GoDaddy and the SOPA Brouhaha

December 28th, 2011

In the best of times, GoDaddy can be a controversial company. And, by the way, that name has nothing to do with the function, which is Internet related. In fact, founder Bob Parsons once told my radio audience that they were looking for an available name to register, and found that GoDaddy wasn’t being used, even though the synergy with their business plan was questionable.

Indeed, GoDaddy’s controversial TV ads hardly, if ever, convey the company’s actual business. Instead, they parade beautiful women across the screen, or poke fun at that approach. But how does that tell you that GoDaddy is the right place to register your domain, or host your site?

Well, despite the unusual marketing tactics, the approach has worked, as GoDaddy has become, by far, the largest domain registrar on the planet, and, in turn, the largest Web host. Indeed, if you don’t use GoDaddy for a product or service, you probably know someone who does. Sure, GoDaddy advertises really low prices, but they’ve clearly taken a hint or two from the auto industry, where you can get a car real cheap, but you have to pay a lot more for the options that make an average vehicle a great ride. That might include the fancy radio, navigation system, leather seats, sun roof, and other frills that speak of luxury, even on a cheap model.

So, you might see a great offer from GoDaddy for registering your domain. But say you decide you want what’s called WHOIS privacy, meaning that your name and address will be kept private, and the registrar will substitute their own contact info. In practice, it means a reduced potential for email spam, or receiving bogus notices from other registrars that attempt to steal your business at a higher price. Now GoDaddy gives you their private registration service free — for the first year. After that, you pay an annual fee that’s only slightly less than the registration fee for many of their domains. So cheap isn’t so cheap.

But GoDaddy’s upsell schemes go far beyond just adding registration privacy features. Every single product and service they offer is presented the same way. The basic price is cheap, but you may need to buy an option or two to flesh out that package with needed services. A Web host plan, for example, may include 1,000 email addresses, but total storage is 1GB (on the most expensive shared hosting plan), meaning each address may use an average of 1MB. That’s hardly enough to contain more than a few messages. It’s too small for even a single email account. But don’t you worry, there’s a separate email package available. But if you want to use an email forward or alias (meaning one address points to another), you have to spring for an extra package of forwards if your domain isn’t registered at GoDaddy.

If you comb through their list of products and services, you’ll see add-ons for special DNS services, site security, and lots more, with minimal actual value except to inflate GoDaddy’s bank accounts. And, yes, I’ve tried a few, but at least they’ll give you a refund if you’re not satisfied; that is, except for email plans, where there are no refunds.

Yes, I do have some domains registered at GoDaddy, and I’m debating how long that will last. But this takes us to the curious posture company executives expressed in support of something called the Stop Online Privacy Act, or SOPA. The bill, currently being considered in the U.S. Congress, is supposedly meant to give the Justice Department the power to go after sites, primarily overseas, which sell phony goods, such as counterfeit recordings,  fashion items and prescription drugs. If a violation is found, the DOJ could seek a court order against the infringing site, which would be blocked and removed from search engines.

Now the bill has gotten support, as expected, from the entertainment industry, who is most concerned with online privacy. Supporters also include cosmetic companies, sporting leagues, and a whole lot more. The fear, voiced by the likes of Google, Face-book, Twitter and other Internet companies, is that the bill might allow the DOJ to kill sites that actually don’t contain infringing content, or linked to the wrong site in error. I would suspect just posting a link to such a site in an online forum could be regarded as sufficient cause to bring down the wrath of the authorities.

Consider also that a site mistakenly charged might be forced to spend a lot of money to hire a defense team, or just be forced out of business, putting that company’s employees out of work. This isn’t a pretty prospect.

Well, GoDaddy stepped into it by first announcing support for SOPA. But it didn’t take long until owners of high-profile sites, such as Reddit, pulled their domains from GoDaddy and suggested others do as well. Even Wikipedia might join the crowd, and while GoDaddy has tens of millions of domains in their registry, the lost of thousands was sufficient for them to change their tune and announce that they no longer supported SOPA, at least in its present form.

That business-driven turnaround isn’t satisfying many critics, who have proclaimed December 29th as Dump GoDaddy Day. If you go along with the movement, you would be expected to pull your online business from GoDaddy then and there. Now this may not always be possible. If you’ve registered your domains less than 60 days before protest day, you have to wait. That’s how the system works.

There are also reports that GoDaddy may be trying to slow down the domain transfer process, which normally takes from a few hours to about a week to complete. Already Namecheap’s CEO, Richard Kirkendall, has stated that GoDaddy is making it difficult for their customers to move their domains to Namecheap. Supposedly this problem is being addressed, but I would hope that GoDaddy would think carefully about the situation before they play fast and loose with the rules about such transactions. On the other hand, my attempts to move domains from GoDaddy to DreamHost were accomplished in a matter of hours without any problems.

As for my domains, I’m not in a huge rush to change anything beyond what I’ve already changed. I’ll probably wait until the next renewal dates are pending before I decide. Meantime, GoDaddy is entitled to express a point of view, or even change that point of view. On the other hand, perhaps the Dump GoDaddy Day movement is taking matters a little too far. Besides, think of all the free publicity GoDaddy has received as a result, and I’m not about to suggest that was deliberate.

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6 Responses to “GoDaddy and the SOPA Brouhaha”

  1. Arnold Ziffel says:

    GoDaddy has been making it next to impossible for us to transfer domains – by continuing to add steps to the process once we’ve completed the ones they’ve laid out before us. Never again will we buy anything from this despicable company.

    • @Arnold Ziffel, Well, I know of three. First you have to cancel private registration (Domains By Proxy), unlock the domain, and request the authorization code. I’ve not had a problem with these steps in transferring three of our domains from GoDaddy to DreamHost. What extra steps have you encountered?


  2. Darwin says:

    The bill has “gotten support” from the entertainment industry? They wrote the damn thing and are paying off the politicians to pass it. Be real Gene.
    You should dump your domains with them. Everyone knows what a scumbag organization the are prior to SOPA and since they are based here in Phoenix we know that even more than most.

  3. Arnold Ziffel says:

    GoDaddy is still holding onto four domain names we own, but the wife, Mrs. Ziffel, had to get on the phone multiple times and speak to some ‘executive’ to get some of the domains transferred.

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