Endurance International Group: Enduring Web Host or Privacy Pirate?
If you’ve ever started a website, you’re likely familiar with Endurance International Group, even if you’ve never heard the name. As the corporate head above massive web hosting companies like HostGator, Bluehost and iPage, EIG operates in the background, helping its long list of brands gather subscribers.
During our time reviewing hosting services, we noticed a few trends with Endurance brands, particularly when it comes to privacy. After doing some preliminary research, we found multiple articles discussing the corporate head, most of which focus on EIG’s acquisitions over the years and customer reports that the services were ruined once EIG completed the acquisition.
While that is true in some cases — we’ll provide the examples below — that isn’t the main issue with Endurance International Group. Our purpose here is twofold. First, we want to set the record straight on what EIG is and what it does. Next, we want to move on to what we believe is the biggest concern with the monolith: privacy.
Before getting to any of that, though, it’s time for a brief history lesson.
What is Endurance International Group?
Endurance International Group’s “about us” page says that it’s “an international family of brands that provides small business owners with the tools they need to establish and build their web presence.” Although it sounds like a similar song and dance to a company like GoDaddy, EIG isn’t actually a web hosting company.
EIG did start that way, though. In 1997, Hari Ravichandran — an entrepreneur with an MBA and two degrees in engineering — founded BizLand, a web hosting company focused on small businesses. Ravichandran would eventually move on to found Jump Ventures in June 2018 and iSubscribed (now known as Aura) in August 2017.
In 2001, amid the dotcom bubble burst, BizLand found it had fallen on hard times. It reorganized — with only 14 employees — into Endurance International Group. It didn’t abandon BizLand, though. That site still stands and offers web hosting services today. Instead, Ravichandran split the company, keeping BizLand as a web hosting outlet and establishing Endurance International Group as a holding company.
A holding company doesn’t provide any services itself. Instead, it owns some percentage of multiple subsidiary brands. Oftentimes, the holding company will make some large, structural changes to a business once it’s been acquired. After that, though, the brand still uses its own infrastructure to operate.
Between 2001 and 2011, Endurance trucked along, purchasing brands to fill out its portfolio. The coverage of what happened during that period is spotty, though. We at least know it purchased FatCow in 2005 and IPOWER in 2007. The IPOWER press release from 2007 claims that, at that point, EIG had already acquired 28 other brands.
That’s all well and good, but the ball didn’t start rolling for Endurance International Group until GS Capital Partners — part of Goldman Sachs and Warburg Pincus LLC — purchased it in 2011. The two investment firms paid $975 million for the company, and after they struck the deal, EIG acquired some of its largest brands, including Bluehost.
EIG Goes Public
We assume that the major acquisition of Bluehost was to prepare Endurance for the stock market. The company went live with 21 million shares valued at $12 a piece in October 2013. With a newfound rush in expansion, EIG moved as quickly as possible to secure investor dollars, most likely in hopes of expanding its already stellar roster.
It moved a little too quickly, however. On December 10, 2015, both Endurance International Group and one of its brands, Constant Contact, received subpoenas from the Boston Regional Office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Hari Ravichandran, who was still at the helm of EIG at the time, was under fire for providing inflated subscriber numbers to investors.
This legal slog went on for three years, with numerous amendments coming from the plaintiffs. In June 2018, Endurance International Group agreed to pay an $8 million fine to the SEC, according to the Better Business Bureau. In August 2017, Ravichandran left the company and was replaced by former Convergys Corporation Chairman Jeffery Fox.
If all the above is a bit of a blur to you, we’ve put together this handy EIG timeline for you (click to embiggen).
EIG Market Share
What started as a web hosting company in the late ‘90s morphed into something far greater, with EIG using the dotcom bubble burst as an opportunity to reorganize as a holding company. That growth hasn’t stopped in nearly 20 years, though. Endurance International Group now holds a significant portion of the web hosting market.
EIG owns less than some of the more speculative articles online would suggest, though. Using Datanyze, we estimate that EIG owns around eight percent of the web hosting market, which isn’t much compared to the 18 percent GoDaddy owns (read our GoDaddy review). There are a few conclusions we could draw, all of which are just speculation.
The simplest explanation would suggest that Endurance’s expansion is simply a result of 21st century capitalism. It’s likely that EIG is buying brands when the opportunities present themselves, looking to expand wherever possible. While we can shrug off the idea that a holding company wants to be as large as possible, what we can’t shake is how EIG’s wide net affects your personal data.
The unaudited numbers for March 2019 show Endurance International Group with $2,676,770 in assets. However, $2,180,011 of those assets are intangible. Intangible assets, as the name implies, are not physical in nature, meaning everything from brand recognition to an email list. There’s no physical value attached to these assets as there would be with, say, land or machinery.
While drawing a straight line based solely off numbers is difficult, we can at least gather that the majority of EIG’s assets are not physical — meaning brand recognition, data and goodwill largely make up the value of the assets it currently has.
EIG: The Privacy Concerns
That brings up the privacy concerns. While we’ve uncovered the rocky history of Endurance International Group, it’s not entirely wicked — especially when other companies, such as GoDaddy, own a more significant market share, or some companies simply rip people off. The more concerning issue is data collection, in which EIG is well versed.
However, an edit was made on July 13, 2015, which stated that Arvixe would no longer offer domain privacy for free. We can’t say for sure that this was a move originating from Endurance, but it wouldn’t be the craziest conclusion to draw. We know that EIG has at least some influence on its brands. For example, Constant Contact laid off about 15 percent of its staff after the EIG acquisition.
Data Collection and Sharing
Anything else is covered by the final clause in the “information we collect about your usage and devices” section, which states that it monitors “any device or other method of communication you use to interact with the services.”
As far as what this information is used for, the usual suspects are present. EIG uses it to provide and improve services, communicate with you and ensure websites are functioning properly. However, it’s also used “to advertise and market third party [sic] products and services.”
Let’s take WPBeginner, for example. If you’re unfamiliar, the site is centered around educating WordPress users on the functionality of the platform. It’s a great resource with tons of tutorials and multiple free plugins, to boot.
However, if you look at the best WordPress hosting article on its site, Bluehost and HostGator occupy the top two slots, both of which are EIG brands. A few more examples include an article comparing domain names and web hosting — where Bluehost is advertised — and a guide on the best WooCommerce hosting — where they feature Bluehost and HostGator.
Like WPBeginner, we make money on affiliate links. However, as you can read on our how we work page, that compensation in no way determines what services we recommend. In every case where a marketer has tried to win our favor with the all-mighty dollar, we simply return white noise.
As mentioned, we think WPBeginner is an excellent resource. We’re simply using the site as an example of what’s likely happening with EIG’s list of partners. Some of the partners make sense, like, for example, Google Maps for displaying locations on a website. Others, though, including WPBeginner, Facebook, Twitter and Google Ads, are most assuredly just advertising partners.
Furthermore, your data is kept on record for a long time. Endurance says it will keep your data on record following either the termination date of your service or from May 25, 2018, if you had terminated prior. This date is when the General Data Protection Regulation came into force, suggesting that EIG kept the data indefinitely before.
However, considering how many brands Endurance International Group owns — around 80, based on our research — that means you can get caught in a sales loop. One of the dangerous aspects of EIG’s business is that you can terminate your plan with one host only to sign up for another that’s more or less the same.
Knowing that Endurance shares your personal data with Google Ads, it’s possible — though hard to confirm — that when quitting one service, another could be marketed to you. At least from personal anecdotes when reviewing web hosting services, we can confirm there’s an uptick in EIG-related advertisements.
Piecing it Together
Endurance International Group has a rocky history, from nearly going bust at the turn of the century to providing inflated subscriber numbers to investors only a few years ago. What has emerged in the past 22 years is a pattern of behavior that showcases greed. While it’s any business’, well, business, to make money, it’s clear that Endurance has chased after that goal at the cost of its customers.
Small examples include revoking domain privacy from Arvixe, and big ones include firing around 200 people from Constant Contact. However, the more concerning issues are EIG’s data collection and lack of clarification about what it is and what it does. While the image of an evil, web-hosting overlord may be far-fetched, you’re not getting into bed with the most ethical of companies.
That’s why the majority of the providers listed in our best web hosting guide are independent brands. They aren’t ranked at the top from brand deals or affiliate opportunities, but because they offer a better and more ethical service. Some even use the Endurance model, but with some improvements.
Hostinger, for example, has a network that also includes 000webhost and Hosting24. However, that fact isn’t hidden. 000webhost says it’s powered by the Hostinger Network in the site header, and Hosting24 showcases its affiliation through the “about us” page (read our Hostinger review and Hosting24 review for more on those services).
Endurance International Group, on the other hand, dodges how many brands it really owns and what role it plays in those companies.
Bluehost takes the eleventh spot at the time of writing, with iPage following it in spot 13 (read our iPage review). Our rankings are based on how we score each round, meaning we don’t know the exact position until everything has been said and done.
While there are a lot of concerns in general surrounding Endurance International Group, the fact is that, based on our experience, its brands don’t provide as good of a service as most independent hosts. SiteGround and DreamHost rank highly — you can see why in our SiteGround review and DreamHost review — but there are other options in A2 Hosting, MDDHosting, WebHostingBuzz and Kinsta, too.
Are you still comfortable using an EIG brand? Let us know why or why not in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.