Network Solutions Registering Domains After Availability Lookup

Network Solutions

A friend tipped me off to a Domain State thread that warns you not to look up a domain name at Network Solutions. If you go to the Networks Solutions site and look up a domain name to see if it’s registered then Network Solutions, within seconds, will buy the domain name, causing you to have to go buy it from them.

Let me explain, using a specific example, exactly what Network Solutions is doing and what is wrong with what they’re doing.

First, I went to the home page and filled out their form to see if was available.

Network Solutions Home Page

According to Network Solutions, was available. See the screen capture below:

Network Solutions domain name available

(It is my contention that within seconds of my inquiring about the domain name Network Solutions automatically registered that domain name.)

But, my wife called me on my cell phone and I had to step away from my computer for a few minutes. A few minutes later, I realized that I could buy that same domain name for $6.99 over at another registrar and decided to go with them, rather than paying Network Solutions the $34.99 for the domain name. After all, I could think of a lot of things that I could spend the savings of $28 dollars on, mainly 3 other domain names.

alternative registrar whois search

Come to find out, Network Solutions had already purchased the domain name and I am forced to buy it from them. Not only did Network Solutions buy the domain name after I looked it up, they automatically put up a “domain parking page” on the site, telling me that I must buy it from them.

Network Solutions domain name registered

A domain lookup is absolutely not an agreement to buy.

Network Solutions may call this a service of theirs. Frankly, I would not call this a “service” or even a bad business practice–I would call it extortion. There are thousands of registrars out there, and we all have the right to register a domain name at any registrar. It’s called “fair competition”. If I check to see if a domain name is available at Network Solutions, I should not be required to purchase that domain name from them for $34.99. I should be able to go to another registrar and register it for $6.99 or even $14.99. A domain lookup is absolutely not an agreement to buy.

For the purpose of this blog post, I went ahead and bought the domain name anyway from Network Solutions. But, you might want to try it for yourself. Make up a domain name, see if it’s available at Network Solutions, and you’ll see that they register it immediately, locking you into buying it from them.

This practice of “domain tasting” or registering a domain name after someone looks it up to see if it’s available is completely unacceptable.

It’s called ethics. What do you think?

You can also find more about this here, lots of other sites are talking about it:
Search For Domains At Network solutions, Face Extortion
Network Solutions + Unethical go hand and hand
NSI Registers Every Domain Checked
Network Solutions’ Defensive Measure for Whois Searches
Network Solutions Front Running
Network Solutions Faces PR Nightmare Over Domain FrontRunning

As an alternative, you might try registering your domains at Godaddy or another registrar like Dotster:

Update: Network Solutions has responded to the front-running (front running) claim. Read their response in the comments below. There’s also a statement here at Circle ID.

Jay is also talking about it. He confirms that Network Solutions started doing this on December 16th. Why in the heck did it take people this long to realize what Network Solutions was doing? Network Solutions steals domain ideas; Confirmed!

Here are a few more people talking about Network Solutions:
Network Solutions steals domain ideas; Confirmed!
Network Solutions joins the namespace piracy business
Network Solutions steals creative domain name ideas
Network Solutions Stealing Domain Ideas!
Network Solutions Destroys Its Brand In One Fell Swoop
GoDaddy Coincidence?

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  1. Bill Hartzer says

    Jon, I completely agree…it’s amazing that they’re taking advantage of “the system” like this.

    From what I can tell, it’s only on dot coms without hyphens. They’re not automatically registering other TLDs at the moment.

  2. Jon Kelly says

    Bill, that’s beyond shady and completely unethical in my book. I hoping the market (users) punishes them accordingly. I gave up on them long ago, I hope your post makes pushes more users away from them until they clean up their act.

  3. bunnyhero says

    holy carp. i just tested this with the domain “”. it showed as available, and a quick WHOIS command from the commandline confirmed that this domains indeed did not exist before (“No match for “DOMAINKITINGISWRONG.COM”).

    a few minutes later and i tried again. result:

    Whois Server:
    Referral URL:
    Status: ok
    Updated Date: 08-jan-2008
    Creation Date: 08-jan-2008
    Expiration Date: 08-jan-2009

    this really must be stopped.

    (i also tested with :P)

  4. hahaha says

    HAHAHAHAHA love it, i just looked up:
    networksolutionsarec* (replace the * with a vowel if “you” will)
    Now they own that domain… try it out!
    Everyone should be searching the site for domain names they have no intention of using, this way these tools will soon have a large back catalog of useless domains under their belt for being shady lil t*rds (same vowel)
    Bonus points if you can insult the company with the domain name and make them own it at the same time!
    I say again:

  5. jim spencer says


    If they are in fact tasting, rather than registering, the domain should be dropped in five days.
    Which do you think they are doing tasting or registering. The big difference is how long it is held.

  6. hahaha says

    Update: also try: networksolutionsaref* and networksolutionsarec*

    (* = u and then * = O)

    oh this is SOOOOOO much fun…
    everyone please do this at least once it will teach these (see above)’s a lesson for being greedy and immoral #%#@)%(@#%’s

  7. john andrews says

    (Bill, fix the captcha. 10+3 is 13, and I did not fail math!)

    Network Solutions can say they are assisting you (a NS customer since you checked the domain thru their form) by holding the domain while you decide. The offer price didn’t go up.. it is the same as it was when you tested it. You need to wait and see what they do with a domain when you don’t decide to buy it, to test their intent. If you pass on a high quality domain, do they keep it? Auction it? Resell it?

    Check out how many registrars hold private domain portfolios as investments, and you will start to uncover the conflict of interest. For example, how many domains does private company GoDaddy “own”? How did it get them, and what price did it “pay”? How does it liquidate domains back into the Internet?

    Lots of secrets for those interested in investigative journalism.

  8. Shashib says

    Hi Bill,

    I work for Network Solutions and saw your tweet on Twitter and would like the opportunity to respond, This measure is geared for our customers. It gives them a chance to look for domains consider if it’s what they want and then have an opportunity to register it.

    Network Solutions is not front running. “ Front Runners” are people who register domain names known to have been searched, for the purpose of monetizing them and then selling them at inflated prices either directly to the customer who searched for the domain or through aftermarket channels.
    We have started protecting all domain name searches at Network Solutions by holding the searched domains for our customers for a short period of time before releasing them. This gives our customers the opportunity to register names later without fear that the name will be registered by a “Front Runner.”
    We are not monetizing these domains, nor do we intend to keep them after the holding period.

    We did this because we heard customers complain that queried domain names are being snatched up by other people as soon as they searched. Network Solutions makes sure its search data is secure and we do not sell it any third party. I know that Network Solutions has no intention of keeping any searched domain or monetizing it.

    Thanks for listening,


  9. Mack says

    > and then selling them at inflated prices

    If you haven’t checked in the last decade, $34.99 is an inflated price… over 300% inflated!

  10. Jaan Kanellis says

    I don’t care how you spin it, your front running. A visitor to your website is not a customer. You provide a tool that effectively locks domains for a period of time which is front running. Stop spinning stories network solutions.

  11. Search Engine Marketing says

    Evil scheme to cheat webmasters off their dollars. Should have reported this type of domain reg services to ICANN and BBBonline

  12. Matt Falcon says

    Actually, oh great Network Solutions douchebag, you ARE the cause of the “snatched up before being registered” problem!! The exact problem mentioned in this article was caused by you! A who-knows-how-many-year waiting period to wait for your damn domain registration to expire is NOT “convenience”, and the price you’re charging is WAY overinflated.

    Isn’t Network Solutions the same douchebags that send out fake “renewal notices” for expiring domains (via mail), too? I wonder how many people fall for that crap…

    Just to make your life a living hell, I plan on pulling an old script out of my closet that automatically mass-submits formulated queries to a server hundreds of times a minute. Bordering on an “attack” script, it’ll be sure to teach you Network Solutions fags a thing or two about extortion. And I’ll be posting a link to it right here so everyone can have their share of anger taken out on your disgusting practices.

    As all beautifully indignant corporate “formal” replies are signed, Have a nice day!

  13. Ryan Marrs says

    I just tested this with, it does in fact register it. This needs to be digged and blown up to mainstream news. Talk about shady.

  14. Josh Garner says

    I wish I could share with you a number of other things that I’m sure are illegal. I had to work with NetSol on a professional level for quite some time, and can attest that they are a VERY shady company. I would say send it here: but I’m not too sure this site will work out. Seem like it would end up being mis used and mis managed. But who knows.

  15. Jim says

    Some thing happened to me yesterday. NEVER use Network Solutions when searching for a domain name.. period.

  16. Mike says

    Shashib – How can you even consider this to be a service? It’s blackmail.

    “This measure is geared for our customers” – Nope, this measure is intended to ensnare people into becoming your customers whether they like it or not.

    How can you justify $35 for a domain name anyway?

  17. Brian Thibault says


    Good writeup. I’ve always wondered if anybody was doing this. Seems like a pretty good scam, wish I would have thought of it.

    – Brian

  18. Jason says

    I of course had to try this it. Yep, a few minutes later they have purchased:


    On second thought, I changed my mind, you can keep that one!

  19. Dan Thies says

    Wow – they now own as well. 😀

    I sure hope someone doesn’t get angry and create a script that brings this evil machine to its knees by searching for several billion 30+ letter random domain names.

  20. Mr. ADSL says

    Hahaha, great… I also checked several, all registred now. This is going to cost them a lot of money!!!

  21. Tummy Tuck says

    I can’t believe they’re doing this! I have a ton of domains, and thank god I’ve come out okay.

  22. Mike says

    You might want to have a look at the post on SEOmoz about this issue. As they point out, it’s not illegal but it is unethical.

    All the same, I have no idea what they’re going to do with…. 😉

  23. Dave Zan says

    I wonder if some people are even remotely capable of putting the emotions aside for a moment to analyze NetSol’s recent actions and their stated reasons for it.

    Now originally, NetSol indeed didn’t put commercial parking pages except a page to register the domain name via their site only. That’s been since replaced by their non-commercial parking pages (just checked one I tested), and their rep posted somewhere they’ll soon be having no content at all.

    Next, domain tasting, domain front running, whatever you want to call it, is indeed happening. Various users are being “deprived” the chance to register it at their leisure (although registrars can’t guarantee availability anyway) because of them, and that’s what NetSol’s essentially trying to address.

    Unfortunately registrars are also getting the flak for this, even though many themselves aren’t engaged in domain tasting by themselves. Well, I hope anyway, but the one I worked with in a previous life has consistently NOT done this.

    The .Org Registry imposed a fee on this and effectively limited this practice for .org domain names. VeriSign could very well do the same, but I guess they won’t for whatever reason.

    So more or less everyone is bugging ICANN to do something quick. Until then, registrars are going to do what they can under the circumstances.

    It won’t surprise me if other registrars are thinking, “Why didn’t we think of that before?” or “Why don’t we do the same for OUR customers?”. It’s unfortunate if they resort to doing this when it’s really unnecessary, but are nonetheless compelled to.

    Of course, no one has to agree. And it’s fine.

    Really wish it didn’t have to come to this, though.

  24. Utah SEO says

    Bill, I’ve also had the same problem before. Thanks for getting to the bottom of this and publicizing it.

  25. Make Money on eBay says

    WOW! I can’t believe this! That is a horrible business practice.

    I knew there was a reason we don’t use Network Solutions to register our domains!

  26. Anthony a.k.a. OldSchool says

    Can anyone say… corrupt? That is pretty sad, although I have to say I have never been a big fan of NetSol. Thanks for exposing this Bill.

  27. Davao Hotels says

    that is SOOOOOOO funny. i didn’t try it myself, as reading these comments had me convinced, but this is both SHADY on their behalf, and funny how everyone here started looking up these names. if I ever want a domain, i’ll just get it right away instead of looking up the availability first. Thanks for posting this.

  28. RK says

    Even I faced same problem When I tried to register my company, I searched for it and says it’s available and with in hours it has taken.

    It’s very un-ethical.

  29. Planet Apex says

    A interesting case.. I wonder they even sell one domain. 34$ is outrages. why do people go for so expensive domain registering when they can get it for quarter that price

  30. Colorado Lasik Surgery Guide says

    Man that’s messed up! I guess it’s legal but it certainly isn’t ethical.

  31. Colorado Lasik Surgury Tips says

    That is totally messed up if in fact Network Solutions is doing this. I understand free enterprise, but come on!

  32. Cases says

    I sure hope the word gets out so people will not look up a domain they are interested in in case this practice happening all the time.

  33. Goji Gal says

    That’s outrageous! Its strange as I have actually thought this to myself many times when registering domains. Its so easy for a company to do this. Totally unethical, the word on this needs to get out! Least I know to avoid and go elsewhere!

  34. steve says

    Why not writing a script that automatically generates thousands of random domain names in a second and looks them up on networksolutions? So they have to spend huge loads of dollars to register tons of lousy and worthless domain names that actually no one will purchase never :-)

  35. John says

    I just searched for at Network Solutions. Rechecked it several minutes later at NS and it’s still available. Immediately switched over to GoDaddy and it’s already taken.

    Interestingly though, today’s the 24th and Whois says that the record was supposedly created on the 21st. Are they backdating their registrations too, or did someone else already check for this lovely domain name during the registration grace period?

  36. Web User says

    You can call them at 1-800-333-7680 press 2 then 7 and ask them to release the domain names. It only takes a few seconds for them to be release once the person on the other end of the phone types in the domain name.

    They are some DIRTY STINKING RATS!!!!!!!!!

  37. BillG says

    @Shashi – I find your response incoherent, and Network Solutions’ business practices highly unethical.

    You said “Network Solutions is not front running.”
    Also, “‘ Front Runners’ are people who register domain names known to have been searched, for the purpose of monetizing them and then selling them at inflated prices either directly to the customer who searched for the domain or through aftermarket channels.”

    Is not Network Solutions registering the domain name that has been searched for the purpose of monetizing them? Are not Network Solutions prices inflated compared to all the other registrars on the Internet? (GoDaddy is about 75% cheaper.)

    You also said “We have started protecting all domain name searches at Network Solutions by holding the searched domains for our customers for a short period of time before releasing them.”

    By “holding”, do you mean “registering”? Because after searching for a domain on NetSol and then going to another registrar and performing a WhoIs, it indeed says that the domain name is REGISTERED by Network Solutions. This looks like front running to me.

    You also said “We did this because we heard customers complain that queried domain names are being snatched up by other people as soon as they searched.”

    You snooze you loose. This is how domain registration works, and part of the competition of registering first. But what NetSol is doing, as a registrar, is a conflict of interested with their potential customers and should be considered HIGHLY ILLEGAL.

    And finally, you said “We have started protecting all domain name searches at Network Solutions by holding the searched domains for our customers for a short period of time before releasing them. This gives our customers the opportunity to register names later …”

    By “customer”, don’t you mean “potential customer”? Because they haven’t actually bought anything from you.

    So let’s review. This is what just happened to me, a POTENTIAL customer:
    A potential customer is interested in a domain name. They want to check its availability while they think about it. So they search for the availability. They also search search Network Solutions for the availability and check out what addons exist with the domain. Directly after the search is made with NetSol, Network Solutions then registers the domain name. The customer, not making up their mind yet, goes back to GoDaddy. They like what GoDaddy offers and proceed to register the domain name with GoDaddy. But lo and behold, the domain name has already been registered by Network Solutions. The only way the potential customer can buy the domain name now is through Network Solutions. Since timing is an issue and because the potential buyer has no idea of when the domain name will be released, they must proceed and purchase the domain name before someone else does. This FORCES them to buy from Network Solutions. Simply because they looked it up on Network Solutions.

    Is the customer able to freely choose at this point?
    And how is this not considered monopolistic?


    – BillG

  38. random_thinker says

    Yeah….I’ve been a Gold VIP netsol user since 1997; last week I found a .com name that I wanted during a netsol lookup, and realized I could get it for a far lower price elsewhere, It was available at netsol, but not available in other lookups. I did a whois, and whoah! It was registered by netsol! Out of principle, I’m now transferring all my names elsewhere! Give me 3-months to complete all transfers, and they will never see another cent from me!

  39. Network Consulting says

    Thanks for the great read. After reading this I must say that I am highly pissed off that a domain registrar, especially one as big as NSI pulls this kind of stuff. Not only do i think this is unethical, but it should be illegal. I often check domain names and wait a little while sometimes before I decide on purchasing them. How upsetting, I will never use NSI.

  40. Go Public says

    I’m really surprised that Network Solutions can get away with this. They lock you in, and you have no choice but to purchase it from them if you want that domain name. I’ve heard rumors of GoDaddy doing the same thing, but I have yet to confirm that.

  41. San Diego Lasik Surgery says

    That’s ridiculous. How can they do such thing. Now I know why people don’t use Network Solutions.

  42. College Graduation Gifts says

    Speaking of ethics and conscience, this is something which can be considered as out of bounds. However, this is the internet…what else is new?

    Anyways, you have a mind provoking subject matter in this post. My hats off to you, mate.

  43. Abdominoplasty New Jersey says

    This is absolutely amazing. How can this company like this still be in existence? I definitely won’t use them to do domain research.

  44. OC Web Design says

    Wow, that’s really not a good way to do business…. really shady tactic they use to force people to buy domains off of them. What is it going to be next? I didn’t buy from Network Solutions before just because of the price, and now I will not use them for looking up domains now that I know that.

    I wonder if any other companies are doing this. I have heard rumors that GoDaddy does this, but I have no evidence to back that. It’s really a good way to tick off your customers… they should reconsider this practice because it makes them look really bad.

  45. Utah SEO says

    Wow, that is horrible! Man I keep hearing of more and more schemes from the registrars.

  46. Liposuction in Dallas says

    That is absolutely ridiculous…I will make sure I never use them to look up a domain.

  47. search engine optimisation sydney says

    I assume they would keep it for 3 days then hand it back

  48. Warren Buffet Stock Picks says

    It’s been 8 months since this post was first published but it goes to show that on the Internet, this stuff is pretty much forever. I tested to see if Network Solutions was still front running and I was still able to register the domain after an hour of me searching for it. Still, what a way to sully your reputation.

  49. Coach Bags says

    It’s unbelievable such things can happen. In your view, what is the safest way to check the availability of a domain name, then? I think that others can copy what Network Solutions are doing, thus forcing you to buy from them.

  50. Designer Swimwear says

    This is crazy! I found this because I heard that Network Solutions did this, and I couldn’t believe that it was true. This exact thing happened to one of my business associates, and it just blows my mind that they would do this… they are supposed to be this huge legit company, and this is how they treat potential customers just to force them into doing business? wow

  51. Jan says

    Network Solutions another name for modern day pirates!
    I learned a lesson from NETWORK SOLUTIONS that cost me a bundle!
    I had a web site, that a lot of work and time went into. I had it on all my business cards and recently no one could find it. I had renewed it in November 08.
    Anyone that every used NSI knows they bill you constantly so when I was getting renewal notices I just deleted them as I knew my other 2 sites were recently renewed.
    Having been with the company for many years, upon renewing I assumed the whole package was renewed, never gave it a second thought. Come to find out, they only renewed the web site, with no domain name and then sold the domain name! WOW. They said they sent me renewal notices, etc. So if you deal with those crooks, be careful! They are the deluxe rip off artists. I tried everything to resolve it but they want $150.00 to buy back my own domain name! How ethical is that? I will shout their dishonesty from the roof tops and all the business I sent them will be getting a recall along with my canceling my sites as they come up for renewal.
    They are modern day, legal scam artist.

  52. Jack S. Hunter says

    Network Solutions is now charging $59 a year – just to register a domain. I came here after reading the nasty fine-print on their renewal notice. It says it’s due now, only the domain expires in 2011. Small print tells you that you must renew 59 days in advance. Hah Hah… Not my site. I use namerout/hostroute. My relative will be switching. What a bunch of weasels. Did they all go to Smelly Rodent University?