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 don’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 it’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.”
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.