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Safely Checking Domain Names

By Heshy Friedman

checking_domain_name_availabilityWhen you start a new website, the first step is to buy a domain name. If you thought of a good name to use, it’s probably already taken. However, combinations of words or unique identifiers are often available, and it is very easy to check online for availability.

All domain registrars allow you to search for available domain names. If a name is available, the domain registrar will give you the option to purchase it. If you purchase it from them in the same session as your search, everything will be fine and dandy. However, if you wait to purchase it, or were unsure if you wanted it and then chose to purchase it at a later date, you will be in for quite a surprise. What is unknown to most people is that if a domain name is searched and not purchased, it will likely be purchased by a third party and will no longer be available in the open domain market. In order to get such a name, you will be required to buy it from the third party at a premium.

I have never seen any documentation on this, so I cannot tell you for certain exactly how this process works. However, I have personally witnessed this myself and with other clients on several occasions with Godaddy. Godaddy is one of the largest domain registrars, and if they are doing this practice, I am sure the others are doing this as well. My guess is that the domain registrars sell their list of searched domains to third party companies, and those companies pick out names from that list to purchase that they think will be likely candidates for a resell. Knowing that these were searched domain name and have a good chance of being purchased, they assess a selling value to the domain, and the desperate customer is forced to pay a premium for that name.

I personally think this practice unethical, and it should be illegal. Many unsuspecting people are forced to pay this extra premium only because they did an uninformed search with a domain registrar and didn’t purchase it right away. Ideally, I would like to see a complete ban of this process. However, I would still be accepting of the idea to require domain registrars to notify those users who are searching for a domain name of this practice, so at least they will be aware of the consequences if they do not purchase it right away.

If you want to check for domain name availability, but are unsure if you want to go ahead with the purchase of it, the safest way to avoid this problem is to do a Whois Record search. Whois Records are the public records associated with every domain name. They show all the details behind each domain name, including who registered it, the date it was registered, when it expires, and which nameserver it is on. Although a Whois Record could be made private, which will hide all this data, almost all domains have public records which can be seen by anyone who knows where to search.

A search in a Whois record will most likely not be sold, and can be assumed as a safe place to search for domain name availability. The Whois Record website search that I use is located on the Network Solutions website at http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp.

Stay tuned for our next blog post, where I’ll discuss using multiple domain names for a single website.


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