Go Away, Daddy! The Revolting Bob Parsons and His Toxic Internet Empire
In late December, domain registrar Go Daddy spat on the notion of the open society by announcing support for the widely-denounced Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Technology firms and human rights activists quickly cried foul, revealing that the “copyright-enforcing” bill, with its overly broad definitions, was less about stopping piracy and more about restricting the flow of information to citizens. The firm caved to public pressure and withdrew support for the bill, which the US House Judiciary Committee will be voting on soon. The furore caused many Web sites (including AlterNet) to decide to pull their registrations from Go Daddy. And it shined a light on the notorious Go Daddy founder, cheekily and rather fondly profiled just days ago in the New York Times Magazine.
I refer to the Big Daddy himself, Bob Parsons.
Recently, Parsons sold 65 percent of Go Daddy to a private group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (well-known GOP supporters) for $2.25 billion – a move that will expand Go Daddy’s resources, products and global growth. Parsons will now step down as CEO, but states that his job "will pretty much continue as it has been" with a focus on the company's marketing strategy.
Parsons is one part P.T. Barnum and one part Howard Stern, so vulgar he makes Donald Trump seem refined by comparison. He first achieved notoriety with his Hooters approach to the erstwhile boring business of selling domain names. He threw taste to the wind and hired a porn actress as the first “Go Daddy Girl,” running ads featuring her "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl. Feminists howled; Parsons crowed. His business went gangbusters.
An ex-Marine and self-taught computer programmer, Parsons grew up in Baltimore and went from rags to riches to what he is now – radioactive. He is the toxic triple-distilled product of the current moral and cultural climate of American business -- a no-regrets narcissist in love with his own media image. He likes to tool around in an armored jeep named Mad Max. He throws “God Bless America”-themed parties for employees in stadiums in which bald eagles are made to soar. A diamond the size of a gumdrop glitters from his ear (channeling Gilded Age railroad tycoon "Diamond Jim" Brady). Plowing through any remaining boundaries of decency, he videotaped himself grinning over the corpse of an elephant he shot and killed in Zimbabwe to the tune of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” (he later re-edited the video to remove the most offensive portions and the soundtrack).
Parsons is the kind of businessman who figures out what gets people’s attention—like women's breasts, for example -- and determines what can be done with it without breaking the law. This is known as “marketing brilliance.”
Pursuing his own self-aggrandizement without any notion of public responsibility, Parsons works the gray areas of the law and uses the media (he has his own radio show) to influence his industry. He claims to love his customers, but peruse his personal Web site and you will see that he adores nothing so much as Bob Parsons, followed by large-breasted women wearing hotpants.
Delighted by the reactions his buffoonery produces, he is having the time of his life, like a canine wallowing joyfully in his own crap. One of his four principles of entrepreneurial success is to “enjoy the ride.” “We’re not here for a long time," he burbles. "We’re here for a good time."
Not to put too fine a point on it, Parsons is a sociopath.
His political views demonstrate Parsons' marked lack of feeling for fellow creatures and his disregard for those irritating encumbrances known as "laws." He has supported abusive interrogation methods at Guantanamo Bay on his blog (later redacted) and believes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a new wing of the nanny state. On Fox Business, he explained his view that laws are anathema to justice (quoting Cicero, no less).
Parsons' objection to protecting consumers is a cherished value. As Dan Mitchell reported, Go Daddy has been guilty of arbitrarily yanking sites without notice from the web and has made it technically difficult for people to move their domain names.
Full disclosure, I had a run-in with his company a few years ago. Someone used my credit card information to hijack a Web site that I owned and had registered through Go Daddy, which also hosted the site. When I tried to address the issue, customer service basically told me: "tough sh*t, you'll have to sue the party." They refused to do anything at all to resolve the situation, and refused to take any responsibility for not protecting my Web site. The arrogance and dismissive attitude were breathtaking. I spent countless hours addressing the problem through legal channels. I now use Register.com. There's debate over which registrar is the best alternative, but many agree that any firm but Go Daddy is an improvement, and the good news is that many companies are currently offering transfer deals in the wake of the Go Daddy controversy. For instructions on how to move your domain name, click here. My experience, of course, is merely a personal anecdote, but check around and you may find similar stories.
Since Parsons announced the new private equity venture on July 1, 2011, Go Daddy surpassed the 50 million domain name mark. True, over 37,000 have moved their domain names since the Reddit-driven transfer day on December 29, but that's just a drop in Big Daddy's Bucket.
As his predecessor P.T. Barnum once put it, there's a sucker born every minute.