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Network Solutions, LLC is an American-based
technology Technology ("science of craft", from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. I ...

technology
company and a subsidiary of
Web.com Web.com Group Inc. is an American company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida Jacksonville is a city located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the most populous city in the state, and is the List of United States cities by area, largest city ...
, the 4th largest
.com The domain name com is a top-level domain A top-level domain (TLD) is one of the Domain name, domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet after the root domain. The top-level domain names are instal ...
domain name registrar A domain name registrar is a company that manages the reservation of Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/I ...
with over 6.7 million registrations as of August 2018. In addition to being a domain name registrar, Network Solutions provides web services such as web hosting, website design and online marketing, including
search engine optimization Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website A website (also written as web site) is a collection of web page A web page (or webpage) is a hypertext File:D ...
and
pay per click Pay-per-click (PPC) is an internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and device ...
management.


History

Network Solutions started as a technology consulting company incorporated by Emmit McHenry with Ty Grigsby, Gary Desler and Ed Peters in
Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscaped ...
, in 1979. In its first few years, the company focused on systems programming services, primarily in the
IBM International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The company began in 1911, founded in Endicott, New York, as the C ...

IBM
environment. Annual revenues passed $1 million in 1982, growing to $18.5 million in 1986. Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) first operated the
domain name system The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and decentralized Decentralization or decentralisation is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision making, are distributed o ...

domain name system
(DNS) registry under a sub-contract with the U.S.
Defense Information Systems Agency The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), known as the Defense Communications Agency (DCA) until 1991, is a United States Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an United States federal exec ...
(DISA) in September 1991. NSI gave out names in the .com, .org, .mil, .gov, .edu and .net
Top Level Domain A top-level domain (TLD) is one of the Domain name, domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet after the root domain. The top-level domain names are installed in the DNS root zone, root zone of the name ...
s (TLDs) for free, along with free
Internet Protocol The Internet Protocol (IP) is the network layer In the seven-layer OSI model The Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI model) is a conceptual model A conceptual model is a representation of a system, made of the composition of concept C ...
(IP) address blocks. The
Network Information Center The Network Information Center (NIC), also known as InterNIC from 1993 until 1998, was the organization primarily responsible for Domain Name System The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical and decentralized naming system for computers ...
at
SRI International SRI International (SRI) is an American nonprofit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public ...
had performed the work under
Elizabeth J. Feinler Elizabeth Jocelyn "Jake" Feinler (born March 2, 1931) is an American information scientist. From 1972 until 1989 she was director of the Network Information Systems Center at the SRI International, Stanford Research Institute (SRI International). ...
since 1972. In 1992, NSI was the sole bidder on a grant from the
National Science Foundation The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent agency of the United States government Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group)The Independents were a group of ...

National Science Foundation
(NSF) to further develop the domain name registration service for the Internet. In 1993, NSI was granted an exclusive contract by the NSF to be the sole
domain name registrar A domain name registrar is a company that manages the reservation of Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/I ...
for .com (commerce), .net (network) and .org (organization) TLDs, a continuation of work NSI had already been doing. NSI also maintained the central database of assigned names called
WHOIS WHOIS (pronounced as the phrase "who is") is a query and response Communications protocol, protocol that is widely used for querying databases that store the registered users or assignees of an Internet resource, such as a domain name, an IP addre ...
. A contract was given to
Boeing The Boeing Company () is an American multinational corporation A multinational company (MNC) is a corporate A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a Legal personal ...

Boeing
to operate the .mil TLD registry, and was also performed by NSI under subcontract. In May 1993, the NSF privatized the domain name registry; Network Solutions was the only bidder on the $5.9 million annual contract to administer it. In March 1995, the company was acquired by
Science Applications International Corporation Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Inc. is an American company headquartered in Reston, Virginia that provides government services and information technology support. History The original SAIC was created in 1969 by John Ro ...
(SAIC) for $4.7 million. At that time, the company managed 60,000 domain names. Following the acquisition by SAIC, the NSF gave Network Solutions authority to charge for domain name registrations. Network Solutions imposed a charge of $100 for two years registration. 30% of this revenue went to the NSF to create an "Internet Intellectual Infrastructure Fund." In 1997, a lawsuit was filed charging Network Solutions with antitrust violations with regard to domain names. The 30% of the registration fee that went to the NSF was ruled by a court to be an illegal tax. This led to a reduction in the domain name registration fee to $70 (for two years). Network Solutions also implemented a policy of censoring domain names. This came to light when Jeff Gold attempted to register the domain name shitakemushrooms.com but was unable to. Network Solutions' automated screening system blocked the registration "because it contains four letters they consider obscene", though the domain name 'shit.com' had been successfully registered. Network Solutions argued that it was within its
First Amendment First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill, ...
rights to block words it found offensive, even though it was operating pursuant to contract with a Federal agency. Network Solutions' $100 charge and its monopoly position in the market were contributing pressures that resulted in the creation of the
International Ad Hoc Committee Prior to the globalization of the Internet, its assignment of domain names was administered within the research and academic communities through the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). As the Internet grew to a global service, in the 1990s ...
and a failed attempt to take control of the domain name system, and to the U.S. Department of Commerce and
National Telecommunications and Information Administration The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce The United States Department of Commerce is an executive department of the U.S. federal government concerned w ...
(NTIA) releasing a
white paper A white paper is a report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Exis ...

white paper
and ultimately contracting with the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN ) is an American multistakeholder group and nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or ...

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) to administer the DNS. In September 1997, the Network Solutions () became a
public company A public company, publicly traded company, publicly held company, publicly listed company, or public limited company is a company whose ownership is organized via shares of share capital, stock which are intended to be freely traded on a stock ...
via an
initial public offering An initial public offering (IPO) or stock launch is a public offering A public offering is the offering of securities A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal defi ...
(IPO). After the formation of
ICANN The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN ) is an American multistakeholder group and nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or ...

ICANN
in 1998, the domain name industry opened up to partial competition, with NSI retaining its monopoly on .com, .net and .org but having to recognize a separation between the functions of a registry, which manages the underlying database of domain names, and that of a registrar, which acts as a retail provider of domain names. To achieve this separation, NSI created a "firewall" between the two new divisions of the business, creating separate technical infrastructure, organizations, and facilities. By the end of 1999 the fee for registration had been reduced, from $34.99, to a wholesale rate of $6 per year to registered resellers. In May 1999, Jim Rutt was named chief executive officer of the company; he stepped down in February 2001. In 2000, at the peak of the
dot-com bubble The dot-com bubble, also known as the dot-com boom, the tech bubble, and the Internet bubble, was a stock market bubble Stock (also capital stock) is all of the Share (finance), shares into which ownership of a corporation is divided.Longm ...
, the company was acquired by for $21 billion in stock (). On October 17, 2003, VeriSign announced the sale of Network Solutions to Pivotal Equity Group for $100 million. In January 2006, Network Solutions acquired MonsterCommerce, an
e-commerce E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the activity of electronically The field of electronics is a branch of physics and electrical engineering that deals with the emission, behaviour and effects of electrons using electronic devices. Electronics ...

e-commerce
company in the Greater St. Louis area. In February 2007,
General Atlantic General Atlantic (also known as "GA") is an American growth equity firm providing capital and strategic support for global growth companies. GA is headquartered in New York, New York. The firm was founded in 1980 as the captive investment team fo ...
, a
private equity firm A private-equity firm is an investment management company that provides financial backing and makes investments in the private equity Private equity (PE) typically refers to investment funds, generally organized as limited partnerships, tha ...
, acquired the company for a reported $800 million. In January 2008, Roy Dunbar was appointed CEO. On November 2, 2009, Tim Kelly, president of the company, replaced Dunbar as CEO. Dunbar continued to act as chairman and advisor to the company. In August 2011,
Web.com Web.com Group Inc. is an American company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida Jacksonville is a city located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the most populous city in the state, and is the List of United States cities by area, largest city ...
announced the acquisition of the company for $405 million and 18 million shares of newly-issued Web.com stock (), which closed at $8.66 per share before the announcement, for a total purchase price of about $560 million. The acquisition was completed on October 27, 2011. This was immediately followed by the departure of CEO Kelly, and other leadership. Large scale employee layoffs began the following day as well. By December 31, 2011, over half of the office space in the Herndon, Virginia, headquarters had been vacated, and on March 31, 2012, the company's Belleville, Illinois, office was closed. In June 2020, Network Solutions revoked the domain name registration of two hate sites ( VDARE and N——-rmania) after receiving a demand letter from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights organization.


2008 domain name front running class action lawsuit

Network Solutions offers a search engine which permits users to find out if a domain name is available for purchase. Unregistered domain names entered into this search engine are then speculatively reserved by Network Solutions.Domain Name Wire. "Network Solutions Faces PR Nightmare Over Domain FrontRunning"
January 8, 2008.
This "reservation" can be removed by anyone immediately by contacting Network Solutions customer service hotline, or it will automatically unreserve within four days, allowing the domain to be freely registered anywhere. Also, visitors searching for domain names on their website allow the reservation when they click "OK" on the Reservation
Confirmation dialog boxConfirmation dialog (sometimes called warning alert boxes) is a dialog box Image:Dialog1.png, 300px, Example of a dialog box of gedit. The dialog box (also called dialogue box (non-U.S. English) or just dialog) is a graphical control element in t ...
. Clicking "Cancel" will prevent the domain name from being reserved. On January 8, 2008, ''Domain Name Wire'' published a story alleging that Network Solutions practices domain name front running. "If you try to register a domain at Network Solutions, but decide not to register it, you won't be able to register it anywhere else", the article says. "Network Solutions registers the domain in its company name with the words 'This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com'." Circle ID reported on January 8, 2008, that Jonathon Nevett, Vice President of Policy at Network Solutions and one of the seven members of the ICANN community who was consulted by the ICANN committee looking at registrar abuse of domain "tasting", as the availability search practice is called, had offered a response to the news story stating Network Solutions' policy. The policy was "a security measure to protect our customers", said Nevett. "When a customer searches for an available domain name at our website, but decides not to purchase the name immediately after conducting the search", Nevett added, "after the search ends, we will put the domain name on reserve."Circle ID. "Network Solutions Responds to Front Running Accusations" by CircleID Reporter. January 8, 2008.
/ref> Nevett said that if the domain was "not purchased within 4 days, it will be released back to the registry and will be generally available for registration." But once a name was supposedly "reserved" for a potential customer, not only was it not available at any less expensive registrar, but the fee charged by Network Solutions went up to $35 instead of the original fee charged of around $10. Jay Westerdal, one of the seven members of the ICANN community who was consulted by the ICANN committee looking at domain tasting abuse,ICANN. "SAC 022 SSAC Advisory on Domain Name Front Running", page 10. October, 2007.
/ref> published an article on ''Domain Tools'' on January 8, 2008, stating that Network Solutions is exposing the domains to domain tasters. The domain tasters "will snipe those domain up milliseconds after Network Solutions deletes them", says Westerdal. "It is a deplorable action that Network Solutions would announce potential domain names to the entire world", Westerdal added. On January 8, 2008,
Tucows Tucows Inc. is an American-Canadian publicly traded A public company, publicly traded company, publicly held company, publicly listed company, or public limited company A public limited company (legally abbreviated to PLC or plc) is a type ...
, the largest publicly traded domain name registrar, published an article on its company web site titled "Registrar Reputation and Trust" criticizing Network Solutions policy. "Potential Registrants are effectively forced to purchase the domain from Network Solutions for a period of four days at which point the domain is dropped", wrote Tucows employee James Koole. Koole says that Tucows has found a way to address the issue of domain tasting and has policies in place that uphold the rights of Registrants. "Tucows works to prevent domain name tasting by charging our Resellers a monetary fee on domain name registrations that are cancelled within the five-day Add Grace Period (AGP)", Koole said. "Tucows doesn't use WHOIS query data or search data from our API to front-run domain names", Koole added.Tucows. "Registrar Reputation and Trust" by James Koole
, January 8, 2008.
On January 9, 2008, ''Cnet'' reported that Network Solutions will soon not register domains when people search for domains from the company's Whois search page, will offer only an "under construction" page for sites that it has reserved, and newly reserved pages won't be linked to the numerical Internet addresses that allow Web browsers to locate the pages.
/ref> Network Solutions will continue to register domains when people search for domains from the company's home page.


Class action and resolution

On February 25, 2008, law firms Kabateck LLP, (then Kabateck Brown Kellner), and Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack, filed class-action lawsuits, ''McElroy v. Network Solutions LLC, et. al'' and ''James Lee Finseth v. Network Solutions LLC'', against the company for front running, which was settled in favor of the
plaintiffs A plaintiff ( Π in List of legal abbreviations, legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issu ...
, in 2009.


Controversies


Server breach

In August 2009, Network Solutions notified customers that its servers were breached, and led to the exposure of names, address, and credit card numbers of more than 573,000 people who made purchases on Web sites hosted by the company. Susan Wade, a spokesperson for Network Solutions, said, "We really feel terrible about this". At the time of this writing, NSI does not know how their servers were compromised.


Malware

One year later in August 2010, Network Solutions discovered that one of their
widgets Widget is a placeholder name for an Widget (economics), unnamed, unspecified, or hypothetical manufactured good or product. The word was coined by in his play ' (1924). This meaning has been extended in various ways: Technology Computing * Soft ...
offered to their domain registration and hosting customers was capable of distributing
malware Malware (a portmanteau for malicious software) is any software intentionally designed to cause disruption to a computer, server (computing), server, Client (computing), client, or computer network, leak private information, gain unauthorized acc ...

malware
by sites displaying it. As many as 5,000,000 of their registered domains may have been affected by the hack. The affected widget was at least temporarily addressed by Network Solutions, who were able to make changes to the
code In communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', mean ...

code
to prevent it from loading.


WebLock Service

In January, 2014 Network Solutions' marketing department sent an email to customers stating that the company would be automatically enrolling customers in a new security program called WebLock, for an initial charge of $1,850 for the first year and $1,350 each subsequent year. The company claimed the cost offset new security features to protect domains, including registering as a "certified user" and confirmation of configuration changes with those "certified users".
... To help recapture the costs of maintaining this extra level of security for your account, your credit card will be billed $1,850 for the first year of service on the date your program goes live... After that you will be billed $1,350 on every subsequent year from that date. If you wish to opt out of this program you may do so by calling us at 1-888-642-0265.
Web.com COO Jason Teichman later clarified that the program would actually be opt-in, saying "we did not do a good job in wording that
mail The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Non-rectangular s ...

mail
and "It's not our intention to enroll anyone in a program they don't want."


Publishing non-Public Information

In September, 2009, Network Solutions began publishing a list of domain name whois searches performed by customers and other service users in the past day.


''Fitna'' controversy

In March 2008, "Fitnathemovie.com", a website that Dutch politician
Geert Wilders Geert Wilders (; born 6 September 1963) is a Dutch businessman and politician. He has been Leader of the Party for Freedom The Party for Freedom ( nl, Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) is a Nationalism, nationalist, Right-wing populism, right-wi ...

Geert Wilders
had reserved at Network Solutions, was taken offline. Wilders intended to host a film he had created, '' Fitna''. At that time, the only page on the site was a picture of the Qur'an accompanied by the text "Geert Wilders presents Fitna" and "Coming soon". Network Solutions' notice stated that they were "investigating whether the site's content is in violation of the Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy".Dutch Islam film website 'shut'
BBC
Wilders said the 15-minute film will show how verses from the Qur'an are being used today to incite modern Muslims to behave violently and anti-democratically. As a result of Network Solutions' decision, "fitnathemovie.com" was not available to the public on the day of the film's release. Wilders expressed his displeasure with Network Solutions for pre-censoring the domain name. Network Solutions also came under criticism because although they refused to host Wilders' website, they had provided registration services for the
Hezbollah Hezbollah (; ar, حزب الله ', literally "Party of Allah" or "Party of God", also Romanization of Arabic, transliterated Hizbullah or Hizballah, among others) is a Lebanese Shia Islam, Shia Islamist political party and militant group, ...
domain hizbollah.org. In response to these criticisms, Network Solutions agreed that hizbollah.org violated their acceptable use policy and ceased hosting that web site, as well. Due to heavy media coverage, many people were aware of the film's existence and the controversy surrounding its domain name. Some were outraged by the actions of Network Solutions in dealing with one of its customers. Freedom of speech protestors created videos commenting on the situation, and some uploaded Wilders' film to social networking sites such as YouTube shortly after its release. Protestors for both sides created their own blogs and video statements on the matter. Anti-censorship protestors took their campaigns to sites such as YouTube in order to alert others of the situation.Online Protesting
Social Media User Protesting
On March 23, 2008, Brian Krebs of the Washington Post published an article explaining more facts related to the event. Krebs wrote that Network Solutions spokesperson Susan Wade stated that Network Solutions had received several complaints regarding the website, but she did not elaborate on the specific nature of the complaints.


Controversy over subdomain hijacking

In April 2008, reports indicated that in addition to the aforementioned front-running practices, Network Solutions had begun exploiting an obscure provision of its
end-user license agreement An end-user license agreement (EULA, ) is a legal contract entered into between a software developer A computer programmer, sometimes called a software developer, a programmer or more recently a coder (especially in more informal contexts), is ...
that permits it to use and advertise on its users' unassigned
subdomain In the Domain Name System The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and Decentralised system, decentralized naming system used to identify computers, Internet#Applications_and_services, services, and other resources reachable through ...

subdomain
s, even despite the registration and private ownership of the top-level domain itself. The provision states:
'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 Parking is the act of stopping and disengaging a vehicle and leaving it unoccupied. Parking on one or both sides of a road is often permitted, though sometimes with restrictions. Some buildings have parking facilities for use of the buildings' ...
" page, "under construction" page, or other temporary page that may include promotions and advertisements for, and links to, Network Solutions' Web site...'"
Ars Technica ''Ars Technica'' (; a Latin-derived term that the site translates as the "art of technology", and sometimes known commonly as ''Ars'') is a website covering news and opinions in technology, science, politics, and society, created by Ken Fishe ...
has documented how to opt out of this scheme, but many private domain holders and privacy advocates cite the move as another step in Network Solutions' series of recent attempts to push the boundaries of profitability and responsibility in its domain practices.


''Races.com'' controversy

According to a Wired.com article, in 1999 Network Solutions bungled the transfer of "races.com", accidentally placing it back into the pool of available domain names. MBA student John McLanahan purchased the domain privately for thousands of dollars. A domain name speculator was able to obtain it, and demanded $500,000 for its return.


Misleading customers over refunds

In April 2015, the
Federal Trade Commission The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government Independent agencies of the United States federal government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. gover ...

Federal Trade Commission
announced that Network Solutions had agreed to settle charges that it misled consumers who bought web hosting services by promising a full refund if they canceled within 30 days. In reality, the FTC stated, the company withheld substantial cancellation fees amounting to up to 30 percent of the refund.


See also

*
Domain Name System The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and Decentralised system, decentralized naming system used to identify computers, Internet#Applications_and_services, services, and other resources reachable through the internet or other intern ...

Domain Name System


References


External links

* {{Dot-com Bubble Certificate authorities Domain name registrars American companies established in 1979 Herndon, Virginia Web.com 1997 initial public offerings 2000 mergers and acquisitions Companies based in Fairfax County, Virginia