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Go Daddy tech support is a cash cow

Go Daddy’s call center support staff make the company hundreds of thousands of dollars a day in up-sells, according to documents revealed as part of an employee class-action lawsuit.

I covered the lawsuit (PDF), filed by three former Go Daddy employees, for The Register on Friday.

One of the plaintiffs, Toby Harris, was fired after he leaked “confidential” screenshots of the company’s CRM system to his home email address.

I’m not going to get into the details of the lawsuit, which concerns labor practices, here.

But the screenshots, which offer a bit of insight into how much revenue these front-line call center staff make for Go Daddy, are worth looking at.

According to one, Harris delivered over $10,000 in gross sales for the company over nine working days in January, taking about 5% of that for himself in commission.

Not bad for a rookie $12-an-hour support guy, considering how cheap most Go Daddy products are.

Another CRM screen shows the performance of a couple dozen members of Harris’ team, including how much commission they made over a two-week period and how many customer calls they handled.

These 23 employees made between $1,290 and $255 in commissions over the period, averaging $564 each, dealing with on average 31 calls each per day.

If that’s 5% of the gross, over 10 business days, you could try to extrapolate some company-wide data, but the screenshot probably represents too small a sample to make any precise calculations.

Still, it’s pretty clear that that a substantial chunk of Go Daddy’s revenue is generated by call center staff.

Harris told me he was expected to shift $250 to $450 worth of product every day, the equivalent of selling at least one new $8 domain name to every caller.

Domain Name Wire reported last December that the company had 1,600 support staff. At the low end of $250 a day, that would equate to $400,000 a day or $146 million a year from the phones alone.

I guess I found this a little surprising because while I always knew Go Daddy’s web site was a cash machine, I had assumed its call center spent most of its time providing technical support.

As a customer, I often wondered how the company managed to run such a high-quality support service on such a pitifully low-margin loss-leader.

Now I know. Judging by these leaked numbers, those guys more than pay for themselves.

Verizon hires investigator to track down DirectNIC bosses

Verizon has won a delay in its cybersquatting lawsuit against domain registrar DirectNIC, because it can’t seem to track down and serve its CEO, Sigmund Solares.

In its latest filings with the Florida District Court, Verizon says that it had to hire a private detective to track down DirectNIC director Michael Gardner, and ended up serving his wife instead.

But, two months after filing the suit, the company still hasn’t managed to track down Solares.

“Plaintiff continues to diligently attempt to serve the lone remaining Defendant yet to be served, Sigmund Solares… Plaintiffs continue to diligently try to locate and serve this Defendant.”

DirectNIC, previously known as Intercosmos Media Group, relocated to the Cayman Islands from New Orleans in 2008, which may explain some of Verizon’s difficulty.

Indeed, when Verizon turned up to serve the company in New Orleans, it found its old office (from where employees attracted global attention for live-blogging Hurricane Katrina) closed.

Verizon sued DirectNIC, along with several directors and alleged aliases, in March, claiming they had squatted on at least 288 domains that included Verizon trademarks.

The case is of note because Verizon alleges that DirectNIC broke US cybersquatting laws when it parked expired domains that contained Verizon trademarks.

Parking pre-delete expired names is a common practice among registrars, which makes the lawsuit puzzling.

But Verizon does appear to be digging for something else, its complaint suggesting a connection between DirectNIC and its nominal registrants that may not be entirely kosher.

Without legal discovery, its hunches could go nowhere. And before Solares is served, it cannot proceed to discovery.

The court has granted an extension until late August, or 30 days after Solares is served, for the first case management meeting.

Africa gets its third ICANN registrar

It’s been over eight years since ICANN held its public meeting in Accra, but only now has Ghana got its first accredited domain name registrar.

Ghana Dot Com becomes Africa’s third ICANN-approved registrar, the first new accreditation on the continent since 2007.

The first African registrar was Burundi’s AfriRegister, the second Kheweul.com of Senegal.

Ghana Dot Com appears to be the dba of Network Computer Systems Ltd, the ISP that already manages Ghana’s .gh ccTLD.

Its chairman, Nii Quaynor, is a former member of the ICANN board of directors, elected in 2000 and serving until 2003.

Ghana has about 23 million citizens and almost one million internet users, according to InternetWorldStats.com.

ICANN switches off .mobi land-rush flipper

ICANN has terminated a domain name registrar that seems to have been made its business flipping land-rush domains, especially in .mobi.

Mobiline, doing business as DomainBonus.com, is an Israeli outfit that received its registrar accreditations about five years ago.

While it seems to have registered a very small number of domains, domainbonus.com did provide DNS for a few thousand dictionary .mobi domains, registered during the September 2006 land-rush.

A lot of these domains appeared to have been originally registered in the name of Mobiline’s owner, Alex Tesler.

Many have been since been flipped and archives of the DomainBonus front page show the firm was mainly preoccupied with aftermarket sales rather than fresh registrations.

ICANN has revoked its accreditation (pdf) for failure to pay its dues and escrow Whois data with Iron Mountain, as all registrars must.

ICANN is also switching off Western United Domains, a Spanish outfit that appears to have no web presence whatsoever, for the same reasons.

Registrars responsible for proxy cybersquatters

Domain name registrars can be liable when their customers break the law, if those customers use a privacy service, according to new ICANN guidance.

The ICANN advisory clarifies the most recent Registrar Accreditation Agreement, and seems primarily pertinent to UDRP cases where the registrar refuses to cooperate with the arbitrator’s request for proper Whois records.

The advisory says:

a Registered Name Holder licensing the use of a domain is liable for harm caused by the wrongful use of the domain unless the Registered Name Holder promptly identifies the licensee to a party providing the Registered Name Holder with reasonable evidence of actionable harm

In other words, if a domain gets hit with a UDRP claim or trademark infringement lawsuit, as far as the RAA is concerned the proxy service is the legal registrant unless the registrar quickly hands over its customer’s details.

Law enforcement and intellectual property interests have been complaining about registrars refusing to do so for years, most recently in comments on ICANN’s Whois accuracy study.

ICANN offers a definition of the word “promptly” as “within five business days” and “reasonable evidence” as trademark ownership and evidence of infringement.

I don’t think this ICANN guidance will have much of an impact on privacy services offered by the big registrars, which generally seem quite happy to hand over customer identities on demand.

Instead, this looks like it could be the start of a broader ICANN crackdown on certain non-US registrars offering “bulletproof” registrations to cybersquatters and other ne’er-do-wells.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the number of ICANN de-accreditations citing refusal to cooperate with UDRP claims increasing in future.

The new ICANN document is a draft, and you can comment on it here.