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Wagner takes dig at Verisign as GoDaddy reports $310 million domain revenue

Kevin Murphy, November 7, 2018, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy CEO Scott Wagner ducked a question about how the company will react to future .com price increases during its third-quarter earnings call yesterday, but used the opportunity to take a gentle swipe at Verisign.

Asked by an analyst whether the first 7% price increase, almost certainly coming in 2020, would have any effect on GoDaddy’s gross margins (ie, will they shrink as the company swallows increased costs, or swell as it increases its own prices above 7%), Wagner said:

the last time VeriSign took a price increase the industry passed that through to the end registrant.

.com and more importantly the software around bringing somebody’s .com to life is valuable and, modestly, we’re providing the value in that relationship around taking a domain name and actually turning it into something that somebody cares about.

I’m interpreting that as a pop at the idea that Verisign enjoys the fat registration margins while GoDaddy is the one that actually has to market domains, up-sell, innovate, deal with customers, and so on.

The remarks came just a few days after Verisign, in a blog post, branded GoDaddy and other secondary-market players “scalpers”, infuriating domainers.

Wagner was talking to analysts as the market-leading registrar reported revenue for Q3 of $679.5 million, up 16.7% year over year.

Revenue from domains, still the biggest of its three reporting business segments, was $309.5 million, up 14.0% compared to the year-ago quarter. GoDaddy now has 18 million customers and over 77 million domains under management.

Overall net income was down to $13.2 million from $22.4 million, as operating expenses rose over 16% to hit $642 million, after the company invested more in marketing, development and so on. Its operating income was $37.5 million.

Contrast this with Verisign’s performance for the same quarter, reported two weeks ago.

It saw revenue about the same as GoDaddy’s domains revenue — $306 million — but net income of $138 million and operating income of $195 million.

GoDaddy and Verisign could find themselves competing before long. As part of its deal with the US government to allow it to raise .com wholesale prices once more, the government also lifted its objection to Verisign becoming a registrar, just as long as it does not deal in .com names.

Parsons quits GoDaddy board

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2018, Domain Registrars

Bob Parsons has resigned from GoDaddy’s board of directors, 21 years after he founded the company.

The registrar announced today that Parsons will leave this Friday to devote more attention to his philanthropic Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation and to the various motorcycle and golf-related businesses he runs under the Yam Worldwide brand.

He was CEO of GoDaddy from 1997 until 2011 and executive chairman until 2014.

The company is of course the runaway success story of the competitive registrar market, using a combination of cheap prices and bold marketing to eat incumbent Network Solutions’ lunch in just a few short years.

Today, it has over $2.2 billion in annual revenue and somewhere in the region of 60 million domains under management, and that’s just the gTLDs.

GoDaddy’s success made Parsons himself a billionaire.

ICANN closes GoDaddy Whois probe

Kevin Murphy, August 9, 2018, Domain Registrars

ICANN has closed its investigation into GoDaddy’s Whois practices with no action taken.

Senior VP of compliance Jamie Hedlund yesterday wrote to David Redl, head of the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to provide an update on the probe, news of which first emerged in April.

The NTIA and members of the intellectual property community had complained that GoDaddy was throttling Whois access over port 43 and that it was masking certain fields in the output.

That was when GoDaddy and the rest of the ICANN-regulated industry was working under the old rules, before the new temporary Whois policy had been introduced to comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

Hedlund told Redl in a letter (pdf):

Based on our review and testing (including outside of ICANN’s network), GoDaddy is not currently masking WHOIS data or otherwise limiting access to its WHOIS services. Consequently, the complaints related to GoDaddy’s masking of certain WHOIS fields, rate limiting, and whitelisting of IP addresses have been addressed and closed.

GoDaddy had said earlier this year that it was throttling access over port 43 in an attempt to reduce the availability of Whois data to the spammers that have been increasingly plaguing its customers with offers of web site development and search engine optimization services.

GoDaddy signs up for basically unrestricted .travel gTLD

Donuts has started to market the now practically prehistoric and newly liberalized gTLD .travel, and it’s signed up GoDaddy to offer domains there.

The registry, which acquired .travel from former owner Tralliance in February, announced a soft relaunch on its blog last week, highlighting that GoDaddy, Name.com and Encirca are now among its registrars.

GoDaddy appears to be only new signing there — Encirca and Name.com have been carrying .travel from long before Donuts got involved and are in fact its two largest registrars.

The big daddy of the registrar space appears to have become interested after Donuts “simplified” the process of registering .travel domains. Donuts said:

Since the acquisition, Donuts has simplified the registration process, enabling registrants to stay on the registrar’s website for the entirety of the registration/checkout process. Donuts believes that this streamlined registration process will increase registrations, as compared to the previous process, which was disjointed and complex for registrants.

What this seems to translate to is: .travel is essentially an unrestricted TLD, despite being applied for in 2003’s round of “sponsored” gTLDs.

If you attempt to register a .travel domain at GoDaddy today, the only additional friction en route to the purchase button is a simple, prominent check-box asking you to confirm you are a member of the travel community.

That’s apparently enough for Donuts to say it has fulfilled the part of its ICANN contract that says it has to carry out a “review of Eligibility prior to completion of all registrations.”

Under its previous ownership, .travel required registrars to bounce their customers to the registry web site to obtain an authentication code during the registration process.

.travel names are still pretty pricey — GoDaddy was going to hit me with a bill of over $110 before I abandoned my cart, and that was just a year-one promotional price.

The gTLD peaked at 215,000 domains 10 years ago but now sits at under 18,000, having seen slight declines every month for the past five years.

Christians rail against GoDaddy’s six-color gay rights flag

GoDaddy changed its social media avatars to a gay rights flag yesterday, incurring the wrath of some self-declared Christians and US right-wingers.

GoDaddy rainbow

The change was made in recognition of LGBT Pride Month, in which every June gay rights groups hold marches and generally celebrate/call for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The most egregious thing about the change is surely that there’s a color missing. For some reason, the world’s largest registrar has decided that rainbows look better with only six colors.

But many customers took to Facebook to decry the change on religious or political grounds.

Here’s a sample of some of the comments on the logo.

Now finding another service !!! I don’t support this crap !! I serve s higher power and I am as a Christian warrior to turn my back on this !!!

Don’t you start making a hard left turn to GoDaddy, are you gonna choose the coastal liberals over the other half of the country? Stay out of politics and picking sides. Your not above Boycott like every other Mega Company that chooses a Globalist agenda…

Keep your sexual or political opinion out of your business or I’ll leave your business son! Weather I agree or disagree Im not doing business with you for you to push your views upon me! Just sell me websites and hosting and keep your mouth shut, thanks!

Not doing business there anymore

To be fair, compared to the size of GoDaddy’s customer base, the number of outraged commenters was vanishingly small. I don’t think anyone at GoDaddy is shaking in their boots over the possible loss of a few hard-core right-wing customers.

But those saying it’s a political statement may have a point.

It might be interesting to note that on GoDaddy’s Facebook page for the UK, where equal rights are far less controversial and barely considered a mainstream political issue, the company has not changed its logo.

There were also lots of comments in favor of the change, of course.

Always been a huge fan of godaddy. Your customer service and products are superior. Now I’m even more of a fan. Thanks for taking a powerful stand, even amidst these trolls. I can’t even believe the hate spewing from them. #teamGoDaddy

Comment section, its not getting political or “imposing views” on others to support & respect gays as human beings. They’re not talking about gun rights or abortion or whatever, its LGBT, thats not a belief, or a view. So if you’re gonna seriously stop using the website over human decency & compassion during pride month, thats on you if ya wanna be a whining mope

The amount of offended people in these comments is killing me 😂 much love, GoDaddy. Happy pride. To all the high- strung offended snowflakes: you and your kind have enjoyed thousands of years without LGBT visibility. One site changes their profile pic and your anger burns for nothing. Suck it.

And there were plenty of ambivalent comments.

I am ok with supporting LGBT rights. I am not ok with my slow as hell server that I paid extra for it to be fast, but I paid up front for 3 years so whatever I guess I am hanging out awhile.

While I generally tend to steer away from stories about bogus, whipped-up, social media controversies (this is maybe the third time DI has posted such an article) I find it interesting as it reflects GoDaddy’s perception shift as a company.

A large reason GoDaddy got into the leading position it is today is due to its unabashedly breast-based advertising and sponsorship of sports only Republicans understand.

Less than a decade ago, it was more common for the company to attract controversy when founding CEO Bob Parsons did something dumb like brag about shooting an elephant.

Now it’s taking flak for making a half-assed nod towards gay rights? How times change.

Disclosure: it’s not lost of me that throughout this article I’ve used the word “gay” interchangeably with “LGBT”.

Can’t get enough GDPR? Come to my NamesCon panel

Kevin Murphy, June 4, 2018, Domain Services

NamesCon Europe is being held in Valencia, Spain, this week, the first time the NamesCon branding has been applied to the old Domaining Europe show.

Starting Thursday, it’s a two-day conference — or three if you count the social events planned for Saturday — with a varied agenda focused on domain investors.

The keynote will be given by Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, on a so-far unspecified topic.

There will be about 20 sessions in total, organized in a single track and covering topics such as valuation, monetization, drop-catching, web development and legal issues facing domainers.

Expect speakers from the likes of Donuts, Sedo, the new gTLDs .club and .global, and a bunch of companies I’ve never heard of (a fact I hope to rectify).

Staff from NamesCon owner GoDaddy also have a decent presence among the speakers.

Domaining Europe was sold to NamesCon earlier this year and there’s going to be a short “handover ceremony” at the end of the show, followed by a performance by a band whose lineup feature the conference’s new CEO.

I’ll be hosting a panel comprising Blacknight CEO Michele Neylon and German lawyer Thomas Rickert on the General Data Protection Regulation on Thursday just before lunch.

If you no longer wish me to tell you this, please click here. But if, as a domainer, you feel there are important GDPR issues that should be discussed at the session, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

As usual with shows like this, a big part of the value is in the networking, and there’s plenty of opportunities for socializing scheduled, including a “Disco Party!” slated to end at 5am.

NamesCon Europe tickets are still available, priced now at €786.50 ($922).

Disclosure: I’m paying my own way to the show but have a complimentary press pass.

I just bought a new gTLD registry’s domain for $10

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2018, Domain Registries

Are .fan and .fans the latest new gTLDs to go out of business? It certainly looks that way.

ICANN has hit the registry with a breach notice for unpaid dues and stripped it of its registrar accreditation.

In addition, its web sites no longer appear functional and I’ve just bought its official IANA-listed domain name for under $10.

Asiamix Digital is the Hong Kong-based company behind both TLDs, doing business as dotFans.

It launched .fans in September 2015, with retail pricing up around the $100 mark, but never actually got around to launching the singular variant, which it acquired (defensively?) from Rightside (now Donuts) earlier that year.

.fans had fewer than 1,400 domains in its zone file yesterday, down from a peak of around 1,500, while .fan had none.

dotFans in-house accredited registrar, Fan Domains, didn’t seem to actually sell any domains and it got terminated by ICANN (pdf) at the end of March for failing to provide basic registrar services.

And now it seems the registry itself has been labeled as a deadbeat by ICANN Compliance, which has filed a breach notice (pdf) alleging non-payment of registry fees.

While breach notices against TLD registries are not uncommon these days, I think this is the first one I’ve seen alleging non-payment and nothing else.

The notice claims that the registry’s legal contact’s email address is non-functional.

In addition, the domains nic.fans, nic.fan and dotfans.com all currently resolve to dead placeholder pages.

Meanwhile, dotfans.net, the company’s official domain name as listed in the IANA database now belongs to me, kinda.

It expired March 12, after which it was promptly placed into a GoDaddy expired domains auction. Where I just bought it for £6.98 ($9.92).

dotfans

To be clear, I do not currently control the domain. It’s still in post-expiration limbo and GoDaddy support tells me the original owner still has eight days left to reclaim it.

After that point, maybe I’ll start getting the registry’s hate mail from ICANN. Or perhaps not; it seems to have been using the .com equivalent for its formal communications.

Should .fan and .fans get acquired by another registry soon — which certainly seems possible — rest assured I’ll let the domain go for a modest sum.

ICANN confirms GoDaddy Whois probe

ICANN is looking into claims that GoDaddy is in breach of its registrar accreditation contract.

The organization last week told IP lawyer Brian Winterfeldt that his complaint about the market-leading registrar throttling and censoring Whois queries over port 43 is being looked at by its compliance department.

The brief note (pdf) says that Compliance is “in receipt of the correspondence and will address it under its process”.

Winterfeldt is annoyed that GoDaddy has starting removing contact information from its port 43 Whois responses, in what the company says is an anti-spam measure.

It’s also started throttling port 43 queries, causing no end of problems at companies such as DomainTools.

Winterfeldt wrote last month “nothing in their contract permits GoDaddy to mask data elements, and evidence of illegality must be obtained before GoDaddy is permitted to throttle or deny port 43 Whois access to any particular IP address”.

It’s worth saying that ICANN is not giving any formal credibility to the complaint merely by looking into it.

But while it’s usual for ICANN to publish its responses to correspondence it has received and published, it’s rather less common for it to disclose the existence of a compliance investigation before it has progressed to a formal breach notice.

It could all turn out to be moot anyway, given the damage GDPR is likely to do to Whois across the industry in a matter of weeks.

Lawyer: GoDaddy Whois changes a “critical” contract breach

Kevin Murphy, March 13, 2018, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy is in violation of its ICANN registrar contract by throttling access to its Whois database, according to a leading industry lawyer.

Brian Winterfeldt of the Winterfeldt IP Group has written to ICANN to demand its compliance team enforces what he calls a “very serious contractual breach”.

At issue is GoDaddy’s recent practice, introduced in January, of masking key fields of Whois when accessed in an automated fashion over port 43.

The company no longer shows the name, email address or phone number of its registrants over port 43. Web-based Whois, which has CAPTCHA protection, is unaffected.

It’s been presented as an anti-spam measure. In recent years, GoDaddy has been increasingly accused (wrongly) of selling customer details to spammers pitching web hosting and SEO services, whereas in fact those details have been obtained from public Whois.

But many in the industry are livid about the changes.

Back in January, DomainTools CEO Tim Chen told us that, even as a white-listed known quantity, its port 43 access was about 2% of its former levels.

And last week competing registrar Namecheap publicly complained that Whois throttling was hindering inbound transfers from GoDaddy.

Winterfeldt wrote (pdf) that “nothing in their contract permits GoDaddy to mask data elements, and evidence of illegality must be obtained before GoDaddy is permitted to throttle or deny
port 43 Whois access to any particular IP address”, adding:

The GoDaddy whitelist program has created a dire situation where businesses dependent upon unmasked and robust port 43 Whois access are forced to negotiate wholly subjective terms for access, and are fearful of filing complaints with ICANN because they are reticent to publicize any disruption in service, or because they fear retaliation from GoDaddy…

This is a very serious contractual breach, which threatens to undermine the stability and security of the Internet, as well as embolden other registrars to make similar unilateral changes to their own port 43 Whois services. It has persisted for far too long, having been officially implemented on January 25, 2018. The tools our communities use to do our jobs are broken. Cybersecurity teams are flying blind without port 43 Whois data. And illegal activity will proliferate online, all ostensibly in order to protect GoDaddy customers from spam emails. That is completely disproportionate and unacceptable

He did not disclose which client, if any, he was writing on behalf of, presumably due to fear of reprisals.

He added that his initial outreaches to ICANN Compliance have not proved fruitful.

ICANN said last November that it would not prosecute registrar breaches of the Whois provisions of the Registrar Accreditation Agreements, subject to certain limits, as the industry focuses on becoming compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation.

But GoDaddy has told us that the port 43 throttling is unrelated to GDPR and to the compliance waiver.

Masking Whois data, whether over port 43 or not, is likely to soon become a fact of life anyway. ICANN’s current proposal for GDPR compliance would see public Whois records gutted, with only accredited users (such as law enforcement) getting access to full records.

Namecheap’s Move Your Domain Day actually works

Namecheap appears to have done a year’s worth of transfers in a single day, on its annual Move Your Domain Day promotion.

The company said this week that the promotion, which ran on March 6 this year, saw 20,590 domains transferred in from other registrars.

That’s pretty good compared to its usual transfer activity.

Registry report data shows that Namecheap usually gets 1,000 to 1,500 inbound transfers per month, across all gTLDs.

Move Your Domain Day was originally set up to capitalize on protests over GoDaddy’s support for the Stop Online Piracy Act in late 2011.

That year, when it benefited from greater publicity, the company said it saw over 40,000 transfers.

During the promotion, Namecheap discounts transfers and donates $1.50 per domain to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

This year, the EFF will be getting a check for $30,885.

Namecheap said earlier in the week that it was having problems processing inbounds from GoDaddy, which it claimed was throttling automated Whois queries, but said it would process the transfers regardless.