Magpie Tech Tips

June 04, 2015

Domain Name Snatched Up After You Checked Its Availability? Here’s Why It Happens.

Ever searched for a domain name to buy, then come back later & someone else claimed it? There's a name for this practice - Domain Name Front Running. Here's why it happens, and how to avoid losing domains to it.
Let's say you want to buy a domain name for your business, "Acme Widgets".  You go to a domain registrar like GoDaddy and type in "acmewidgets.com". GoDaddy tells you, "This domain is available for $10. Would you like to buy it now?"

But then you get distracted by the phone, and Sally in Marketing wants to buy "Acme-Widgets.com" too, and the CEO wants to buy "AcmeWidgetsUSA.com" instead. It takes you a couple days to get back to this. But that’s okay, nobody else has a business named Acme Widgets. Armed with a list of domain names and the will to buy, you enter "AcmeWidgets.com" again.

"Sorry, this domain has been claimed." What? Who bought it?

Domain Names Snatched Up - Domain Name Front Running

This scenario has plagued businesses for years now. It was denied for years by some domain registrars – until other registrars admitted that it does happen. It's called Domain Name Front Running, or DNFR.

Here's what happens:
  1. You search for a domain name.
  2. The domain registrar sees that you’re interested in this domain name, but didn’t buy it. They either:
    1. Mark the domain as registered in their database ("parked"), or
    2. Notify another firm that you’re interested in it – so they can buy it first.
  3. When you come back to buy the domain, you’re no longer able to. The domain shows as claimed.
  4. The registrar may offer to sell you the domain anyway – but for a much higher price than you first saw. Instead of paying the $10 you saw the first time, the registrar may want $500!
You'll find additional DNFR details here: How to Prevent Domain Name Front Running – Domain Sherpa

Is this even legal? Technically, yes. Domain registrars have stated that they park searched-for domains in anticipation of customer demand. But it’s not the strongest of excuses.

At this point you might think, "I'll just type the domain name into my Web browser then. Or search for it. That way the domain registrars can't see me!"

Unfortunately that's not the case. They can still see it, and are just as likely to "park" the domain right after you do this.

What to Do: Decide on a Domain Name First, Check Availability, Buy Now

The best thing to do if you want a certain domain? Check its availability on a domain registrar like Network Solutions or Namecheap. (We don't recommend GoDaddy.)

If it's available, buy it immediately.

If you aren't sure how you want to spell the domain, work that out first. Don't search for anything online until you're all decided & ready to buy.