Whois throttling returns to bite Go Daddy on the ass

Kevin Murphy, December 26, 2011, 19:16:00 (UTC), Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has been accused by a competitor of “thwarting” domain name transfers in violation of ICANN rules. (Note: story has been updated, see below).

The problem has reared its head due to the ongoing SOPA-related boycott of the company’s services, and appears to be related to Go Daddy’s decision earlier this year to throttle Whois queries.

NameCheap, one of the registrars that has been offering discounts to Go Daddy customers outraged by its recently recanted support of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, blogged today:

As many customers have recently complained of transfer issues, we suspect that this competitor [Go Daddy] is thwarting efforts to transfer domains away from them.

Specifically, GoDaddy appears to be returning incomplete WHOIS information to Namecheap, delaying the transfer process. This practice is against ICANN rules.

We at Namecheap believe that this action speaks volumes about the impact that informed customers are having on GoDaddy’s business.

It’s a shame that GoDaddy feels they have to block their (former) customers from voting with their dollars. We can only guess that at GoDaddy, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Part of transferring a domain from Go Daddy to NameCheap involves checking the identity of the registrant against Whois records.

Judging by a number of complaints made by Reddit readers today, it appears that NameCheap and other registrars are attempting to automatically query Go Daddy’s Whois database on port 43 at sufficient volume to trigger whatever throttling algorithm Go Daddy has in place to prevent the “harvesting” of contact data.

Go Daddy caused a similar ruckus earlier this year when it started blocking DomainTools and other Whois aggregation services from collecting full Whois records.

The registrar giant claimed then that it was trying to protect its customers by preventing the inappropriate use of their contact data.

However, while blocking a third-party information tool is merely annoying and disturbing, interfering with legitimate inter-registrar transfers could get Go Daddy into hot water, even if it is inadvertent.

NameCheap says it is doing the required Whois look-ups manually for now, and that it will honor each transfer request.

Giving Go Daddy the benefit of the doubt, I assume that this problem is ongoing largely due to the Christmas holiday, and that it will be rectified as soon as the appropriate people become aware of it.

Add this to your list of reasons .com and .net need a thick Whois.

UPDATE: All registrars have access to an ICANN service called RADAR, which enables them to specify the IP addresses they use to query competitors’ Whois databases.

Whitelisting IP addresses in this way could prevent a registrar’s queries being throttled, but not all registrars use the service.

According to this screenshot, NameCheap has not whitelisted any IP addresses in RADAR, which may be the reason it is having problems transferring Go Daddy customers’ domains to itself.

DomainIncite

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Comments (7)

  1. Ron says:

    godaddy is so big now, they own icann

  2. Michele says:

    And I suppose it would be too difficult for NameCheap to simply contact GoDaddy and get the issue resolved?

    It’s not rocket science.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      What, and miss out on the PR opportunity?

    • Whois access in bulk is a slippery mess, as there’s some practical reasons like resolving matters of law enforcement, rights protection or transfer that it are critical.

      That access is balanced with protection against data-mining or denial of service attacks. Many registrars and registries throttle access in order to maintain whois availability to the rest of the internet when there is high volume access. And yes, registrars want to protect their customer lists, which this overlaps with.

      Anyway, the registrars have some means to not let their transfer verification, notifications and “Form of Authorization” transfer requirements that are mandated be disrupted by these protections against wholesale abuse of the whois resources.

      There’s a system that ICANN has for registrars which allows registrars to identify the IP address(es) of systems that might query whois for transfer.

      The purpose was for registrars to honor a whitelist of these IP addresses so that they are able to honor transfers.

      Namecheap does not appear to have made an IP address entry in their information.

      Having the entry does not mean that GoDaddy would expressly honor it, but it would be another step at self remedy before implying that GoDaddy is blocking.

      I am against SOPA in any form that forces ISPs to blacklist addresses or intervene in DNS responses.

      I like NameCheap, they offer a good service at a fair price. I think before accusations of blocking are made, adding in a whitelist IP address would help to indicate if there is in fact intervention happening.

      I do not work for GoDaddy, I did not get requested by GoDaddy to comment.

      • Kevin Murphy says:

        Thanks for the comment Jothan.

        While you were posting it, I guess, I updated the story with some additional information about RADAR which seems to match with what you’re saying.

  3. Ron says:

    I tried moving some names a week ago, usually namecheap is very quick, but then I emailed support, and asked why the email was so slow for transfer, they said they had to manually approve them, good strategy, if you were a business would you want to lose business?

    When someone becomes so big nobody can say boo hoo to them, what is icann going to do, spank them?

    ICANN IS USELESS!!!

  4. Henry says:

    You can use

    http://www.unlocktheinbox.com/domainlookup/whois/

    to do the whois lookups, it’s not throttled yet.

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