The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Name Games - Just Say No to GoDaddy

05-21-11-Name Games - Just Say No to GoDaddy
WARNING: This blog entry is a rant about what happened when I tried to rename this site so the URL that folks used was easier to input. Now if you are reading this entry for something about Grilling or Smoking, you won’t find it here. The only smoke you will find is any still coming out of my ears, because I am still angry. But if you are thinking of finding a host for your new or existing website or renaming your site, read on. Let me warn you it isn’t pretty. It is the tail of two companies, one company that can’t seem to stoop low enough and one which is the exact opposite.

Let me begin at the beginning. This site is made with Apple’s iWeb software and hosted on their MobileMe service. Even back in the days when it was more difficult to publish a site, publishing to MobileMe (or .Mac as it used to be called) was the push of one button. The bad news was the URL that folks entered to open the site was: http://web.me.com/jmahoney. Note the lack of the normal “www” you see most of the time. Also note the name doesn’t contain Grillin’ & Smokin’. This url used to cause problems for folks. They either couldn’t remember it or they would try to add in the “www” which wouldn’t work. In my former job I used to do quite a bit of teaching around New England. Folks would often ask about my website during the break. This was due to my former boss mentioning it in his newsletter. I finally resorted to printing out a business card sized calling card with pictures from the site, the site name and the site url on it because folks just had trouble with the odd url.

One solution to the name was to use something called Domain Forwarding. This is where you can buy a different domain name for your site and get it pointed to your website. People type in whatever url you want, assuming it is available, and the host redirects them to your actual website. a little over two years ago, I visited a web site that had instructions on how to do this process with iWeb. I wanted to investigate exactly what was involved. The first step was to have a published website. Mine was 3 years old at the time so consider that done. The next step was to find a web host who offered Domain Forwarding as a service. This website recommended GoDaddy.com, who was one of the biggest players out there. Sure, why not I figured? If they were that big they had to be all right or all those folks wouldn’t use them. Step three was to see if the name you wanted was available. So I headed over to GoDaddy to look at pricing and began the process. I searched for the name I wanted: grillinandsmoking.com and was pleased to see it was indeed available. I added that URL to my cart. This is when GoDaddy began leaving a bad taste in my mouth. The site seemed design to confuse (and annoy). There were all kinds of specials and deals for services. Throughout the process you were bombarded with popups trying to up sell you to other services and add ons. Plus they were bragging about features they gave you for “free”. Later I found these “free” features were things they are required by law to do if they are to sell domain names.

So to continue with the story: It just seemed their entire M.O. was to start with what looked like a real low price and then confuse you into buying things you may or may not actually need. As a newbie I found this annoying, because I had to sort through all this to figure out if I really did need it or not. Several times along the way I was so annoyed that I almost pulled the plug, not the trigger. I got to a point where I had to fill out personal information as part of the legal requirements for registering the domain. There was a warning that this information would be publicly available on the internet. Of course there was also another helpful up sell attempt where I could pay to have this information masked and GoDaddy would be listed as the host. People that really needed the info had to go through GoDaddy who would then contact me. At this point GoDaddy had warn me down. I really wasn’t sure what to do here and I had spent far more time getting to this point than I had planned on. So I quit for the evening to do a little research and think about the new higher price. Bright and early the next morning I decided to go through with it and pay the extra money to mask my name. I returned to GoDaddy’s site and just like the night before, I entered the name I wanted. Unlike the night before, the name was taken. This couldn’t be coincidence. Looking into it further, guess who now owned the name? GoDaddy. They might be willing to part with it, but now the price was much higher. I looked into this a little and found there was even a term for it: Front Running. This is the process where someone uses insider information to grab up a domain name and to resell it at a higher price or block someone else from using it. GoDaddy isn’t the only one doing this, but they are one of the best known practitioner’s.

Needless to say I was furious. Now or then I will be dammed if I give GoDaddy one red cent. Even if they said I could have it at the original price, I wouldn’t do business with them. Particularly after all the bad things I read about them. While I was looking into GoDaddy stealing domain name ideas, I also found vast numbers of posts describing other sleazy things they do. One of the items that came up multiple times is that they steal valuable website names from their own clients and resell them at a high price. The process is something like this: Someone has a website and buys several email addresses from GoDaddy for their domain. A third party sends an email to that site with a mis-typed address: say jon@yourdomain.com instead of john@yourdomain.com. GoDaddy sends a warning letter to their client, using the bad email address. This letter informs them they are using an email address they didn’t pay for and they have X amount of days to correct this and pay for the address or their account will be suspended. Of course the client never receives this letter, because it isn’t one of the addresses they are actually using. Their account gets suspended and under the terms of service after a certain number of days the name can revert back to GoDaddy. GoDaddy then jacks up the price for someone to use that name. Another common complaint was that emails advising people their renewal date is approaching, get sent after the fact or not at all. GoDaddy can scoop up the name that way too. Now these last two examples are second hand, but I saw for myself how they stole my idea when I put it in my cart and then didn’t go through with the purchase. Less than 12 hours later they owned the name. But you don’t have to believe just me. Do a Google search for “GoDaddy steals Domain Name ideas”. It turns up 700,000 results. There are always a certain amount of people who complain about any company, but there are too many about GoDaddy for some of them not to have solid basis in fact.

But I digress. For the last couple years I haven’t done much of anything about changing the domain name. My experience with GoDaddy left a bad taste in my mouth. After a year went by I checked to see if GoDaddy gave up on the name after their year was up. They hadn’t. A month or so after the two year anniversary I tried again. This time besides looking up the availability of the name, I visited the site. using the name. The “site” had a few pictures of kebabs on skewers and a giant GoDaddy ad. The ad said for only $45 per year I could have this great website name. This is between 3-4 times what it should have coast if they hadn’t poached it. The details were a bit confusing, but I got the distinct impression what was being said was I could use my own original idea for $45 per year as long as I kept GoDaddy as the host. Well they can take their BBQ skewers and stick them where ..... Sorry I just hope they sit on that name forever. But let’s move onto more positive thoughts.

In the last year I started hearing about a hosting company called Hover.com. Actually they were a new name and new branding for three of the service offered by various subsidiaries of Tucows.com . Tucow has been doing web hosting going back to 1999. Over 10 years is a century in internet years. Hover.com is basically the anti-GoDaddy. Hover’s site is clean and easy to navigate. There aren’t all of these popups trying to up sell you more services. They have good help and claim you will always get a live support person on the phone. Their support staff are said to be knowledgeable on all phases of their services, so any one of them can answer any questions. I did have some questions related to doing domain forwarding on a site hosted by MobileMe. So I did have to make one call to Hover’s free phone support before I pulled the trigger. I did get a live body, who was indeed able to answer my questions. I also didn’t feel like he knew only slightly more than I did. When it was time to pull the trigger, I searched to verify the name I wanted to use was available. I added it to my cart and chose whether I wanted any email addresses to go along with the domain. That was it, no attempts to up sell me on products I didn’t want or need. I went straight to the registration and payment process. The masking of my personal information was free, in fact it was turned on by default. I was in and out of Hover.com in under 5 minutes and the new name for my site was already working. You could tell that a great deal of thought had gone into making the experience of visiting this site as quick and as pain free as possible. My time is worth money and these are the intangibles people often don’t consider when they evaluate why one site costs more than another. I thought they were very reasonably priced and the clean, minimalist, easy to use website, and hassle-free experience are worth something too.

So there you have it. I would think long and hard before spending any of your money with GoDaddy.com. There are plenty of reputable companies out there, like Hover.com, who put the customer first and don’t steal their ideas for website names. In the full disclosure department: I have absolutely no connection with Hover.com other than registering my Domain name with them this past week. I heard ads for them on various computer related podcasts. I don’t know anyone who works there nor do I have any financial interests with the company. I had nothing to gain from writing this rant other than to possibly prevent some others from getting burned by GoDaddy.com. There are other Domain Hosting Companies out there that do the same type thing as GoDaddy. It isn’t illegal, but it should be. How can a company that sells domain names, be allowed to get advanced knowledge of potential website names which they can steal and then sell at a higher price? Another way of looking at it is: If this so-called Front Running is such a great idea and legal, why don’t all of the Domain Hosting Companies do it? My second purpose in writing this blog was to also suggest a better alternative, which is Hover.com. There are other good companies too. The trick is to find them. You may think we are only talking $10, $15 or $20 bucks here, so what? Well your host can steal your site name, hold your site hostage for any number of reasons and generally make your life miserable. So go in with your eyes wide open and do some research about the company you plan to sign up with. Do this homework before you go through the actual name search and registration process on their sites. There are also servers, called WHOIS servers, that can be used to look up domain names without tipping someone off as to the actual domain names you are interested in. Now that I have this off my chest this blog can go back to being about the joys of Grillin’ & Smokin’

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