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Does the truth matter?

False information does significant damage.

Picture of a newspaper with the headline "Fake News"

False allegations and stories seem to travel around the internet much faster than the truth. And I’m not just talking about politics.

Last week, a Hacker News story made waves when someone suggested that GoDaddy engaged in frontrunning searches; i.e., it saw what a user was searching for and then registered the domain for itself.

The story was easily proven false. The Whois for the domain in question showed that the registrant was in New York. GoDaddy then explained the search history for the term leading up to its registration.

So a false story that was easily proven wrong. But the damage was done. People now recall seeing a story about GoDaddy frontrunning, and they’ll continue to spread that story or at least keep it in mind next time they register a domain.

Don’t believe me? In a follow 0n Hacker News post that links to GoDaddy’s explanation, people still remember bad things about GoDaddy from many years ago. The problem is they are actually thinking of a competitor. One user wrote:

At least at some time in the past, registrars (and IIRC, Godaddy specifically) definitely did do this. To the point you could enter any string of random characters in their search box and it would show up in whois shortly thereafter. Apparently things have changed, but the initial accusation was not far fetched.

If I recall correctly (IIRC)? How about looking this up before saying something false about a company?

What this person is likely recalling is that a competitor did this. Network Solutions briefly engaged in frontrunning in 2008. It was a bad idea with a specific intention. Network Solutions didn’t keep the domain for themselves but reserved it so the person could only register it at Network Solutions. The company said there was frontrunning going on somewhere and did this to counter it. But it had nothing to do with GoDaddy.

Someone else wrote, “Godaddy always did this like for over a decade.”

As someone who has covered the domain name industry since 2005, I can say that this is categorically false.

Another user wrote:

I used to own [myfullname].com. I inadvertently let it expire, and godaddy immediately bought it up and listed it for purchase at multiple thousands of dollars…

When someone questioned how this user knew that GoDaddy bought it, another “helpful” commenter stated:

GoDaddy nameservers will show up in a WHOIS for the domain and GoDaddy uses a branded parking page. Attempting to register the domain would offer it for whatever sum. They don’t really hide it at all.

Anyone who regularly reads Domain Name Wire knows what really happened here. The domain expired, someone else registered it and listed it for sale.

Some helpful people in the Hacker News thread tried to point this out. And at least one person recognizes the absurdity of the whole situation:

The fact that a completely unsubstantiated accusation [1] from a throwaway HN account got an astounding 1,615 upvotes yesterday…

…really saddens me.

Like they say, “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on it boots.”

I really wish people had higher standards for actual evidence before jumping to conclusions…

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  1. Lifesavings.online

    The whole world is messed up in this regard. Even small lies are taken up and ran with, like a herd of sheep doing it, and protecting the perpetrator. Stand up against them, and you’ll be shunned away. It’s ‘social justice warriors’. Everyone wants to change something. Everyone wants to make a big bust or a name for themselves.

    Social media has done this, largely with their ‘like’ affirmations. There is no room to ‘dislike’ anymore. The narrative is ABSOLUTELY set by the OP. Any objection to OP is ‘NOT NICE’. This is what people are falling for. The OP has some special immunity to criticisms!

    It is a lot of shills. Shilling online is WAY worse than most people imagine. Like, smears, just like this.

    If you invest in stocks, you might notice there are whole firms dedicated to ‘short selling’. This is because they can buy shorts, churn out fake news, then drive the price down. It is A LOT easier than driving it up.

    They often control and moderate the comment sections too. Such liars are protected with such bias, that any strong words against them are simply labeled ‘abusive’.

    That whole hackernoon thing could have been commented on by only a few people, at least to get the ball rolling.

    It’s not a conspiracy theory. This happens. Often competitors are behind it.

  2. Michel

    Not so fast, my friend! It did happen to me in the past. Do I recall the name? Nope. It’s been a few years and I have moved on! Nothing I can do about it.

  3. Marco

    Many moons ago I used to get emails from people who said I have targeted their names and spied on their whois or registry searches because they were monitoring the expiry of so and so domain but I happen to purchase it before them. This has been going on for more than 25 years now.

    Lies and persecution have been with us for centuries. The truth shall set you free — it just may happen after you (or your brand) perish…

    • Lifesavings.online

      There are lots of ways to determine what type of people are these deceptions.

      1) They are often playing coy.
      2) Biggest proponent of ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all’…

      Let me stop there for now and explain #2. They know that they lies they tell are extremely difficult to 100% debunk. A lot of evidence is empirical. They use this ‘good guy’ mask to be the *ACTUAL* evil ones! They don’t want you to oppose them.

      We don’t have to be nice all the time. Why you think people reg total garbage? Lies. And we are told to ‘be nice’. That doesn’t work. Some people need to be told strongly otherwise, by many people. Alas, it’s ‘not nice’.

      So you’re left with failures. Oh yea, the liars stealing their money and the social justice moderators feeling righteous and powerful.

  4. Squarely

    I had a couple of domain names in my GD cart for a couple of days, haven’t removed them out from the cart and received a couple of emails stating.. please complete the transaction if not someone will reg them.
    How the hell do they know what domains that I wanted to reg?
    And scary thing is the email comes from “godaddy” header but not from godaddy.

    • Squarely

      This scenario is similar to Amazon, they keep a close eye on what selling and then manufactured them under their label…and killing the 3rd party vendors.
      Of course, Amazon promotes their own products as “Amazon Sponsored”

  5. John

    Truth matters.

    However, if you want to eventually make your way over to the idea that the big social media tech giants are justified in all their censorship and flawed and bogus “fact checking,” then you would be completely wrong and misguided.

    As has been well expressed, the solution to bad speech is more and better speech, not the elimination of free speech.

    Truth and falsehood matter so much that even God makes particular mention of it in one of the very last verses of the Bible:

    “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Revelation 22:15, NASB)

  6. Charles

    In the spirit of your article I will not name names.

    Last year I did some very “obscure” whois lookups, and did them at the registry not a registrar. I reged one domain and was considering the others. A week later I came back and all the others were reged.

    I am convinced the registry “leaked” my queries via a keyword suggestion tool somewhere.

    Could I prove that? Probably, but I’m not wasting my time with it. Now I just download the zone files and query against them so that nobody sees my queries ever again.

  7. thelegendaryjp

    Not related to GD but in terms of does the truth matter in any regard? I once heard a statistic that stated something like half of the country (United States) will believe a lie said by any given politician. Bias plays a part sure but the real truth is the education system and or peoples willingness to research and educate themselves is likely as much at fault. So back to GD, I have no doubt a large groups of people who heard the narrative believed it in this case with no desire to educate or research immediately after or ever.

    • Charles

      Outside of a church, ask 10 people to define truth and you are likely to get 10 different answers.

      See Plato’s Alegory of the Cave. See also “Turtles All the Way Down” = Infinite regress = Platos Cave, within Platos Cave, ad infinitum. Or the six blind men around the elephant ….

      Each registrar Whois Query does not involve just the registrar. Add in Registry level keyword suggestion tools and there is no way to be sure what is really going on with each query. Not to mention how would a registrar implement a suggestion tool? Certainly there are events that cause certain keyword frequency to increase and feeding that back into a suggestion tool would in no way be unethical.

      I’m not trying to muddy the water. I am admitting that I’ve no clue what REALLY happens to a whois query these days, and that there are lots of profitable reasons to announce it through various suggestions tools for others to reg.

      • Josh

        I admit I am as unsure of the answers but I am sure someone knows lol I do know that any rar that would use that info to profit would in my opinion be unethical. We can always get philosophical about such topics but personally I remain simplistic in my approach. If a rar used searches of specific terms to offer names you may like to registrar I see no issue with that to be honest. What we are dealing with here is narrow, do they reg names customers wished to. I have seen nor can find no evidence of GD doing this. On the flip side I am a realist as well, I am not as green as I once was. Let’s say it is leaked GD did do this, class action settlement for X already a calculated factor considering they made XX doing it. The sad part to me in the grand scheme of things is unethical and smetimes criminal behavior in socity and by large corporations is literally “worth” it.

        • Charles

          Let me clarify what I am saying:

          One way or another, when a registrar performs a Whois query that query is processed by the registry. The Registry then returns the response to the Registrar, who then returns it to the client making the query.

          What responsibility does the Registry have regarding the queries made to it?

          If the Registry offers any type of keyword suggestion tool, then another client at that same registrar or elsewhere might be presented that domain (or a derivative) BY THE REGISTRY through the registrar interface to that suggestion tool. If the domain is registered then I can’t see how the registrar could be blamed even though it might look they they participated.

          What responsibility does a registry have regarding the whois queries made to it? Should such data be denied any keyword suggestion tool(s) it provides? As various trends take place such keywords will move to the suggestion tool. If someone queries a domain and then fails to register it, why should that query be denied the suggestion tool? It can be assumed they were not interested in registering the domain as they clearly did not do so.

          I’m not trying to take a position here, I’m trying to point out there are lots of tap points for these queries and in the end the registry’s fiduciary responsibility is increasing reg counts.

          Recognizing that there are multiple tap points and competing priorities is not philosophical, its recognition that this issue is likely more complex than just the registrar whois tool. Each of those blind men around the elephant have something to offer, and still there are parts of the elephant not yet explored.

          Thus I’ll no longer use the whois system to check for domain registration status of domains I have an interest in. I may however just go right to trying to register them.

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