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The Internet Businesses Your Rights Online

Network Solutions Advertises On Your Sub-Domains 157

Wowsers writes "The Register reports that customers have found that their defunct or forgotten-about sub-domains have been taken over by Network Solutions to send users to ad pages. By digging through a 59K-word user agreement, you can find the following text: 'You also agree that any domain name directory, sub-directory, file name or path (e.g.) that does not resolve to an active web page on your Web site being hosted by Network Solutions, may be used by Network Solutions to place a "parking" page, "under construction" page, or other temporary page that may include promotions and advertisements for, and links to, Network Solutions' Web site...'" TechCrunch first brought this NetSol practice to light, and Ars explained how to opt out of it if you host there.
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Network Solutions Advertises On Your Sub-Domains

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  • by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:26AM (#23036072) Homepage
    Is that registrars have don't care who has a domain. They will happily forget to send you an email and have your domain expire and sell it to a spammer.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:44AM (#23036322)
      But. But. But that's the free market self regulating itself!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      On the contrary here. I always receive three to four emails from GoDaddy reminding me to renew my domains. These reminders are sent right up until its set to expire. And it's an automatic system, so I don't know a registrar could forget. I know the general consensus on Slashdot is that GoDaddy is not a respected registrar, but I've been using them for years and have no complaints.
      • I have yet to have any issues with GoDaddy either.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by dosius ( 230542 )
          I use it for both of my domains ( and with no issues.

          Was pleasantly surprised when their DNS system allowed me to make a round-robin.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by yiantsbro ( 550957 )
            Oddly enough I also have both of my domains ( and registered there as well.
      • actually, i have to agree, i often simply forget that my domains are going to expire, and the emails have saved my ass more than once. as opposed to other registrars who have been constant causes of nightmare scenarios where domains suddenly stop working and i have people screaming that their email has stopped working (and then they have to endure my little "well, you should have used a better registrar" speech.
      • by pembo13 ( 770295 )
        I didn't say GoDaddy was at issue.
        • I didn't say GoDaddy was at issue.

          Ah, but you did:

          If there is one lesson that I have learned ... Is that registrars have don't care who has a domain.

          All generalizations are bad! I'll raise my hand in support of GoDaddy as well. If you're thick-skinned enough to ignore all their upsell attempts*, they're a straightforward and effective registrar with good prices. I can't speak for their other services, but as a registrar they do the job and they do it well. Automatic renewals by credit card (if you hav

      • I'll ditto the others on GoDaddy, I've been using them for 2 years and have been very pleased with their domain management interface. And their domain registration fees are bargains if you avoid all the additional bells and whistles they want to sell you.
      • GoDaddy is awesome, honestly I don't know why anybody would still use NSI. Even if you get on their bulk rate plan and negotiate their price down, they're still more expensive then GoDaddy and they keep pulling stuff like this. Network Solutions clearly feels they're entitled to do anything they want with your domain / dns.
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:06AM (#23036632)
      Apparently if you use their hosting service, even if you don't let it expire, they can redirect 404's from your website to any site of their choosing! No thanks!
      • I can see that happening on the free-hosting accounts, but I've never seen that happen with any paid web-hosting service I've bought from them.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      As a happy customer, you can sign up for auto-renew and they will automatically renew it when the time comes (as long as you maintain an up-to-date credit card on your account). Even then, I had them call me on the day of telling me that my card wouldn't go through.

    • I've had my registrar send several emails to me, and even hold the domain for a certain amount of time after it expired, so that I could renew a few days late.

      Yes, they will happily sell it to a spammer, but it also takes almost no effort for them to keep you informed, and they don't really care if you keep it, either. I imagine they'd be perfectly happy selling 100% to spammers now, but it's seriously a "why the hell not" kind of decision.
    • They should just skip the middle step and allow domains to switch hands whenever a better offer is received. Let the free market decide Where I Want To Go Today.
      • I know the Free Market jabs are en vogue now, but the Free Market is already what determines domain ownership. You pay them for ownership for a certain amount of time, they agree to let you have it for a certain amount of time. That's called a contract, and is absolutely essential to the functioning of a free market.
    • Remember to keep your contact info up to date next time... registrars aren't psychic.
  • Switch to another provider. Vote with your feet.

    The only problem with geeky nerds is they are probably very smelly ones.
    I know mine are...
    • by rob1980 ( 941751 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:15AM (#23036750)
      Exactly, fuck companies who do this. If people are using your space which you paid for to advertise their own services, the only way to truly "opt out" is to ditch them.
    • Alternatives? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SpeedyDX ( 1014595 ) <> on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:39AM (#23037058)
      I've been reading about the evils of Network Solutions and GoDaddy and the like. I was wondering if anyone had any alternatives to recommend for anyone looking for a decent registrar?

      Thanks in advance.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hardburn ( 141468 )

        PairNIC has always been my choice. However, IIRC, all registers have to go through Network Solutions for .com/.net/.org/.info/.biz domains, so there's a limit to how much "voting with your feet" you can do.

        • by btsfh ( 750772 )
          All registrars have to go through Verisign for com/net/name, and a few others (org is someone else now.) Verisign no longer runs a registrar business, Network Solutions was spun back off from Verisign a few years ago, keeping the registry with Verisign, and making Network Solutions just another registrar.
        • Ive been using pair for hosting and NIC for years. They are definately not the cheapest option but they are professional, relyable and have been around longer than most others. Id rather pay a bit extra and get a company that cares about its customers and operates in a professional maner...
        • by dodobh ( 65811 )
          .org isn't Network Solutions.
      • I use Yahoo for my registrar, and Hostmonster for hosting. Haven't had one problem in 2 years. Hostmonster is easy to get ahold of, and actually know what they're talking about.
      • I've had reasonable success with
        FWIW they're going through growing pains at the moment.
      • I use for all my needs.. for the last 7 years and am very satisfied with price/features/cpanel(this is great)..
      • by 1729 ( 581437 )
        I'm very happy with Site5 (see the link in my signature). They offer dirt cheap hosting with all of the features I need, and their domain registration prices are quite reasonable.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I use, never had any issues, they haven't done anything shitty to me. They also don't pull that $9.99 crap, they just tell you flatly how much it'll cost, $10, $5, etc. That isn't a big thing, but it is just sort of indicative of the things they care about.

        Whenever I've had a support request, got it answered really fast.

        Just my $0.02.
      • by wurp ( 51446 ) has always made me happy. I haven't really used anyone else (other than Network Solutions back when there was no choice), so I can't say whether others are better, but I've had no problems with Doster.
        • by Sentry21 ( 8183 )
          I'll second this - Dotster is the one I've used for years, and the one I've suggested to every company I've ever worked for or with, and anyone I've ever met who wants to buy a domain. All my friends use them, and no one has had a single complaint about them for over a half-decade.

          I can't recommend them highly enough.
          • Thirding.

            They work.

            Plus, when the Public Interest Registry issue was going on, Dotster provided funding and lobbying to keep it in public hands.
      • by gharris ( 188182 ) *
        I am a big fan of

        They are a bit pricey at $25/yr, but they are very flexible in their domain, dns, mail, etc management. I happily pay the extra money to never have a problem.

      • by wwphx ( 225607 )
        I used to really like Scottsdale Hosting for their prices, but they posted on their index page that they're not taking new accounts, and I couldn't get a satisfactory (or clear) answer from them as to what's going on, so I moved to [] and have been pretty happy with them. *nix/cpanel interface, all sorts of good stuff.

        For domain registration, I've switched over to []. They seem to take your privacy a lot more seriously than others. They also have a ver
  • opt out. opt... out... from now, I am going to boycott any company that does anything "opt out" at all. I encourage all of you to join me.
  • by MisterSquirrel ( 1023517 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:30AM (#23036138)
    Having a domain registered with them since 1999, I received a renewal notice... wanting $35.99 to renew for a year. When I called to tell them what an absurd price that was, they said well that's just their regular price, and they would have someone call me back about maybe getting a lower price. I've always hated marketing tactics like that, so I am of course just transferring it to be registered elsewhere. I highly recommend not using Network Solutions as your domain registrar, just based on my own experience with them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Well, at least they're not scammers like cheaper registrars such as GoDaddy ... oh wait ...

    • I had to renew my domain with Network Solutions before they would LET ME transfer it, because once they sent that renewal notice they put it in "hold" status... even though it had 3 weeks left. Tucows were great about it and comped me an extra year for the year that Network Solutions forced me to re-up for.
      • Actually that's just how domain transfers work. You get a year tacked on when you transfer to a new registrar.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by SMS_Design ( 879582 )
          No, what Argent is saying is that NetSol refused to transfer the domain to Tucows until he/she renewed with NetSol, paying their inflated price for the domain. This is interesting, and most likely a violation of ICANN rules since the domain was still valid.
          • by Mr_Perl ( 142164 )
            They will make an attempt to trick you into altering (often in my case) outdated info when you log in for the purpose of transferring. If you change the slightest character of the domain information you'll be stuck in a position of not being able to transfer it until the next cycle for "security purposes"

            Hopefully they will continue to abuse their monopoly so egregiously that they'll lose it in the end.
        • by argent ( 18001 )
          I mean I got an extra year (two years total) after the transfer.
  • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:33AM (#23036162) Journal

    'You also agree that any domain name directory, sub-directory, file name or path (e.g.) that does not resolve to an active web page on your Web site being hosted by Network Solutions, may be used by Network Solutions to place a "parking" page, "under construction" page, or other temporary page that may include promotions and advertisements for, and links to, Network Solutions' Web site
    (emphasis mine)

    So, does that mean that if you register a domain through Network Solutions but have it hosted somewhere else (even your own hardware), they can usurp control over the domain and put this crap out there?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It only applied if you are hosting on Network Solutions
      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:51AM (#23036436) Homepage Journal
        I believe you've got this right.

        If you are hosting your own web site, there is no magic whereby NS can reach out and grab a URL and redirect it whereever it pleases. DNS doesn't work that way.

        This is only possible if the host in the URL resolves to a NS box, at point your browser hands the URL to the server on that box and the box figures out what to send back. What this amounts to is allowing them to use the 404 not found page to promote their interests rather than yours, even if you are a current, paid up customer for hosting.

        Now if we were in the Utopian future of the semantic web, we would need to watch the guardians of that very closely indeed, but DNS falls far short of that.

        With respect to subdomains -- that's similar, but a bit different. If you move your domain registration to another service, there's nothing they can do about subdomains. But if you let NS run your DNS service, then they're claiming the right to benefit from things like mistyped URLs that should resolve to YOUR content.

        It's not NICE, but it is not nefarious either. What it says is that NS reserves the right to treat its customers in a cheesy way. Well, then the customers should expect something in return. If all things being equal, one vendor stipulates he can grab the benefit of people trying to reach you but failing, and the other doesn't, you should go to the vendor who treats your name service and URL space as belonging to you.

        • It's a shame that NS has to be watched like a hawk, but they're proven in the past that they'll stretch their agreements to their edge. Of course no one else does this, right? There are the honorable, and the dishonorable organizations and it's getting more difficult to tell them apart. My take of NS (and I left them long ago, but my friends deal with their madness) is that they'll continue to push the edges to gain revenue at the expense of perceived honor. They remind me of telcos in this regard.
    • by rockwood ( 141675 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:49AM (#23036398) Homepage Journal
      they only do this if you use them for DNS. Though once the domain goes inactive, the DNS automatically reverts to their local DNS until the domain is paid and active again. They are also new ventures, even though they will deny it to the end. They've report selling domains for 100k+ - NetSol is so underhanded and full of marketing tricks and ploys that it isn't even funny.
      • This is why I'm happy that the TLD authority for *my* website is CIRA. They don't pull this kind of crap. They also give every domain holder a vote, and bind themselves to the will of the voting majority on what they do with it. Sure, a .CA is more expensive than a .COM, but it's well worth the extra price, IMO.
        • I like my pre-Neustart .US domain [] - free forever.

          It's a shame they comercialized .US. I always liked the idea of being able to know where a website should be just by understanding the syntax, for instance the City of Modesto, California, USA, site should be at [] and the Stanislaus County website should be at []... of course, they have silly domains too like [] and [] which you'd find via Google, but aren't something you'd ever know otherwise (other th
          • *nods*

            What about brand identity, too? Like... if you register, does the registrar prevent registrations at,, etc?

            Up here, we still have that. You have to pay for registration, but my own domain is Because I've registered that, I need to give express written consent in order to register anything else in .ca namespace which includes the name "killerbob". I went for the national-level TLD, but I could have gone for a cheaper, more local, TLD instead, l
            • I'm actually not sure if you can still get 3rd and 4th-level delegations. I'm assuming you can for "official" gov, school (k12), library (lib), etc. business. I know you cannot get personal/business ones like the one that I have, those are no longer available, you just have to pay and get one right off of .US.

              I too dislike NSI, but .ORG isn't under their control anymore, but under the ISC []'s PIR [], which I very much like. I have some .NETs from way back, but at least I have them over at GKG.NET []. One thing
    • This news story is lame. At least, the presentation of it here. It's worded to make people think this is a registrar-business decision. Like they are somehow fucking with DNS standards.

      This is if you host your site on their web servers. Be intelligent and learn to seperate their registrar business from their hosting business. A lot of vhosting providers do funny stuff with 404's and such. [] isn't suddenly going to start being a Verisign ad page. Seeming to imply that's the case is sla
  • This is confusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soarkalm ( 845400 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:34AM (#23036180)
    This is a very bad thing. When this happens to me when I browse, it makes me do a double take and try to figure out how I goofed up the URL and ended at a squatters site.
  • A good one here would probably be to add a catchall that redirects everything to 'fuckoffnetworksolutions.yourdomain.whatever' where they can put all the advertisements they want..

    Just let that one give a 404, and then NetSol takes over from there.

    Has anyone tried something along these lines yet?
  • Shameful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skynet ( 37427 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:36AM (#23036204) Homepage
    They could make this agreeable to domain owners by making it opt-in and offering a cut of the profits to the domain owner.
  • ICANN is the root problem here, and in many other issues. Specifically, ICANNs complete lack oversight over registrars. This in itself would not be so bad, but coupled with ICANN's refusal to consider behavior and ethics when accrediting registrars. Incidents like this are eroding peoples faith in the current system, and if it goes on like this other countries will have a very substantial case for removing internet control from US hands.

    Ultimately, internet registrars need to have a code of ethics, which they can be held to account over. Some people might call this woolly thinking. However doctors, engineers and yes, even lawyers and estate agents, have codes of practice that they are supposed to abide by and can in theory be held to account over. Registrars need only amass monopolies of scale and pay off ICANN with cold hard cash. Naturally, such a system attracts the most unscrupulous type of practices.

    Only two things can break the net as it currently stands. ICANN, and the telecoms. The latter is dubious. If this mismanagement continues ICANN could literally bring about its own demise, and possibly the free internet along with it.
    • As much as I hate NetSol, their hosting service redirecting dead subdomains has nothing to do with them being a registrar. Other hosts, such as Dreamhost or Lunarpages (both, afaik, popular web hosts for small pages) could do the same thing if they controlled your DNS.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by samkass ( 174571 )
        But this article says that if you register and host your site with NetSol, they can redirect ALL 404 errors to their spam, even for an active domain. That goes way beyond "dead subdomains".

    • by Bill Dimm ( 463823 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @12:07PM (#23037418) Homepage

      ICANN is the root problem here, and in many other issues. Specifically, ICANNs complete lack oversight over registrars.
      This isn't s registrar problem, it is a web hosting problem (or a DNS service problem in the case of subdomains) that happens to involve a hosting company that is also a registrar. Planting ads on 404 pages could be done by any (scummy) hosting company. Registrars that don't provide hosting can't monkey with 404 pages. The problem doesn't involve the registration of the domain name, it's the optional services (hosting/DNS) provided after registration where the problem arises, so I don't see how ICANN has anything to do with it. I'm not saying ICANN doesn't have shortcomings, I'm just saying this isn't one of them.
  • by pyrr ( 1170465 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:55AM (#23036498)

    If someone signs-on with Network Solutions, it's par for the course. It's just what they do, from domain "tasting", to putting holds on domains people search on, to sending out misleading renewal notices, to other highly questionable practices, they're still acting like they act like they're still the registrar monopoly. Until ICANN decides to smack them down, they'll continue to push the limits.

    It's almost like they hold meetings to decide which abusive or sleazy practice they'll see how long they can get away with each month.

  • by museumpeace ( 735109 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:03AM (#23036596) Journal
    they offer a revenue sharing of you a tiny cut of any click payments from ads lodged on your parked pages. But I think its a scam unless you actually set up tons of parking because you pay godaddy a $4/month fee to join this plan. To date I have made exactly zero money back because I did not specifically set up ads on my "under construction" pages. Its just godaddy taking unearned money out of my pocket.
  • by GerardAtJob ( 1245980 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:28AM (#23036926)
    Network Solutions user agreement - ~59,000 words
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - 76,944 words
    no comments...
  • by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:33AM (#23036990) Homepage
    Don't use Network Solutions for anything, EVER

    Especially don't use them as a whois service because they will place a hold on any domain you look up that isn't owned and force you to buy it through them unless you just wait a week and then the hold is taken off. My Boss did this and I told him never to do it again. Network Solutions charges more for everything and their customer service and level of service on products is WORSE. So why pay more if you aren't getting anything in return. Just stop using Network Solutions and put them out of business once and for all.
    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )
      Hmm, I have a fragment of perl code that generates a random domain name.

      sub randdomain {
      my $len = 4 + int(28*rand); # 4-30 chars
      my @chars = ("a".."z", "-", "0".."9");
      my $name = @chars[int(26*rand)]; # first char is alpha
      while (--$len > 0) {
      $name .= @chars[int(37*rand)];
      $name . ".com";

      Of course, doing anything with this code that might be considered a Denial of Service attack would not
      • I'm sure they stop somewhere per IP on taking out holds. However if many different boxes from various parts of the Internets were to start requesting random domains...
        • by Xtifr ( 1323 )
          Hey, if they stop somewhere per IP, then if you want to look for a domain name, sending in some random requests for a while might be a good first step. :)
  • ...since you are going to give me the ad revenues, right guys? I paid for the domain so it's my money right? What? You're not? And you practice front-running on my domain availability look ups? And you charge me 3x the national rate for registrations? Oh, wait, is your business model based on enantiodroma []? Because you're doing a very good job of making yourself extinct.
  • People need to realize that there's something unethical about long and complex user agreements, and stop doing business with companies that use them. A good company will provide a simple service and do it well. It won't be easy, because most companies have long and complex user agreements, but this is a shift that needs to happen eventually.
  • I took over management of a client's domain that was hosted by Network Solutions, and they are by far the *worst* registrar I have ever had to deal with. Their menus are intentionally misleading in order to try to sell the customer more services, and they employ draconian policies to try to prevent you from leaving.
  • Pretty Sad That... (Score:5, Informative)

    by 1WingedAngel ( 575467 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @12:23PM (#23037598) Homepage
    Two different sites with "Tech" in the name and the Slashdot readership haven't managed to figure out this trickery yet.

    There are no magic 404s here.

    When you set up your DNS with Network Solutions, a wildcard DNS entry is created. It defaults to an ad page (just like every other DNS record with them does).

    At that point you have 2 options:
    • Opt out - Any of your DNS records pointing to the ad page will go to a non-ad "Under Construction" page
    • Assign your wildcard record somewhere - Like you should have been doing in the first damn place. "Lern2DNS nub."

    While it might not be the most feel-good thing Network Solutions could do with your DNS, don't attribute to their malice what is easily attributed to user laziness.

    Why do I feel like I'm on Trolldot today?

    Disclosure: I have 1 domain with Network Solutions and 6 with GoDaddy
    • "Pretty sad that two different sites with "Tech" in the name and the Slashdot readership haven't managed to figure out this trickery yet. There are no magic 404s here."

      On the contrary, I think those articles, and most comments here, get it right. What is being said in the articles or here that you disagree with?

      "When you set up your DNS with Network Solutions, a wildcard DNS entry is created. It defaults to an ad page (just like every other DNS record with them does).

      That's exactly what I've under

  • I've noticed they've parked some of my empty domains and subdomains with sedo completely and utterly without my permission.

    Whilst I have parked a specific domain with sedo in the past for a very short time I most certainly have never accepted to have anything else parked with them and I'm the type of person that does actually read contractual agreements for these sort of things nowadays due to the constant abuse of customers and their rights via hidden clauses in everything ranging from ISP contracts to MMO
  • And this is why I run my own DNS... I can point my subdomains wherever I want, unless they hijack or intercept DNS queries.
    I'm not with them, I use pairnic, but would my registrar still be able to do that if my server is it's own DNS and holds the master zones for my domains?
    • Sure, they could hijack the DNS onto their own servers and forward requests on to yours. A whois lookup would expose the practice, but how often do you check your own whois record ?

      Me, I've had a bad taste for NetSol since the 90's. They've always been up to sneaky shit, this latest story didn't surprise me at all. In fact I'd be more surprised if they suddenly stopped being skeevy.

      That, combined with the fact that they charge 1994 prices in the GoDaddy era is all the reasons I need to completely ignore
    • Yes. Your registrar submits the master NS records that tell the world where the nameservers for your domain are. So, for example, for there are NS records in the "com" zone that identify the authoritative nameservers for If your registrar sends an update changing those NS records to identify their nameservers instead of yours, they gain control over name resolution for your domain. A sneaky registrar could have nameservers that, when they get a query, do a query to the nameservers y

  • So Network Solutions sucks, and I'm sensing some hate for GoDaddy, too. I've always used (don't even remember how I got referred to them) but have never had a problem. Prices seemed decent, the interface seemed alright for the handful of times I needed to use it, and I've never had a problem renewing or anything. I've always gotten reminder emails starting a couple months before expiration.

    Is there something I'm missing?
  • The money they make I'm sure is shared with the site owner. That would only be fair since they are banking off that person's site.

    Of course when has netsol every been fair?
  • Netsol squatted on a domain after I searched for it on their site. Oops. My bad. Next day they'd registered it so that they were the only ones to sell it.
  • ever want to host with those bandits? It'd be like hosting with Microsoft only worse.

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken