At least a couple of times a year, I am either emailed by someone who thinks GoDaddy is front running their attempted domain name registrations or I am sent a link to this type of accusation on social media. While front running was an issue many years ago, I am pretty confident it doesn’t happen any longer at any sort of scale, particularly at large domain registrars like GoDaddy. There are too many reasons why registrar front running doesn’t make sense.
I want to highlight something I just experienced that could easily look like front running to someone without domain name industry knowledge. It is definitely not front running, but it could appear that way to someone who just wants to buy a single domain name at GoDaddy.
I have been keeping an eye on .AI domain name sales. It’s quite remarkable to see so many reported sales in different places. Namebio has recorded $5.5 million worth of .AI aftermarket sales year to date.
I do not own a single .AI domain name, although I have been casually looking. I was curious to see if I could find any available interesting keyword .AI domain names via GoDaddy’s search tool. I started with 1,000 keywords and searched for the top 500 on the list – the most names I could search for via GoDaddy’s bulk tool.
To my surprise, 112 interesting keyword names showed as available out of the 500 I searched:
This was literally unbelievable.
Domain names like Lyric.ai, Wren.ai, Azalea.ai, and many other great domain names were showing up as available to hand register. I quickly looked at ten of these domain names, and they all were registered. Some of these had what appeared to be full-blown AI-related businesses operating on them.
I put a bunch of these names into my shopping cart to see what would happen. My total was more than $2,000 in registration fees:
Knowing that I shouldn’t be able to register these names, but happy if the registrations went through for some reason, I clicked the Complete Purchase button. Instead of being taken to the usual receipt page, I was shown an empty shopping cart error page, likely because GoDaddy saw these names were unavailable when it re-pinged the .AI domain registry to secure them for me.
What I imagine happened is there was a connection error between GoDaddy and the .AI registry when I searched for these domain names. When GoDaddy attempted to register the domain names on my behalf, they were unable to do so because someone else owned them.
If I didn’t have extensive domain industry experience, this could have looked like domain name front running. One minute the domain name is available and when I decide to make the purchase, it is not available. To someone searching for a single domain name at GoDaddy, this could be compounded if the desired domain name is registered at GoDaddy and the registrant uses GoDaddy’s Domains By Proxy proxy service.