Andy Beal points out in his blog that Google has been blocked from performing Whois lookups by Network Solutions. The “Whois” feature (which lets you find out who owns a web domain) was one of many added recently by Google in its continued quest to “make the world’s information accessible.” Alex S. at BizWeek pointed out in a piece blogged here that there’s a business model behind this intent (I’ll take disintermediation for $500, thank you very much). We had a back and forth about it in the comments as well.
In any case, it’s significant that Network Solutions is pushing back. Andy, who writes in large part to the SEO community, comments:
There’s some hypocrisy here. Google publicly chastises anyone who run ranking reports on the Google Index, claiming that it is a drain of their server resources. Yet they seem quite happy to launch a service that has the same impact on Network Solutions…
As I think Andy implies, I’m not sure this has anything to do with drains on servers and bandwidth. I think it has a lot more to do with who owns the customer. Network Solutions knows Whois is a major draw for customers, they use that draw to convert Whois lookups into paying domain registrants. In this particular case, the argument that Google was, in effect, stealing their customers at the point of conversion holds some water. If I do a Whois lookup on Google and see a bunch of ads for registrars that are not Network Solutions, well…..that ain’t good for Network Solutions. And if I’m Google, and thinking about doing registration at some point (like Yahoo does now)….well, having this feature didn’t hurt. Network Solutions had to do something.
I wonder if others – airlines, UPS, etc. – will follow suit.