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Registry Glitch Derails Domain Offer

Many of those looking to take advantage of a Thursday promotion to register free domains were met with access denials blamed on a glitch in Network Solutions' registry.

RegisterFREE.com was set up to register domain names free for one hour Thursday by NameEngine Inc. NameEngine is accredited by the International Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The promotion was done to promote the idea of free registration, said Anthony Van Couvering, president of NameEngine.

He said that more than 100,000 people accessed the RegisterFREE.com site during the promotion, but because of problems with NSI's (NSOL) registry, only a few thousand were able to register domains for free.

"We had a few problems looking up names and that slowed some things down for some people," Van Couvering said. "I feel bad about that, because I was hoping that everyone who came in would have the same fine experience as some people did."

NSI spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy confirmed that NSI's registry, which provides information on whether a domain is registered, experienced problems between 7:15 and 8:35 p.m. Eastern Thursday, but was fully operational when RegisterFREE's promotion began and 9 p.m. NSI is allowed four hours of "down time" per month, and O'Shaughnessy called the coincidence in times a "fluke."

Although NameEngine is ICANN-accredited, its services are not yet functional. So for the promotion the company entrusted the technology of Tucows OpenSRS system to provide the actual registration. Tucows also provided special consulting and systems to support the promotion. Tucows paid NSI $6 for each registration, but its fee to NameEngine was not disclosed.

Van Couvering said the problems it had with registration will not stop the company from offering a similar promotion in the near future.

"I'm tremendously satisfied with all the response," he said. Domain names are a database transaction, and they ought to be free."

"There are certainly some people who will sell you value-added-services, and maybe one wants to pay for them. I completely understand that and it's a very valid business model. But the domain name itself is not much more than a domain name, and the one you get from one (registrar) is the same as one you get from the other. It's becoming a commodity market."

NSI's O'Shaughnessy disagreed, saying free doesn't always mean better.

"It's all well and good to say that people want things free, but not everybody wants to drive a Yugo either," he said in defense of pay-for-registration services. "People are going to want to drive Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs and Cadillacs."

"Just because something's cheap doesn't make it good. We are also experimenting with our pricing and we began some initial experimentation over the last couple of months, and we will continue to do so as the marketplace changes."



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