NSI – Busted (I think)

By Laurel Sutton

March 6, 2008

Network Solutions has been served with a class action suit. The suit claims that the NSI has forced customers into buying domains from the company rather than through potentially cheaper avenues, in effect netting the company millions of dollars. This makes me happy, since I’ve always viewed NSI/Verisign as a government-sponsored monopoly that gets away with murder. Recently they were busted (in the colloquial “you got caught on tape” sense) for domain front-running. This is the practice of reserving domains that had been searched for availability at the NSI site: You’d type in some domain name, it would come up as available, and then (unbeknownst to you) NSI would register it. If you then tried to register it anywhere but at NSI, it would be listed as unavailable. They claimed that they were doing this to protect their “customers” from becoming victims of front-running by other registrars…yeah, and if you believe that, I have some very nice lakefront property in Florida for ya.

So now they’re being sued for this. I’m very curious to see how the suit plays out, as they have a long history of abusing and overcharging their customers (I’ll have a rant about that in an upcoming blog entry). They seem to have been caught red-handed here. On the other (red) hand, they’re the 500 lb gorilla that no one seems to be able to subdue. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Domain name availability is a huge issue for us as a naming firm. I can’t tell you how many great company names have been struck from lists merely because the domain is not available – or worse, how many times clients’ hearts have been broken because a domain acquisition deal fell through. I’m pretty good at brokering domain deals, but even I can’t strongarm those domain barons in the Cayman Islands, who populate the Interwebs with clickthrough sites.

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