Go Daddy Really Screwed Up

Christmas passed without a fallen snowflake at Go Daddy's Arizona headquarters, as the former supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) watched tens of thousands of customers flee its business.

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Christmas passed without a fallen snowflake at Go Daddy's Arizona headquarters, as the former supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) watched tens of thousands of customers flee its business. The Domains, a web analytics blog, reported on Christmas Eve that customers moved 37,000 domains off of Go Daddy's service in two days, and by the next day, another 28,000 had bailed. Maybe it has something to do with that Reddit boycott planned for December 29, and maybe it had to do with recent reports that Go Daddy shuts down domains at the drop of a hat -- but the business sure is dealing with a reckoning.

In case you missed it, the great Go Daddy Boycott of 2011 started with a single call to action on Reddit. After the company came out in support of SOPA -- they'd even submitted a testimony to the House Judiciary Committee praising the bill's aggressive approach -- quite a few customers got on board the boycott effort last week. The company's chief executive Warren Adelman stepped forward and pulled Go Daddy's support of SOPA less than 24-hours after the boycott went viral, but he didn't exactly speak out against the bill. He sounded so sincere at first. “Go Daddy is no longer supporting SOPA, the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ currently working its way through U.S. Congress.” Adelman said in a statement last Friday, after the Reddit boycott caught fire. But then he waffled a bit. "Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation -- but we can clearly do better. It’s very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this," Adelman continued. "Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it."

It could be argued that Go Daddy's half-hearted criticism of SOPA only served to piss off the bill's opponents even more. Though the number of domains moved off of the service could be attributed to every day spillage. The Domains reports that on Friday "Godaddy.com lost 21,054 domain through transfers out to other registrars, [but] they received 20,034 transfers into Godaddy.com from other registrars." Meanwhile, other protests have popped up. Anonymous promised to go ahead with the boycott, despite the statement, since Go Daddy could change its stance but it couldn't change the extent to which the company had helped prop up SOPA to begin with. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales vowed to migrate all of Wikipedia's domains away from Go Daddy's servers around the same time Adelman balked on his company's support. Then things got nasty. On Monday, plans to "Google bomb" Go Daddy's website surfaced on Hacker News. (A Google bomb is a concerted effort to remove a certain site from the top of Google's search results.) A couple days prior, one user pointed out that Reddit's preferred image-hosting site Imgur.com was registered through Go Daddy on Friday, and its founder promised to join the boycott effort just a few hours later. (Remember: This disdain is being expressed during Christmas, the most cheerful time of the year.)

Then again, some might say that Go Daddy had it coming. The most visceral concern about the effect of SOPA involves the bill's potential to censor the Web, but there's evidence that Go Daddy, one of the biggest domain registrars in the world, has already been doing this. David Rusenko, founder of Go Daddy competitor Weebly, blogged on Monday about how GoDaddy axed his company's domains after a single complaint back in 2009. "[Go Daddy] had received a complaint about the content of a site, and that they were removing the DNS entries for weebly.com because of it," Rusenko explained in his post. "I asked him if they had contacted us previously -- he responded that they hadn't. The site in question featured a bad review of a local business, and that business had complained." This is more or less the same process that would enable the government to block domains following a piracy complaint. But in the name of skepticism, let's not forget that Go Daddy and Weebly are direct competitors, so of course Rusenko would stand to gain by telling stories about how Go Daddy censors sites.

All things told, we're still a couple of days away from the planned Go Daddy boycott, and the worst is probably yet to come. We'll keep an eye on the number of customers fleeing Go Daddy's business, but given its history of hijinks, we're tempted to pay more attention to Anonymous's as-yet-unannounced plans for a protest. Anonymous's telling tweet reads: "@GoDaddy We do not forgive, We do not forget. We are legion. Expect us. #BoycottGoDaddy."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.