Ode to Network Solutions: The Oldest and Worst Registrar on the Web

Header image for the post including the title, a grumpy man, the logo of Network Solutions, and some computer servers

Network Solutions is a lot like a physical bank. Everyone hates it and it’s way overpriced, but you find yourself forced to go there every so often because it’s where you set up your account in the 90s and it’s too much work to move now.

What’s more: this is exactly what they are counting on.

Network Solutions, along with their owner Web.com and sister company Register.com, are objectively terrible. And their terribleness goes back years.

Some backstory is in order.

In 1993, Network Solutions privatized domain name registrations and had a state-backed monopoly on the sale of .com, .net, and .org domains, where they originally charged $100 for 2 year registrations. This may seem like a lot today, but keep in mind: their regular price now isn’t a whole lot less than that.

The total monopoly they had on these domains lasted all the way until 1998.

In 2011, Web.com purchased the company for a whopping $405 Million plus 18 million shares of Web.com stock. If you’re wisely looking to try and short their stock: I’ve got bad news. While it’s a tangled web to follow, it appears that Web.com was acquired by “An affiliate of Siris Capital Group” and the trail pretty much goes cold there. Siris Capital appears to be a very small private equity firm, which I take to mean, “front for a billionaire that wants to control entire industries without his name being made public.”

Upon acquiring their new business, the new overlords immediately let half of the employees go, ushering in a new era and truly redefining what it meant to “rest on one’s laurels”. I can only assume that it was all the employees working in R&D, Support, and Development.

There’s one important thing you need to understand: Network Solutions still maintains the registry and the domain root server for the entire internet, giving them unprecedented power. Basically, any time someone wants to register a domain name – even if it’s with a competitor – it ultimately goes through them.

This allowed them to flex their monopoly muscles by doing what’s called “domain frontrunning”. It turns out that for years, if you searched for a domain on their website, they would lock it from being available at any other registrar.

Not only was the domain not available at cheaper registrars, but they would also arbitrarily increase the fee from $10 to $35.

They were even sued in a class action lawsuit for this practice and lost.

But our brave heroes at Network Solutions would not be daunted nor would they be intimidated. They would plow straight ahead with what I assume was their unofficial motto: “Never learn, never change”.

And they never have!

Why is Network Solutions the worst Registar on the web?

Anyone who has ever spent much time working with Network Solutions has their own, deeply personal reasons for hating the company. I certainly don’t wish to diminish the experiences of others who have their own, distinct (but equally justified) reasons.

But I’ve done my best to highlight the top reasons why I think they are the absolute worst.

1. They are clearly just coasting on their customers who don’t know they are terrible. Most have been with them for decades and have simply never considered switching. Exploiting your most loyal customers has never been so profitable.
2. Platform improvements are almost non-existent; everything is nearly identical to when I started working in this industry 13 years ago. I believe they are milking the last of their profit before they one day die or are sold to an unsuspecting buyer that is duped into thinking they’ll continue being profitable.
3. Their pricing is outrageous and deceptive – while they advertise low-prices, the pricing all of my clients see is more like $40+/year for a .com. To be clear: a domain should be no more than $20/year for basic registration.

They start with deceptively low rates which then get hiked, in my experience.
4. Domain privacy is only included for one year, then it’s outrageously expensive. This is a feature that most registrars are now offering for free, as they should. It’s not even really a service; in reality it’s more like a ransom. They decide what information is published to the world. If you don’t pay them, they will share your personal contact information with the whole world and you’ll drown in spam calls and emails.

I know much of this may come off as hyperbolic or melodramatic, but that’s literally what they are doing.
5. Their customer service is generally terrible. While their support staff is doing its best, they are working with an archaic infrastructure and don’t seem to receive proper training.

Additionally, everyone they talk to has one thing in common: they are Network Solutions customers. Which means that they are understandably upset, as one would be if you offered them some lemonade and proceeded to slap them in the face repeatedly. As a result, most of the support staff I’ve spoken with has seemed more than a little surly after a long day of trying to keep it together.
6. They seem to have by far the highest restoration fees if your domain happens to expire. This is another one of those deceptive costs.

While elsewhere you would normally pay something like $30 (beyond the regular registration fee) to restore a domain that has recently expired, in my experience, Network Solutions will charge more like $80.

I get the sense that they delight in charging you unavoidable fees when you are most vulnerable. They’ll lend you a hand and pick you up from the dirt, but they’ll also spit in your mouth and smile while they do it.
7. They charge $12.99 for their domain name forwarding service, even though almost every other registrar on the planet offers this at no additional cost.
8. My Network Solutions clients have constant issues and it’s always a huge pain to deal with. Whether it’s DNS problems or expiration issues, it seems like things never just work right.
9. For this article, I tried adding a domain, and ended up with 6 products in my cart, all of which would likely renew on their own for a fee. I don’t even know what that’s about. It’s like they’re not even trying to hide their duplicity anymore.

This is a screenshot of my cart after adding a single domain name and declining all other offers.Somehow, 5 additional, unwanted services got added. They may start out free, but rest assured: I'll be charged for them later.

I even declined any additional services, yet here they are. Rest assured: in a year (or even a month), all of these will renew and I’ll be forced to pay for them.
And if you don’t know any better, you just pay your bill because you don’t know that these are all totally unnecessary.

Why should I stay with Network Solutions?

There’s only one legitimate reason not to leave Network Solutions: if, for some reason, you absolutely, positively, HAVE to have your domain registered for literally 100 years paid up-front.

Maybe this is to settle a bet, or maybe it’s part of some kind of weird money laundering scheme, maybe you’re $4000 short of the spending requirement to score your credit card points, or something else of that nature. To be honest, I can’t think of a truly legitimate reason why you would ever need to do this.

Due to their continued monopoly of being the only actual registry, they have allowed themselves the luxury of being the only registrar to allow registrations of such a duration.

The downside, of course, is there’s no way Network Solutions won’t have gone out in fiery blaze by that time, probably with their upper management serving lengthy prison sentences for fraud and anti-trust law violations.

So ultimately, your 100-year registration is only for show. If you actually need it registered that long… Well… You can’t.

The good news is: you’ll be dead by then, so why worry about it?

What should I do, then?

You should migrate all of your services to another provider. Literally anyone else.

Domain name transfers are relatively easy and can happen any time. Check out our tutorial on how that works to make sure you don’t mess it up and break your website and email. We also can offer managed domain name renewals if you want us to just handle everything for you and make sure your domain never expires or has issues.

If, God help you, you also host with them, I would migrate immediately to a different host. We offer our own hosting or can help you migrate to a better provider.

Pretty much any decision is better than no decision, in this case.

Conclusion: friends don’t let friends use Network Solutions

If you or a loved one has been affected by NS, you are unfortunately not yet entitled to compensation but you can do the next best thing and get out as quickly as you can.

The second best thing is to figure out a way to short their parent company so that you can brag to your friends that you are the only person who actually benefited from the company (short of the psychopaths at the top) when it inevitably goes belly-up.

Reach out today if you’d like some advice on how to move forward.

Remember: there is hope! Many who once relied on Network Solutions for their domain name registrations have gone on to live happy, productive lives.

About Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is a website developer and designer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a passion for code and WordPress. He spends his days building WordPress websites for small businesses, developing new code with the online community, and living life.

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