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Go Daddy’s Merdinger named DNA chair

Kevin Murphy, December 16, 2016, Domain Services

Go Daddy VP of domains Rich Merdinger has been appointed interim chair of the Domain Name Association, replacing Neustar’s Adrian Kinderis.

In a blog post, Merdinger said the DNA will become more “vocal” under its new leadership and outlined three priorities for 2017 — awareness, adoption and access.

He said the DNA will share ways businesses can pursue a strategy of “blending” TLD types in their online activities, promote domains as search engine optimization tools, and make it easier for DNA members to participate.

There will be a new series of DNA Virtual Town Hall meetings to facilliate communication. Merdinger wrote:

Expect to see a more vocal DNA – whether it is at the next virtual town hall or learning about new research on domain name strategies and their business impact. As Interim Chair, I will be working with our leadership team on ways to spotlight how domain names are being used strategically and tactically to support business objectives in 2017 and beyond.

He replaces Kinderis, formerly CEO of AusRegistry/ARI/Bombora, who is now, post-acquisition, VP of corporate development at Neustar.

Kinderis, DNA’s founding chair in April 2013, will remain on the DNA’s board of directors, representing Neustar.

It’s interesting that Merdinger’s appointment to chair is being linked with the DNA becoming more “vocal”.

While Merdinger certainly isn’t a shrinking violet, Kinderis, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying, is one of the bluntest, mouthiest guys in the industry.

That said, GoDaddy has name recognition and has proven to be a bit of a headline magnet over the last decade or so.

It surely has a higher profile among would-be registrants — a big part of the DNA’s audience — than Neustar, which isn’t primarily a domain name company or even necessarily primarily an internet company.

The DNA will continue to operate without an in-house staff, having dumped its second executive director earlier this year in favor of outsourcing to a trade group management company, to cut costs.

GoDaddy will pay $1.79 billion for HEG in major Euro expansion

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2016, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy is to substantially increase the size of its European operation with the $1.79 billion acquisition of Host Europe Group.

The market-leading registrar confirmed yesterday earlier reports that it was on track to buy HEG, which counts several big-name British and German registrars among its brands.

The deal is worth €1.69 billion ($1.79 billion), which breaks down to €605 million to HEG shareholders and €1.08 billion in debt. It’s expected to close in the second quarter next year.

HEG’s domain brands include 123Reg and DomainMonster in the UK and DomainFactory in Germany.

The company says it has 1.7 million customers and manages over seven million domains.

But the acquisition is more concerned with HEG’s higher-margin small business hosting business, where the company has nine data centers in Europe and the US.

GoDaddy said in a press release:

Combining GoDaddy’s global technology platform with HEG’s footprint in Europe will enable the rapid deployment of a broader range of products to customers and allow for better scale of product development and go-to-market investments across both companies.

One part of the HEG business, the $92 million-a-year PlusServer, is likely to be sold off, however.

GoDaddy said that unit “serves larger, more mature companies that require a dedicated field sales force and account management”, which is not GoDaddy’s core strength.

The deal means that GoDaddy will become the owner of the annual NamesCon conference, which HEG picked up in August for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition is unlikely to have closed before this coming January’s NamesCon, so there’s unlikely to be many obvious changes to the 2017 event.

GoDaddy said the acquisition is being financed by debt.

HEG’s current owner is private equity firm Cinven, which paid $545 million in 2013.

GoDaddy in talks to buy massive registrar Host Europe – report

Kevin Murphy, November 25, 2016, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy is reportedly talking to Host Europe Group, one of Europe’s largest registrars, about an acquisition.

Reuters today reported that the deal, should it go ahead, could be worth as much as $1.8 billion.

GoDaddy has been favored over rival bids from United Internet (owner of United-Domains) and buyout firm Centerbridge, Reuters said.

HEG is the parent company for several registrar brands. Notably, it owns 123-reg and DomainMonster, two of the UK’s largest registrars.

123-reg had over 900,000 gTLD domains on its books at the last count. HEG overall says it manages over seven million domains.

The company was acquired by private equity group Cinven for £438 million ($545 million) in 2013.

It has 1.7 million customers and 1,300 employees spread across eight countries. It primarily operates in the UK and Germany.

HEG had 2015 revenue of €269.8 million ($286.3 million) and made a loss of €55.6 million ($59 million).

For GoDaddy, the acquisition is a chance to shift its revenue mix away from domains and more towards the more profitable hosting market, according to Reuters.

GoDaddy spearheads Domain Connect spec

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2016, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy has published a new specification designed to make it easier for domain owners to quickly set up web sites using third-party site-building tools.

Its new Domain Connect Initiative is tailored for customers who do not know how to configure a DNS record and do not care to learn,according to Charles Beadnall, senior VP of domains.

While signing up for a participating site-building service, Shopify for example, customers currently have to either figure out how to manually reconfigure their DNS or get GoDaddy’s customer support to talk them through it.

GoDaddy currently receives tens of thousands of customer support calls every year related to these scenarios, Beadnall said.

But using Domain Connect, instead they will be able to simply enter their domain name with Shopify and, after authenticating with their registrar (via OAUTH), their domain’s DNS will be automatically configured to point to their new site.

This saves the customer’s time and GoDaddy’s money.

Under the hood, it works using a series of templates, authored by the service providers, which instruct the registrar or DNS provider in how to set up the domain to use the service, Beadnall said.

Due to the high risk of malicious exploitation, it’s not completely frictionless. Service provider templates must be manually pre-approved and white-listed by registrars, Beadnall said.

As the system does not involve domain registration or transfer it’s not really within ICANN’s policy wheelhouse, so the spec has instead been published via the IETF.

It has already been embraced by leading rival registrars eNom, Name.com and United Domains, as well as toolmakers including Microsoft, Shopify and Wix.

The announcement of Domain Connect was made a couple of weeks ago while I was off sick.

More information and documentation can be found on the Domain Connect web site.

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.

GoDaddy gets its dot-brand

GoDaddy has become a new gTLD registry with the delegation yesterday of .godaddy.

It’s a dot-brand, so domain name registrations will not be made available to the general public.

In one of the shortest mission statements found in new gTLD applications, the company describes .godaddy like this:

The mission or purpose of the .GODADDY gTLD is strictly for branding protection and internal use. The gTLD .GODADDY will give visitors to any .GODADDY site the assurance that they are truly dealing with Go Daddy and not an imposter or cybersquatter.

GoDaddy has not yet gone live with its nic.godaddy site.

It’s not the first domain name firm to get its own dot-brand. Notably, Neustar and Verisign own .neustar and .verisign.

It’s not the only registrar with a dot-brand, either. France’s OVH got there first with .ovh.

GoDaddy originally applied for two other gTLDs — .home and .casa — but withdrew their applications almost immediately after a shift of company strategy.

GoDaddy grows domain revs 10% in Q1

GoDaddy reported its first quarter numbers last night, which including an almost 10% increase in revenue from domain names.

The market-leading registrar reported a net loss of $18.3 million, smaller than the $43.4 million a year ago, on total revenue of $433.7 million, up 15.3%.

It broke out its revenue from domain names as $218.9 million, up 9.9% on Q1 2015.

Hosting-related services and business applications grew 14.4% and 47.4% respectively, to $160.4 million and $54.4 million.

The company raised its revenue expectations for the year to a range of $1.83 billion to $1.845 billion.

Former GoDaddy VP apes Trump in Congressional bid

Kevin Murphy, May 4, 2016, Gossip

Former GoDaddy general counsel and apparent glutton for punishment Christine Jones is to run for political office for a second time.

She’s looking for the Republican nomination in Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District, she said in an email circular yesterday.

In a video announcing the candidacy, it seems pretty clear she’s taking a leaf out of the Donald Trump playbook by playing the “outsider” card.

“She’s one of us, not a politician,” a talking head says in a totally unrehearsed, unscripted and utterly convincing soundbite.

Much like Trump, she’s also touting the fact that she’s “independently wealthy” and therefore not as reliant on big donors to fund her campaign.

According to Jones’ web site, the most important issues facing Arizonians are border security, Islamic State, abortion (she’s anti-), an overly complex tax system and gun ownership (she’s pro-).

It sounds ridiculous, but this is what passes for mainstream politics in the US nowadays.

The incumbent in the Congressional seat she wants, considered safely Republican, recently announced his retirement, but Jones will face at least three established local politicians in the contest for the nomination.

Jones stood for the Republican nomination for Arizona Governor in 2014, but came third in the seven-strong field, with 16.6% of the vote.

GoDaddy launches mobile app for investors

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2016, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy has launched a new mobile device app specifically for domain investors.

GoDaddy Investor, as it is called, will enable domainers to monitor watch-lists of expiring domains, as well as bid in and track auctions, the company said.

Authentication is handled via a special PIN system or, on iOS, Apple’s TouchID.

“We worked closely with our domain investors to bring the same great investing experience to mobile that they’ve enjoyed on desktop for years,” Paul Nicks, GoDaddy’s senior director of aftermarket, said in a press release.

The app is available for Android and iOS operating systems and is available via their respective app stores.

GoDaddy did not cybersquat the Oscars, court finds

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Registrars

In a landmark decision, a US court has ruled that GoDaddy’s practice of parking unused domains with Google advertising does not count as cybersquatting.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which runs the annual Oscars awards, sued the registrar five years ago after seeing that GoDaddy had parked hundreds of names containing its mark.

Under UDRP, registrar parking is controversially often taken as a sign of the registrants bad faith by panelists.

But the California court ruled that GoDaddy’s actions did not amount to trademark infringement due to the unique circumstances of the case.

GoDaddy did not select the advertisements — Google’s algorithms did — nor did it manually review which domains were being parked.

Domain Name Wire has a pretty good breakdown of the key points in the 129-page ruling.

What’s going to be interesting is whether UDRP panelists — which sometimes take their cues from US legal precedent — will start to adjust to view registrar parking in a more benign way when judging registrant bad faith.