I've always considered myself good at separating the "real" from the "scam" when it comes to the web. I don't succumb to the lure of pop-ups, pop-unders, phony domain renewal notices, free vacations from "Dizney" nor the hundreds of companies in India and China that "really like my site" and want to be partners.
Punked By A Major Corporation?
But earlier this year I got swindled by the domain registrar giant Network Solutions. Here's how:
One of my clients began developing content for a new site. About a week into the project, I was curious as to whether she'd registered her domain name yet. I went to the Network Solutions website and looked it up — no, she hadn't, it was still available. I told her, "Hey, go register your domain name before someone takes it."
Missed It By A Day?
The next day, my client is distraught and her business partner is angry with her. Seems she went to Go Daddy to register the name only to find someone had bought it just the day before! In tears and kicking herself for missing it by one day, she went ahead and registered a slew of second-choice names.
Hmmm. I go to Go Daddy and check it out. Sure enough the name is gone. To double-check, I go to iChristianHost.com — gone. To triple-check, I go to Network Solutions — what's this? — AVAILABLE!!
I'm not sure why Network Solutions has special access to this domain name but, not wanting to waste another minute, I quickly buy it for my client — never mind that it costs over 3 times as much as the other domain registrars. I inform my client that I got the name for her. She is overjoyed.
Afterglow or Afterburn?
Hmmm. But now I'm curious. What just happened here? It took me only one web search on "Network Solutions domain names" to find several articles/posts — like this one and this one — of their recent practice of snatching domain names. Seems that when I looked up my client's domain name on Network Solution's site, they locked it down for 4 days preventing its purchase from any other registrar except them! They did this completely without my knowledge or permission! In effect, they "bought" the domain name on the sly (a who-is lookup on the domain name would have shown it as owned by Network Solutions for one year).
When confronted by these accusations of front-running, Network Solutions claimed it was perfectly legal and was a "service" to their customers to prevent them from missing out on their chosen domain name.
Wait, I have a shovel, here's their exact quote:
This protection measure provides our customers the opportunity to register domains they have previously searched without the fear that the name will be already taken through Front Running.
For My Own Good?
Legal via some technical loophole, maybe. But a service to their customers? Which overpaid corporate schmuck came up with that drivel? A worthy service provided on the down-low, unadvertised? And does simply using their free look-up service make me a customer of Network Solutions that needs their protection?
I thought I'd done my client a favor by obtaining her chosen domain name. In actuality, it was my innocent search on Network Solutions that made it unavailable to her in the first place, invoking the anger of her business partner and causing her to lose money by buying several second-choice names and then paying 3 times as much for her chosen name.
Free Crafty Pixel!
What could I do to voice my outrage? Seems a class-action lawsuit was already being done. Seems there were plenty of articles and blog posts about it already. Most of the domain names I own were thankfully not with Network Solutions. But my mainstay "craftypixel.com" was — for almost 10 years. So, of course, I transferred it. When the customer service rep asked why I was leaving, I gave him an earful and he gave me back an earful of the same corporate BS.
So, one irony is that I really was a Network Solutions customer — a long-time customer — to whom they did a huge disservice. They breached my trust to make a few extra bucks and I'm still hot about it. Don't they make enough charging 3 1/2 times the going rate for domain names? From what I can tell, they're no longer doing what I've described in this post. But what else are they cooking up to take its place?
So while all this may be old news to some — this Network Solutions deception broke almost a year ago — I find it even more relevant with all the recent news of corporate misbehavior. I loathe all companies that think tricking people is a great way to do business and a legitimate corporate strategy. So, I demand (hee-hee) the firing of all Network Solutions execs involved in perpetrating that domain snatching nonsense! And how about a refund of my client's fees! And throw in a free Disney vacation!