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Domain Front Runners

Front running is a term given to domain tasters who collect the information used in whois queries, and register names that a user is searching for before the user is able to register them.

For example, when you go to your favorite Registrar to find out if a domain name is available, in hopes of registering it yourself, you use a query. You search for the domain that you want and the Registrar finds out if a whois Registry already exists for that domain name. If one exists, they tell you that the name is taken. If not, they tell you the name is available.

Imagine that you are now ready to purchase your name, but realize that your wallet is in the other room. So you go get your wallet, come back with your credit card in hand, and sit down to register your name. But, by the time you’ve entered in all your information, you find that the domain is taken. It was available five minutes ago, but it’s unavailable. What happened?

One of four things happened:

  1. Someone had the same idea as you and, just by coincidence, tried to register the same domain name as you at the same time.
  2. The name had actually been registered all along, but for some reason it showed up as available when you performed your search.
  3. The Registrar you were using (or an employee/affiliate of the Registrar) saw that you were searching for the domain and decided to buy it themselves.
  4. Someone buys the search data from the Registrar you used and when they saw you were searching for the domain, they immediately registered it.

If you look at the whois info domain name, you can find out if the Registrar you had used when searching ended up registering the domain name themselves or if someone else registered it. You can also find out when the domain was registered, which could possibly rule out the possibility of mischief. If the registration date was a month ago, you know it wasn’t registered immediately after you searched for it and you would have no reason to suspect them.

However, if you look up the whois information and happen to find that the Registrant registered the domain right after you searched for it, then you probably have a valid reason to suspect that they have engaged in front running.

How to Avoid Front Runners

There are just as many beliefs about who is to blame for domain name front running as there are to why this is acceptable or unacceptable. Some people would immediately blame the Registrars, but most Registrars emphatically deny such claims. Most of them maintain that their customer’s search data is safe and that they have never sold such information to third parties. Others believe that the Registries themselves are the ones responsible. And still others think that the ISPs are the ones selling out.

One of the more important questions is not so much who it is engaging in front running, but how to avoid it when searching for a potential domain.

Start by finding a Domain Registrar that you trust. This may seem like a silly thing to say if your experience is limited and you don’t know who is who. While it’s impossible for iGoldrush to know for certain whether or not a Domain Registrar is selling their information, some companies have been queried with several desirable domain names to bait-out the front runners. As of yet, none of the companies listed in the reviews section have shown signs of front running.

What to Do If Your Name Gets Stolen

If you’ve had a name taken right before you were able to register it, relax. Nine out of ten times, the name will become available again in five days. Just keep an eye on the name by running the whois queries from a trusted Registrar. But remember, never enter the domain name into your browser. If the site gets any traffic, the domain taster will probably see it as a profitable site and will register it for good.

This bears repeating – always research the domain name from a Registrar that you trust and not by typing it into the browser URL bar. Even one single visitor could be enough for the frontrunner to actually register the site, taking away your chances of registering it.

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