GoDaddy's Reversal a Win for Customer Pressure

Giant domain name registrar GoDaddy.com has pulled its support from the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act after owners of several websites announced they would take their business elsewhere.

Negative feedback about SOPA from a number of customers forced GoDaddy to take a second look at the legislation, said Warren Adelman, Go Daddy's newly appointed CEO. Go Daddy has concerns about the free speech and Internet security implications of the legislation, but until now, has worked with lawmakers to address those issues, he said.

"It's clear to us the bill's not ready in its current form," Adelman said Friday. "Looking at this over the last 20 hours, we're not seeing consensus in the Internet community, we're hearing the feedback from our customers."

Boycott Threatened

On Thursday, Reddit user selfprodigy said he was pulling 51 domain names from GoDaddy because of the registrar's support of SOPA. The same day, Ben Huh, CEO of the Cheezburger family of humor websites said said his company would move its 1,000-plus domains off Go Daddy unless it dropped its support for the bill, known as SOPA.

On Friday, Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales also threatened to move from Go Daddy. "Their position on SOPA is unacceptable to us," Wales said in a tweet.

Feedback from customers was a huge reason GoDaddy switched its position, said Adelman, formerly president and COO at the registrar. "As a company, one of our core values is listening and taking care of our customers," he said.

The Wikimedia Foundation was "really glad" to hear of GoDaddy's reversal on SOPA, said Jay Walsh, communications director there. "SOPA is an attack on the free and open Web," he said. Projects like Wikipedia need an open and free Web to thrive and function."

Still, the foundation will be reviewing its hosting service providers in 2012, Walsh said. "Jimmy's statement is still correct -- we are looking at new providers," he added.

Legislation's Breadth Questioned

In April, GoDaddy General Counsel Christine Jones told lawmakers that the company would support efforts that required DNS blocking as a way to strike at foreign websites that infringe U.S. copyrights. As of Friday, Jones has removed posts at GoDaddy.com describing the company's support of provisions in SOPA.

Also this week, conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, normally a strong supporter of copyright enforcement, voiced opposition to SOPA. The think tank has "serious and legitimate concerns" about SOPA's impact on Web security and freedom of speech, wrote James Gattuso, senior research follow in regulatory policy at Heritage.

SOPA, in allowing court orders to block the resolution of IP addresses by servers in the U.S., could entice Web users to "use less secure servers elsewhere to continue accessing blocked sites," he added.

SOPA still has strong support in Congress and among companies in several U.S. industries. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the driving forces behind the bill, has said that more than 400 organizations have voiced support.

The bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders blocking payment processors and online advertising networks from doing business with foreign sites accused of infringing copyright.

DOJ-requested court orders could also bar search engines from linking to the allegedly infringing sites. The court orders could require domain name registrars to stop resolving queries that direct traffic to those sites, and require Internet service providers to block subscriber access to sites accused of infringing.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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