Are Registries Aiding And Abetting Front Running?

As¬†James mentioned in yesterday’s post¬†here on the Tucows Blog,¬†Network Solutions Inc.¬†caused quite a furor¬†when they confirmed that they are “front running”¬†(registering domains based on domain searches done by potential registrants).

After a contributor to Domain State broke the story, it was covered on Techmeme, Digg, Slashdot, and a host of individual sites and blogs, etc. and so on. Heck, it even made USA Today.

To be clear, Network Solutions officially denied they were front running:

Although Network Solutions does temporarily register a site a customer searched for, spokeswoman Susan Wade denied there’s anything nefarious afoot. “Network Solutions is not front-running,” she said. Network Solutions holds the domain for up to four days, during which time a customer can register it only from Network Solutions and after which it again becomes generally available if unregistered, Wade said. But that feature, she said, is a “pre-emptive” measure to protect customers–from front-runners. That’s because front-runners can tell when a customer has searched for a domain at Network Solutions, for example because Network Solutions then must check availability at other sites when a customer searches, Wade said.

Respectfully, this is spin. As many of those up in arms about this have pointed out, Network Solutions is effectively saying “we’re pre-emptively front running to help prevent others from front running”. ¬†My guess is most people would say “thanks but no thanks”. I’m concerned however about an aspect of Susan Wade’s statement that others haven’t made much of, namely that registries are involved in Front Running.

“This search data is captured at the various registries. We believe there are registries and/or Internet service providers that may be selling this data to front-runners. So, by holding domains searched on Network Solutions, this pre-empts the search data being captured,” she said.

If Network Solutions has evidence of registries  - or any service provider for that matter Рactually being involved in front running, I urge them to share this information with the Internet community so that we can all make sure that these people are called out for the practice and our customers can be told to avoid them in the future.

2 thoughts on “Are Registries Aiding And Abetting Front Running?

  1. erik

    Now is THE hot moment for Tucows to use the moment and present yourselves as THE most reliable registrar in the industry !!!!!! Marketing dept. use this moment !!!!!! Don’t be modest for 1 time !!!

    Good Luck !!!

    It is a disgrace for the industry , but THE opportunity for Tucows

  2. Ian Bell

    NetSol’s “clarification” here is all-too thinly-veiled. They’re abusing their position as a Registrar, but I’m glad they are and have been caught, as this will encourage ICANN to tighten the rules for Registrars concerning private data about what users are searching for. The sharing or misuse of this data for Front-Running or anything else has to be curtailed and, in the future, severely punished.

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