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December SOPA Update: GoDaddy.com

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go daddyEarlier this month we took a look at the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) as it made its way through hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, through amendments, strong objections and ultimately a question on whether or not those folks in the room were even qualified to make any rational and informed decision on the topic.  Eventually the proceedings were postponed and will pick up again when the House reconvenes after the holidays, but that doesn’t mean that December has to be devoid of all SOPA news, does it? Politics aside, there was still a fair amount of SOPA news in the last two weeks or so, the majority of it revolving around one of SOPA’s public supporters, domain name registrar GoDaddy.com.

While many other internet companies lined up to publicly oppose SOPA as a death sentence to the free web, GoDaddy supported the bill and other related legislation like Protect IP as a viable method for policing piracy on the internet.  They went so far as to publish and op-ed piece on Politico shortly after the bill was introduced praising the bill, as well as providing written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in support.  It seemed strange really, as they were the only internet company named in the Committee’s list of corporate SOPA supporters, in a field of entertainment media production companies (Disney, etc.) and organizations that represent entertainment media and related special interests groups like the RIAA and MPAA.

This of course irked the ire of some of their customers, culminating in a Reddit-fueled boycott of GoDaddy by poster selfprodigy, who planned on moving all of their 51 domains away from GoDaddy’s services.  As of right now the post has over 3,000 comments and a Reddit score of 4,409 points with more and more people voicing their opinions on the matter.  While GoDaddy pretty much ignored the boycott as a nuisance to start, bigger threats from bigger customers like Ben Huh of the Cheezburger websites started to come in (with his 1,000 GoDaddy registered domains), and GoDaddy turned an about face, stating in a news release that they would no longer support SOPA.  But was that public reversal of policy nothing more than a parlor trick to woo customers back and keep the ones they still had?  Their support for SOPA cost them about 37,000 domains and it looks to me that the only reason they “reversed” their position was an increasing loss in revenue streams.  An interview with GoDaddy CEO Warren Adelman by TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey also shows how this change of heart might not really be for real:

“Adelman couldn’t commit to changing its position on the record in Congress when asked about that, but said “I’ll take that back to our legislative guys, but I agree that’s an important step.” But when pressed, he said “We’re going to step back and let others take leadership roles.” He felt that the public statement removing their support would be sufficient for now, though further steps would be considered.”

“Sufficient for now.”  It’s pretty clear that GoDaddy hasn’t changed their position, but instead have publicly run to the middle with Swiss-like neutrality, which only further tells me that “We don’t support SOPA” doesn’t translate into much more than “We don’t support losing customers and their cash.”  Adelman goes on to say that he will support SOPA when the internet community does and that there has to be “consensus about the leadership of the internet community.”  Leadership of the internet community?  That’s just the point, no one owns the internet, and this statement further shows how out of touch GoDaddy is with reality and the internet community they claim to serve.  Having dealt with GoDaddy before, and reading other pre-SOPA stories of how they operate, it’s just not that surprising. 

Other pro-open internet registrars like Dreamhost, NetGator and Namecheap are taking this as an opportunity to take some of GoDaddy’s customers through SOPA coupon codes like “NOSOPA” and SOPASucks.”   Namecheap is even running an offer through December 29th in which they will donate $1 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for each domain transfer from GoDaddy.  NameCheap CEO Richard Kirkendall had the following to say on SOPA:

“While we at Namecheap firmly believe in intellectual rights, SOPA is like detonating a nuclear bomb on the internet when only a surgical strike is necessary. This legislation has the potential to harm the way everyone uses the Internet and to undermine the system itself. At Namecheap, we believe having a free and open Internet is the only option that will continue the legacy of innovation and openess that stands for everything we all value in our modern society.”

GoDaddy really shot themselves in the foot here.  This series of moves is going to lose them a lot of business.  But if you’re the “silver lining” type, the GoDaddy mass exodus could be ammunition against SOPA supporters in Congress as a “here’s what we think” sort of statement.  We’ll see.  If you’re looking for another domain name registrar, Lifehacker has a list of some decent ones that are not pro-SOPA.

And about that “leadership of the internet” thing, I’ll throw my hat in the ring for “Internet Elder.”

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