wouldn’t let me renew, I would simply go to another registrar and transfer to them.

    Aside from that one experience, do you have any evidence that GoDaddy has unethical policies? You say they are “just as bad” as NS “in this department,” but when you do a domain name search with GoDaddy, they do not lock up the domain name.

  10. January 24th, 2008 at 15:14 | #10

    I used to work next door to the Reston, VA office. Shady Business!

  11. stark
    January 25th, 2008 at 03:44 | #11

    What makes GoDaddy so good?

    I’ve had so many problems with them: people who had issues and were unable to get them resolved, GoDaddy blacklisting IPs because other IPs that looked similar had been infected by spambots, GoDaddy refusing to allow domains to be moved….

    Network Solutions is horrible, it’s true, but GoDaddy’s not a good solution, they’re just crappy in different ways.

    There’s dozens of alternatives:, Yahoo’s domain tools, etc. Easier to work with, easier to live with, and sometimes cheaper too.

  12. Luis
    January 27th, 2008 at 08:17 | #12


    Some aspects of your story are not clear; for example, did you buy the domain name through That is, did they handle the purchase? If they did, I would need to understand the terms under which they did. Did you pay for a package deal of domain name registration and hosting? Were you promised to be the title holder of the domain name? If you do a WhoIs search of your domain name, who is listed as the owner?

    The thing about it not being “old enough” to transfer sounds questionable; I do know that there are some limitations on transfers within a short time before renewal, but had not heard of any within a time period after purchase or renewal. How long ago did you pay for it?

    If you are truly the owner of the domain, then they should not be able to lock control of it off from you. Besides which, you do not necessarily have to contact the original registrar to achieve the transfer; a new registrar should be able to grab it for you–so long as it is not locked (which, alas, it probably is). However, a new registrar will be able to advise you as to what your options are–they know the trade, and they want your business.

    Contact a domain registrar (any one of them will have people who think they’re fine or that they stink, so you choose on your own), explain your situation, and ask them what you should do.

    Hope this helps! Let us know what happens.

  13. January 29th, 2008 at 06:44 | #13

    I had a problem with Network Solutions, too. I was scared to lose my domain name so I registered it at Network Solutions anyways. I actually changed my mind and due to cheaper prices at GoDaddy, etc, but they will not issue me a refund. Alternatively, the latter name domain provided had no problems cancelling a recent order that I made. Stay away from Network Solutions!!

  14. Dizzley
    February 4th, 2008 at 18:01 | #14

    Yeah. It happened to me too.
    These people are bottom-feeding scum.

  15. February 7th, 2008 at 04:13 | #15

    I don’t want to go out spreading conspiracy theories, but here is a conspiracy theory. If your first search was done on GoDaddy am I wrong to think that GoDaddy is reporting those searches to NS so that NS can snatch up and overcharge for the domain? GoDaddy must be making some money on that, or am I off my rocker? does the same thing with .net, .biz, and other domain names that seem to be good generic term domains. They charge $35. The difference is that they don’t seem to be doing it based on your search, they do it based on their best guesses.

  16. Hezy Ram
    February 11th, 2008 at 19:46 | #16

    I think the network solutions is a “boiler room” operation and I intend to bring it to the attention of the Feds (Federal Trade Commission to start with, but maybe the FBI should be notified as well). I registered with them to buy a domain for $35 and got it confirmed. I advised the whole world to start using it only to hit a wall three days letter. Network Solutions decided to cancel the transaction and credited back the $35. When I called, I was told that it was the credit card company. I have not argued even though i was never notified by Visa and offered another perfectly good M/C. Again, it was rejected for reasons that remained opaque. Once the third card was rejected, i got the idea; I kept getting notices from them that I can purchase the domain for a year for $150! got it? Blackmail at its crudest form. When i called i was told that; They cannot advise me why none of my cards would not be accepted (I have excellent credit score) and that they have no control on the registry to release my domain. I plan to sue these bastards and nail somebody’s ass to the wall. I am looking for other injured parties so we can make our lawsuit a class action and drive this company out of business. please email your gripe to thanks

  17. February 12th, 2008 at 06:02 | #17

    Anonymous YOUR domain was released to you after we sorted the issue out on who actueally paid for the domain., You now are the domain name holder. Please clear that up so people understand it was not black mail.
    Your provided proof of ownership with your payment receipts.
    We then transfered the domain to your name and pushed to your account.
    This issue is solved and no one was black mailing any one.
    You stated 99% of the truth above and the merge of host parlor to IwhiC.Com was done with out the proper files of owner ship of domains as they were deleted from host parlor and I had no way of knowing.
    Again your domain issue with is cleared.
    Thank you

  18. Napoleon
    February 20th, 2008 at 03:45 | #18

    I liked James P idea so I searched a few domains names:-

    Surprisingly when i checked on moniker they were all owned by netsol within less 10 seconds of my enquiry. However the exception was:-

    Strange!! :-)

  19. March 7th, 2008 at 04:02 | #19

    Just a reminder, when you buy a domain with your hosting package, read the terms of service first, as many hosts require you to host with them for x amount of months to get the discounted domain, or free domain.. what ever the case should be..

    We are a honest host and this situation with the domain name did not need to go this far. As he stated he bought the domain name through hostparlor (which sold out). We bought the clients, and all the rights to the domain names.. Per there agreement he did not host long enough with him (or us).

    But in good faith we transfered the domain name to him at a lose to us.. To to avoid all this drama..


    If amy one wants the real insite on this situation feel free to contact us..

  20. Luis
    March 10th, 2008 at 22:02 | #20

    All: I have taken down comments from (what i presume is) one visitor by that person’s request. However, since that visitor had varying IP Addresses and many posts were under “Anonymous” names, it is difficult to judge which were truly by that person. If there was a comment you posted which has been taken down in error, please let me know, and I can replace it. Thank you.

  21. July 22nd, 2008 at 04:57 | #21

    GoDaddy sucks too, but I liked webintellects. Unfortunately, they cost more but have amazing customer service–I get to (gasp) talk to real people who are competent. I have tried dreamhost and godaddy. Dreamhost was pretty good, godaddy the worst (though cheapest) of the three.

    Godaddy called me at work, and when a coworker answered, they actually asked him what the “orientation” of my site was! Talk about unprofessional behavior. Needless to say, I’m transferring my domain name (which has a perfectly legitimate “orientation”).

  22. December 20th, 2008 at 03:32 | #22

    I had registered and used it for a year building my site to page 1 of google. Time to renew not available they sold it to my in town competion. A year of hard hard work I estimate at 45000 US gone, ripped of. I had to restart with a dot net name. Cybersharking at its best and network solutions did this to me.
    anonymous because I am afraid they will do this to me again.

  23. NoDaddy
    June 29th, 2010 at 17:58 | #23

    And GoDaddy is what you recommend? Heh. Masters of blackmail!

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