A few days ago, I checked whether a domain was available by tying the name in the web browser. Also host returned not found 3(NXDOMAIN)

When I tried again today, some domain grabber had snatched it.

How can I check whether a domain is available without losing to some barely legal "service"?

  • 1
    What registrar was it registered with? Just curious, the same thing happened to me before.
    – Keith
    Feb 1 '11 at 4:47
  • 3
    For my own learning, how could a domain grabber know you typed in a domain in your browser that wasn't registered and then grab it? How would you know this had happened, and wasn't just a coincidence.
    – Matthew Lock
    Feb 1 '11 at 5:00
  • 1
    @Matthew, it's not a coincidence. It's called "domain name tasting"; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_tasting. Companies form agreements with registrars to automatically register any domain accessed that is not already registered. The company has several days to decide if they want to keep the domain; if not they can abandon it at no charge. According to the Wikipedia article, over 90% of domain name registrations at some registrars are "tastes".
    – Dour High Arch
    Feb 1 '11 at 5:31
  • @Dour: How do I avoid name tasting? Feb 4 '11 at 3:19
  • Please check my suggestion out in the answers below
    – les
    Apr 4 '14 at 20:27

I use whois, nslookup and similar tools from the command line to check whether a domain is registered.

  • 1
    -1 This is what triggers the squatter: They have a hook in the DNS server and they immediately register any domain that doesn't resolve. Feb 4 '11 at 3:18
  • 5
    @Aaron: Thanks for the downvote, but you don't know what you're talking about. How does Acme Nefarious Registrar hook into Ye Olde DNS Server's servers? I have never, ever had a domain squatted out from under me. Feb 4 '11 at 5:09
  • Please read the question more carefully to avoid downvotes. As I said clearly in the question: This happened to me three days ago by typing the domain name into my web browser. First I saw the usual error and a day later, I got ads. I'm not aware that FF does more than trying to resolve the DNS address when it can't find something (unlike Chrome which will then start a Google search, for example). Feb 4 '11 at 12:41
  • 1
    nslookup first. whois to make sure. My favorite registrar to seal the deal.
    – user27849
    Mar 27 '15 at 1:53

Network Solutions did do these kinds of things in the past. This was a common practice and I saw several domain names I wanted get registered immediately after a look-up. I do not doubt that some registrars do automated domain tasting today. I switched from Network Solutions a long time ago and went to GoDaddy without a problem.

However, to answer your question, use a neutral DNS such as Google's and do a nslookup from the command prompt either on Windows or *nix. Using a telecom or registrar's DNS could possibly trigger a registration. Additionally, some look-up sites are run by people who also engage in domain name investing of some kind so I would avoid these. It seems that some form of this practice still exists.

  • Since my firewall at work won't let me connect to Google's DNS: Is this the correct command on Linux? host ihatespam.info Feb 12 '14 at 8:38
  • 1
    I cannot see why someone would block however, your work DNS servers may do the trick depending on if you trust the host. It may be that you want to do this at home. Just edit your network settings to use and check your firewall to make sure that it is set to too. Then use whois ihatespam.info.
    – closetnoc
    Feb 13 '14 at 1:08

The task is complex, because each tld's whois server's response follow a different template. You can get the list of the servers here: http://www.nirsoft.net/whois_servers_list.html Most server will have a "no match" or "no object found" text somewhere in the response if the domain is available, so as a general solution, you're good to go with the following shell command.

Assuming you have access to SSH or a terminal:

In your shell .rc file add:

alias checkdomain="(read domain; whois \$domain | grep -qciE 'no (match|object found)' && echo -e '\033[0;32mAvailable\033[0m' || echo -e '\033[0;31mNot available\033[0m') <<<"

Then at the command line type

checkdomain <domain>

But bear in mind that there are exceptions. For example, the whois response of all .cv domains is constant, so it's useless in determining the domain's availability. There might be other TLDs where the grep pattern should be different.

  • 1
    I agree with "The task is complex, because each tld's whois server's response follow a different template. " but the URL you give for list of whois servers is incomplete (no gTLDs), not authoritative and outdated. The correct way is to go to IANA at iana.org/domains/root/db and from there you can consult each registry details, including its port 43 whois server (not all of them have one). Or use RDAP, nowadays mandatory with all gTLDs, as you get JSON back in a common structured, so easy to parse. See §4.1 of RFC 7480 that boils down to using HTTP HEAD method to check existence Aug 13 '21 at 23:51

I never use a web browser address bar to check if a domain exists.

I use a registrar or a domain search engine like http://www.checkdomain.com or http://www.netsol.com to see if they are available.

  • 3
    And those services aren't run by squatters? ;-)
    – Aaron Digulla
    Feb 1 '11 at 4:42
  • 2
    @Aaron, indeed. Read this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name_front_running
    – Dour High Arch
    Feb 1 '11 at 5:33
  • 1
    Network solution is a sketchy company. You should get your domains from a registrar who doesn't have a history of working with domain speculators and squatters. If you can find a reputable registrar, then you can check domains you want through them. Feb 1 '11 at 13:20

You should type in the domain name you want and append an extra character to it.

Say you want "SalePrettyHome.com" then you can search for "SalePrettyHomes.com" and, as you well know, anything similar and still available will appear in a list of alternative suggestion (which more than likely will include your plain ole "SalePrettyHome.com").

Tested it on GoDaddy and if you expand the search results you will see me example works (as of the time of this post).

  • it is about the 38th suggestion down, but if you do a text search you'll find whatever it is you're looking for in no time at all
    – les
    Feb 12 '14 at 3:36
  • 1
    Where does GoDaddy promise not to grab the domain if I chose not to register it right away? Apr 5 '14 at 15:56

I'd recommend https://lookup.icann.org/ for a whois without squatting because they strongly follow inta.org. It should also solve the DNS problem and be up to date.


I believe anyone who has ever spent a significant amount of time buying domains from different registrars at one time or another may be likely to run into this problem.

*For The Record I would like to clearly state that I feel that the practice known as domain tasting is wrong *

My personal 1st hand experience is as follows:

I used always buy my domains from a particular registrar that was associated with web hosting. A friend then told me about a different registrar, and it provided both better prices and more useful tools such as a bulk domain search feature.

So I started using them, the one day, I saw the domain I wanted was available via ( a special robot that provides statistics on domains ) yet there was neither a "This Domain For Sale" notice, nor and other clues as to why I could not get:

That particular domain, with that specific TLD (most likely a .com possibly a .org)...

So I zipped over to some other registrar, (I try to limit myself to three of four so I don't go crazy tracking down my domains) and quietly registered that domain, and vowed that if this were to happen again, I would the same thing.

Therefore is there was some shady practice or some "corrupt" sort of game going on, I would readily have the remedy at hand to resolve it, instantly and without a fuss.

As an US citizen, or simply as an intelligent citizen of the world, it should be no surprise that there in anything endeavor where one may stand to profit, there will be a tendency for people or businesses to try to "cheat" the system or otherwise try to tweak things to their advantage.

Particularly with domains, people who are trying to invest and develop valuable portfolios should use the fact that they are a "larger than normal buyer" and do the best that they can to make it work to their advantage.

Like anything else in life, one needs to learn from the mistakes, and not let others take advantage of them.

Additionally one should not "get to crazy about such things". Finally one should realize that domains do have specific expiration dates, and grace periods after expiration. Sometimes the domain you want may show as "available" because it actual expiration date has gone by, however the registrar of record might have standard procedures allowing their registrant to renew the domain within a set number of days, possibly between 2-4 weeks!

On a related note, the real issue goes far deeper than this particular practice in this particular industry. I try to write about such "corrupt" practices when I learn of them as a first step, to pushing those bodies who regulate such things to crack down on such practices.

  • 4
    -1 This is a question-and-answer site, not a discussion forum or a pressure group, and you don't seem to be making any effort to answer the question. Nov 24 '11 at 13:43
  • I was trying to provide a sophisticated answer, sorry! Brief Answer: 1) Be a decisive buyer do not just look! Work with a reputable registrar, and develop a relationship. Never "just search" to see if a domain is taken, I just bought: ComeBack.in from a pretty well known inexpensive registrar that happens to be an "enom-reseller". Estibot appraises it at 4.4K! Always use a secure sign in (check certificate!) use "Google Chrome Incognito" When you have a hot domain in your cart buy it now, worry about other details later. If you lose it, complain or try another Registrar immediately. Nov 24 '11 at 14:02
  • 1
    I suggest to edit your answer and put that at the top and keep the rest with a "Background:" header. Nov 28 '11 at 10:35
whois domainnametocheck.com | grep match

Check if a domain is available and get the answer in just one line.

  • This is exactly what I did and a few minutes later, the domain was registered to a grabber. Nov 9 '16 at 10:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.