There’s a trending post on Hacker News that accuses GoDaddy of front running domain names that are searched for on its website:
“searched a few days ago for felons.io, looked for unique names for simple game didn’t know if I wanted it or not
guess godaddy decided for me: 1 days old Created on 2020-09-16 by GoDaddy.com, LLC
just a warning if you have a special name do not use godaddy to check if its available”
I did a Whois search to see if I could see the registrant of the domain name, and while the H/N thread starter is correct in that the domain name was just registered yesterday at GoDaddy, it does not appear to be registered by GoDaddy. Although GoDaddy redacts most Whois information, I am able to see that the registrant is based in New York. GoDaddy is based in Arizona. There does not appear to be Whois privacy enabled.
From what I can see, it does not look like the domain name is listed for sale via GoDaddy or its network. If it were, there would be a “for sale” notice along with the asking price on the domain name search results page pictured below. The domain name is not resolving to a functioning website either.
After reading the trending Hacker News thread, I reached out to GoDaddy to make sure the company policy has not changed since the last time I covered this topic. GoDaddy Registrar Vice President, Paul Bindel shred the following statement with me today:
“GoDaddy never has and never will register domain names based on customer searches. This is an unethical and predatory practice that runs counter to our mission of helping people bring their ideas to life online with the best possible domain name.”
Update (September 18): GoDaddy published a blog post this evening about Felons.io, the domain name that was mentioned in the Hacker News thread. According to the blog post, GoDaddy’s “fraud team flagged the transaction as fraudulent.” As a result, the domain name is going to be deleted, and it will become available again to register at some point in the very near future.
I still believe what GoDaddy says – the company does not buy / register domain names that were searched by customers. There are probably millions of searches every month, and the volume of domain names that would be registered would be very large. In addition, it would be a massive scandal if the allegations proved to be true, especially considering the company has publicly called this practice “predatory,” and “unethical.”
The unfortunate thing is that the coverage generated by the Hacker News post will probably put this domain name on the radar of many people, and it will likely be snapped up pretty quickly.