SAC 022 | Domain Name Front Running
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A perception exists within the Internet community that monitoring or spying is taking place when would-be registrants check the availability of a domain name. In this Advisory, SSAC considers the possible financial incentives for parties to preemptively register domain names, including the acquisition of a seemingly desirable name for secondary market (auction, resale) and domain monetization (use of the domain to host paid advertising). SSAC also considers alternative explanations, including coincidence and domain tasting.
SSAC explains that a domain name availability check can be intercepted by a variety of parties, any of whom may preemptively register the queried name. SSAC observes that there does not appear to be a strong set of standards and practices to conclude whether monitoring domain name availability checks is an acceptable or unacceptable practice. Complaints presented to SSAC provided insufficient information to conclude that any party associated with the domain name registration process engages in domain name front running. SSAC concludes that checking the availability of a domain name can be a sensitive act which may disclose an interest in or a value ascribed to a domain name and calls for additional, more detailed information from registrants who suspect front running activity by parties who offer domain name availability checks.