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False information does significant damage.
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  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…
Post link: Does the truth matter?
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