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Network Solutions to Sell WHOIS Ads 67

Wired 2000 writes "A news article on InternetNews reports that Network Solutions plans to sell ad space on the WHOIS database, which raises the question whether NSI is allowed to profit off a database which they no longer own, particularly the highly trafficked WHOIS database. "
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Network Solutions to Sell WHOIS Ads

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  • by alhaz ( 11039 ) on Monday August 23, 1999 @09:17PM (#1729127) Homepage
    The problem here is that you're dead wrong.

    The telco will slap you with a lawsuit so fast it'll make your head spin if you duplicat a phone book, or use it to build your own list for business purposes.

    Companies such as telesurveying organizations sometimes end up using photocopied telephone book pages, but only with a waiver from the client stating that the client is liable and not the surveying org.

    I got lectured to about this while in my indenture at Western Wats, years ago when i was just out of highschool, flat broke, and $5.50/hr sounded pretty good.

    The companies that make these CDs with huge telephone directories go to great lengths to compile phone lists from other sources, and document those sources.

    Case in point: My mother has never, ever had a telephone number in her own name, but is listed in nearly every one of those cd-rom databases, on some of them not only in Utah but also in New York and Hawaii at the numbers the family once occupied in those states.

    True, the telco does sell advertising space on the cover and in the back of the phone book, but they don't make you sit through a promotional message with every 411 call, do they?

  • I have a couple class-C (/24, i.e. 256) IP addresses ranges that I registered in the good old days, before NSI's monopoly and the spinoff of ARIN (American Registry of Internet Numbers).

    I moved a while back, and just noticed that ARIN didn't have my current address - and had constructed a new NIC handle from my old one when they spun off.

    While I was there I took a look at their fee structure - and was floored. $2,500 for a class-C - IF you qualify. And then $30 a year to maintain it, too. This is on top of my domain name, of course. Don't like it? Rent some numbers from your ISP, or THEIR ISP, or the one above them. And pay their markup. Of course if you move, or change ISPs, you'll have to change your numbers. (A private block is now called "portable".) And the ISP will want you to pay for all those numbers (that THEY have to pay for) whether they're routing packets to them or not.

    And if I want an ASN (Autonomous System Number) so I can participate in the more advanced routing protocols, that's ANOTHER 500 bucks, and ANOTHER $30 annual fee.

    They've started allocating IPv6 addresses, too. You know, the new version of internet protocol with about 10**39 addresses - enough addresses to assign a big block to every atom in the lithospere. (Or is that enough to give several to every subatomic particle in the known universe?) But they want to conserve those, too (maybe encoding routing information into them - and thus casting it in concrete and recreating the pre-dotist mail routing problems). So pony up a few kilobux if you want an allocation. And keep yet another $30 annual fee coming, forever.

  • I wouldn't mind a banner ad on every screen if they'd stop charging for domain names. B-)
  • we get a group together like the W3C to run the registry database. An injunction by the US gov't would be able to get control of it. NSI is nothing but a few corporate types and some engineers that maintain everything. And you pay them 70$ for two years (multiply 70$ by about 20,000 domain registries a day). They don't have a ton of overhead so most of your money goes into the shareholders pockets. Ads on the whois database just means they're making money off you over the 70$ you paid. This is crap, they don't own your information, so they out to have to pay you with the money from the ad on the whois page. Hey maybe next they'll have auctions! networksolutionsbay .com
    now there's an idea.
  • OK, first off, I don't believe they're putting text based adds in the lookups themselves, just banners on their whois portal page, which I consider to be totally fair. If they were, however...

    This information bought to you by Pepsi(tm) :

    Coca Cola Corporation..


    "Binaries may die but source code lives forever"
    -- Unknown

    Andrew Fremantle

  • Visit [] and you'll see one of many WHOIS web page interfaces with adverts. AskReggie happens to be owned by, who also own Slashdot.

    The point? Well you have to realise that Network Solutions are talking about doing exactly the same thing; putting adverts on their WEB PAGE INTERFACE and NOT, I repeat NOT, on the actual WHOIS data itself.

    So if you continue using a command-line or desktop WHOIS utility, or use the same web page outside Network Solutions that you already do, then you'll get no more or less adverts than you ever did.

    In short: this is a NON-STORY.

    Which makes me wonder whether the people who wrote the story and submitted it understand the difference between a WEB PAGE INTERFACE and real, proper, raw WHOIS query. FFS.


  • Just Whose InterNIC Is It, Anyway?
    By Elizabeth Wasserman for 'The Industry Standard'
    March 26, 1999

    Network Solutions' decision to reroute traffic from puts speed bumps in the road
    to competition.

    The brazen move by Network Solutions Inc. last week to reroute traffic from the InterNIC to the company's homepage and redirect the popular "whois" directory annoyed the government,
    prospective competitors and many others in the Internet community.

    It also exposed potholes along the road to competition in the market for registering cyberspace addresses. The "whois" directory enabled anyone to check who owns a particular domain name. NSI's action means that the public and competing registrars can still check whether a name is in use, but now they must hunt for it at NSI's site. It also means the considerable "brand" equity of InterNIC now reverts to NSI.

    Now this means you will probably spammed with a geocity type pop-up when you do a whois search on their page... groovy baybee

    March 29 was supposed to mark the deadline for applicants seeking approval of the Internet
    Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to compete with Network Solutions in the business of registering domain names for a two-month test. Even if NSI decides to reverse its position, ICANN President Michael Roberts said the deadline has been extended until April 8, and the decision on the five new registrars will be delayed until April 21 due to the questions raised by NSI last week.

    The move by the Herndon, Va.-based company, which has had an exclusive government contract to administer names in the popular .com, .net and .org domains since 1992, also sends a chill through would-be contenders only one month before competition is expected to be introduced.

    Many players bombarded ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce with questions about what
    was going on. If NSI, without prior notice to the U.S. government, could boldly claim as company
    property what many have come to view as a public resource
    , what would prevent the company from
    taking other actions to thwart competition?

    Definitely seems that they're taking other actions now. Unethical actions upon a trusted system which logically isn't their property.

    "It was a shot across the bow," says Rich Forman, founder of, which has become one of the largest registrars of cyberspace addresses and plans to apply to become an ICANN "test" registrar. "The InterNIC and the 'whois' database were almost like the U.S. Postal Service. It was quasi-public and had a lot of trust built up in it.It was a public entity that people had trust in, and now they've turned it into a private vehicle."

    NSI said in a statement that the move was designed to "help customers more easily find the information, services and tools they need." NSI spokesman Chris Clough said the company's action
    was customer driven.

    cough...bullshit "The intent was to make it simpler and easier and to consolidate the services we offer," he said. NSI combined the InterNIC domain-name-addressing site with its own homepage and said the new site was both faster to download and easier to reach.

    But the rerouting of InterNIC also left potential competitors raising questions that U.S. officials had failed to resolve during their own negotiations with NSI. Under a cooperative agreement signed in October, NSI basically consented to operate the registry system for the most popular domains until 2000.

    The registry function is akin to a wholesaler. Competition is being introduced initially by ICANN on the retail side, where registrars - including NSI - will compete for customers.

    But the cooperative agreement left open certain issues, even though the countdown to competition
    has already begun. In particular, companies that are considering entering the field still don't know what price the registry will charge registrars for each domain name sold. Another outstanding issue is the technical specifications for the electronic interface between the registrar system and the NSI system, as well as the terms of the contracts that will be entered into between registrars and the registry.

    "From our position, we have to depend on the DoC and ICANN to work out what is the ongoing
    relationship," says Sean Brophy, VP of corporate development at Verio, NSI's largest customer and a
    major Web-hosting company. "This has not been terribly smooth," Brophy adds. "We are now seeing
    a set of actions by people who are trying to position themselves very strongly."

    Verio has not yet publicly announced whether it will apply to be a test registrar, but it is considered a likely candidate. Among the big-name companies that have inquired about entry to the domain-name marketplace, although they may not submit applications for the test, are MCI-WorldCom, America Online, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and even AT&T.

    Meanwhile, smaller companies that have been acting as intermediaries between NSI and consumers fear they will lose out as InterNIC becomes associated with NSI's brand. "It's like being channel 3, 6
    or 10 as opposed to 57," says Larry Erlich of

  • I don't think it would be illegal. Altavista does the same thing. Based on what you search for they display different ads. Do a search for cigars and an add for cigaraficianado appears. So I don't think it would cause a problem.

  • They're not desperate for money. They're just greedy to make an excessive amount of money.

    And no "revolution" is coming to stop NSI. Just the same shitty-ass market forces that say those with big money will make even more money.

  • I can make a page with a CGI to WHOIS, and put ads on it, can't I?

    (first post?)
  • First they say you can't advertise using the database and then they go and do it themselves?!? I realize there's a difference here but not that much.

    By submitting a WHOIS query, you agree that you will use this Data only for lawful purposes and that, under no circumstances will you use this Data to: (1) allow, enable, or otherwise support the transmission of mass unsolicited, commercial advertising or solicitations via e-mail (spam)

  • I can't imagine what would push these people to go and put banner ads on their webpage for the WHOIS. They are just begging for the US government to pull their rights to the database at all. This should be interesting to watch play out.

  • by fougasse ( 79656 ) on Monday August 23, 1999 @05:33PM (#1729143)
    They're only planning to advertise, via banner ads, on their whois web gateway.

    I don't see anything wrong with that. Whois isn't a web service, it's a service that uses the whois protocol. NSI has a gateway to it up on their page, and seeing as NSI has a quasi-monopoly on domain registration, it's a very popular page. But anyone else can create a gateway to whois just as easily, and tons of people have - for instance just about every web hosting company which registers domain names. Many other whois gateways on the web already have ads, and there shouldn't be a different policy for NSI's.

    Of course, if they start limiting direct whois access or placing text ads on results, that's another story. From everything I've read, though, they're not planning to do that.
  • aww man, i took too long making up that stupid rhyme, someone stole my spot!

  • They can't prohibit others from profiting by copying the database and providing a similar service, but they have the right to profit from it themselves (if they can). The whole thing about NSI or Commerce "owning" public, factual information strikes me as absurd.

    Things would get a little more complicated if they decided to disallow queries to their version of the database. That would be a somewhat different issue, though.
  • I've found that to be a new "feature". Instead of daily updates like they say and it used to be, over the last few months its been getting slower and slower. I've seen the db go for two or three days without an update. It's like it was on crontab, but some idiot erased it and is doing it manually now since he doesn't know how to work crontab... quite sad really. Somebody needs to just bomb NSI into the ground.
  • I'm taking bids for ping adspace. Whenever any packets are sent to my server, they will be returned with an ad in proportion to how many packets are sent. Rates are per ad sent (server daily ping reports will be sent out by request and $30 printing fee). "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't be here."
  • Is it just me, or is NSI really trying to piss off everyone? Maybe they're just having fun since they're going to lose control of domains.
  • by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Monday August 23, 1999 @05:39PM (#1729149)
    What's the big deal? They want to sell ads on the webpage, not within the whois database itself.
    "There are thousand of locations who link to Whois and all have the option of selling ads on those pages. To preclude NSI from doing this would be unfair and could be viewed as a restraint of trade."
    If you're using whois from the command line, you will likely not see those animated GIF banner ads, am I right?
    So now let me ask you again -- do you really care?
  • I think I'll start working on a whois binary that DOESN'T display the ads. Realistically, all the traffic in question (or a good chunk of it) is admins doing "whois" on the command line. All you need to do is create a version that "detects" the ad and obliterates it. Even better, one that ALSO detects their silly "license" and optionally (default to ON) removes that as well. :) D
  • My Original Report [] on this subject includes comments from ISPs on why this is a concern for them, and on my own take on this issue.

    Later tonight there will be a letter and petition for ISPs to sign on the website. The letter will be directed to the Dept of Justice and the Dept of Commerce asking them to look into this and stop NSI from acting in this fashion, and the petition will be an open petition to all registries and registrars calling for Domain Registration sites to be safe havens from this type of activity, and will spell out why.

    ISPs are the the single source more responsible for funnelling domain registrations to NSI, and if another registrar caters to them, by providing a safe and easy way for ISPs to funnel their registrations through them, they will use their influence with their customers to show their dissatisfaction.

    William X. Walsh /
    DSo Internet Services

    Support the Cyberspace Association, the
    constituency of Individual Domain Name Owners

  • Or they could just push a one line alt="" field down to you... "Shop at Click here" in your text whois output. (just kidding, btw).
  • And even worse: That person actually had something interesting to say.
  • I would guess so, that's what askreggie [] seems to do. Hmm, askreggie is owned by also... they are buying everything and turning into MS!!!! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!

  • Just a quick point, the phone numbers in the telephone guides have been ruled public domain.
    AT&T and other companies copy the information out of phone books in order to fill in their own lists. I'm not sure of the court case that made the phone book information public domain, but it has was within the last 3 years.

  • Sorry Rob, but the others are right - it only seems to affect queries via their web pages. I think that the 2 things which should concern us are: 1). We have to *pay* to download their ads. True it's only a small amount of extra data, but 2). who is (excuse the pun) to decide what material to allow in the form of adverts? A porn company (perhaps even the "open porn" company - I just listened to gis episode 4 for the 50th time :) might "justify" that they have every right to advertise via WHOIS. That then makes it illegal for many people (minors, those in China, etc...) to view the WHOIS database! not only that,but Ican forsee similar things to the RBL being imposed, then the sites which link to the whois database get censored for linking to it, etc... I hope this does happen because I really want NSI to go bankrupt and for the government to turn it (the WHOIS database) over to one of the non-profit groups that runs root servers (they know how to do things properly). NSI has no right to do this. This would be like the telephone company playing you an advert every time you ring 192 (directory assistance) - or whatever number it is that you guys dial in the US. Nobody's going to bother to read this so it don't matter much anyway... Jon.
  • Blood-sucking pond scum? Get a life. NSI provides one of the more reasonably priced services on the internet. Are you pissed because domain registration is one of the few things you can't get for free? There are better things to petition and demand for than a refund of $200 for 4 years of domain name registration. Or is $5 dollars a month too much of a financial burden?
  • by drwiii ( 434 )
    I think their only goal is to piss people off at this point. They should shoot the marketing guy who came up with that idea.

    "Hey! Let's sell ad space on a government-owned database! That'll further the conception that it's our property!"

    Notwork Delusions [] strikes again. They're rising quickly on my "companies that must die" list, joining the ranks of Microsoft, Bell Atlantic, and UUNet..


  • I just received another Discover Card offer in the mail addressed to the wrong name at my address - I made a mistake while registering a domain name at NS, and listed the wrong person at my address. Guess who the mail was addressed to?

    You can't even register for a domain name anymore without getting on a mailing list, and that's just f***ed up.
  • In an effort to make a profit, god has decided to advertise on all newborn human beings. The ads will start appearing on children as soon as next month. More details later. Heh.

    Anyway, this doesn't sound like such a bad thing. It is only on their webpage, which I can't say I've ever used anyway. Just don't visit. Or if you must, use junkbuster [].

    my $cents = $penny x 2;

  • Wrong, anyone can duplicate a telephone book, it's public domain information (laws of course vary by country). The catch is you can't use a mechanical means to do so, because the layout etc are copyrighted.

    There are lots of directories already that use a subset of the yellow pages.

  • On some cellular systems in the southeast, you do listen to a short (5-10 second) ad before your 411 info.

  • This is an article about adds on the web page, you ninny.. The adds will be on s
  • Ok, if I own property next to a busy highway, am I allowed to put advertising on that space? Seems like the same sort of thing.

  • It sounded to me like the ads would only be on the whois query page, not on the actual account managment pages. You are free to run your whois lookup that links directly into the domain registration process at NSI or any other registrar, no?

    Besides, while I agree that being forced to send you customers to pages that show competing banner ads is somewhat tacky (especially considerint NSI is banning competing registrars from advertising), "thems the breaks." If you are sufficiently uncompetitive to retain customers when they see ads for other ISPs, that is pretty lame, too.

  • I can't imagine what would push these people to go and put banner ads on their webpage for the WHOIS. They are just begging for the US government to pull their rights to the database at all. This should be interesting to watch play out.

    I don't have a problem with them putting ads on their webpage to make cash...after all, if it was easy to make money on the internet (like all the spams say) then we'd all be spending our days rich and carefree instead of whining on Slashdot.

    Now.....if they were to put ads trailing everytime I ran a whois command, I'd blow a fit.

    TheGeek []

  • I can see it now, all WHOIS for a microsoft registered domain get Office ads. Or perhaps auctioning off popular WHOIS queries.
    I realise they could just put a random ad every time you pull up the page, but there does seem to be some potential for targeting of advertisement here.
    Would that be illegal?
  • I think it's an awesome idea and it's how DNS should be run, or the theory at least. If only that's how it all was and you didn't have to get a program for windows...

    Is the guy who wrote the registry for Windows out there reading this? Come one, I know you're into some serious voodoo and black magic, how about doing the world a favor and having NSI fall into a hole in the earth?

    "Companies have voted with their feet [on the issue of domains], they want
    to have domain names that are international or at least country neutral.
    The same freedom should apply to individuals; all individuals should be
    able to have and own their own domain names".

    -- Paul Mockapetis, creator of the DNS, in On the Internet, September/October 1996.

  • No you aren't. Especially in more populated areas there are very distinct laws for what you can put up in plain view of everyone else... height, lighting, and even colour in some places.

    Openstep/NeXTSTEP/Solaris/FreeBSD/Linux/ultrix/OSF /...
  • In the US local directory assistance is 411 (and this has become synonymous, in a slangy sort of way, with 'information').

    To get directory assistance for a different area code, you dial xxx-555-1212, where xxx is the area code you wish to get information about.

    This is really pointless, but what the hell.
  • But that would also take out innocent companies in the area! Like PSI in the same building!

    Oh, right. Carry on.

  • The problem here is that you're dead wrong.

    The telco will slap you with a lawsuit so fast it'll make your head spin if you duplicat a phone book, or use it to build your own list for business purposes.

    They may slap you with a lawsuit, but there's no certainty they will win it. In 1991, the Supreme Court ruled that the raw data in a white-pages phone book was not protected by copyright, only the way in which that data is presented.

    The case was Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc. [], and the Supreme Court said: "This case concerns the interaction of two well-established propositions. The first is that facts are not copyrightable; the other, that compilations of facts generally are." In the end, they decided that the white pages were insufficiently original to warrant copyright protection.

    I have to wonder if the WHOIS database that NSI "owns" is actually original enough to be deserving of copyright protection, but that's not up to me to decide...
  • Define "lately." :-)

    I had to look up this story at CNet [] to know what on earth you were talking about. Gotta love MAPS. They sure deserve my $35/year more than NSI does.

    Hmmm, interesting... part of it says: "[Jonathan] Emery [NSI's general counsel] added that far from being spam, NSI's emails were 'vital catalysts to free and open commerce,' and that customers have the ability to get off the marketing list."

    Someone tell me where the opt-out page on NSI's Web site is, please, I beg you!

  • Maybe you just missed this part :

    "The document clearly indicates that the advertising was for the whois and whois results pages, and that they seem to be targeting Internet Service Providers as potential advertisers."
    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, you must of skimmed right over that, rather than not read it at all.

    William X. Walsh /
    DSo Internet Services

    Support the Cyberspace Association, the
    constituency of Individual Domain Name Owners []

  • Posted by Synsthe:

    Where's the news? If you go to s you'll notice there's already gif 468x60 ad banners displayed there.

    Albeit they are merely ads for linking to another part of NSI's site, the fact that they were/are there should have been enough advance warning for anybody with multiple brain cells and synapse function to figure out that they would eventually run full fledged ad campaigns.

    The problem being, no matter where they stick the ads, you can't stop them; they're not inserting the ads into the actual whois database, they're putting them on the pages and what not that display and format pieces of information from that database. So they very well could even put text ads into whois replies if they wanted to.

    Ads are everywhere. You get them in snail mail constantly just like you get them through email (though notice how nobody goes and tracks down the postal company that sent it to get the sender shut down?), you see them on tv (they fit shows in between them on occasion), you get them in magazines, in the phone book, in your newspaper, you get them driving down the highway.

    This particular case is not NSI being evil (though trust me, I don't like them one bit), just them jumping on the bandwagon with everybody else.

    Mark Waterous (
  • First of their database is barely updated nowadays so your better off using their Shared Registration Service (SRS) database for queries here [].

    Secondly this should be unconstitutional being that the whois database is not theirs. Maybe they should advertise that and donate the money to ICANN [] ooops That'd probably hurt them more then it would help them since they seem to want to monopolize the Domain Registration business.

    heh the John Gotti's of the Domain registration world.

    Someone should wake them up from their domination fantasies. [] registers more domain than they do.

    Maybe they should join in the adverstising business and give NSI (network stupidity inc) a run for the monopolized cash.

    home sweet home []
  • "Now.....if they were to put ads trailing everytime I ran a whois command, I'd blow a fit."

    Nah just whip out a perl script to do the whois query's for you and have it remove the ads before showing the information to you. Similiar to junkbuster for webpages :)
  • (Read The FAQ)

    In the faq, under the unix section, it tells you to update your DNS server.


    Edit /etc/resolv.conf in a similar way to the following:

    domain your.domain



    It is likely there are other commands in there that you should leave in place.

    Additionally, you may normally only have 3 nameserver commands. In which case you may prefer to just use our first nameserver if you have 2 already. Place ours first.

  • Badly designed HTML aside, here I am at, at their whois database, and I can "Search for a Web address, NIC handle, host IP, or lastname, firstname". So let's try this out.

    [Network Solutions (R) the dot com people (TM)]Home | Services | Find | Help | About Us


    Of course, if you change the query a little, you can find it, but then shouldn't they alter that whole cutesy "Search for a web address" message? Bah.

    ...and didn't Sun already do that whole stupid "dot com" advertising stunt?
  • But how many of us have received US Post mail shortly after we've registered a domain, etc.?? This is directly against the NSI license as I read it, yet I have the paper to prove it, right along with the name of the domain sadly mistaken as the companies name. We don't want more SPAM, how do we get this message to these folks?

Take an astronaut to launch.