Imagine: you discover a domain you want to register and check to see if it’s available at your registrar’s website. It is, but you decide to sleep on the idea and purchase the name in the morning. Come the next day, it’s taken! What happened?
This phenomena might just be a case of bad luck, or an instance of domain front-running, a highly unethical practice in which a registration company registers domains looked up by customers. Taking advantage of the standard 5-day grace period allowed by ICANN during which a domain can be deleted for little or no charge, the registrar can taste the name and either keep it or delete it depending on its value.
Domainers have cried foul about this problem since it became an issue nearly three years ago. ICANN recently looked into it, however, and did not discover any instances of domain front-running among registrars. The practice has become less prevalent mainly because the rules regarding the 5-day deletion policy were changed in 2008.
Before, the entire purchase price was refunded, including a 20 cent administrative fee charged by ICANN. Now, this fee is not refunded. For one or two registrations, this makes little difference. But for someone who tastes 10,000 domains a day, it drives them out of business.
Probably the best view on the matter is that before the new policy was introduced, domain front-running was a problem. Today, domain experts consider it to be virtually nonexistent.