A slow touch for domain names

Speculators on the prowl for potentially lucrative domain names are choking the domain registration system.

Over the past week, users seeking to register domain names with Network Solutions Inc (NSI) have complained of increasingly lengthy delays.

The company, which registered more than 1.9 million Web addresses last year, acknowledges response time has increased from a couple of days to a week.

The problem is speculators using bots and other methods to repeatedly query its Domain Name System databases for unused domains and domains whose registrations are about to expire, said Dave Holtzman, senior vice president of engineering.

"People have been hitting the system hard looking for domain names that are opening up," Holtzman said. The queries via a Web-based interface have increased NSI's traffic load four to ten times the norm.

Further contributing to the delay are other users who, when they don't hear back from NSI, resubmit their requests, he said.

As a result, NSI, which oversees the .com, .net, .org and .edu domains, posted a notice on its Web page notifying customers of the delay.

NSI plans to fight back by beefing up its processors six-fold. Equally important, NSI has eliminated the 'date created' field in lookup results, in an attempt to foil speculators making repeated queries to find domains on the verge of expiration, he said.

When an individual wants to buy, renew or modify a domain, he fills out an electronic form at NSI's Web site. That form is then assigned a ticket by the computer system, which is sent to the user. Within a short period the user receives an approval, a denial or a needs further information message from NSI.

The backup for users of the system is happening at the ticketing level. Holtzman said users are not receiving confirmation that their forms have been received. In response, users are resubmitting their forms causing more of a backup.

"We are encouraging customers to hold on and they will receive confirmation within a week," he said. Previously, tickets were returned to users within a day or two.

Several users turned to Internet mailing lists to express their dismay over this move, saying NSI took away an important element for registering domains.

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