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Go Daddy employee class action dismissed

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2011, Domain Registrars

A class action lawsuit alleging that Go Daddy committed “wage theft”, filed by a disgruntled former call center worker, has been dismissed by an Arizona court.

While the plaintiffs have been given leave to amend their complaint, they’ve parted ways with their lawyers after a disagreement, which suggests the case may be on shaky ground.

I reported on the filing of the suit for The Register last May, and followed it up with a tangential blog post here.

The lead plaintiff, Toby Harris, claims he was fired after just a couple of months as a Go Daddy sales/support call center guy after he questioned why some of his commissions had been withheld.

His manager had apparently rated his work below a certain performance threshold, meaning he lost out on over $1,300 of bonuses in his first month. Harris said this was arbitrary and unfair.

He was then fired after, according to his termination letter, breaking security protocol by failing to sufficiently validate a customer’s identity. Harris said he was fired because he was a “whistleblower”.

Four other former Go Daddy employees are named plaintiffs in the class action, which alleges that by treating commissions as discretionary bonuses, Go Daddy has avoided paying its call center staff legally owed overtime wages.

But a few weeks ago, the judge in the District Court where the case is being heard dismissed the complaint (pdf) on the grounds that it did not assert enough facts to support its claims.

While the judge gave plaintiffs the opportunity to re-file the complaint, their lawyers evidently decided it was not worth it. They withdrew from the case.

Judging by a court filing the lawyers made last week (pdf), and several claims made by Harris on the gripe site NoDaddy.com, it was not an amicable split. Harris now seems to be looking for replacement attorneys to file an amended complaint before time runs out.

The thread on the NoDaddy forum devoted to the class action is extraordinary. Started in May last year, it’s grown to over 1,600 posts, the majority of which are rants written by Harris, often addressing Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons directly and in personal terms.

Demand Media says Google change no big deal, yet

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2011, Domain Registrars

Demand Media has said that recent changes to Google’s search engine algorithm does not appear to have had a material impact on its business.

Google said yesterday that it has changed its code to demote “sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful”.

This was widely interpreted as being designed to hit “content farms”, which make up one of Demand’s major revenue streams. The company also owns number two domain registrar eNom.

In a blog post, published less than four hours after Google announced the change, Demand executive vice president Larry Fitzgibbon wrote:

As might be expected, a content library as diverse as ours saw some content go up and some go down in Google search results… It’s impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term – but at this point in time, we haven’t seen a material net impact on our Content & Media business.

It remains to be seen if the changes will have any impact on traffic and revenue at Demand, which recently executed an IPO, but Fitzgibbon played down the company’s focus on search traffic.

Demand also measures success based on metrics such as direct navigation, repeat visits and traffic from social media, he wrote.

DomainTools doubles prices, relaunches site

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2011, Domain Registrars

Whois specialist DomainTools has revamped its web site and raised the price of its services.

The price increase is quite substantial. The cheapest paid-for tier appears to be the $30-a-month Standard Membership, a 100% increase on the old $15 basic package.

Existing members have been grandfathered in at their current rates. DomainTools said that it’s the first price increase in five years.

It does appear that subscribers may get more bang for their buck under the new tiers. At least, my subscription appears to be buying me more services than it was before the relaunch.

But that may be because I was never entirely clear what I was paying for. The confusing old “unit”-based pricing has gone, and the new site is a lot clearer about what you get for the money.

Many of the other changes appear to be cosmetic. The site does look a bit slicker than before, while retaining its familiar look-and-feel.

The company also appears to have sorted out its dispute with Go Daddy, which recently started blocking Whois aggregators including DomainTools.

A few test look-ups I did for domains registered at Go Daddy returned full Whois results, not the stubs it was delivering following the block.

Given that registrars are allowed to charge $10,000 a year for access to bulk Whois records, I’m tempted to draw a connection between the Go Daddy situation and the price increase, but I have no hard information to support that conclusion.

UPDATE: I’ve heard from DomainTools that the Go Daddy situation has not yet been resolved.

DomainTools subscribers currently see full Whois records when they search for domains registered at Go Daddy. In order to throttle the vast majority of the traffic the site sends to Go Daddy’s servers, non-subscribers are still receiving incomplete data.

The dispute is evidently more complex than a simple $10k shakedown.

ICANN terminates another registrar

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2011, Domain Registrars

Another tiny domain name registrar has been given its marching orders by ICANN.

Best Bulk Register, which looks to have only a few hundred domains under management, will be shut down March 4, according to a letter (pdf) from ICANN’s compliance department.

The company had failed to pay over $10,000 in fees, and was not providing Whois services as required by the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, according to ICANN.

The registrar’s web site does not currently appear to resolve.

Best Bulk has until tomorrow to pick a registrar to take over its domains, or ICANN will pick one for it.

Gratuitous Go Daddy girl chest shot

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2011, Domain Registrars

I know, I know, I’m an utter hypocrite.

Complaining about the journalistic standards of The Sun in the morning and posting a photo that’s little better than a Page 3 shot in the evening.

I do so only in the spirit of crowd-sourced investigative journalism. And traffic, obviously.

Go Daddy Girl boobs

In case you’re wondering, it’s the latest in the series of teaser shots Go Daddy has been releasing ahead of its Super Bowl 2011 commercial.

Note the strategic positioning of “.CO” on the T-shirt.

We’re supposed to start guessing who it is now.

Knock yourselves out.