Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Customers revolt as GoDaddy buys WordPress tools outfit

Kevin Murphy, September 7, 2016, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy has acquired ManageWP, a provider of software for managing large numbers of WordPress sites, leading to hundreds of complaints from customers.

The two companies announced yesterday that the deal will see GoDaddy integrate ManageWP into its existing suite of WordPress services.

ManageWP said pricing will be unaffected by the move, and that its service will continue to be available to customers using other hosting providers.

Despite these assurances, a few hundred ManageWP customers have over the last 24 hours expressed their dismay in comments on the company’s site.

“This is like my very best friend announcing they’re marrying the arsehole in the office,” wrote one commenter.

ManageWP customers are generally web developers who manage WordPress sites for multiple clients.

The service gives them the ability, for free, to manage these sites from a single console, rather than having to log in to each one individually.

For an extra couple of bucks per site per month, features such as daily backups and white-label client reports are available.

ManageWP said its product development roadmap will remain unchanged, and that GoDaddy may offer some currently premium features to its hosting customers for free.

About 8% of ManageWP sites run on GoDaddy, the company said in a blog post.

Despite the positive spin, a great many customers appear to be deeply unhappy that the six-year-old company is joining the Arizona behemoth.

At time of writing, there are already over 300 comments on the ManageWP post announcing the deal, almost all negative.

The bulk of the comments center on GoDaddy’s allegedly poor customer support and its reputation for constantly trying to up-sell products and services.

Here’s a small sample of comments:

I cancelled my account immediately upon reading this news.

I have never dealt with a worse company in my professional life than GoDaddy, and will never do so again. One of my requirements for taking on a new client is moving them off GoDaddy completely.

My main concern from a business perspective is that you are giving away premium features free to GoDaddy hosting customers. That is a direct conflict with the people that offer ManageWP as a service to their clients. The services we provide now seem like they are worth less to our clients who host at GoDaddy.

Bummed about this. The minute I see an up-sell notification slammed in my face trying to get me to join the GoDaddy hosting plan, I’m outta here.

Some of the comments appear to be rooted in experiences during the Bob Parsons era at GoDaddy, which came to an end over five years ago.

Commenters cited “sexist” advertising (largely a thing of the past under current CEO Blake Irving), support for the controversial SOPA legislation (spearheaded by a long-gone general counsel) and that time Parsons shot an elephant.

Many commenters said they will stick around post-acquisition, such is the goodwill ManageWP has earned.

Several ManageWP employees engaged directly with their customers comments. In one response, head of growth Nemanja Aleksic wrote:

the feedback here is something that GoDaddy will definitely need to consider. I’ve been asked by several people why I don’t lock the comments or moderate heavily. This is why. Every single bad and good comment is a ManageWP user whose livelihood could be affected by the acquisition. And every single one of the deserves to be heard.

Personally, as somebody who manages multiple WordPress sites on GoDaddy, but has never used ManageWP, I’m rather looking forward to seeing what the company comes up with.

Berkens flogs the lot to Go Daddy

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2015, Domain Sales

Domain investor Mike Berkens has sold almost his entire portfolio of domain names to Go Daddy, both parties said today.

Berkens’ company, WorldWide Media sold about 70,000 names to the company, which plans to list most of them on its Afternic Fast Transfer Network.

That’s the service that tries to streamline the purchasing of premium-priced domains as much as possible by making them available intermingled with unregistered names on registrars’ storefronts.

Berkens said on his blog, The Domains, that the decision to sell off most of his portfolio came about largely due to his personal circumstances.

“Simply put, life is short and this it was the perfect time for myself and my family to make a move that doesn’t require working 7 days a week, 365 days a year on the computer,” he wrote.

He intends to continue his work with RightOfTheDot, the auction and premium sales company he founded with Monte Cahn, which is running a big auction at the NamesCon conference next month.

He has also retained a portfolio of adult-themed domains, which he plans to sell via a web site at adult.domains.

A small portfolio of mostly new gTLD domains will be sold via the.domains.

Financial details of the Go Daddy deal were not disclosed, but Berkens said he could have made more money selling the names individually. He expects Go Daddy will find the domains profitable too, he said.

Bladel romps home in ICANN election re-run

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2015, Domain Policy

Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel has been elected chair of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization Council.

The result came a month after the GNSO Council embarrassingly failed to elect a chair to replace outgoing Jonathan Robinson.

This time Bladel ran unopposed, securing the unanimous support of both his own Contracted Parties House and the Non-Contracted Parties House, which did not field a candidate.

In the October vote, the NCPH had nominated academic Heather Forrest.

Due to personal friction between commercial and non-commercial NCPH Council members, Bladel lost that election to “none of the above” by a single vote.

Forrest has been elected vice-chair, along with Neustar’s Donna Austin.

Volker Greimann and David Cake, who had been running the Council on an interim basis for the last month, have stepped aside.

Domains pointing to social media tiny, but growing

Kevin Murphy, October 7, 2015, Domain Registrars

The number of domain names registered via Go Daddy and pointing to social media profiles measures only in the “tens of thousands”, according to the company.

The market leading registrar put out a press release earlier this week stating that “in the last 18 months, customers pointing a domain name to social media sites increased by 37 percent.”

The company said it “attributes the rise in the redirects to customers wanting to control their online identity.”

While it’s an uptick for sure, the number of domains behaving this is actually still quite low.

A Go Daddy spokesperson told DI: “We’re not releasing exact numbers, but it’s in the tens of thousands.”

That’s a drop in the ocean compared to the over 60 million domains Go Daddy has under management.

The press release promoted the company’s new Personal Domains sales page, which offers buyers a streamlined way to point their domains to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Tumblr profiles.

Reddit peppers Go Daddy boss with sexism questions

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2015, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy can’t seem to shake off the legacy of its long-running, sexually suggestive TV advertising.

In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit yesterday, CEO Blake Irving seemed to face more questions about sexism, women in technology and equal opportunities hiring than any other topic.

He made about 70 posts during the session, at least 10 of which related to Go Daddy’s relationship with the equally-fair sex in some way. Some Reddit users wondered aloud whether some such questions had been planted by Go Daddy sock-puppets.

The “best”-rated question on the thread addressed the company’s old TV commercials, which in the early days regularly featured scantily-clad, large-breasted women. Irving said:

The old ads helped GoDaddy build massive brand awareness in the US. They weren’t helpful to our reputation as an egalitarian provider of services though, and they didn’t do enough to tell people what we actually do. One of the first things I did at GoDaddy was pivot the advertising to reflect what we did and who we did it for. When 58% of small businesses in the US are run by women you should reflect the great work they do as small businesses. That’s what we’ve done with our ads over the past two years.

Irving joined Go Daddy in December 2012. Its ads since then have focused less and less on the prurient interest.

Irving also pointed out in one answer than a third of the company’s executive team is female.

He was also asked a number of questions about the new .ski gTLD (he was wearing a branded baseball cap in the AMA’s accompanying photograph).

Go Daddy employees also seemed to be out in force, asking multiple questions about this year’s corporate Christmas party.

When asked about the prospects for new gTLDs versus .com, Irving sat on the fence:

We’re seeing steady increases in awareness and the first instances of big global brands using the names (like abc.xyz and brand TLDs like home.barclays). We expect this to continue to drive new gTLD sales over time. For the foreseeable future, COM will likely remain the most desired name in the US and outside. It’s universally recognizable around the world. Either way, our goal is to provide the best choices available for each customer and the new gTLDs make getting the perfect name for you much more likely.

When asked “Does your burning evil raise your body temperature?”, Iriving replied:

Ummmm …. GoDaddy is an eco-conscious company, so we are firmly against practices that are harmful to the environment, including the use of malevolent forces as a fuel source. But, I do like a good bike ride to get my heart pumping.

The whole AMA can be read here.

OpenTLD cybersquatting fight escalates

Kevin Murphy, August 7, 2015, Domain Registrars

ICANN has accused OpenTLD, the registrar arm of Freenom, of cybersquatting famous brands even after it was threatened with suspension.

The claims may be worrying for some registrars as ICANN may in fact be holding the registrar responsible for the actions of its proxy service customers.

OpenTLD was suspended by ICANN in early July, after two UDRP rulings found the company had cybersquatted rival registrars’ brands in order to poach customers.

The suspension was lifted after just a few hours when OpenTLD took ICANN to arbitration under the terms of its Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

In ICANN’s latest arbitration filing, the organization’s lawyers argue that the suspension should not be stayed, because OpenTLD has been shown to engage in a pattern of cybersquatting.

Like the original suspension notice, the filing cites the two UDRP losses, along with footnotes indicating that as many as seven competing brands had been cybersquatted.

But ICANN has now also escalated its allegations to bring in non-registrar brands where it’s far from clear that OpenTLD is the actual registrant.

ICANN’s filing states:

even a brief review of the domain names in OpenTLD’s portfolio demonstrates that OpenTLD appears to be continuing to engage in bad faith and abusive registration practices. As of 3 August 2015, there were at least 73 gTLD domains registered to Stichting OpenTLD WHOIS Proxy (which is OpenTLD’s proxy service) that are identical to or contain the registered trademarks or trade names of third parties, including, by way of small example, the domain names barnesandnoble.link, sephora.bargains, at-facebook.com, ebaybh.com, googlefreeporn.com, global-paypal.com, hotmailtechnicalsupport.com, and secure-apple.com. ICANN is not aware of any legitimate interest or right that OpenTLD has to use these third-party trademarks and trade names.

Even more concerning is the fact that at least 14 gTLD domain names that contain the registered trademarks or trade names of third parties were registered by OpenTLD’s proxy service after the 23 June 2015 Suspension Notice was issued to OpenTLD, further demonstrating that OpenTLD’s overtures of “cooperation” ring hollow.

To be clear, that’s ICANN accusing OpenTLD of cybersquatting because some of the domains registered via its privacy service appear to be trademark infringements.

It’s basically equating infringing use of OpenTLD’s proxy service (such the registration of barnesandnoble.link) with the infringing behavior of OpenTLD itself (such as the registration of godaddy.cf, a February 2015 screenshot of which can be seen below.)

This may just be legal posturing, but I imagine many other registrars would be worried to know that they could have their accreditation suspended for cybersquatting simply because some of their privacy customers are cybersquatters.

I’d wager that every proxy/privacy service available has been used by blatant cybersquatters at one time or another.

Filings in the arbitration case can be found here.

Go Daddy advertising privacy petition on Facebook

Go Daddy appears to be putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to arguments about domain privacy.

The company is paying for “sponsored” posts on Facebook that promote the ongoing petition against proposed changes to Whois policy at ICANN.

This has been appearing on Facebook for me all day, seriously interrupting my Farmville time:

Go Daddy ad

Clicking the ad takes you directly to the Save Domain Privacy petition, rather than a Go Daddy sales pitch.

As I reported last week, thousands of internet users have blasted ICANN with template comments complaining about proposed limits on Whois privacy.

There are currently over 10,000 such comments, I estimate, with over a week left until the filing deadline.

Registrars, Go Daddy among them, are largely concerned about a minority proposal emerging from in a proxy/privacy service accreditation working group that would ban transactional e-commerce sites from having private registrations.

They’re also bothered that intellectual property owners could get more rights to unmask privacy users under the proposals.

Despite Go Daddy’s outreach, Repect Our Privacy, letter-writing campaign, backed by NameCheap and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, seems to be responsible for most of the comments filed to date.

Not that it’s necessarily relevant today, but NameCheap and Go Daddy were on opposing sides of the Stop Online Piracy Act debate — a linked controversy — a few years back.

Freenom suspended for cybersquatting rival registrars

Freenom, the company behind .tk and other freebie ccTLDs, has had its ICANN registrar accreditation suspended for cybersquatting competing registrars including Go Daddy and Key-Systems.

OpenTLD, its registrar business, has been told it cannot accept new registrations or inbound transfers from July 8 to October 6 or until it provides ICANN with a full list of the names it squatted.

I believe it’s the first time ICANN has suspended a registrar for this reason.

The suspension notice states:

ICANN has found that OpenTLD has engaged in a pattern and practice of trafficking in or use of domain names identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark of a third party in which the Registered Name Holder has no rights or legitimate interest

That’s a long-winded way of saying “massive cybersquatting”.

ICANN is basing its claims on two UDRP cases that Freenom and its CEO, Joost Zuurbier, lost.

According to WIPO panelists in Key-Systems GmbH v. Joost Zuurbier, OpenTLD B.V. and NetEarth Group, Inc. v. Stichting OpenTLD WHOIS Proxy, the company squatted at least seven of its rivals’ trademarks.

The domains were netearthone.biz, rrpproxy.me, key-systems.cc, resellerclub.tk, resellbiz.biz, godaddy.cf and resello.ws.

According to the UDRP decisions, Freenom used the domains to try to entice resellers of the other registrars over to OpenTLD.

It bought the competing registrars’ trademarks as search keywords on Google’s advertising platform, a WIPO panelist found. If you searched Google for Key-Systems trademark “RRPproxy”, for example, you’d get an ad linking to rrpproxy.me.

In some cases the names were registered behind Freenom’s in-house privacy service. In others, Zuurbier and OpenTLD were listed plainly as the registrants.

The WIPO panelists also found that Freenon shirked its duties under the UDRP as registrar, deleting the squatted domains rather than locking them, which essentially amounted to “cyberflight”.

It all looks pretty bad for Freenom, which only gained its accreditation two years ago.

To avoid termination, it has to provide ICANN with a list of all of its trademark infringing names, agree to transfer them to the mark owners or delete them, and bunch of other stuff.

Here’s the letter.

Go Daddy splashes out $28m on Marchex domain portfolio

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2015, Domain Sales

Go Daddy has acquired about 200,000 domain names from Marchex for $28.1 million.

The sale comes as Marchex seeks to extricate itself from the domain name business in order to focus on mobile advertising analytics.

It works out at about $140 per domain.

Go Daddy said that it will make the domains available via its multi-registrar Afternic platform, which should massively increase their visibility among potential buyers.

The deal was a “unique opportunity” that doesn’t represent a change in direction for the registrar.

Domain Name Wire has an interview with company senior VP Mark McLaughlin over here which explains Go Daddy’s plans in a bit more detail.

Marchex said that it has also sold $6.7 million worth of domains from the portfolio separately since January.

Domain hijacking bug found in Go Daddy

Kevin Murphy, January 22, 2015, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has rushed out a fix to a security bug in its web site that could have allowed attackers to steal valuable domain names.

Security engineer Dylan Saccomanni found several “cross site request forgery” holes January 17, which he said could be used to “edit nameservers, change auto-renew settings and edit the zone file entirely”.

He reported it to Go Daddy (evidently with some difficulty) and blogged it up, with attack code samples, January 18. Go Daddy reportedly patched its site the following day.

A CSRF vulnerability is where a web site fails to adequately validate data submitted via HTTP POST. Basically, in this case Go Daddy apparently wasn’t checking whether commands to edit name servers, for example, were being submitted via the correct web site.

Mitigating the risk substantially, attackers would have to trick the would-be victim domain owner into filling out a web form on a different site, while they were simultaneously logged into their Go Daddy accounts, in order to exploit the vulnerability, however.

In my experience, Go Daddy times out logged-in sessions after a period, reducing the potential attack window.

Being phishing-aware would also reduce your chance of being a victim.

I’m not aware of any reports of domains being lost to this attack.