Are domain names an integral part of your online business Maybe you develop and sell websites to other businesses, or perhaps you're an affiliate marketer who uses them for landing pages When searching for domain names to use in your online …

Are domain names an integral part of your online business? Maybe you develop and sell websites to other businesses, or perhaps you’re an affiliate marketer who uses them for landing pages. When searching for domain names to use in your online business’s operations, you should be aware of domain name front running. Domain front running may result in substantially higher registration costs, or it may prevent you from registering a domain name altogether.

What Is Domain Name Front Running?

Domain name front running involves a registrar registering an available domain name after one of its users search for it. Registrars, of course, are businesses that sell domain name registrations. You can’t register a domain name just anywhere. Rather, you can only register them at a registrar, all of which are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

You’ll have to search for domain names to see if they are available before registering them. All registrars feature a search tool. Entering a domain name in the search tool will reveal if it’s available. Assuming it’s available, you can proceed to register the domain name. If you don’t register it, however, the registrar may scoop up the domain name.

When a registrar registers a domain name for its own benefit after one of its users searches for it, this is known as domain name front running. The term “front running” is a reference to a prohibited stock trading practice. In the stock market, front running is the practice of trading stocks based on insider knowledge. With domain name front running, registrars can analyze internal search data to see which domain names are valuable so that they can register and resell them for a profit.

How Domain Name Front Running Can Affect Your Online Business

Domain name front running can affect your online business in several ways. It can prevent you from obtaining desirable domain names, for instance.

According to Verisign, over 360 million domain names currently have an active registration status. With so many domain names taken, you may have to perform dozens of searches to find a desirable domain name. Even if you’re able to find one, you may not be able to register it. Domain name front running means the registrar will own the desirable domain name.

If you’re the victim of domain name running, you may incur excessive registration fees. Standard registration fees are about $10 to $15 per year for domain names with the .com extension. Choosing a multiyear registration period may result in even lower fees. With domain name front running, the registrar will own the domain name that you want to register. The registrar may still allow you to register it but only if you’re willing to pay a premium for it.

There’s a monetary incentive behind domain name front running. Registrars can make more money by registering desirable domain names, followed by marking up the prices of those domain names. If you search for a domain name on a registrar’s website, the registrar may identify it as being desirable. It may register the domain name and then add a “This domain is for sale” message to the homepage.

Purchasing a domain name that’s been scooped up by a registrar can be expensive. Rather than paying $10 to $15, you may have to pay $100 or more to purchase the domain name plus a standard one-year or multiyear registration fee.

Tips to Prevent Domain Name Front Running

Choosing a reputable and trustworthy registrar will lower your risk of becoming a victim of domain name front running. While there’s no federal or state law in the United States prohibiting it, domain name front running is considered bad etiquette. It involves registrars going behind users’ backs while capitalizing on their search data. Therefore, most registrars don’t engage in it.

As long as you stick with a leading registrar, you shouldn’t have to worry about domain name front running. There are currently over 1,000 registrars. Leading registrars include well-known brands like Hover, Name.com, and FullHost. Avoid lesser-known registrars. Instead, stick with a leading registrar that has a well-known brand.

Don’t hesitate to register desirable domain names after searching for them.  Domain name front running typically only occurs if you search for an available domain name and don’t immediately register it. When you search for a domain name, you’ll see whether it’s available. And you can proceed to register domain names that are available.

Failure to register a domain name on the spot after searching for it may lead to domain name front running. You may return to the registrar the following day to register a domain name, only to discover that the domain name was registered in the past 24 hours. To prevent domain name front running, register domain names immediately after searching for them.

You can prevent domain name front running by checking domain name availability with a WHOIS search tool rather than a registrar’s search tool. Registrars offer a search tool on their own websites. Domain name front running uses data collected from these search tools. By using an alternative tool for searching, such as a WHOIS search tool, you can protect yourself from domain name front running.

The official ICANN website offers a search tool. Available at lookup.icann.org, it will reveal whether a domain name is available. If a domain name is available, the WHOIS search tool will display a “not found in registry” message. If a domain name has already been registered, the WHOIS search tool will display registration information for it. You’ll see when the domain name was registered, when it expires, what nameservers it uses, the name of the registrar and more.

Registrars don’t have access to WHOIS search data. They can analyze their own search data but they can’t analyze that of WHOIS. As a result, using the WHOIS search tool will allow you to safely check domain name availability without fear of front running.

Registrars may be collecting and using your search data for their own monetary gain. With domain name front running, registrars will spy on your searches. They’ll see which domain names you’ve searched for. Registrars will then register the domain names and attempt to resell them for a profit.

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