Company Swiping The Domain Names You're Thinking About Registering

from the sneaky,-sneaky dept

For years, there have been rumors that if you do whois domain lookups on certain less-than-honest lookup sites, the owners of those lookup sites will quickly register those domains, hoping to resell them to you later at a higher price. That’s why many people are careful only to check for domain registrations on more trusted sites. However, it appears that some scammers may have figured out a way to get the search queries off trusted whois lookup sites. David Berlind points to an article showing how unregistered domain names searched for using CNET’s whois lookup are quickly registered by a company called Chesterton Holdings, who then immediately puts up ads and watches the traffic to see if it’s worth hanging onto. If the site gets no traffic, it is released — just like millions of other such “domain kiting” attempts. What’s unclear is how Chesterton is getting their hands on the search queries. The eWeek piece suggests four possibilities — with three of them being quite unlikely (basically involving someone within one of the companies along the chain giving the info to Chesterton). The fourth suggestion is that somehow Chesterton has compromised the servers to get this info. Either way, it suggests that, even on more trusted sites, domain searches may be watched by people looking to snap up the domains before you do.

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Comments on “Company Swiping The Domain Names You're Thinking About Registering”

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Ben Mc says:

Re: This really sucks

There is no proof that GoDaddy did anything like this. Bob Parsons in-fact coined the term “domain kiting” and brought it into the public eye and wants it to stop.

Plus, I have many domains at GoDaddy / WWD and have never had a problem searching, finding and returning to buy at a later time.

brady moritz (profile) says:

ive heard that..

id read that registrar queries get relayed to multiple registrars, as a kind of last-second check to verify theyre not registered already… so that all these guys have to do is signup to be a registrar and they are then able to see these requests…

but that doesnt make a lot of sense, so this is probably wrong 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not usually one to say things should cost more, but domain names are just too cheap. The initial reistration should be around $50 and then subsequent renewals can be the cheapo price. That would stop a few of these shady companies and force people to think about whether or not they really want that name. I’d rather pay $50 to a registrar than $10000 to one of these bastards.

Anonymous Coward says:

First, read Bob Parson’s Blog for more on this. He’s been blogging on this for a while.

Second, everyone needs to identify these companies and search for a few dozen randomly generated names each day. Get a few thousand people doing that and they won’t be able to tell the legit ones from the others and it’ll be less worthwhile for them to do this.

Anonymous Coward says:

First, read Bob Parson’s Blog for more on this. He’s been blogging on this for a while.

Second, everyone needs to identify these companies and search for a few dozen randomly generated names each day. Get a few thousand people doing that and they won’t be able to tell the legit ones from the others and it’ll be less worthwhile for them to do this.

Anonymous Coward says:

All good ideas folks, however the first issue is the anti-cyber squatting act that was designed to prevent this BS. If you want the name and they have no legit use or need. Force them into arbitration and get the name for the initial registration cost. If everyone used the legal means these companies would just go out of business.

Tim says:

From their website

“We acquire domain names through an automated process rather than by any process that would intentionally infringe on any person’s rights. If you have any questions about a domain, please submit your query to us below. It is our policy to transfer a domain name to any entity that, in our reasonable opinion, has a legitimate claim. We will promptly transfer a domain name to you if you can show us that you have a legitimate claim.”

Just Me says:

Let's keep

Graham wrote . OK everybody – just generate some random names & do whois queries. Hundreds of them. Or more. Send the bastards broke

Good idea, though, doubt that there is a need for it if you are an owner of a registered trademark. If not, just make sure that you purchase a domain name once you have searched for it.

Jeff (profile) says:

WHOA... Who said *CNET* was a RELIABLE company?!

Sure, they’re big, but in my opinion they’re JUNK. went to achee-double-hockey-sticks after CNET bought it. My personal experience is that I have found it to have more than average viruses and spyware junk. I even read a CNET review once of some “anti-spy” product that pointed you to a download on and yep it was one of those “anti-spy” programs that’s great at giving you spyware to fight.

These are just my personal experiences and opinions, but I would NEVER EVER EVER trust them to do any sort of domain availability check.

Search Engine WEB (user link) says:

What ROI could this bring

What type of ROI could this bring with domain names being so cheap – Unless the process is entirely automated

usually a new .COM acronym or buzzword will be snatched up immediately – and all other root domains taken in a matter of weeks as an investment

But these types of very personalized domains would only be valuable to a very select few.

Wouldn’t the potential customer have taken it after searching – if it was valuable to them?

BlahPoster says:


Gosh folks, a lot of hostility there. I haven’t read a single comment where anyone points to anything either illegal or immoral that those people are doing. If a domain that Cheserton bought were the least bit useful to someone they would have already bought it for themselves. Let’s all calm down and get on with our lives.

nonuser says:

Re: I just logged into cnet

Update on my experiment: and are now registered with Chesterton Holdings.

The others names are still available.

Domain Name:



Name: admin –

Organization: Chesterton Holdings


Address: 655 Flower St


City, Province, Post Code: Los Angeles, CA, 90017

Country: US

Phone: 213-407-1774

Admin Contact

nonuser says:

Re: Re: I just logged into cnet

heh, Chesterton Holdings now owns all seven of my test names. Swooped them all up over the weekend:

Name: admin –

Organization: Chesterton Holdings


Address: 655 Flower St


City, Province, Post Code: Los Angeles, CA, 90017

Country: US

Phone: 213-407-1774

Creation Date: 07/23/06

Expiration Date: 07/23/07

Domain Status: ACTIVE

James says:

Unclear? Are you kidding?

Extortion is both illegal and immoral, and these folks are at least guilty of the latter. This kind of price gouging would get you put in jail if the product was bottled water, and you were in a hurricane-affected area. Why do you we put up with this kind of bs?

Of course I have to blame, partly, the folks who are dumb enough to pay $10,000 (or more) for a domain name and artificially creating this kind of market.

Rex says:

It's happening again...

I have been seeing a few conversations that this has been going on for a few months now, a number of people citing godaddy among others as likely places that kit’ed their searches so I would say that among the ‘registrars’ it is a common and allowable act, however it is being done. Allowable because they are doing it so I agree with most of the above.

You script kiddies can actually do some good by search/hit/query dummy entries and run them out of town, for now. You can always make a formal request to the ‘owner/registrar’ as the ligitimate holder, particularly with dates/times as part of the registration process being logged and finally, yes, a new pricing structure would be in order I think, a higher first-buy price with a lower renewal would have been a sensible option a long time ago.

Daniel Barbalace says:


Don’t sell domains, aution them at first. Once someone “owns” the domain for a year, in the next auction his money counts 2 times. If some has owned a domain for 2 year, his money in the 3rd year aution counts 3 times, and so on.

So if I’ve been using a domain for 5 years, you have to pony up 5x what I’m willing to in order to get it.

Also, make domain names non-transferable by owner, so that people can’t flip them. Any attempts to flip a domain name results in a life-time ban on owning any domain names for the company and any future company that employees as an executive or is owned by the person who attempted to flipped a domain name. Problem solved.

You own the use of a domain name, not the right to sell it. The longer you have a domain name, the cheaper it is for you to keep it.

Daniel Barbalace says:

Possible way to fight scammers

Another thought I had was that it would be trivial to write a program to go to such domain lookup scam sites and look up randomly generated domain names. Since such scam sites are automatically registering those names, it’s a $50 or so hit every time they prospect. A lookup bot could easily cost them a million dollars a day or force them to not register all looked up name.

A better bot would repeat the search on some randomly generated names to make their bots think that name has high potential. Imagine them holding on to “”.

Then we could have a nice little bot war, where they try to prune domain names that have too many consonants between vowels, and our bots would then use randomly picked short-English words like “”.

You know, it is possible to make a lot of money while keeping your integrity. Instead of trying to profit at other people’s expense, these companies could spend their time performing a useful service. Or is that too hard?

nick botulism says:

interesting. at the time of this writing, it appears that CNET’s domain search tool is offline? the link in the eWeek article ends up redirecting to CNET’s homepage. and if you go here:

and scroll down to ‘internet access tools’ and click on ‘domain search’, you also end up getting redirected to the CNET front page. the other ‘internet tools’ seem to work fine, though.


Jason says:

this happened to me on godaddy last week

After searching for two domains on godaddy last thursday and then presenting them to our committee the following day (they were good domain names) the domains were inexplicably registered on friday – but only the two that I had searched on – the .com and .org versions; the .net was not taken as were no others…

I think godaddy is up to this again…

Dave Zan (user link) says:

I realize many of you are “passionate” about this subject. But if and when you’re up to reading a few facts to understand how this “system” works a bit, I invite you to check the thread below:

Read especially John Berryhill’s comments # 33, 38, 57, and 68. I’m sorry I can’t post them here, nor can I explain since it’s rather lengthly.

But the bottom line is this: this sort of practice is NOT illegal. Whether it’s ethical or not depends what side of the fence you’re on, of course.

But do realize no one’s forcing any of you to use those domain availability searches on third party sites. And you’re bound to THEIR terms the minute you use any of them.

If you really want a “clean” authoritative search, go straight to the source. For .com, it’s the Verisign COM NET Registry at if you’re doing .com searches.

Claudia says:

Domain names

I am so mad. I had bred my dog and was planning on trying to do a web site when my puppies were born. I am tech challened and know nothing about web sites never having had one. I started checking out web hosting sites while waiting for my puppies to be born and would put in the domain name with .com and .net while searching. Well guess what, my puppies are here and I went to register the domain name and Chesterton has both of them. I am going to e-mail them and ask to use the name. I doubt that they even know what a Havanese is.

anon says:

happened to me...

This happened to me twice in 2000… I thought of a domain name, checked it – not registered. A week later I went to register it, it was taken. Thought of another one, checked it – not registered… the next DAY I thought I was jumping on it this time, and it was already gone. Doubted then it was a coincidence, now I’m pretty sure.

Dev says:

Don’t do any domain name checks on godaddy unless you want them to be taken. They monitor any searches and snipe the good ones. I had two taken by godaddy recently. Parsons just makes lip service to this to create a false trust in his company.

We need regulation that prohibit viewing of the content of the domain name checks. What is going on is no better than phishing

Wayne Roznak says:

We should spoof em.

I think we should think of mundane names and enter them on a regular basis, so that their automated systems intelliigence get flooded with lousy domain names. Forcing them to sift through hundreds of thousands of names and maybe even cost em thousands of dollars if their systems automatically register these test names without a human review.

We should give back to them, what they have taken from us.

Dev says:

Someone previously said that this practice (maybe it should be called domain name phishing) is not illegal. That does not mean that it is appropriate or even acceptable. There are many things now outlawed that were not illegal before. This practise should be one of them. Talk to your legislators. It is a predatory practice, taking advantage of the unsuspecting.

Frederick Emrich says:

I registered a domain and had godaddy actually improperly de-register it and cancel my account. When I emailed back and they re-opened the account a couple of days later, one of the domains had by then been registered at Nameking.

Clearly this is suspicious. It may be that Nameking does this on its own, but perhaps Godaddy is also doing something a bit unethical.

Pacrat says:

Name stealing

Chesterton Holdings stole the name of my store and put it into a URL. Unfortunately, I did not take the full name of my store and put it into my URL. My store has taken a nosedive for the past year and I could not figure it out until I did some research on it today. When searching their URL I noticed that all of the big boys had sponsored links on their site. Including, Fredricks of Hollywood, Target, Venus, Bizrate, Shopzilla, etc. All of which were reached by using my store name in the URL. I truly believe this is a way for the big boys to get around the little boys. I saw another competitor of mine that this happened too last year. None of this made sense until now. They run you out of business and then the big boys step into your shoes.

Sam says:

GoDaddy and NameKing/Name Stealing.

Better late than never. We have been using GoDaddy to do lookups of domain names for clients and have had problems with them ending up registered by Nameking. Now I know to tell people to keep away from GoDaddy. This should be illegal and I for one would be willing to go in on a class action suit against these guys.

pacrat says:

Re: GoDaddy and NameKing/Name Stealing.

You bet we should all get together and go for class action. The big boys just found another way around to use up the URL’s. Victoria’s Secrets came after me and lost. They are not allowed to monopolize all names legally so they go thru people like Nameking and head thru the back door. Let’s go fot it!

marke says:

yep … just had the same thing happen to me … tried a name a few days ago.. then yesterday it has been taken but is for sale … I will wait a few more days .. If they are using the 5 day grace period they will probably let it go.
Great artical… Its nice to find out my first thoughts were correct … and will only use a reputable service.

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