Unraveling Obfuscation

ob fus cate – 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy 2. to make obscure or unclear

Network Solutions – Now with .0004% less evil!!!

Posted by Todd McKinney on February 17, 2008

I got a really interesting couple of comments from my loudmouthed rant yesterday about Network Solutions. On the plus side, Network Solutions is actively listening and participating in the discussion around this issue. There are a lot of organizations that aren’t so clued in. Not very long after I brought it up, Shashi Bellamkonda dropped by and offered up this very helpful fact:

After the feedback from the community and customers from a few weeks ago we made several changes including not reserving any domains searched from our whois page.

For the domain obsoleteskills.com to appear as reserved – someone had to have searched in the Network Solutions home page domain search box.

Just so everyone understands the difference (I’m sure most people do, but still) here’s a picture of the main page:

NetSol_lessEvil

In case it’s a little hard to locate, I drew a yellow arrow and a circle around the link to whois. Obviously, they have addressed this issue adequately. I don’t know who in their right mind would use the search box in the top half of the page with that big fat juicy whois link sitting there at the bottom of the page just begging to be hit. I would expect that at least 75% of domain searchers that go to Network Solutions would use whois instead of the search box, maybe even more. Especially once you figure out there’s a captcha on the whois link, there’s just no going back to the old fashioned search. </sarcasm>

All that wouldn’t be such a big deal if they were actually trying to protect users. If they were trying to protect the domain for the original searcher, it surely can’t make any sense to offer up the domain to anyone who comes along. You see, the thing is, in this case yesterday I could have very easily purchased the domain in question – it was plainly offered to me as available by NetSol. It just wasn’t available through any other domain registrar. You may notice the link on the right side of the middle section of the page with the crossed out spy symbol and a link to learn more about their “new protection measures”. If you follow that link, you find a carefully worded bit of corporate communications that says “If a customer searches for the domain” they will be able to buy it. They don’t claim that the original searcher will be the exclusive reservation holder, simply that “a customer” can buy it. From them. The only possible conclusion that I can draw from all of this is that Network Solutions is systematically attempting to lock people in to using their overpriced service. The reason seems obvious – they’re getting their lunch eaten by the competition. I wonder why…

Now I think I’ve said all I really need to about this issue, although I’m sure I could be baited into continuing. Ultimately it’s a happy ending and I have nothing at all to complain about:

1. Brad Kellett did a great job getting a wiki up in no time on the obsolete skills domain. Kudos. It’s worth noting that Brad had to pay the “ransom” to get it from Network Solutions, which wasn’t his preferred registrar.

2. Despite their efforts, and in some sense accelerated because of them, Network Solutions continues its rapid slide into irrelevance. It’s one thing to have people mildly annoyed at your operations, another thing entirely to actively breed contempt among the web community. I have no doubt that they will be able to gain some short-term cash flow benefit from their nefarious behavior. It can’t bode well for the long term prospects of the company that they are willing to take desperate and short-sighted actions like this. They’re doomed, in my humble opinion.

3. I’m getting a good laugh out of the whole thing. It really doesn’t matter much to me directly, I know better than to use the services of such a company. The spin they’re trying to put on the situation is worthy of a White House PR campaign, and I find it hilarious to see someone like Shashi running from site to site trying to stomp out the flames with completely unimaginative arguments that completely sidestep addressing the problem. Nothing personal, I know it’s just his job and I can empathize with having to take a position that doesn’t make any sense and try to sell it to people. It’s just that so far I’m not buying it.

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4 Responses to “Network Solutions – Now with .0004% less evil!!!”

  1. In some way, I felt that I was almost promoting their practices by purchasing that domain. I really didn’t feel good about doing it, and indeed that ‘ransom’ as you call it meant paying over four times as much for the domain than I would have otherwise.

    Really not good Network Solutions.

  2. Ben Lilley said

    This tactic really pisses me off. Thankfully I’ve never used Network Solutions and after reading this I certainly won’t ever use them.

    Cheers

  3. Unraveling Obfuscation. Great title for a blog! Also a worthwhile goal.

    Reminds me of advice I once received, from a chief copy editor, about writing headlines: “Eschew obfuscation.”

    — Bernie

  4. […] 3. People (and companies) do dumb things. A […]

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