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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.

NameCheap resurrects anti-SOPA transfers promo

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2013, Domain Registrars

NameCheap has decided to bring back the promotion that saw roughly 20,000 domain names transferred to it from Go Daddy, in protest of the company’s stance on US legislation, a year ago.

Its “second annual Move Your Domain Day” will be on January 22, with inbound transfers costing $3.99 (a buck cheaper than last year) on domains in the five biggest gTLDs.

It will donate $0.50 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for every transfer, escalating to $1 and $1.50 if it gets more than 10,000 and 20,000 domains respectively.

The original promo was an opportunistic move to capitalize on Go Daddy’s support for the censor-happy Stop Online Piracy Act, which caused a great deal of controversy a year ago.

SOPA is now of course dead, and the senior Go Daddy executive who was most vocally in support of the bill, general counsel Christine Jones, is no longer with the company.

Belarus cuts itself off from the web

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2012, Domain Policy

You think the Stop Online Piracy Act is bad policy? Be grateful you’re not Belarusian.

The former Soviet state has reportedly banned its citizens from accessing foreign web sites, in a law that becomes effective later this week.

“Registered” entrepreneurs in the country will also be forced to use domain names registered in Belarus (presumably .by), according to a report from the Library of Congress.

Users accessing foreign sites face misdemeanor charges and fines, while operators of WiFi hotspots, such as cafes, face the shutdown of their businesses for violations, according to the report.

The law, as reported, appears to be so insanely Draconian I can’t help but wonder if the Library of Congress has got its facts wrong.

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.

Whois throttling returns to bite Go Daddy on the ass

Kevin Murphy, December 26, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy has been accused by a competitor of “thwarting” domain name transfers in violation of ICANN rules. (Note: story has been updated, see below).

The problem has reared its head due to the ongoing SOPA-related boycott of the company’s services, and appears to be related to Go Daddy’s decision earlier this year to throttle Whois queries.

NameCheap, one of the registrars that has been offering discounts to Go Daddy customers outraged by its recently recanted support of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, blogged today:

As many customers have recently complained of transfer issues, we suspect that this competitor [Go Daddy] is thwarting efforts to transfer domains away from them.

Specifically, GoDaddy appears to be returning incomplete WHOIS information to Namecheap, delaying the transfer process. This practice is against ICANN rules.

We at Namecheap believe that this action speaks volumes about the impact that informed customers are having on GoDaddy’s business.

It’s a shame that GoDaddy feels they have to block their (former) customers from voting with their dollars. We can only guess that at GoDaddy, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Part of transferring a domain from Go Daddy to NameCheap involves checking the identity of the registrant against Whois records.

Judging by a number of complaints made by Reddit readers today, it appears that NameCheap and other registrars are attempting to automatically query Go Daddy’s Whois database on port 43 at sufficient volume to trigger whatever throttling algorithm Go Daddy has in place to prevent the “harvesting” of contact data.

Go Daddy caused a similar ruckus earlier this year when it started blocking DomainTools and other Whois aggregation services from collecting full Whois records.

The registrar giant claimed then that it was trying to protect its customers by preventing the inappropriate use of their contact data.

However, while blocking a third-party information tool is merely annoying and disturbing, interfering with legitimate inter-registrar transfers could get Go Daddy into hot water, even if it is inadvertent.

NameCheap says it is doing the required Whois look-ups manually for now, and that it will honor each transfer request.

Giving Go Daddy the benefit of the doubt, I assume that this problem is ongoing largely due to the Christmas holiday, and that it will be rectified as soon as the appropriate people become aware of it.

Add this to your list of reasons .com and .net need a thick Whois.

UPDATE: All registrars have access to an ICANN service called RADAR, which enables them to specify the IP addresses they use to query competitors’ Whois databases.

Whitelisting IP addresses in this way could prevent a registrar’s queries being throttled, but not all registrars use the service.

According to this screenshot, NameCheap has not whitelisted any IP addresses in RADAR, which may be the reason it is having problems transferring Go Daddy customers’ domains to itself.

DomainIncite