This afternoon I had the occasion to sit with a client who had a particular “sexy” domain name in mind: Secret<redacted>.com . She had been watching it for about 4 weeks – several times bringing up GoDaddy’s front page to reassure herself it was still available. She already owned two other domain names, so she knew what she was doing, already had a GoDaddy account, and knew how to buy a domain name.
With the intent that we were going to start her WordPress web site today, she brought up GoDaddy and I watched her again find her chosen available domain name and put it in her shopping cart. GoDaddy, a pretty slow web site under the best of circumstances, overburdened with its flashy shell game of menues, ground her older laptop to a halt.
We figured while we were waiting for her laptop to find it’s way out of the morrasse, we’d hop onto my newer netbook, and she could buy her hosting where we had planned to do, and then we’d come back to the GoDaddy screen and complete her domain purchase.
I didn’t see whether it crashed and she rebooted, or whether she simply closed the browser and started over, counting on her shopping cart cookie to carry her forward (GoDaddy cookies are very quick to maintain products in MY shopping cart, I’ll tellya), but we found ourselves starting over with an empty shopping cart.
So she entered it again in the prominant domain search box.
What? What??? WHAT???? It was now labelled a “Premium Domain” which GoDaddy would gladly sell us for $1,788 bucks!!
Something was very, very, wrong. And I was LIVID. I AM livid.
I immediately did a whois on it, and got these results:
Domain Name: SECRET<redacted>.COM Created: 2004-08-17 Expires: 2010-08-17 Nameservers: THIS-DOMAIN-FOR-SALE.COM NS.BUYDOMAINS.COM Registrant: RN WebReg RareNames, Inc. 738 Main Street, #389 Waltham, MA 02451 Administrative Contact: RN WebReg RareNames, Inc. 738 Main Street, #389 Waltham, MA 02451 Voice: +1.781 839 7993 Fax: +1.781 839 2801 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Technical Contact: RN WebReg RareNames, Inc. 738 Main Street, #389 Waltham, MA 02451 Voice: +1.781 839 7993 E-mail: email@example.com Billing Contact: RN WebReg RareNames, Inc. 738 Main Street, #389 Waltham, MA 02451 Voice: +1.781 839 7993 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hmmmm… So it says somebody has owned this domian since exactly 5 years and 10 days prior to us trying buy it, but it supposedly was a pristine domain from GoDaddy.
Well, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know a stinking rat when I smell one, and I called GoDaddy. To the best of my ability to reconstruct it, this was the conversation:
GoDaddy Support: Hello, this is Steve. How can I help you?
Myself: Hi, I’m helping a friend with her web site, and we just tried to buy a domain name from GoDaddy, and saw a really weird thing happen. It was available, we both saw it, and we put it in the shopping cart. Then her browser crashed and we had to start over, and when we searched on it again, it came up as a “Premium Domain” for $1,788. We know it had been available, we both saw it, but a whois on it now shows that somebody has owned it for over 4 years.
GoDaddy Support: What was the domain?
GoDaddy Support: Yes, that domain has been owned for over 4 years.
Myself: Then why did it come up as available on GoDaddy’s front page?
GoDaddy Support: I can assure you that domain has been owned for over 4 years.
Myself: Yes, I know what the database says. I pulled up a whois on it myself. So apparently GoDaddy’s database was wrong, because it told us it was available when it wasn’t. Or, GoDaddy’s database was correct, and the date on the whois database is wrong, and when we left our shopping cart, something tipped somebody off and it was really just bought 5 minutes ago, and somebody changed the date on it.
GoDaddy Support: That’s not possible, that would have to have been be some kind of hacker to tamper with a government database.
Myself: Yeah, so? It happens. I’ve even known some pretty smart hackers in my time. Stuff like this happens. So I’m telling you something is very wrong. Either the whois database is wrong, or the GoDaddy front page was wrong in telling us it was available. The both of us here saw it happen right before our eyes.
(My friend asked to speak on the phone.)
My friend: Hello, yes, I’ve been looking at Secret<redacted>.com on your GoDaddy front page for 4 weeks now, and it always told me it was available. Only today after we tried to buy it, crashed, and tried again to buy it, did it came up as a premium domain, and wanted $1,788 for it. It’s not that I even wanted that domain name that badly. It just really bothers me that somebody would be so underhanded.
(I could no longer hear what GoDaddy Support was saying. A couple of minutes later, she gave me back the phone.)
Myself: Well, I know that there’s nothing that you or we can do about it now. That guy owns it now. But there is something really wrong, and you really need to fill out a problem report, because there are only two possible scenarios – Either he has owned it for over 4 years, in which case GoDaddy’s database is telling people domain names are available when they’re not. Or he has owned it only a few minutes, in which case he somehow was connected into GoDaddy and quickly keyed in on an “abandoned” GoDaddy shopping cart, then hacked the date in the government database to hide his tracks. So my friend and I can’t prove a damn thing, other than that there are now two eye-witnesses to what happened. It is one of those two scenarios. You might have somebody crooked on the inside helping him. You need to write a problem report.
GoDaddy Support: Well, if we saw a lot of this kind of thing, it would be a problem, but we generally don’t get these kinds of complaints.
Myself: There is still something very wrong. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see a lot of this kind of thing. Most people wouldn’t call you and tell you. The GoDaddy site is so slow, a lot of people would totally give up and wouldn’t even bother calling you. Or they might blame themselves. Or they wouldn’t realize how really wrong this kind of thing is, or if they did they wouldn’t bother calling you to tell you you had a problem. But I’m telling you you have a serious problem and need to write a problem report so GoDaddy knows about it, no matter how little you generally see it.
(We said our goodbye pleasantries and hung up.)
By this time, after about a half hour worth of conversation, my friend had come up with a domain name she liked even better, Sacred<redacted>.com. This actually fit the spiritual theme of her planned web site even better, yet was just as “sexy” a domain name as the first one had been.
But for dang sure, WE DIDN’T BUY IT FROM GODADDY.