Network Solutions apparently wasn’t happy just being slimy in the domain purchasing arena (see: WARNING: Do not check domains at Network Solutions by John Honeck for background on that one), and have now moved into the realm of not caring if they damage your existing sites as well.
According to TechCrunch, NetSol is now engaging in the practice of Hijacking Unassigned Sub-Domains, which put simply means that they are using wildcard subdomains for any domain that is using their DNS service, to cause matches for any subdomains that do not already have an explicit DNS entry. Apparently Win Betteridge (of GotGame.com, a website dedicated to video gaming industry news) contacted TechCrunch with the details:
For instance, app.gotgame.com resolves to a Network Solutions page with text links, including â€œPoker Tournamentsâ€ and â€œTexas Holdem Games.â€ The same is true of any other unassigned sub-domain. We have spoken to customer service a few times about fixing this problemâ€¦
I donâ€™t know if this is standard practice for a hosting company, but this strikes me as another case of Network Solutions unreasonably profiting at the expense of its customers.
“Unreasonably” is dead on in this case. Many of you may be thinking So what? The subdomain isn’t being used anyways, right? No harm, no foul?
Wrong. This is exactly the kind of thing that can get you banned from Google, and I’m not even talking about the fact that suddenly it looks as if your website has shifted to an industry that is rife with spam. Two years ago, back in June of 2006, I wrote an article for SEO-Scoop, entitled 5 Million Spam Pages I Found in a Couple of Hours That Google Has Missed All Week. It was in follow-up to a thread that had been started by Nintendo on Digital Point, New SPAM sites… billions of results. Both the story and the thread were about spammers using an exploit in Google which treats subdomains as separate domains, meaning links from one subdomain to another subdomain are not treated the same way links to internal pages are… they are treated as if they are inbound links from another site. The end result of this was that someone could could create a script that auto-generated content on thousands of subdomains on thousands of site, interlinking them all, and be treated as if they were all getting link juice from millions of individual websites.
At the time, for a while, it appeared as if Google engineers were just banning them by hand, as they were reported in either the threads or directly to the engineers themselves. The post I had written had to do with how ineffective that actually was. However, while to my knowledge they never did close the loophole completely, they did implement a stopgap, whereby sites that exhibit subdomain growth over a certain rate are in fact banned by Google, no questions asked. One of my sites did experience that, despite the fact that it was not actually spamming, and is in fact completely non-commercial in nature (and also regardless of the multiple re-consideration requests I submitted).
Personally I don’t use Network Solutions, and I steer anyone I know away from them. I mean, obviously the prices alone are reason enough… but what of those not savvy enough to even price shop their domain names, who just assume that all registrars must be the same? If anyone I knew got hit by this then of course I would know what the solution would be (switch registrars and file re-consideration)… but what of those poor webmasters who don’t have a clue what happened to them once they get banned? NetSol needs to stop this, once and for all. Endangering people’s livelihoods like this is repugnant, that’s all there is to it.