No Domain Front Running at GoDaddy

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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 GoDaddy.com actually steals website names. If you donโ€™t believe me, go to their website choose a common last name and add a company name behind it like johnsontravels.com (it has to be an available one of course) Check it about a day later, and itโ€™ll have been bought up by, you guessed it, GoDaddy.com”

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.โ€

After reading the accusation, I did a domain name search for “kristiantravels.com” 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.

29 COMMENTS

  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 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:
      unemploymentlawyer.net
      quadraticequations.net
      adaptogens.net
      calgarylawoffice.com

      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.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Richard

  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 VacationKarma.com.

    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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Christopher

  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 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 itย’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 : WeBsiTeNaMe.com….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 co.uk version of what i wanted. But would prefer the.com. However i am not paying the person who stole the name from the search engine. Domain name front running should be illegal and punishable.

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