GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving does IAmA on Reddit

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GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving does IAmA on Reddit

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving has answered a whole range of questions by doing an IAmA on Reddit. Topics included future plans, past errors and other topics.

It takes a brave man to face the masses on Reddit, especially when GoDaddy has been involved in a few controversies in the past that have made front page Reddit News (SOPA @N debacle).  For those who don't know, IAmA is a subreddit on Reddit where people are allowed to ask the participant anything. 

You can see the full IAmA here but we have highlighted the main Q & A's in Blake Irving's IAmA that took place a couple of weeks ago below:

Q. What are your thoughts on net neutrality

A. I believe that a free and open internet is the best way to empower people and grow economies and anything to the contrary is to be avoided.

Q. Given the "misstep" before I would take silence from GoDaddy to suggest they support it and the reversal was simply a PR move.  Support net neutrality? Prove it. Support pro-neutrality candidates or make substantial donations to the EFF.

A. That's a solid idea and we'll consider it.

Q. If I recall correctly, GoDaddy was a supporter of SOPA and other similar legislation. Would you mind explaining your stance on these issues?

A. The company did initially support SOPA, and frankly, they got it wrong. Once the company better understood the legislation, they reversed their position. Of course, the damage to the company's reputation had already been done.  I can guarantee that it won’t happen again.  The fact that I was recruited to the role (and I'm known as staunch advocate for 4th amendment rights and customer protection/privacy) is evidence that the lesson was learned.

Q. Damage done indeed. I read the title of this and thought: 'Hmm. I can't precisely remember who GoDaddy is but for good reasons I intensely dislike them." And now I remember why. It's good that you seem to want to do better though. Now action!

A. Action now is right. I’ve been cranking on improvements across the board since I joined in Jan 2013. The company has been incredibly responsive to changes but everything takes time when you are “painting the plane at 30,000 ft, changing the engine and taking on passengers ” Just pop over the our front of site and right away you’ll feel a different vibe. Fire up an instance of Managed WordPress Hosting and you’ll know something has majorly changed!

Q. Actions will speak louder than words. Though I'll say as long as this guy doesn't go around shooting elephants, he's already better than the last guy.

A. The only thing I point at elephants - is a camera.

Q. Re: "customer protection/privacy" Evidence that GoDaddy's customer protection/privacy is still shit. Article TLDR; GoDaddy customer support agents have allowed callers to guess account-ownership / verification information and used it to gain access to an account.

A. I answered this in another thread: This was a complicated attack and it’s important to put it in context as a single, stand-alone incident. Yes, it sucked, but it was a one time incident. The hacker already had a large portion of the customer information needed to access the account when he contacted the GoDaddy rep. He just needed two digits. The customer regained full access to his accounts without any data loss. The war against hackers is a constant war of attack / counter attack and we continue to train our reps on the latest counters. We’ve put in place many measures to avoid similar attacks in the future.

Q. Have you done anything to improve your security in light of the Twitter account @n being stolen starting with an account takeover to a domain hosted at Godaddy?  "According to Hiroshima’s narrative, the GoDaddy support agent simply let the hacker guess them, two by two, until he struck upon the right combination, unleashing the keys to the account. The hacker reported to Hiroshima that he told GoDaddy he’d lost his card, but remembered the last four digits, opening the door for the guesswork operation."

A. This was a complicated attack and it’s important to put it in context as a single, stand-alone incident. Yes, it sucked, but it was a one time incident. The hacker already had a large portion of the customer information needed to access the account when he contacted the GoDaddy rep. He just needed two digits. The customer regained full access to his accounts without any data loss. The war against hackers is a constant war of attack / counter attack and we continue to train our reps on the latest counters.  We’ve put in place many measures to avoid similar attacks in the future.

Q. Brave to do a reddit AMA. As you may know the godaddy rep isn't great around here. What are some great things about the company that you'd like to tell the community that you feel has been lost to your critics?

A. I know our reputation around reddit is pretty challenged. I think if the community knew how wonderful the people are at the company, how authentic and sincere we are in our quest to build better products that help small business, designers and developers, they'd have a different opinion. The amount of positive change that has happened over the last two years is substantive and genuine. There is still a ton to improve - but we're working hard to move GoDaddy forward.

Q.  I was running a website with a basic GoDaddy hosting plan and a link to my site was on a popular subreddit. The traffic crippled my site. I called customer service, and apparently GoDaddy has an absurdly low concurrent connection limit. The only upgrades available would have been a 500% increase in price.  What do you intend to do to remove the stigma that GoDaddy is the McDonalds of hosting?

A. We actually refer to this as the "Reddit effect" when we talk about this customer need. Seriously. In our legacy products the standard solution was to upgrade you from Shared to a VPS or DED which was a big jump in price BECAUSE it was a big change in technology but I get that both of those things were bad customer experiences. My product team in hosting is building a solution right now that has a couple benefits for exactly this scenario. First, the product will tell you when you're site is ramping up traffic and will encourage you to make sure you have a hosting plan that meets those traffic needs. What’s awesome though is the new solution will actually ‘burst’ for some amount of time to handle surprise increases in traffic but the upgrade to the next tier will be simple and priced just for the resources you need. No buying a whole box if an incremental step will get the job done. In addition to the ability to step up in "resources" and only pay what you need, we’ll also give you a consistent user experience. No more going from a standard control panel into a "c prompt."

Q. Why has Godaddy made managing domains, it's core business, convoluted to achieve?  Go to the homepage, login, click my products, quicksearch for domain name to edit, hit launch, click through a page nagging about upcoming expirations, have to research for the domain because the expiration notice interrupted the workflow, click manage, pause for a second to determine if what you want to edit is in the zone file or if it is a special record that GoDaddy has decided is too important to be allowed in the normal zonefile editor, make changes, go back to the special record area as apparently you were wrong about it being a "special" record type' and then finally make the changes. I'm working on convincing my company to move. Editing dns entries should me a one-minute affair(3 steps or so), not a three-minute affair with 7-8 steps. Most customers thankfully use my companies nameservers, for those with complex dns though, you guys make it unnecessarily complicated.

A. I agree there are a ton of improvements we can make in managing domains and we're on it. There are plenty of things to update so it's not going to be a 1 day turn around and your feedback is consistent with the work we're doing. If you have ideas about stuff we can make better we'd love to have you share your feedback!

Q. Literally all of your ads are porn. Please explain.

A. The GoDaddy of yore did polarizing ads and yes, they featured scantily clad women. They drove a boat load of attention, but totally alienated women and frankly made me uncomfortable. When I joined, I had a very different vision about telling people who our customers are and what we do for them. Now, if this ad looks like porn..... JCVD

Q. This ad is hysterical. MUCH better direction.  Before you came on, I went through considerable hassle to transfer ALL of my business away from GD...and I'm usually a pretty lazy non-zealot about these kinds of things. That's how misguided/flawed the old guard was.  So good luck and thanks for sticking your neck out here. Smart move and worth it imho.

A. Thanks, Really appreciate the props. We have a ton more to do to regain trust, but we're working our tails off to make GoDaddy awesome.

Q. You mention above that you are "known as staunch advocate for 4th amendment rights and customer protection/privacy". What's your stance on the last year's worth of NSA revelations, and what steps is GoDaddy taking to protect your customers' data from government surveillance?

A. I don’t want governments accessing our internal systems including customer information. Period full stop. I'm unaware of any tapping or infiltration of our network by the NSA. I've asked our ops team in the past if they've ever seen signs of NSA successfully tapping and they've always answered "no." For us to turn anything over to the government they need a court order. Doing it any other way is bullshit and I agree with people who say it’s a breach of customer trust when company’s jump to side with governments over customers.

Q. Do you register domains when people search for them and then don't buy them?

A. Absolutely not. Never. There are literally millions of domain searches every day with a surprising amount of overlap. Most people have a hard time imagining that there is someone else in front of their computer doing the exact same search (and pulling the buy trigger) but it happens all the time. Where people seem to struggle is that GoDaddy sells “new” and aftermarket domains—which means that if anyone buys a domain for the purpose of “flipping” it for a profit (there is an entire industry built around this) than one week a domain can be available new and next week at a higher aftermarket prices. Employees at GoDaddy with access to any relevant systems are not allowed to do domain flipping and GoDaddy as a company absolutely never does it. It would be short-sighted and horrible business.

Q. How can you explain the famous social engineering attack that made @N lose his coveted twitter account? I am positive you are intimately familiar with this, but in case you are playing sheep, here is a link describing it. http://www.eweek.com/blogs/security-watch/saving-n-how-social-engineering-stole-a-user-identity.html

A. I answered this in another thread. This was a complicated attack and it’s important to put it in context as a single, stand-alone incident. Yes, it sucked, but it was a one time incident. The hacker already had a large portion of the customer information needed to access the account when he contacted the GoDaddy rep. He just needed two digits. The customer regained full access to his accounts without any data loss. The war against hackers is a constant war of attack / counter attack and we continue to train our reps on the latest counters. We’ve put in place many measures to avoid similar attacks in the future.

Q. Would you consider investing more heavily in your name servers? It drove me away from you guys awhile back as your service was fine, and once names got cached it was nice and quick, but the name servers were Terrible

A. Great question! DNS is core to our business and we are investing in name servers in a big way. This is probably one of those "you should see the scale of this thing!" problems. So you have a sense, we currently support about a quarter of Internet DNS queries so the team is continually working to improving our response latency (which is quick) and capacity.

Q. Could you please comment on this ? I get that the people who made the decisions that lead to this issue (and who determined the response) were only following protocol, but the fact remains that this woman is now being harassed and defamed due to your company policy. She shouldn't be getting responses from the people who follow the policy, she should get a response (and an apology) from the people who made the policy.

Policy has to be adapted to the world we live in, and a system where you have to give a spammer the email address of the complainant just so they can verify that she hadn't opted-in clearly doesn't work. At the very least, it verifies that the email address is in active use and makes it likely to be targeted again. At the worst, it provokes a nasty response.

A. I agree completely. We are looking at this issue now, and evaluating not only the policy, but how we manage interactions with customers and impacted parties, like Skepchick. Both need work.

Q. Do you have any plans to make whois guard included in a domain purchase? It makes it very hard to purchase domains in bulk when each one is going to cost an additional $7.99. I moved over 500 domains from godaddy to namecheap recently to avoid that cost and the constant "your domain is about to expire" e-mails when the domains don't even expire for another 3-4 months. Godaddy is obviously good at making money I just wish there was a clean way to register domains without all of the upsells.

A. Awesome call out. We're revisiting all of our products and thinking about how we serve those of you who work in bulk. We'd love to get you engaged in our reseller community where this stuff is discussed or you can post a general comment in our product forum where all our Product Managers spend time.

Q. How much extra traffic did your website receive after the commercials of Danica Patrick in a bikini went live?

A. We never put Danica in a bikini. But commercials featuring Danica have historically driven Web traffic. As an example, immediately following the 2008 Super Bowl ad with Danica, we had more than 1.5MM views on the GoDaddy.com site immediately after the game.

Q. When do you think IPv6 will start to take a bigger hold in the domaining world?

A. The market seems pretty complacent right now and it will likely be the limited IPv4 availability plus the growing number of connected devices that will force it to happen. I was actually surprised to see companies selling IPV4 addresses in the after market. Apparently there's pretty high demand.

Q. Any plans to take Godaddy's customer support out of the stone age?

A. First, we have millions of small business customers who tell us that they want to be able to call support directly. I know devs and designers mostly don’t what that and since we’ve joined forces with Media Temple, we’ve made serious progress in live chat and social support. More to go? Way more. Sure, but I love what we’ve done so far.

Q. How many tacos can you eat? Follow up question, what kind of a vacuum do you use?

A. Are we talking Doritos tacos? Then the answer is 50. I can eat 50 Doritos tacos.Then, I use a Dyson to clean up the piles of Doritos dust.

Q. Blake, did you see my Godaddy SuperBowl Commercial Spoof? There was another Redditor who claimed to work at GoDaddy corporate who said the video had been passed around the main office. Wondering if it made it all the way up the ladder. Thanks!

A. Yes, I did! I freaking loved it. We even posted it to our Facebook page. I shared that video all over the place. Damn funny and brilliant!

Q. What has the response on the new gTLDs been like? Do you see businesses moving away from the crowded .com space towards .app, .mobi, etc.?

A. We are seeing very good demand for the new gTLDs. The first names started coming out around the beginning of February, so it is still early - but what we hear from users who are buying these names is that it offers them an opportunity to get a name that is more personalized to them or their business. .GURU has seen good demand, and we're also seeing vertical-specific names like .PHOTOGRAPHY do well. .COM remains highly popular though, and we don't see that changing anytime soon.

Q. Lots of negative comments, how about a positive one? I'm working on a website for a family business and using GoDaddy. I had a question about the email servers so I called support. They were extremely helpful and respectful. I had a great experience with the support team. I would eventually love to work with GoDaddy in some way. What can I do in high school to accomplish this goal?

A. If your passionate about technology and love solving problems, keep building sites, improve your tech skills and keep learning. We'd love to have someone who has the passion and the skills to help small businesses and developers.

Q. As a massive company, GoDaddy has to be knowledgeable at managing a great deal of diversity. When it comes to the equality movement for equal rights for LGBT* people, how is GoDaddy contributing and treating their employees? Costco health insurance covers Gender Reassignment Surgery as well as transition related health expenses for Transgender employees, does GoDaddy or will you in the future? I saw your booth at Phoenix Pride and was very excited to see it there, hence these questions.

A. We don't have gender reassignment surgery in our health package right now, but we are adding it next October, which is our next benefits cycle.

Q. whoose idea was the slutty ads. 12 year old me thanks you

A. The ads were devised to drive attention and put domains and the GoDaddy brand on the map, and they certainly worked. They were totally polarizing however. Bob Parsons, our founder, was the main driver. Our new ads focus on small business owners, and are more representative of what we do and who we do it for. The days of the shock and awe are behind us.

Q. What instruments do you play?

A. I've been a drummer since I was about 7. Even keep a drum kit in my office.

Q. Could you give us a synopsis of your career path? I've always looked at CEO/director positions as something I'd love to do in the future, but getting there seems like some kind of dark art.

A. I’m pretty sure that if I set my career goals on becoming a CEO, I’d never have gotten here. I started my career as a jazz drummer and graphic designer—focused on typography. The design side of things led me to Xerox in the early PARC days, designing early display and printer fonts. From there I worked as a PM on printers, then multimedia PCs, and found my way to Microsoft where I dug in on communications and cloud services, long before we called anything the cloud. I had some product wins with NetMeeting, Outlook Express, MSN Messenger, Hotmail, Payment and advertising systems, and building horizontal services with APIs the company could use. That gave me increasing opportunities to lead large groups of employees. When I went to Yahoo! I took that cloud and product focus with me and added a focus on making the company mobile forward (which is continuing after me). My advice to you would be find areas that you can make big impacts and work your ass off to make that impact. Surround yourself with great people (it’s a cliché because it’s true), be consistent, be a “real” person and treat people who work for you like you work for them. And please be fun to work with. That last one is vastly underestimated.

Q. Do people ever tell you that GoDaddy sounds kind of like a porn site? ps thanks for the ama

A. We actually shifted our advertising approach last September to be more about HOW we help our customers grow their businesses online. When the company first started, it used edgy, racy ads in order to attract attention. The ads brought a lot of attention to the brand, so in that sense it worked, but it alienated way to many people. My mom is a good example of someone who was alienated. We've evolved a bunch over the last year or so and so has our advertising. Women in our ads now are more reflective of our customers, who are smart successful small business owners.

Q. GoDaddy who came up with that name?

A. GoDaddy's name was developed after two days of brainstorming & research online.  Brainstorming often results in you getting a bit "punchy".   As a result, GoDaddy came up as a joke.   In fact, when the employees first heard the name, they all thought it was a joke.  But, the next day, they came in and said…   you know, we really like that name -- it makes you smile, feel good, and it is memorable.  These are the qualities that build a great brand name.

Q. Why Danica Patrick?

A. Danica brings a lot to the table.  She's an incredible inspiration for young women and anyone who dreams big. She's succeeding in a male dominant sport, which is pretty damn cool. She's one of 13 drivers in an elite club to have led both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. That's pretty impressive.  She works her ass off and does a great job representing the go-getter in all of us.

Q. how do you plan on making anything other than .com (.tv .photography .whatever ) more 'easily recognizable' I have a hard time when registering domains not going with .com because it implies that it is a website where as .tv might be more applicable in the situation or something to that effect. If you don't have an answer to this I guess just hire me and I'll figure it out for you. Deuces.

A. .COM is recognizable because it's been around for a long time and has such widespread adoption. With the new names, we don't expect every one of the 100s of names that are coming out to be successful. The first challenge is we have to make small businesses aware that these new names exist, and we'll be doing increased messaging around them as the year goes on. We'll let the market vote, and as we see names start to get traction, we'll support those more heavily. We do think that there will be adoption in various professional and interest communities as they see both big companies and their peers using new names. The other and perhaps more important thing we're doing is changing the search experience that will make it super easy to find domains that make sense for your business. It will be key word based and you won't have to type in a domain string. Much smarter than the search experience today. Stay tuned.

Q. I'm moving 60 domains and hosting from Godaddy because our email was down for four days. When I called tech support they just tried to sell me domain renewals and search engine optimization.

A. That sounds totally lame. I’m bummed your business was impacted and our care team didn’t respond in a way that solved your problem. Did this happen last week? A software update introduced an error into a maintenance process on Monday for a small number of email customers. Your old email is still on GoDaddy’s servers even if you were not able to retrieve it or send email at times during the week. We credited those customers' accounts for the downtime. And we are making process changes to ensure this problem doesn’t occur again. What, if anything can I do to get you to stay with us?

Q. What were you thinking when you use data of the number of searches for a domain to boost up the price?

A. We don't do that. There has been a bunch of speculation that we use customer data to set prices and it just flat out doesn't happen. (I even asked a developer to pour through the code to confirm and it isn't in there.)

Q. Hi Mr. Irving I loved that GoDaddy used a Sikh man in the Super Bowl commercial two years ago, I'm working on an event in Washington DC on June 7th about Diversity and Inclusion would GoDaddy be able to attend and address why you chose to include a Sikh [turbaned] man in your commercial?!

A. I liked that one, "Your Big Idea," which hopefully inspires people to get off the couch and get their business idea going. We wanted to illustrate how all kinds of people, all over the world have ideas they can take online and create a business.  How can our team contact you? Let's see what we might be able to do to help out with the Diversity event.

Q. a while ago i searched if a domain was available, it was. i thought id wait a couple of days before buying it. when i checked again godaddy bought it. whats with that?

A. I've heard that too, so I asked the team if that happens. Short answer, it doesn't. I had an engineer walk through the code. It doesn't happen. Someone could have bought it. It wasn't us.

Q. Blake, I started to work at GoDaddy in 2002 (employee 133) and left in 2007 when the environment was no longer fun and employees on the development side of the company were just being pushed around without regard to a good work/life balance. Now that you're commanding the ship, how do you make GoDaddy a great work environment where developers and product managers feel appreciated? I ask because I've been thinking about joining the team again.

A. We have quite a few early folks making their way back because of the changes they're seeing. In addition to the customer feedback I receive commenting on the improvements, there are a ton of things that signal we're doing the right stuff with our culture. An improved work place, clearly defined culture and values, a long term vision and strategy, all wrapped around our customers. Check out our manifesto of kick ass Our development goals are long term, and we're doing iterative and agile development, where developers ship products they're proud of and then iteratively improve them further version after version. The developers and product managers are at the center of this newly defined culture and I know they'd not only tell you they're appreciated, but at the core of how we're changing this company for the better.

Q. With a pending IPO coming up, what are your thoughts on the supposed "tech bubble"? How is GoDaddy positioned to withstand a bubble popping?

A. I think technology is one of the strongest sectors in our economy. Who's to say this is a bubble?

Q. Thanks for taking time to do this AMA! What's a typical day as CEO at GoDaddy? Also, what's the funniest/weirdest thing that's happened at the office so far?

A. I think my work life and office life are probably parsed more radically than most folks in tech because I live in San Luis Obispo and work (mostly) in Scottsdale. To make that work I jump into work virtually completely when I’m in Scottsdale and then jump as fully as possible into my family and friends when I’m home. A typical work day for me 7am to 7 pm meeting with employees and partners. At home I try my best to do no work at all—and succeed reasonably well. My family likes to surf, bike, help in our community and explore the world. We do a pretty good job making time to have fun and enjoy life. Oddest thing that happened to me in the office? I got dressed in the dark and wore two different shoes to work. Didn't notice until 2:00.

Q. Hi Blake, I recently purchased my first domain from GoDaddy to support a business that I have started. I was extremely pleased with the customer service and utility of the domain shopping portion of the site. However, I also purchased the website builder and I have found its templates to be buggy and inflexible. Do you know if the website builder will be updated anytime in the near future? Thanks in advance for your time.

A. First of all, thank you for the feedback. I’ve also seen a few buggy things in Website Builder in a couple different versions of browsers. There’s a new version coming out (hopefully pretty soon) that really improves the theme selection process and the designer tool stability across a wider selection browsers and browser versions.

Q. Hey Blake! I see that you are a car enthusiast like me! What is your all time favorite car and why?

A. I love the old mid 80s slant nose Porsche 911. Great car.

Q. I moved my domains from GoDaddy during the SOPA mess. Give me and others a good reason to move back or use your services again.

A. Why come back? 1) Our brand and advertisements now reflect our company’s real values (we didn’t change values, we just started showing what we live in our ads) 2) I’m a product guy and our products are better than ever (and will continue to evolve aggressively). For products, we’re deploying them on a unifying platform that will make all services work seamlessly together—no one else seems to be doing that well. Our hosting product is now best-in-class with the help of Media Temple, and Jeff King, a new hosting leader (from eBay). Check out this new independent report: Performance Benchmarks 3) Our small business care is world-class and since the acquisition of Media Temple our pro care has improved leaps and bounds. 4) I’m a customer privacy nut with a long history of supporting privacy so any of that crap from the past is truly ancient history. 5) We have a new leadership team that absolutely rocks and you'd be proud to call them friends 6) You know where to find me online if you ever have a problem

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