A couple of software glitches in Network Solutions' domain name registration process have caused confusion among some users trying to register new domain names.
NSI has confirmed that a software bug earlier this week caused its email servers to send faulty warning messages to some users who recently had registered domain names. And in a separate incident, the company said a "minor display problem" caused delays in new domain registrations appearing on InterNIC's Whois database, which lists the origins and contacts for every registered domain name ending in ".com," ".org," and ".net."
All glitches have been fixed, according to company spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy.
Since 1993, NSI has controlled the domain name registration process as part of its exclusive contract with the U.S. government. In an attempt to introduce competition to the registration process, America Online and four other companies selected by the nonprofit Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers this week entered the fray.
According to users affected by the faulty error message, roughly 12 to 24 hours after they successfully registered a new domain name, NSI sent an email message saying the name already had been taken.
"ERROR: domain already registered," the error message read.
Users added that the messages arrived after they received an email confirming the domain name was registered successfully.
"I got notification from them that the registration's been accepted and completed and to expect to see it in the Whois database within 24 hours," said Keith Furman, a network consultant. Furman said that after 24 hours his new registrations had not appeared in the InterNIC database. Then, according to Furman, he received the email warning.
"Finally, I got three letters, one for each domain saying that I couldn't register these three domains," he said.
O'Shaughnessy said NSI discovered the bug on Monday or Tuesday and completed repairs by Wednesday. He declined to estimate how many registrations were affected.
"There's no way to quantify the problem," O'Shaughnessy said.
Other complaints this week stemmed from irate users of InterNIC's Whois database. Netizens who had registered domain names earlier this week said that certain domain name NIC Handles were not appearing in the database.
NIC Handles are basically the email and contact information associated with ownership of a domain name. The issue was reported this week by Wired News.
As a result, many feared that losing the NIC Handle could result in losing control of the domain name itself, given the competition that often erupts over certain names.
"I went in and was updating somebody's domain name, and her NIC Handle wasn't there," said Jon Kimball, who runs Internet Capital Holdings, a domain name management business.
Kimball said the problem went deeper than just a glitch on InterNIC's display page. He said changes to one client's domain address early this week would not work.
"[My client] wanted me to update her domain and point it somewhere, and it wouldn't work," Kimball said. "I realized nobody was controlling it."
Kimball added that if control over a domain name is compromised, a competitor could potentially register the name without the owner knowing about it.
However, NSI maintained the problems were just superficial, and no information was lost as a result of the problem.
"The Whois database wasn't profiling all the fields," O'Shaughnessy said. "None of the information was lost, and the fields have been corrected."
O'Shaughnessy added that the problem arose because of the rate at which domain name registrations have been pouring in.
"The files inside Whois were growing so quickly that there was a minor display problem where the software displayed a little hiccups," he said.
O'Shaughnessy again declined to estimate "how deep the problem was."