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I am victim of Domain name front running. I searched for domain names on some sites & I lost those names soon.

Now, what is the safest way to search for availability of domain names ? Using

nslookup -type=ns domain.com

is a way that I found, though I am not sure this is 100% safe or safest possible!?

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3 Answers 3

  1. Bypass the registrar when searching for available domains by querying the registry directly.
  2. Buy the domain you want as soon as you know it's available.
  3. Use a registrar who doesn't have a history of pinching unregistered names of value when you try to register them.

To bypass the registrar when doing searches:

From "How To Keep Your Domain Name Searches Safe From Poachers" at Domain Sherpa:

...[use] your computer’s terminal access that connects directly to registry databases, rather than using a web interface through your computer’s browser (see figure below). By doing that, you bypass the “middleman” registrar.

How to hide your WHOIS lookup from the registrar

On a Mac or in Linux, do the following:

  1. Open the Terminal application (located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app). For quick access, simultaneously press Command+Space and then type in “Terminal”.
  2. Type “whois query.ext” without quotes, where “query” is the domain and “ext” is the extension. For example, type “whois domainsherpa.com” to perform a WHOIS lookup of this website.
  3. Review the output. If the domain is unregistered, it will display, “No match for QUERY.EXT.”

On a Windows-based computer, do the following:

  1. Download Whois v1.01 from Microsoft and open the application.
  2. Type “whois query.ext” without quotes, where “query” is the domain and “ext” is the extension. For example, type “whois domainsherpa.com” to perform a WHOIS lookup of this website.]
  3. Review the output. If the domain is unregistered, it will display, “No match for QUERY.EXT.”

In a web browser from any computer operating system: If you don’t want to use command line prompts, at the very least you should query

InterNIC, which is operated by ICANN, directly via their website. At InterNIC you can do a WHOIS search for the following TLDs: .aero, .arpa, .asia, .biz, .cat, .com, .coop, .edu, .info, .int, .jobs, .mobi, .museum, .name, .net, .org, .pro, and .travel.

While the above three procedures do not guarantee that your domain name search will not be tracked, they do make it far less likely.

Other tips

There are some other tips and resources on this Hacker News thread, where I originally found the article above.

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Using the whois command, I have never had a domain name swiped from me in this manner. So this works. –  Michael Hampton Apr 2 '13 at 17:18
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nslookup will find DNS information about the domain name. However, if it's been registered, but doesn't have an DNS information, it won't work, even though the domain does exist.

whois is the command you want. It's built into Unix-based operating system or can be downloaded from Microsoft.

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Personally, I prefer not supporting unethical registrars, and especially registrars like Godaddy that are in bed with domainers and spammers. If I need to worry about a registrar ripping me off by pseudo-frontrunning (since frontrunning is technically illegal now), then I wouldn't take my business to that registrar in the first place.

Hence, I just search for domains on the registrar I've selected to purchase the domain through. In almost all cases, this is DreamHost's registrar, which I can use right out of my web hosting panel. This also means when I purchase the domain the hosting gets set up simultaneously. It's just less of a hassle all around.

I think if you're using a legit web host whose primary revenue source isn't domain name registration, then you can be fairly safe that the registrar they run or use is also fairly legit. I.e. if you're using Rackspace, MediaTemple, Gandi.net, etc. then you should just search for/register domains through them. You can also be pretty confident in registering domains through Google Apps.

Web hosts I'd be a little more wary about: HostGator, Bluehost, and obviously Godaddy.

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