Watch Out for Domain Sniffing

Here's the situation: you want to buy a web domain.  You check an online registrar and see that it is available.  You think about it, return in a day or so, and it's taken.  A domain squatter detected your interest and bought your URL out from under you.

They call it "Domain Sniffing," and I first heard about it from Aviva Directory:

“I had a really great domain name idea, which was available when I searched through the registrar, but then five minutes later when I went to buy the name it was gone.” Anyone who has been in domaining for more than a month has heard dozens of versions of that same story. Although not everyone buys that domain sniffing actually exists, there is mounting evidence that domain sniffing exists in some form or another.

Blogger Larry Seltzer writes: "It all started with a message from a reader. She was planning to put a Web site up and needed to register a domain name. She chose to use her first and last names for the domain (just as I own and checked it on at least one service for availability. She went back in a day or two to register it and, lo and behold, it had just been registered to an outfit named Chesterton Holdings. It's obvious that Chesterton Holdings is a domain squatter. The domain was not just registered, there was a Web page up on it.  The page was covered with the sorts of ads you usually see on squatted pages, and the ads were all syndicated through"

Here's the best advice I've heard so far: "Mistra" writes at Webmaster World: If you have any domain in mind, please do not use Whois to check for its availability. Key in the name in your browser or use Google to search for it. If nothing shows up, you can assume that the domain is available. Only then should you go to Godaddy or any other registrar to buy that domain. If you did not buy it immediately at Godaddy (Godaddy because that is my main registrar), then you will be disappointed later to discover that the domain has been taken.

Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
walruus - October 21, 2008 8:12 PM

Domain sniffing is a serious matter, and I have stopped trusting other services for checking domains. That's why i decited to fix this problem. I use my own domain name search, to be completely safe. It has worked great the last months, and now I've decited to share it with others, as we all can benefit from this.

But in the case of trusting domain name searches, I would find a random domain name that most likely wouldn't be registered, and try it at the domain name search. A week later I would check if the domain was still available.

I love domains, and love to brainstorm for new ones. And my website is letting me (and you) search secure.

VDA - July 7, 2012 9:18 PM

Many years ago, back in 2007, I heard about a case with Microsoft and a guy called Mike Rowe who had a software company and the domain He lost the domain in court, but made a great deal of money from the media. A few weeks later I found was available, so after work that day I got my credit card out and alas it was gone! Might have been coincidence, but it didn't feel like it.

On another note, it could be said it's entirely your own fault if you lose a domain in this manner. Obviously infringing on trademarks etc is wrong if you buy a domain for this reason, i.e to sell it to a company for profit), but otherwise if a person uses domain sniffing software to find good domains then that's just clever.

Post A Comment / Question Use this form to add a comment to this entry.

Remember personal info?