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Stuff I Love: DNSimple.com

Sometimes the Stuff I Love is very closely related to the Stuff I Hate, and what I hate is GoDaddy. After managing hundreds of domains with them over many years, I can say with some authority that GoDaddy.com has the worst user interface(s) of any site that I regularly use. Granted they are trying manage a metric crap-ton of complicated products and services, and I’m sure their developers have to live with a lot of legacy code. But every time I interact with that site, I hate it even more. It’s as though Bob Parsons buys up stock in healthcare companies that treat repetitive stress injuries before each redesign. And because with each passing year they seem to invent brand new ways to suck, I have no confidence that they will ever build a modern, intuitive, productive interface. Whatever I may think of their sleazy ads or their bizarre pricing models or their time-wasting upsells or their past positions on Internet policy, I simply can’t ignore it when a product sucks – especially when I’m paying them thousands of dollars every year.

[ For whatever it’s worth, this is me holding back… ]

Obviously, all of this makes it easy to love DNSimple because most of my criticisms of GoDaddy have been answered directly by the DNSimple product offering. They are focused, they know their opportunity, and they built their site the way it’s done in this century.

So at Platfor.ms we recently transferred over 20 domains to DNSimple, with more to come soon. Here are some reasons why:

  • Focused Services - Starting from scratch allows you to focus on what you really want to accomplish. DNSimple only does a few basic things: Providing DNS services, SSL certificates and domain registration services. But their primary focus is on DNS.

  • Clean User Interface - Very nicely done, the interface is uncluttered by dropdown-menus and layers of options. Unlike GoDaddy, there’s no need to open multiple tabs in order to get basic work done, and it doesn’t kick you out at every opportunity, forcing you to re-authenticate. The interface is also much faster than GoDaddy.com, which is a major productivity improvement.

  • Domain Root Aliases - This cloud-friendly innovation allows CNAME records to act like A records, similar to Amazon’s Route 53 aliases. But unlike Route 53, you don’t have to host your servers on EC2 in order to use it. This is a big win for Heroku users, who use this feature to host their domain apex on a platform that doesn’t provide static IP addresses.

  • URL-based Redirects - An ingenious solution to an age-old problem, they allow configurable per-host redirects via their URL record type. Written in Go, this service even passes the PATH_INFO along with the redirect. So useful.

  • Easy Service Templates - Initially, this looks like the kind of thing you’d see in dumbed-down semi-pro products such as Plesk or Cpanel. But no, these are actually useful. For example, it’s always a pain in the butt to add Google Apps support to DNS. So many CNAMEs, TXT entries, etc. With DNSimple, just click a button and it will add all of them to your zone in a smart, repeatable way.

  • Basic Registrar Services - Once I developed a pattern, it was pretty easy to transfer my domains from GoDaddy to DNSimple as my new registrar. They don’t support all the same TLD’s, but they are off to a good start. My main goal is to separate from GoDaddy, and I don’t need much from a registrar. Keep my domains renewed and safe from poaching. That’s about it.

  • Remote DNS Hosting - Though it’s not clear in the documentation, if your domain is registered with DNSimple you actually can alter the NS entries and use a service such as Amazon Route 53 for DNS. I do this for a couple of key enterprise domains that I manage.

  • There’s An API - Like I said earlier, they built their site in the current century. Coders automate, and this is a HUGE win, opening up many possibilites in a cloud-based world where servers are ephemeral, disposable assets.

  • Value - On the surface, DNSimple will not save you money over GoDaddy. They aren’t in the discount domain business. But I can attest that whenever I’ve saved money on one deal with GoDaddy, I’ve ended up paying dearly for it later on. DNSimple charges a nominal monthly fee for providing DNS services for your domains, in bulk. If I factor in the value of my time, however, DNSimple has probably already saved me money.

  • Support Startups - If you want to succeed with your SaaS product, you should support others who are doing the same. Honestly, with GoDaddy you can smell money a mile away – the money that makes you less hungry, less innovative and more fat-dumb-and-happy. Give me a small startup where I can reach the owners on the phone any day. These days, startups have access to all the world-class cloud infrastructure that everybody else has. So it’s about know-how and an ability to execute. You can read what other people have to say about them and read through their blog posts to determine for yourself if they know what’s what.

And yes, DNSimple had a partial service outage recently, but it was nowhere near the level of outage that GoDaddy had on Sept. 10, 2012. And when DNSimple addressed the issue, they were more transparent than GoDaddy about what went wrong.

Finally, despite my issues with GoDaddy, I really do respect what Bob Parsons has accomplished. He has made an incredible amount of money building incredibly successful companies. This man served his country in Vietnam and is now worth an estimated $1.5 billion. But let’s face it - GoDaddy is getting out-flanked by folks like Anthony Eden, Darrin Eden and Simone Carletti at DNSimple.com, and for that matter by you and me and our next big ideas.

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