What will NSI do next ... ?

by Judith Oppenheimer

Last week Network Solutions made some startling announcements about its domain name registration service.

It introduced MyNameFinder(TM), a whois engine that, like others found elsewhere on the web, generates alternative domain names.

"Should a first choice domain name be taken," NSI tell us, "MyNameFinder quickly generates similar domain names that are available by prompting the user to key in up to three words. For example", it goes on, "when searching for flowers.com and discovering it was taken, MyNameFinder helped create Todays-Flowers.com, an easy to remember, original, available domain name."

Battle weary cyberfreedom fighters will tell you this is the evil creation of a new NSI Entrapment Department, manned through two way mirrors by UDRP regime staffers. An extreme interpretation, though the implications are worth noting. (Just because the NSI engine suggests a domain alternative, doesn't mean you're off the potential UDRP hook. As always, buyer beware.)

But notably, MyNameFinder does thumb its nose at the Trademark Lobby, a constituency historically near and dear to Network Solutions' heart.

Next, and closer to my heart, is NSI's new 1-800 dot com service.

I'm a 1-800 dot com consultant, and so naturally, pleased that Network Solutions is mainstreaming the 1-800 dot com connection. Its sudden entry into the 1-800 market serves as validation of the 1-800 vanity industry and its brand relationship with domain names.

1-800 dot com also signals another sharp departure from the trademark camp, which has a friend--a close bosom buddy friend--in ICANN. But the FCC couldn't care less about trademarks, and remands 1-800 trademark complaints to the trademark courts where they belong.

Because of this, the large carriers and trademark interests historically decry any connection between 800 numbers and domain names, because your brand awareness depletes their pool of available 800 numbers to match their domain names and brands.

As such, the 800 broker is the pejorative predecessor to the cybersquatter, both scapegoat creations of the trademark lobby PR machine.

Which leads me to the lastest new NSI development, for sure its most surprising.

Network Solutions has entered the aftermarket business. It will list your domain names for sale. It will fold your listings into its whois search engine (a brilliance dwarfed only by companies already doing it.) And Network Solutions plans to combine name change services and financial approvals for transferred domain names into a seamless transaction.

What does all this say?

No doubt NSI wants to keep up with the .com Jones'--and wants of course to keep a solid grip on its marketshare. Politically, Network Solutions' introduction of MyNameFinder and "In Search Of," the moniker for its aftermarket listing service, is to say the very least, perplexing.

Both service activities represent potential indications of bad faith registration, according to the UDRP, and in fact a number of UDRP rulings specifically cite for-sale listings on GreatDomains.com as indications of bad faith registration.

Why would NSI risk having its reputation impugned alongside the broker and auction sites of UDRP distain? Does this signal a waning of the Trademark Lobby's hold on the domain name regulatory and legislative schemes? We would certainly hope so.

Either way, NSI's activities state for the record that the aftermarket, and the individuals, small businesses and entrepreneurs it comprises, are a powerful market force to be reckoned with. And that is definitely a good thing.

Judith Oppenheimer is a noted toll free number and domain name expert; president of http://1800theexpert.com/, and publisher of http://icbtollfree.com/. Copyright ) 2000 ICB,Inc. All rights reserved.

May 17, 2000