Case Study: How Your Domain Name Gets Stolen (Part 1)

by Paul Wilson


domain-name.gifThe other week I was working with my friend Scott who I’ve mentioned on this blog for having a talent for finding great domain names. Anyway, Scott and I started to notice something about the domain names we were searching on. We noticed that the names which we were searching for dot com availability would be snatched up if we didn’t purchase the domain on the spot.

At first, Scott and I took this unique phenomena as a tribute to our ability in finding great names. However, with each name snatching doubt began to rise on the privacy of the whois searches.

It became quite evident the other day while working with a friend on a obscure religious project that something was up. My friend really liked the name, and upon our first whois search was told that it was available. I wasn’t surprised, even though my friend felt this was an invaluable name I didn’t feel it was a high profile name. In fact, I was so confident that no one would pick up this name that I told my friend to continue to search out a dot com and that we would buy later. Imagine my shock, and my friend’s chagrin, when the very next day someone gobbled up the name for ownership.

It was then that I started to become extremely suspicious. We were doing a majority of our searches on GoDaddy and my first hypothesis was that GoDaddy was selling their whois searches to third party companies. It seemed obvious if this was the case that these third party companies were then in turn buying the names that had the most whois searches. I was certain that they were hoping we would come grovelling to them willing to buy the domain at any price.

However, as I hunted around the web trying to find evidence to support my hypothesis I stumbled across another possible theory. I found this idea on an obscure comment to someone’s blog. The person proported that shady companies became registrars and were being notified for avalibility with every whois search done on the web. Companies like GoDaddy or Register would send out requests to these registrars to be certain that the names were not already purchased. When the company received multiple whois searches on one name they would buy it and then become a cybersquatter with the domain.

This idea made a lot of sense to me, and it took GoDaddy off of my “Big Bad Corporate” list. However, it really irritated me too. If this theory is true there really is no way to protect our future dot com names unless we buy it there on the spot. Having been on the web since early 1996, I can tell you that there are many times I would of saved myself a few dollars if I had just waited a day or two in purchasing a domain name.

Currently I have a plan cooking in my brain that may prove this theory. Tomorrow I hope to set forth a case study that we can all participate in to see if we need to start creating a black hat registrar lists. Stay tuned for more!

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