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Do Registrars Keep the Best for Themselves?

by James Middleton

Industry insiders have hit back against claims that domain name registrars bag all the best names when users search their sites, and keep them for themselves.

The fierce denial comes after uk.internet.com was contacted by David Corrie, a dotcom project developer, who claimed that he had been cheated out of several domain names worth millions of pounds because of unscrupulous registration companies.

Corrie said that he applied for a number of domains about two years ago, long before the domain name land grab started. "I couldn't believe the number of generic names that were still available," he said. "I put in applications to register bank.com, bank.co.uk, banks.com and banks.co.uk and all the transactions went through. But a few days later I found out that all the transactions had been cancelled. The company claimed that someone else had registered all the domains at the same time and beaten me to it."

On another occasion, Corrie said that he registered a number of domains with the prefix mailorder. "All of these went through except for mailordercomputers," he said. "Apparently, that had been registered at the same time too, but why didn't whoever it was register the other domains, like mailorderbooks?"

Corrie added that his suspicion was aroused at this point. "It was obvious that someone at the registrar had seen these domains applied for, cancelled the transaction and snapped it up for themselves."

But Jonathan Robinson, chief executive at Netbenefit, and deputy chairman of the Internet Council of Registrars, said that no "high-grade, professional" company would indulge in such activity. Although he did admit that it was "an old chestnut of a problem in the industry".

"There is lots of nasty stuff going on in the registering industry. People have complained a lot about the registering system, and there does seem to be a conspiracy theory floating about," said Robinson. He acknowledged that he was aware of low-grade operators that do check logs for good domains that were applied for, and said it was perfectly feasible that companies did claim names for themselves.

He added that it was possible for a company to contain a few unscrupulous employees who could effectively steal the domains. "Auditors and lawyers are forever crawling all over us about business practice etc," he said, acknowledging that a lot of complaints are made about domain provider companies. "Domain names are the seed and heart of any business' web presence, so it's small beer to pay for a credible service."


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