DreamHost Discovers the Secret of Happiness

Philosophers have pondered the secret of happiness for centuries. The pursuit of happiness is set forth in the United States Declaration of Independance. Now a company out of Brea, California has discovered the details of what happiness actually is: web hosting.

I was doing a little light domain research and happen to come across a domain registered through the DreamHost Proxy service. DreamHost’s web hosting service received a respectable 4 out of 5 star rating by our reviewer a while back. I guess I’d forgotten that DreamHost was an official ICANN registrar. Having spent probably too much of my life starring at domain registration records, I couldn’t help but notice a few unorthodox lines in a DreamHost customer’s proxy record. This first one appears in the name field:

A Happy Dreamhost Customer

In case you don’t know, when you register a domain, your personal contact information is listed in the public record for anyone to view. Many people, myself included, don’t like having their name, address, and email address plopped right in front of spammers and anyone else who gets curious. In order to deal with this problem, registrars often offer a proxy service wherein their address is listed in place of the customer. Email’s received can be forwarded to the customer. Registrars can charge for this service like Godaddy or offer it free like 1&1.

I thought it was funny that instead of listing DreamHost in the customer name field, they made the statement that this anonymous domain owner was “happy.” This may be true in many cases but if you’ve worked with any domain registrar for very long, you are probably aware of issues that can make customers unhappy like:

  • Private information mistakenly being published on the WHOIS record
  • Domain transfer problems
  • Domain theft

Here’s a screen cap of John Doe, The Happy’s WHOIS record. Do you see anything else interesting?

DreamHost Proxy

Advertising in WHOIS Records

I didn’t know whether to applaud DreamHost for their cleverness or slam them for spamming when I saw that they were advertising their hosting service right there in the official WHOIS record! I’m no stranger to alternate forms of web host advertising, but this one took me by surprise. WHOIS records are not supposed to be harvested for marketing purposes, but exist for public informational use as DreamHost’s legal caveat states:

The information in DreamHost’s whois database is to be used for informational purposes only, and to obtain information on a domain name registration. DreamHost does not guarantee its accuracy.

Well, what about WHOIS record marketing? Hmm… Apparently every one of the hundreds of thousands of domain records registered through DreamHost lists the advertisement at the bottom for their low cost web hosting plan and free domain registration complete with a promotional code that gives an additional discount and provides tracking. I can’t help but wonder how many sales conversions have come in from WHOIS records.

Is this good marketing or SPAM?

Emory Rowland

I'm editor and keeper of the flame at Clickfire. I consider myself a fanatical blogger, entrepreneur and builder of Internet things from way back. My love for social media and success with organic search led me to start a SEO consulting venture. Apart from the Internet, I could be considered pretty worthless. More...

9 comments

  1. Spam, but one has to assess just how much harm this is causing.

    My rule is no blood? No foul.

  2. I’d consider it a harmless (as well as useless) spam. Normally those who look into the WHOIS of some website are wise enough to figure that it’s not the customer who’s putting these words but the company itself …

  3. Domain

    I dont consider it as a spam, i have tried to contact many through their email address.. and pretty lot mail got bounced back.. so if its there or not it doesnt matter, it only matters who owns the domain and where its hosted, i mean the server..and its location..

  4. Think it’s rather harmless stuff. But of course, one can’t really be sure. Cheers fos sharing this very relevant information.

  5. alank

    Well spotted! They are indeed taking advantage of a space that was only intended for information about a domain contact in matters of dispute resolution or other such legal actions. Even if they are the domain registrar they should be barred from doing this. ICANN has been delaying action on privacy of the database for years, but surely there’s a consensus about this form of abuse. There is specific language pertaining to the database that might include some provision about this.

  6. Emory Rowland

    alank, Glad you brought that up. I wondered about existing or forthcoming rules that might prevent advertising in WHOIS. Imagine reviewing the title for a new home you are buying and seeing an advertisement for legal services.

  7. Jill's Windows Hosting

    I would say this is “effective” marketing. Effective in quotes only because this is listed in the WHOIS and marketing because… well they aren’t technically spamming this out to people. People have to search the WHOIS in order to see the information presented.

  8. hostgatorcouponz

    That’s ridiculous! Ha. I have never seen that in years of doing WHOIS searches. I wonder how they got that in there?

  9. Jennifer Starr

    The only reason anyone would hide their name was if they had something to hide, like Lawcentric, for instance.

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