The dark patterns of Network Solutions

Registering a website identify at Network Solutions will be difficult and dear, and transferring a website away from them is an unwarranted ready recreation.

Network Solutions

I often encounter a website identify I need that’s already registered and isn’t getting used. If I can’t set up communication with the registrant, I’ll usually backorder it by way of SnapNames. When the area I’ve backordered expires, SnapNames will try to accumulate it. If they do purchase it, and I’m the one person who backordered it, it’s mine. If multiple individual has backordered it, SnapNames will public sale the area, awarding it to the very best bidder.

SnapNames works and I’ve efficiently purchased six domains utilizing their backorder service. There’s only one catch. Acquired domains are managed by Network Solutions, and transferring a website away from them takes a big quantity of time and persistence. The switch course of is so prolonged in comparison with different registrars I’ve used, I made a decision to doc the expertise.

To streamline documenting the area identify switch course of, I registered at Network Solutions. What I skilled was a registration course of that was full of dark patterns.

What it’s like registering a website from Network Solutions

The first web page in Network Solutions’ checkout course of is a website privateness upsell, one thing that’s usually included without cost by most respected registrars. Network Solutions requested me to pay $2/mo ($24/yr) to obfuscate my contact particulars from whois information.

Network Solutions Private Registration upsell
Network Solutions costs for area privateness, which is usually included without cost by most respected registrars

I declined the upsell and the subsequent web page offered me with completely different packages to select from. Based on the bundle titles, it appeared like the primary possibility was for a website identify solely (what I needed), and the second and third choices had been for a website with internet hosting. It additionally seemed just like the Domain Only bundle solely prices $20/yr for a website.

Network Solutions website packages
Choosing the Domain Only bundle isn’t what it appears and is the beginning of dark patterns by Network Solutions

If you had been making an attempt to solely register a website and to do it as shortly as potential like I used to be, you might need missed a pair key factors:

  1. The Domain Only bundle title is deceiving. There isn’t a website solely bundle to select from. No matter what you select, you’re signing up for a internet hosting bundle.
  2. The value for the area is $20/yr in case you register it for 3 years, however they swap it to $25/yr in case you solely register it for one yr. That makes the worth of a .com area $10-$13 greater than most registrars, and $16 greater than the wholesale value offered by Cloudflare. And you continue to don’t get any additional options like area privateness.

I selected the Domain Only bundle and was then prompted on the subsequent web page to subscribe to Domain Protection for $9/mo (totaling $99/yr the primary yr and $108/yr for subsequent years). Apparently, the area I used to be registering “needs to be protected from malicious attacks.” Their documentation states that they are going to scan my web site and take away malware from it robotically.

Network Solutions trying to upsell on site protection
Network Solutions upsells on area safety that’s actually web site safety

Since I used to be solely registering a website, didn’t have a web site but, and I get all of the safety I would like from Cloudflare’s Free plan, I selected No Thanks and continued to the subsequent web page. It did concern me, although, that somebody registering a website identify for the primary time may suppose they should pay $9/mo for his or her “domain protection” companies when in actuality, they probably don’t.

As I acknowledged beforehand, the Domain Only bundle isn’t a domain-only bundle. No matter what bundle you select, they nonetheless add internet hosting to the checkout. They additionally make the internet hosting bundle appear to be it’s free, however it isn’t. It’s solely free for the primary month. If you don’t cancel the internet hosting trial earlier than the top of the primary billing month, they are going to robotically begin charging you $5.69/mo (totaling $62.59/yr for the primary yr and $68.28/yr for subsequent years).

Network Solutions adds two extra registration years and hosting automatically
Network Solutions robotically provides internet hosting and two further registration years

Also, altering the registration years will be jarring in case you didn’t learn the positive print on the packages web page. When you alter the registration size from three years to 1 yr, the worth adjustments to $25/yr for a .com area. The positive print on the checkout web page additionally states that “after the promotional period, the domain will renew at then-current rate to the payment method on file. The current renewal rate for a .COM domain renewal is $37.99 per year.” That means in case you select to register for one yr, they are going to cost you a minimum of $37.99 to resume the next yr. Keep in thoughts that the utmost most registrars cost for a .com area is $16/yr, which is a $24 distinction in value.

After eradicating the internet hosting bundle and switching the area registration interval to 1 yr, I clicked the Secure Checkout button. Instead of going to a fee particulars web page, I used to be offered with a message that mentioned I may stop rating decrease in Google if I purchase an SSL certificates.

Network Solutions upsells SSL certificates
After eradicating internet hosting, Network Solutions nonetheless upsells an SSL certificates with the risk of decrease rankings in Google

There had been a couple of issues that involved me with this web page:

  1. I’m registering a website and have already eliminated the internet hosting possibility, so I shouldn’t be offered with this selection. Similar to the area safety service provided earlier, if I had been registering a website for the primary time, I’d suppose I would like this once I don’t.
  2. Almost each respected internet hosting supplier like WP Engine and Pair embrace SSL without cost. It’s often offered robotically by way of Let’s Encrypt. And in case you use Cloudflare, in addition they present SSL without cost by way of their Free plan. Whereas Network Solutions is making an attempt to cost me $8/mo (totaling $89.88/yr for the primary yr and $95.88 for subsequent years) for an SSL certificates I don’t even want.
  3. The web page states, “Google recently changed its SEO rankings standards and now places secure domains higher in its search results.” I’m unsure what they imply by current for the reason that change was made in 2014. Regardless, it’s not that sturdy of a sign and there are considerably extra necessary issues that have an effect on how a web site ranks in Google.

To skip shopping for the SSL certificates that I don’t want, I’ve to click on a button that claims Continue Unsecured to maneuver on.

The subsequent web page is yet one more upsell web page. For the low value of $0.83/mo, I pays to guard myself from permitting my area to run out for as much as a yr. If I break down the provide, it equals $9.96/yr, which is greater than the wholesale value of a .com area for a yr. If I added that upsell, it could carry the worth of the area to $35/yr (and a minimal of $48/yr after the primary yr when the area renewal value will increase to $38/yr).

Network Solutions upsells domain expiration protection
Network Solutions upsells Domain Expiration Protection with out mentioning that they’ve a 35-day grace interval

Additionally, Network Solutions supplies a 35-day grace interval, making this selection pointless for the overwhelming majority of registrants. However, one factor it does shield you from is their $40 reinstatement charge.

After clicking the No Thanks, Continue button, I used to be lastly offered with the fee web page. The wonderful factor about all of the upsells is that even and not using a internet hosting plan if I had accepted their different affords, at a minimal I’d be paying effectively over $200 a yr for a .com area with companies that will be completely ineffective to me.

Network Solutions payment page
Network Solutions area registration fee web page

I clicked on the Place your Order button, and the affirmation web page had yet another upsell to pitch me. They offered a useful registered area they thought I’d be eager about and acknowledged they’d negotiate to get the area for me for $10. Having many years of expertise shopping for and promoting domains, this provide, together with realizing how unlikely they had been to succeed, made it fully unrealistic to me. I suspected this provide primarily existed as a method to cost cash to backorder a website, which is free to do at their sister firm, SnapNames. It was a tough move from me.

Network Solutions upsells on purchasing an already registered domain
The order affirmation web page had an upsell for paying Network Solutions $10 to barter the acquisition of an unobtainable area as a manner to make use of their backorder service, which is usually free

What it’s like registering domains from different registrars

Registering a website at Cloudflare

To set a baseline for absolutely comprehending the disparity between Network Solutions’ area registration and switch course of, I additionally registered and transferred from Cloudflare.

Cloudflare’s registrar service has at-cost pricing, which suggests there’s no markup. The wholesale value for a .com area from Cloudflare is round $9, whereas fashionable full-featured registrars like Namecheap and Gandi add $4-$7 to the worth, maxing out at $13-$16 per yr. Also, options like domain privacy are usually included within the annual area value.

Here’s what it was like registering from Cloudflare. The first web page confirmed the worth of the area.

Cloudflare domain registration summary page
Cloudflare area registration overview web page

The second web page had me enter and ensure my contact and fee particulars.

Cloudflare domain registration contact details page
Contact Details web page for registering a website on Cloudflare

And the third web page confirmed that the area was efficiently registered.

Cloudflare domain registration confirmation page
Cloudflare area registration affirmation web page

That was it! There weren’t any countless upsells or sudden adjustments in value. Additionally, the registration got here with area privateness and all of the opposite wonderful options that include Cloudflare’s Free plan, together with SSL, CDN, DNS, DDoS safety, and extra.

Registering a website at Gandi

You is likely to be saying, “Sure Jon, but Cloudflare isn’t a fair example. They’re providing wholesale pricing. I think a better example would be an older and larger registrar that marks up the domain price, and also offers services like hosting, email, and SSL certificates, just like Network Solutions does.” Fine, I’ll indulge you whereas concurrently nullifying your level.

Gandi is one of the primary area registrars accredited by ICANN. They provide over 750 top-level domains and supply comparable companies to Network Solutions. Let’s see what’s it’s like once I register from them.

When I checked out, I used to be requested to confirm my contact particulars.

Contact Details page in Gandi
Contact Details web page on Gandi’s area registration checkout

The subsequent web page displayed the fee of the area. Unlike Network Solutions, Gandi didn’t robotically add a internet hosting plan, change the registration to a few years, or improve the worth if I solely register it for one yr. They additionally offered upfront pricing, which gained’t improve by a minimum of 40% after the preliminary registration interval, like Networks Solutions does.

Gandi Shopping Cart
Shopping Cart web page for registering a website on Gandi

The subsequent web page had me choose the fee methodology.

Gandi Payment page
Payment methodology web page for registering domains on Gandi

And that was it. The area was registered. It was an analogous expertise to registering a website on Cloudflare. The solely distinction is that they charged me barely greater than Cloudflare.

The spam in between registering and transferring

Before I present you the way tough it was to switch a website away from Network Solutions, I wish to spotlight the spam I acquired from them as I waited throughout ICANN’s mandatory 60-day waiting period (a requirement for newly registered domains).

The first e mail message I acquired from Network Solutions was an try to get me to buy their area privateness service. The message confirmed how they’d proceed revealing my private contact particulars except I paid them cash. I unsubscribed.

Marketing e mail from Network Solutions selling their paid area privateness function

I then acquired a spam message from a third-party service that acknowledged they noticed that I had simply registered There’s no method to know in the event that they bought my e mail tackle as a result of Network Solutions bought it to them or if it’s as a result of they wouldn’t present me with area privateness except I paid them. Regardless, I’ve by no means acquired third-party spam after registering a website from Cloudflare or Gandi.

Spam message from Five Tier
Spam e mail message from Five Tier

9-days later, Network Solutions despatched me one other upsell message. Since I already unsubscribed, I take into account any advertising and marketing messages thereafter as spam. This message tried to upsell me once more on their area privateness function with a headline in all caps that mentioned, “WARNING: YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION IS IN DANGER.” I unsubscribed

Spam from Network Solutions selling their paid area privateness function

21-days later, Network Solutions spammed me once more. Ironically, the headline on this message, in all caps, mentioned, “KEEP SPAMMERS AWAY FROM YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.” I unsubscribed

Spam from Network Solutions selling their paid area privateness function

30-days later, but once more, they spammed me. This headline in all caps mentioned, “DON’T PUT YOUR PRIVACY AT RISK. PROTECT IT NOW.” I unsubscribed

Spam from Network Solutions selling their paid area privateness function

It was exceptional to me to observe Network Solutions fully disregard to the FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act, not to mention the irony of what they had been making an attempt to make me pay for and why.

After the obligatory 60-day ready interval handed, I used to be able to switch from Network Solutions to Gandi. The first step for transferring the area was to unlock it. After navigating to the area administration part, I scrolled down the web page till I noticed the Transfer Lock possibility. I then clicked on the Turn Off hyperlink.

Details for domain
Domain identify particulars on Network Solutions

I used to be offered with the choice to “Leave Domain Transfer Lock off.” I chosen that possibility and clicked the Save button.

Domain transfer lock form
Network Solutions kind for altering the lock standing of a website

The web page refreshed however stored the “Leave Domain Transfer Lock on” chosen. No matter what number of instances I chosen the off possibility and clicked Save, it refreshed and mentioned it was nonetheless locked.

I gave up and returned to the primary area particulars web page and scrolled all the way down to see the standing. The standing was set to Off, so the shape labored, however its affirmation end result was damaged.

The subsequent step was to get the auth code. I clicked on Authorization Code hyperlink and was offered with a web page that mentioned “Stop!” and provided me a particular one-day-only discounted renewal charge.

Network Solutions offers renewal discount if you don't transfer domain
Network Solutions asks you to cease the switch and affords a decrease renewal value for the area

I ignored the provide and clicked on the Continue Transfer button and was taken to a web page that mentioned “Warning!” It warned me that by transferring my area away from Network Solutions I risked exposing my public data. This was the identical data that they had already uncovered as a result of I refused to pay them for a service that almost all registrars present without cost. I ignored the warning, however to proceed, I needed to click on a checkbox acknowledging how dangerous my switch request was.

Network Solutions warning about transferring a domain
Network Solutions requires an acknowledgment of settlement to their warning

The subsequent web page nonetheless didn’t give me the auth code. Instead, I needed to fill out a survey earlier than I may proceed. The survey questions included:

  1. What firm are you transferring your area to?
  2. What is the first cause you might have determined to switch your area?
  3. Did you buy your area at public sale?
  4. Do you continue to produce other domains at
Network Solutions domain transfer survey
Network Solutions requires a survey in regards to the switch earlier than you possibly can proceed

I reluctantly stuffed out the survey and clicked the Save button. The subsequent web page mentioned my request had been acquired, however it didn’t give me the auth code! Every registrar I’ve ever used supplies the auth code instantly, however Network Solutions mentioned I’d get my auth code in 3 days.

Auth Code request received
Network Solutions makes you wait an arbitrary three days to get the auth code, whereas most different registrars give it to you instantly

According to ICANN, there may be no reasonable reason for Network Solutions to maintain the auth code for 3 days. But, since Network Solutions stays throughout the five-day limit allowed by ICANN, submitting a registrar grievance isn’t an possibility.

After ready an arbitrary and unreasonable three days to get the auth code, I acquired an e mail from Network Solutions with the code.

Auth Code from Network Solutions
Auth Code despatched by way of e mail by Network Solutions

Having the auth code enabled me to provoke the area switch to Gandi. After I submitted the switch, I acquired an e mail message from Network Solutions acknowledging the request. It acknowledged that I needed to wait 4 extra days till they’d enable the switch to undergo. Most different registrars present the choice to manually expedite the switch course of, however not Network Solutions.

Transfer confirmation email
A affirmation e mail from Network Solutions in regards to the area switch with hyperlink to cancel the switch

In addition to the arbitrary wait time, they despatched one other message that makes an attempt to make a case for why I don’t have to switch it. In each e mail messages, they make it simple to shortly cancel the switch, however no method to manually velocity up the switch.

Transfer Confirmation Request email message
Additional switch affirmation message from Network Solutions

One day after initiating the switch, the area privateness spam messages had been again. Network Solutions despatched me yet one more e mail message making an attempt to upsell me on shopping for their privateness function. Even although it was futile, I unsubscribed but once more.

Another spam message from Network Solutions

Four days after making the switch request I acquired an e mail discover from Network Solutions that the switch efficiently went by. Something that ought to have taken about 1 hour, needlessly took 7-8 days.

Transfer Successfully Completed
Email message from Network Solutions confirming the area switch was accomplished

Unlike Network Solutions, Cloudflare made transferring simple and fast. I logged into Cloudflare and navigated to the area’s configuration web page. The web page had a transparent Transfer Out part with a button that mentioned Unlock.

Domain configuration page
Domain configuration web page on Cloudflare Registrar

I clicked on the Unlock button, learn the assistance textual content, after which clicked on Confirm and Unlock.

Unlock confirmation
Unlock area affirmation on Cloudflare Registrar

Cloudflare instantly offered the auth code. I copied it after which went to Gandi to provoke the area switch.

Auth Code from Cloudflare
Cloudflare present the auth code for a website immediately

The switch course of was simple, fast, and didn’t try to upsell or speak me out of transferring the area.

Immediately after submitting the switch request to Gandi, I acquired an e mail from Cloudflare. The message acknowledged I may both wait 5 days or manually velocity up the switch.

Cloudflare will robotically launch the area to your new registrar 5 days after your request. Want to complete the switch earlier? You can manually approve the request instantly within the Overview web page of the Cloudflare dashboard in your area.

Email message from Cloudflare after initiating a website identify switch

I returned to the configuration web page in Cloudflare and located a button that mentioned Accept Transfer. I clicked on the button and was offered with the choice to course of the switch instantly.

Accept Transfer
Cloudflare supplies the choice to manually settle for a website switch

I clicked the Approve button and Cloudflare indicated that the area had been transferred to Gandi.

Approve Release
Clicking Approve on Cloudflare instantly full the switch of a website to a brand new registrar

The whole switch course of from Cloudflare to Gandi took lower than 10 minutes, whereas Network Solutions took 7-8 days!

Why does this matter?

It issues me that Network Solutions is a well known model and that they leverage that notability with dark patterns of their area registration and switch processes. Most of the folks I do know which have heard of Network Solutions however have by no means registered a website may simply be tricked into paying effectively over $25 for a .com area with options they don’t want and options that ought to already be included.

It ought to concern Network Solutions as a result of evaluation websites like Trustpilot and ConsumerAffairs are full of current and detailed one-star critiques of how unhealthy their service and help have change into.

It also needs to concern the dad or mum firm that owns Network Solutions, Newfold Digital. On Newfold Digital’s Values web page, it states:

Focus on the client, all the time – Customer focus is deeply embedded in our mindset and behaviors, guiding us in all that we do. We exist as a result of our clients belief us with their on-line wants, and we take their belief very significantly. We know that all of us impression clients by our work. That information conjures up us to all the time act with integrity, hearken to the client’s voice and push for the very best skilled requirements to reliably meet their expectations.

Newfold Digital Values

From my expertise, Network Solutions represents the antithesis of Newfold Digital’s acknowledged values concerning clients.

Jon Henshaw

Jon is the founder of Coywolf and the EIC and the first creator reporting for Coywolf News. He is an trade veteran with over 25 years of digital advertising and marketing and web applied sciences expertise. Follow @henshaw

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