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ICANN Addresses the Domain Snatchers

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Just like I pointed out over a year ago, somebody is trolling for domain names. Today there is a PDF out from the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC)
that it
that ICANN is looking into people sniffing domain search results and then poaching the domain names before the people can come back and purchase them.

The Internet's key oversight agency is investigating suspicions that insider information is being used to snatch desired domain names before an individual or business can register them.

The Security and Stability Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers termed the practice "domain name front running" and likened it to a stock broker buying or selling shares ahead of a client's trade, in anticipation of a movement in price.

In the case of Internet addresses, many people who see a domain name available the first time they check find it already taken by the time they return to buy it.

That has led to suspicions that someone with access to search requests has been using the information to gauge interest in a domain name.

By buying the domain first, that person can then try to sell it to the interested party for a profit. This is different from traditional domain name speculation because the buyer knows for sure that the address is of interest.

I've had this happen to me three times, which is a little too much for just random luck. In addition, once I posted the article in Feb 2006, several other people have come to me and reported similar results. ICANN won't say that it's going on, just that there is an "appearance" of wrongness:

Although the practice has never been proven, the ICANN committee said the perception that it is happening "portrays an unfavorable image of the parties associated with the domain name registration process in specific, and of the domain name community in general."

The committee said it wants to prevent "perception from evolving to accepted wisdom."

The committee cited several ways front running may be happening, including the installation of viruses and other software programmed to collect such information and the use of unscrupulous third-party sites to check domain name availability. Coincidence also was cited as a possibility.

ICANN is trying to gather evidence on whether it is occurring and, if so, whether policies or other measures are required to restrict the practice.

I'm glad they're not actually fixing a problem, only the appearance of a problem. Geesh.

For now, I don't recommend people going out to search for domain names until they are ready to buy a few. Make a list of a bunch of possible domain names you might want, try typing them into a browser (could be problems there too, but that's a longer story), and then make all of your purchase decisions all at once.

Trying to buy a domain that somebody is squatting on is like trying to get your brother-in-law to give up that lottery ticket he bought for ten bucks. It's a great deal for him, but people never see it that way.

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This page contains a single entry by Daniel published on October 24, 2007 7:24 PM.

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Daniel Markham