No Domain Front Running at GoDaddy

A few days ago, someone wrote an accusatory comment regarding domain name frontrunning at GoDaddy. The comment was made in an article I wrote about GoDaddy’s “Steal a Great Domain Name” marketing campaign at baseball games. Here’s what the commenter wrote:

“The funniest thing about the article is that the author failed to mention actually steals website names. If you don’t believe me, go to their website choose a common last name and add a company name behind it like (it has to be an available one of course) Check it about a day later, and it’ll have been bought up by, you guessed it,”

This would seem like a sketchy tactic, and in fact, Network Solutions was sued because of front running back in 2008. I was confident GoDaddy does not do any domain name front running, but to be sure, I reached out to the company to ask for an official statement about it. Here’s what Rich Merdinger, VP of Domains at GoDaddy, told me about the company’s policy:

“GoDaddy has not and does not front run domain names. Our goal is to provide our customers the best possible experience – registering domain names our customers search is counter to that goal and what we stand for.”

After reading the accusation, I did a domain name search for “” at GoDaddy to confirm that this was not happening. When I checked the availability of the domain name the next day, it was still not registered. A few days later, this domain name is still unregistered. I would bet that readers could look up random domain names at GoDaddy, and if they are unregistered today, they will most likely be unregistered tomorrow. As I mentioned to Kristian in a follow up comment, if an unregistered domain name appears to be registered shortly thereafter, it could be one of four reasons:

1) It was coincidental and someone else bought the domain name. With hundreds of millions of registered domain names, it is possible that more than one person is searching for a domain name.

2) A typographical error was made during the initial search. This typo domain showed up as unregistered, but a subsequent search of the correct domain name showed it was registered. Checking the registration date can confirm it’s not front running.

3) Database error showed the domain name as unregistered. I don’t think I have ever seen this, but I imagine it could be an issue.

4) The ISP, web browser, or a keylogger is monitoring browsing and registered the domain name.

Domain name front running is something that would give a bad user experience to customers. In addition, the upside is far lower than the downside, which includes serious public relations risk. I don’t think people really need to worry about domain name frontrunning at GoDaddy.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. It can be frustrating when the perfect domain someone wanted is grabbed by someone else and no longer available. It’s sad that false blame is sometimes placed out of frustration, but one thing to learn from this incident, for a potential registrant, is to make sure you are ready to buy when you do your availability search. Procrastination has a way of causing us to miss out on things in all areas of life, not just in domain registrations. 🙂

    • Agreed. I have a process that searches for high powered, aged, dropped yet that are likely higher value as well. These are not the super premium domains nor are they new clever names. I’m SEO first, domainer second.

      These are the sort of domains I’m referring to:

      Not top shelf, but a lot nicer than what SEO’s are usually using to rank other sites. I have no idea what the above could or should sell for? Advice welcome..

      Of these sorts of aged and dropped domains generally by the time I look at a batch 20% are gone. Now I pick all the domains I want before I check availability since the this would now be the second time the domain gets pinged since it was checked initially to end up in my sort. That second check gets noticed. If it’s a gem that should have been caught by the registrars I find if I check and then ADD out and try 20 mins later either its taken or it’s now a premium domain with higher price.

      And it’s ten dollars.. 😉


  2. Coincidence or scrapping software?

    I was looking to buy a domain name in the travel space a few years ago. I had My aha moment, checked availability, checked a couple weekend later, still available.I had planned on purchasing that Friday.. wife into labor. Spent the weekend having our daughter. Went to purchase it on Monday and it was gone. I did a who is search. Contacted the owner, who is a seasoned domainer/ business developer in the Vacation Rental space. Yep he said he developed a scrapping software.

    Coincidence or not, if you want it and it’s available, you better buy it on the spot.

    The Domain was

    Platform for crowdfunding trips for little leagues, wedding parties, cheerleading competition. Bucket list, etc.

    • I presume you mean “scraping software” but I don’t buy it. I don’t see how someone would scrape Whois lookups at GoDaddy.

      Additionally, using DomainIQ, I searched the Whois email address of that registrant and see 14 domain names registered. I don’t think someone who has developed scraping software to find Whois searches at GoDaddy would own such a low volume of domain names. That doesn’t add up to me.

      Unless I am totally missing what you are saying.

      I agree with your advice though. If you see something available, register it.

    • There is no such thing as a ‘scrapping’ software for WHOIS lookups.

      Scraping is the practice of extracting text from public third party website pages using a bot. This is more less what Google does.

      WHOIS lookups are not public so it is not possible to scrape them.

      In addition it would be useless as you would get thousands of queries for worthless domains.

      You would have to spend a lot of time to review the queries you get just to get a usually mediocre name.

    • Our company has experience this with GoDaddy numerous times over the years. It is very sad but we eventually found a former GoDaddy employee who admitted to doing this and even explained to us the process of how GoDaddy achieves the domain name stealing game. I and my colleagues have told many people about this and even experienced it with several of them. Suffice it to say we have kept a lot of people from using GoDaddy but unfortunately it’s just a tiny collection of a few grains of sand and compared to all the customers they have and who knows how many they have stolen from. There are many lawsuits hundreds if not thousands against the company for many reasons this is one of them.

  3. 5) Not keeping the name secret and mentioning it in front of someone (acquaintance, colleague, friend…) or in public (meeting, interview, cafe, article…) can result in someone rushing and registering the domain before you do.
    Sometimes, even without telling the exact name, people might try to guess what you’ll name your new business by knowing a certain detail, such as the industry or field, e.g. YourName+Travel.

  4. Number three is quite possible and happens at any registrar.

    Consider a standard avail check on a domain. There are many sources of authority, but the two most common are the DNS zone and the registry itself. For many registrars, if the registry is failing by being down, experiencing network issues with EPP connections, or any of a number of reasons, a registry might fall back on DNS as a second-best source.

    If the name is unavailable but lame delegated, it could show as available erroneously. This would be temporary, of course, and an attempt to purchase would fail, but a name could look available even if it was not.

    It’s nobody’s fault other than just a transient failure, but conspiracy theorists might interpret it differently 😉


  5. It happened with me just 2 hours ago at Godaddy. I saw a domain name, added it to cart along with other 7 domain names. Now I went to the search page again and re-checked the same domain, it was showing available and added to my cart. DONE.
    I was just resetting the registration time to 1 year (by default it shows 5 years), Suddenly this particular domain disappeared. All other 7 domains were intact.

    Now the status of the domain shows “Offer Now” with 50 times higher price just within 1 minute. If it was on auction, it would not allow me to add to the cart isn’t it?
    If somebody bought it before me, is it possible to put it in auction within a minute or less?

    Now, I have a screen shot of my cart. I took it because the same thing happened with me a month ago.

    Coming to what Christopher Ambler has mentioned:
    Last week, I paid and registered 10 domains, I received a confirmation for 9 domains. Another email stated the registration failed. I ignored it thinking may be by error.

    In today’s issue, no possibility of somebody buying it before me. Database error happens only on one word domains premium looking domains? Other domains are as it is.

    I wrote to Godaddy that I would go to Icann if they do not transfer both the domains to my name.
    Anybody who wants to get the screen shot, please let me know.

    • I too just checked and realized that. But then why are they available in the first place at the starting price?

      For today I even have a screen shot. I think here I do not have the option to attach it

    • No idea. Maybe you made a typo or perhaps there was a registry (not registrar) issue that allowed them to show as available. Whatever the case is, this is not a case of front running. It is a good example of why people think there could be front running when a couple of additional checks would show that something else happened.

      At least you didn’t put on a tinfoil hat and make a ridiculous claim that it was front running and the registration date was changed to hide this 🙂

    • This happens often. GoDaddy stealing domain names. There are many lawsuits against them. Here’s what I recently wrote. My suggestion is if you don’t want this to happen don’t use GoDaddy but be careful they’re not the only ones that do this.

      Our company has experience this with GoDaddy numerous times over the years. It is very sad but we eventually found a former GoDaddy employee who admitted to doing this and even explained to us the process of how GoDaddy achieves the domain name stealing game. I and my colleagues have told many people about this and even experienced it with several of them. Suffice it to say we have kept a lot of people from using GoDaddy but unfortunately it’s just a tiny collection of a few grains of sand and compared to all the customers they have and who knows how many they have stolen from. There are many lawsuits hundreds if not thousands against the company for many reasons this is one of them.

  6. I’ve had experiences with both GoDaddy and other registrars that will show a domain as being available, but when you continue on it will not be available, but that usually happens before you get to your cart or check out. It’s almost as if they do this on purpose so you will continue on their site. It’s not front-running, but it’s deceptive practices to say the least.

    I would imagine that a company like GoDaddy uses their domain look-ups to gather data which could lead them to purchase domains. I do not see that as being outside the scope of possibilities.

    What are your thoughts on that Elliot? I’m not suggesting front-running, but using the data with or without customer consent to make future purchases which could be a domain that a user types in based on an influx of other data for a particular word, phrase, trend etc.

  7. I had an experience with an Enom reseller in 2001 which I’ve mentioned just a little bit before:

    1. Found a good domain available, my best find of the day and ever after starting domain investing some time in 2001. I was very happy about it and really wanted to get it regged asap.

    2. Had already regged I guess many that day in succession, I was a frequent customer making many regs. I.e., “they” very possibly saw my activity a lot, even possibly in real time. I never knew that was even possible till a Canadian registrar in Canada told me they were watching my activity during the time of the .US release.

    3. Was just going to be another reg paid for the same way I was already doing that day, but…

    4. When I tried to complete the payment, the transaction was simply stopped. No message, no nothing, nada, just an impassable freeze.

    5. After that, you could not register the domain anywhere, and the domain apparently did not even exist either – zero, zilch, game over. No domain anywhere, and no ability to register it anywhere either. Needless to say, I was quite concerned.

    6. I printed out a stack of screen shots which I still have to this day.

    7. Lo and behold…exactly 3 days later all of a sudden the domain exists again, but is registered to BuyDomains with a registration date 3 days later than my blocked efforts to register the domain, and every effort to register it during the previous 3 days or even just find evidence the domain even existed given the inability to register it anywhere at all. So, to summarize, my order was placed on:

    ExampleMonth X, 2001

    But the BuyDomains registration date when the domain finally sufaced from the mist was:

    ExampleMonth X+3, 2001

    And no, it had nothing to do with my payment source either. In fact, I just went on registering more domains after that although I was very concerned about it.

    It was only sometime later during the time of the .US release when I learned for the first time that a company could be watching what you are doing with your account in real time that I realized how really plausible (and likely even, based on the facts that occurred) that what may have happened was that someone at the reseller company was noticing what I was doing with all my regs that day and realized I finally found a really good one, so they blocked my transaction. “Oh, can’t let him have that one, we can make money on that one with BuyDomains.” I wonder if they already had an arrangement with BuyDomains for that kind of thing, or if they did that entirely on their own initiative. And of course, I still don’t really know what actually happened. All I know is what did happen, and what did happen is as consistent with that kind of thing as it gets – especially the part about how the domain mysteriously both did not exist for the next three days and yet could not be registered anywhere until it finally showed up at BuyDomains with registration date three days later than what would have been mine.

  8. I have to disagree based on a recent experience. I did a domain search TWO days ago. I didn’t register. Today, the domain is taken by GoDaddy, not owned by any outside person, just parked and owned by GoDaddy. I looked at the WHOIS and it was purchased and created by them the SAME DAY. That is NOT a coincidence as it was never owned by anyone before.

  9. this happened to me last month .searched for lots of items related to the product found one i liked .family got ill and i went back month later now it seems to been registered nearly the same day and on go daddy.whats the odds of it being registered and held on go daddy .not a particulary obvious name either

  10. I’m late to this thread however i KNOW for sure that this happens. I looked for a website on Godaddy using some specific lettering. i won’t say the exact name but lets say it was this :….when i looked back a few days letter the website i had looked at had been bought and registered and the odd capitalisation was on the official registration for the website….It should be illegal. I will now buy a version of what i wanted. But would prefer However i am not paying the person who stole the name from the search engine. Domain name front running should be illegal and punishable.

  11. This just happened to me a few days ago. Searched for the domain on godaddy and it was available on the 2nd and on the 4th GoDaddy registered it:

    Domain Name: SCHOOTY.COM
    Registry Domain ID: 2387317124_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
    Registrar WHOIS Server:
    Registrar URL:
    Updated Date: 2019-05-04T12:50:34Z
    Creation Date: 2019-05-04T12:50:33Z
    Registry Expiry Date: 2020-05-04T12:50:33Z
    Registrar:, LLC
    Registrar IANA ID: 146

    • No, GoDaddy did not register that domain name. The domain name is registered AT GoDaddy but it is registered TO a registrant in Dubai.

  12. Definitely believe there is front-running going on at GoDaddy. Either they are doing it or there is another way for third party hackers to monitor searches? Switched to and same thing happened, even when pushing the search icon is not required. I found available sites, moved away from them or clicked on them to initiate a buy and then it is not available or it is available for $945 by “Dan” at “Awesome Domains.” Bogus all around. No place is safe so have to buy it for $10 asap or lose it. P.S. Simultaneously, my cell phone starts getting hack calls from all over the country when this happened. Did not register to buy any domains or give out any information but have some domain names already registered with with “privacy protection.” Domain name marketing needs better oversight and regulation.

  13. Same thing happened to me. I searched through GoDaddy a few weeks ago, there were multiple extensions available (EG: .app, .biz, .net, etc). But the one I wanted I had clicked on a few times to check it was still available. Now if I do a `whois` lookup, all the details of the registrar happen to be “REDACTED FOR PRIVACY”.

    You can’t tell me that this is a coincidence, that domain has sat there forever until I went to look at it and whoever bought it knew they were doing – enough to hide their identity. Either GoDaddy are responsible, or their site is being hacked.

    Had I have known Front Running was a thing at the time, I would have purchased on sight, just in case. Lesson learned. I didn’t need it that bad though to be honest, so I’ve gone to another site to register a comparable one. I’ll never use GoDaddy again after this experience.

    • The “REDACTED FOR PRIVACY” Whois details are used by domain names at Enom/Tucows. I don’t believe GoDaddy-registered domain names use that Whois.

      If you tell me the name, I will take a look and see what I find out.

  14. Does your conscience, if you have one, not bother you for this cover up? Of course godaddy is front running aka stealing domains. They did this to my .com domain so I had to settle with a .net. They also registered my expired domain as soon as it became available. Sorry for them I intended to throw that domain due to penalties so good luck with that trash. Hahaha and I was able to, again, experience their dirty scheme. So how much did Godaddy pay you for lying? God even dignity has a price nowadays. It would be far better if you’re just genuinely ignorant about this but seems the former makes more sense.

  15. They just sniped and stole a domain that was registered in 2019 and was expired. Namecheap had it, and I went to go register on namecheap since it showed them as owners. The domain let me put into the cart and got to checkout it wouldn’t let me buy it on namecheap. I figured it just became available and I would go back the next day or 2 and see. Then for backup information I went to godaddy and searched the domain and it told me the exact information namehcheap did. That it was expired and pending deletion. 2 days later now I look again and Godaddy registered it the same day that I searched off their site. 100% front running.or selling their searches to 3rd party auction platforms to re-sell searched domains that have better potential.

  16. Everyone can try. Search domain “” at godaddy is unavailable, where you can register this domain in any other domain registration service provider. You can’t even find any registration of this domain in godaddy’s whois database.

    If their search engine didn’t do filtering algorithm with dictionary of good names and register your “search” domain, how can this can happen?

  17. Today GoDaddy stole or facilitated the stealing of my company’s name.

    I it yesterday and I didn’t buy right away because I wanted to pay with my company’s new debit card instead of my personal card.

    Today the domain was registered by GoDaddy…

    One short real word .LLC

    Such a shame this shady, unethical practice still happens and goes unpunished to this day.

    • Interesting. I see the domain name was just registered at GoDaddy. I will send a link to your comment to someone at GoDaddy to see if they can comment about what happened.

  18. I had different experience. Few years ago, i was looking to do bulk registeration at GoDaddy from list i prepared beforehand. I talked to customer support if I can get any discount code but the guy was more interested in looking at my list and insisted to send him the list before he could provide any coupon. And I moved to another registrar.

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