Go Daddy eats humble pie after SOPA boycott

Kevin Murphy, December 30, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy lost tens of thousands of domain name registrations totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost recurring revenue due to yesterday’s SOPA-related boycott.

NameCheap, the eNom reseller that spearheaded the campaign against Go Daddy, said on Twitter that it had raised over $25,000 for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggesting that it saw over 25,000 inbound transfers using its SOPASUCKS discount code.

Twitter noise also suggests that several other registrars, such as Name.com and Gandi, gained from the protest.

The boycott went ahead due to Go Daddy’s former support of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which many Americans believe will infringe civil liberties by erecting a great big DNS firewall around the country.

The company withdrew its support for the bill before Christmas, but many customers either chose to ignore its new stance or to point out that “not supporting” did not necessarily mean “opposing”.

Frankly, I think many people just wanted to lash out, and withdrawing business from a company with an established reputation for being a bit downmarket is a lot easier than, say, turning off SOPA-supporting ESPN or cutting up your SOPA-supporting Visa card.

Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s new CEO, issued this statement last night, clarifying the company’s position:

We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to Go Daddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed.

Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.

The company has over 50 million domains under management. Even if 50,000 were transferred to other registrars, that’s still only 0.1% of Go Daddy’s installed base.

Name server records compiled by DailyChanges also heavily suggest that the company sold over 43,000 new domain registrations yesterday.

The fact that Adelman chose to eat humble pie rather than pointing this out was probably a wise PR decision.

Also, NameCheap deserves some kudos for running a very effective social media campaign.

Let’s all beat up Go Daddy!

Kevin Murphy, December 27, 2011, Domain Registrars

I think it’s fair to say that Go Daddy is ending 2011 on a bum note.

A handful of competitors, notably Namecheap, are exploiting the recent outrage about the company’s support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (since recanted) to really stick the boot in.

NameCheap today called for December 29 to be marked as Move Your Domain Day and is currently sponsoring the hashtag #BoycottGoDaddy on Twitter.

It also said it will donate $1 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for every domain transferred to it that day using the coupon code SOPASUCKS.

Other registrars are joining in with somewhat less gusto.

Dotster, for example, is offering cheap transfers with the discount code NOFLIPFLOP, a reference to Go Daddy’s changed position on SOPA.

So what’s the net effect of all this on Go Daddy’s business? It’s difficult to tell with much accuracy at this point.

NameCheap claims to have seen 40,000 inbound transfers in the last week, most of them presumably coming from former Go Daddy customers.

That’s going to be a difficult claim to verify however, even when December’s official gTLD registry reports are published a few months from now.

Unlike most ICANN-accredited registrars, NameCheap does not register domains directly — it has fewer than 200 .com domains under management, according to the most recent registry report.

The company started off life as an eNom reseller and appears to have never gotten around to migrating its customers.

(I wonder how many people transferring their domains this week are aware that some of their fees are probably flowing into the coffers of Demand Media, another popular internet hate figure.)

Several media articles have sourced DomainTool’s DailyChanges service for numbers of transfers out of domaincontrol.com, Go Daddy’s default name server constellation.

But as Andrew Allemann and Elliot Silver have already noted, those numbers are not a reliable indication of how many domains are being transferred from Go Daddy to other registrars.

Here’s a graph showing the transfers in and out of domaincontrol.com since the start of the month.

graph

Transfers out briefly overtook transfers in this week, but by a negligible number.

The two big spikes you can see – both of which occur before the boycott began on December 22 – can be attributed to domainers (possibly a single domainer) moving thousands of domains from domaincontrol.com to internettraffic.com, a parking service, and back again.

Those movements had nothing to do with SOPA or the boycott, nor do they indicate that the domains were transferred away from Go Daddy. Name server changes != transfers.

Facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good story, however.

That’s probably why NameCheap seems to have got away with its insinuations about Go Daddy “blocking” transfers yesterday, which turned out to be highly questionable.

It transpires that transfers into NameCheap were failing not because of any nefarious activity by Go Daddy, but because NameCheap’s Whois queries were being automatically rate limited.

This was likely because NameCheap failed to white-list the IP addresses it uses for port 43 Whois look-ups either using ICANN’s RADAR tool or by notifying Go Daddy directly.

Registrar expert Jothan Frakes said as much on this blog yesterday, as did Michele Neylon of the unrelated registrar Blacknight on Twitter.

Go Daddy senior direct of product development Rich Merdinger suggested in a statement last night that NameCheap looked for the PR opportunity before picking up the phone:

Namecheap posted their accusations in a blog, but to the best our of knowledge, has yet to contact Go Daddy directly, which would be common practice for situations like this. Normally, the fellow registrar would make a request for us to remove the normal rate limiting block which is a standard practice used by Go Daddy, and many other registrars, to rate limit Whois queries to combat WhoIs abuse.

NameCheap has naturally disputed this interpretation of events, saying it had tried to get in touch with Go Daddy but received no response for 24 hours (Christmas Day, presumably).

Regardless of the he said/she said, the narrative in the media and on Twitter for the last couple of days has been pretty clear — Go Daddy: Bad, NameCheap: Good.

The SOPA story seems to have hit a nerve, and there are no shortage of pissed-off Go Daddy customers with horror stories to recount or just general criticisms of the company’s fairly brash image.

Warren Adelman picked a hell of a time to take over as CEO.

Porn group launches .xxx boycott

Kevin Murphy, March 28, 2011, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition has made good on its promise to start a boycott of .xxx domain names.

The California-based porn industry association has just launched a “Just Say NO” campaign, in an attempt to persuade pornographers that .xxx domains are bad for business.

Do the math – it doesn’t add up. Even if ICM’s claims of new consumers who “trust” .XXX ring true, for a company like Kink.com, which has approximately 10,000 domain names, it would have to bring in three-quarters of a million dollars in new revenues annually JUST TO BREAK EVEN!

As well as the retail price of the domains, which currently estimated to be north of $70 per year, the FSC has laid out a bunch of other reasons why it believes .xxx is a bad investment.

These include the fact that some countries (I’m aware of Saudi Arabia and India) have said they intend to block .xxx domains, and that this may make some high-traffic web sites wary of linking to them.

It’s also critical of how .xxx sites will have to comply with policies created by the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which ICM is setting up to “sponsor” .xxx.

But perhaps the most telling quote in the FSC’s press release comes from its executive director, Diane Duke. She said:

FSC acknowledges and respects that, when push comes to shove, businesses need to do what they think is best for their company. That is why adult companies need to know the implications of purchasing .XXX domain names and why buying .XXX could be the worst investment they’ll ever make.

While FSC makes good points, I agree with Mike Berkens of TheDomains. I just can’t see a boycott working, and the end result may just be to just make FSC look naïve.

If you’re a pornographer, and you think there’s even an outside chance of .xxx taking off, would you risk declining to defensively register your brands on a matter of principle?

The cost of enforcing trademarks — if you have one — via the UDRP post-sunrise would be larger than simply registering them up-front, and there would be no guarantee of success.

It’s a big risk, one that I can’t see many potential registrants taking.

Some in the porn business even believe that some webmasters publicly decrying .xxx are doing so primarily to reduce competition for the premium real estate. Writing in Xbiz, Stephen Yagielowicz said:

some of your “friends” that are telling you to avoid the new adult domain extension, are speculators hoping to lessen the competition for premium .XXX names; while others are mere hucksters, seeking to profit by offering “an alternative TLD” — such as .adult, .porn, .sex or “dot-whatever-does-not-involve-Stuart-Lawley”