Network Solutions Criticized for Backing Plan to End Domain Tasting

LOS ANGELES - Network Solutions, a company that was named in a federal class-action lawsuit in February for its alleged practices of domain tasting and front running, has issued a statement backing a proposal that would end the practices.


Several technology-focused sites, including TechCrunch, have called out Network Solutions for its latest stance, saying it is hypocritical for the company to participate in the actions it now condemns.


A federal class-action lawsuit was filed against Network Solutions for allegedly forcing millions of people to buy Internet domain names from the company instead of from cheaper competitors.

The alleged scheme has netted the company millions of dollars, according to the law firm Kabateck Brown Kellner.


But in a statement released last week, Network Solutions said the company has "long called for a fee-based solution to eliminate the related abuses of domain-name tasting and front running."


In light of that, the statement adds, Network Solutions is urging heads of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to approve a budget item that includes a provision to make the non-refundable ICANN fee (20 cents per transaction) applicable to domain names deleted during the Add Grace Period (AGP) once the level of deletions exceeds 10 percent of a registrar's net new registrations in that month. 


"Applying the non-refundable ICANN fee in this manner should eliminate the much-maligned practice of domain-name tasting, when parties register a domain name for the five-day AGP and place pay-per-click ads on the domain's Web page to determine if the name is worth more than its registration cost; if it is not, the taster simply deletes the name and receives a full refund," the statement reads. "In some cases, the names are immediately re-registered and tasted for another five days. Sometimes, this process is repeated over and over in a scheme called ‘domain kiting.' Both of these practices are abusive, as they allow tasters to hold, at no cost, millions of domains that are no longer available to the public for registration.


"Elimination of tasting and kiting will also curtail the practice of front running. Front running is when someone registers a domain name, for the purpose of tasting, within minutes or hours after someone else has conducted a search for that domain name."


In the federal class-action suit, Network Solutions was accused of participating in domain tasting, reportedly charging $34.99 to register a name sought by the lead plaintiff in the suit. A competitor would have charged $9.99, the suit claims.


ICANN is expected to vote on the budget item on Thursday.