Providing Whois Privacy Isn’t Free

Running a whois privacy or proxy service costs money.

In the recent uproar about introducing a fee for whois privacy, a number of people have said that such a service costs the provider essentially nothing.

Without discussing the merits of’s new fee and how it communicated it, it’s worth pointing out that whois privacy does cost the registrar money.

First, there’s the legal set up fee and structure of an entity to act at the proxy. (There are two types of whois privacy services. Most are actually “proxy” services, which register the domain name and license it to the registrant.) That’s no small potatoes if done correctly. Then there’s the technology aspect.

But a bigger cost for domain privacy services is ongoing legal headaches. When a domain using a proxy service is served with a UDRP, the proxy service generally unmasks the whois information. But complainants sometimes argue that the proxy provider is actually the domain owner. Some panelists agree. Add to that frequent requests from law enforcement agencies and courts.

I was reminded of this today when I saw that a Florida man just filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against both GoDaddy and its Domains by Proxy, Inc. subsidiary. The man is claiming defamation because someone used Domains by Proxy to register a domain name that he says is being used to bad mouth his services.

So while the incremental cost of providing whois privacy for a domain name may be small, there are certainly costs.


  1. says

    “So while the incremental cost of providing whois privacy for a domain name may be small, there are certainly costs. ”

    I don’t think that anyone would argue with that. Nothing is truly free.

  2. Shorty says

    GoDaddy charges an additional fee to process these types of requests in addition to the Whois privacy charge…..not sure about other registrars.

  3. says

    Most of the whois privacy services are useless. Once they get an email from a lawyer they immediate show real data, no checking if there is any merit to it. Others like GoDaddy charge you a lot of money for “processing” such requests.

  4. says

    Andrew –

    Thanks for the peek inside some of the costs of doing business for registrars. There are dozens, probably hundreds of little processes and costs like this that factor into the price of a domain name. I won’t go into the merits of charging for Whois Privacy, or anyone’s decision to make pricing changes for their customers. What is more interesting to me is the transparency of pricing in the domain industry. I’m constantly amazed at the lack of clarity that customers face when they are choosing a domain registrar. Its really easy to *advertise* $1.99 domain names, but no one ends up paying that price. We did a recent survey of leading registrars and found that the final price paid was anywhere between 25% and 3000% of what the advertised price was. Registrants deserve better than this and I’d love to see more of the leading registrars step up to a real commitment to transparent pricing. I really don’t understand what they might have to hide.

  5. right says

    @ Ross Rader

    No need to apologize Ross, the “lack of disclosure” you speak of is something people in the domain business have come to expect from Tucows, its your forte.

  6. says

    Sounds like someone has an axe to grind. Are you referring to something specific, or just making general unspecified allegations? We’re an open book operation, so I’d love to hear more about what you are describing.

  7. rightisright says

    Let test your openess. Ross perhaps you can post a list of all the domain names owned either directly or beneficially by tucows and its subsidiaries. Just the typo and tm inclusive names would be fine. :)

    Was tucows originally “open” about its realtionship with yummy names or did it take oversight from the domainer community to out you.

  8. says

    Well, we’re open about the fact that we own a ton of names, and we’re also open about the fact that the majority of those names have come through acquisition (and not the drop). i.e. Mailbank. I don’t think we’ve ever published our portfolio, which is a pretty common practice in the industry. We don’t publish a list of our customers either, but that doesn’t change our commitment to being transparent about our practices or doing right by our customers.

    As far as our relationship with Yummynames goes, yes – we are Yummynames. When has that ever been a secret?

    My hunch that you’ve got an axe to grind is growing stronger.

    • says

      I’ve got to side with Ross on Yummy Names. Here’s the original press release:

      Toronto, October 29, 2008 – Tucows Inc., (AMEX:TCX, TSX:TC) a global provider of domain names, email and other Internet services, today announced the launch of YummyNames, a new service providing exclusive access to a large selection of premium domain names from the Tucows Domain Name Portfolio.

  9. says

    I’m glad to see that more registrars are beginning to charge for WHOIS Privacy.

    Apart from UDRP and other name related issues, if your details, as a registrar, appear in WHOIS for a domain that is being used to infringe copyright, defame etc., you end up being hit with a lot of annoying, yet costly legal threats for actions that you know nothing about.


  10. daniel says

    Interesting how Right disappeared when called on his allegations.

    Probably a troll who works for godaddy…

Leave a Reply