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What Is Domain Name Front Running?

Published November 18, 2010

When choosing a domain name, have you ever searched and finally found a name available only to discover a few minutes later it no longer is? While unlikely, it's possible you have experienced a case of what is known as domain name front running.

While millions of domains are registered each month and the chances of someone else chasing the same name as you in the same timeframe are perhaps better than winning the lottery, a more sinister explanation of the phenomenon has floated around the Internet for years.

Domain name front running is the name given to the reported practice of a registrar monitoring domain name searches from potential registrants and then registering those names. This effectively prevents the name from being registered elsewhere, forcing the registrant to use the front runner's service. It's also been reported that in some cases, the registrar will then attempt to "sell" the domain name for a much higher price than the regular registration fees to the party, or keep the name for its own uses, such as for displaying ads.

Domain name front running has a close relationship to domain name tasting, whereby a registrant can use the first few days of the registration period to gauge the potential of a name and then requesting a refund. The practice of domain tasting was not confined to registrars and many domainers engaged in the practice until the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) introduced a small fee to discourage tasting.

ICANN has investigated the issue of domain name front running but was unable to conclude the practice was/is occurring. However, according to DomainIncite, ICANN's Applicant Guidebook for new TLD operators contains a draft Code of Conduct for registries that includes an explicit ban on the practice.

By the way, Domain Registration Services certainly doesn't engage in front running, so carry out a domain name search to your heart's content  :).

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