TOP 15 DOMAIN RENEWAL BLOOPERS AND LESSONS LEARNED

Most of the time, companies are good at keeping their domain registrations renewed. But, from time to time, renewals do fall through corporate cracks. Often, this is because expiry notification emails get lost because employees have left the company. With services like auto-renew, multi-year domain registrations, registrar notification emails, and domain management companies, domain expirations just shouldn’t be happening anymore!

We’ve compiled the top 15 domain renewal bloopers, organized from kind of sad to totally tragic:

#15     HOTMAIL.CO.UK (2003)
Hotmail.co.uk expired in October 2003 and the domain was grabbed up by an individual. Lucky for Microsoft, this person was generous. He contacted Microsoft and returned the domain to them free of charge. The site experienced no outages because of this domain guardian angel.

#14     NORTON.COM (2001)
In September 2001, anti-virus software company Symantec forgot to renew its Norton.com domain name. Like the Hotmail.co.uk scenario, a Good Samaritan swept in and made the payment for Symantec so that the website wouldn’t go down. The Norton.com domain administrator was extremely grateful. In return, the individual requested that Symantec make a donation to the Red Cross as repayment. Click here for an article written by the gracious individual.

#13     POETRYSOC.COM (2002)
When poetry enthusiasts visited their beloved Poetry Society’s website in March 2012, they were greeted with a page listing online services ranging from debt consolidation to online gambling and pharmaceutical distributors. The Poetry Society had let their domain expire and a Hong Kong company, Ultimate Search Inc. rushed in and registered it. Fortunately, Ultimate Search returned the domain and the Poetry Society restored their website.

#12     SITEMETER.COM (2013)
Site Meter allows websites to add web counters to their web pages. Thousands of websites utilize Site Meter’s tracking services. So, it was a big bummer when those stats were suddenly unavailable because Site Meter forgot to renew its domain. Oops.

#11     PASSPORT.COM (1999)
In December 1999, Microsoft forgot to renew its domain Passport.com. Since Hotmail used Passport.com to authenticate users, people couldn’t get to their Hotmail accounts. This is another case where a Good Samaritan swept in and paid the $35 renewal fee and gave the site back to Microsoft. As a token of appreciation, Microsoft sent the individual a check for $500 (which was later donated to charity).

#10     HAMLEYS.COM (2009)
The website of the 250-year old toy store, Hamley’s, went down when the registration of Hamleys.com expired. It happened two months before Christmas, the time when toy stores usually make most of their money. Hamley’s CFO Alasdair Dunn explained: “There was a glitch which caused the problem.” Is forgetting to renew your domain a glitch?

#9       GOOGLE.DE (2007)
This drop may have occurred due to a difference how renewals are handled from country to country. Dotcom domains have a 30-day renewal grace period. In 2007, .de domains did not have a grace period, which has since been changed. An individual unaffiliated with Google.de had backordered the domain, meaning they would get it once it expired. When the domain expired, several transfer notification emails went to Google AND MarkMonitor, the company Google sub-contracts to manage its domains. Nobody responded so the transfer was automatically carried out! Ultimately, Google.de was returned to Google. Was MarkMonitor fired? Nope. In fact, they are currently the domain managers for Google.de and Google.com.

#8       CRASHPLAN.COM (2009)
CrashPlan.com is a website that provides data backup services. In 2009, the CrashPlan site was replaced by a GoDaddy placeholder page because (you guessed it!) they forgot to renew their domain. This is especially ironic considering CrashPlan’s business is based on contingency planning. Instead of accepting blame, they went on to tweet:

Godaddy (our registrar, just like Mozy & Carbonite) inappropriately took over our DNS for 15 min yesterday.

Dear CrashPlan: admitting your mistake is the first step towards self-improvement.

#7       WASHPOST.COM (2004)
The Washington Post forgot to renew its domain in 2004. It was WashPost.com (not the main website). Unfortunately, all of the staff’s email addresses utilize WashPost.com, so the news desks went into chaos because they weren’t receiving the emails they rely on for photos and reporting. The managing editor informed employees that:

Network Solutions, which manages Internet addresses, apparently notified The Post of the pending expiration via a drop-box that was not being monitored.

Note to self: keep my domain’s administrative contact information up-to-date.

#6       REGIONS.COM (2013)
Regions Bank went for the cool and simple Regions.com as its domain name. It became a lot less cool when the website for the 1700-branch bank went down in 2013. A Regions Bank spokesperson explained:

We are experiencing an intermittent network issue that is impacting some customers’ ability to access our web site…We are working to resolve this issue quickly and apologize to our customers.

But we know it wasn’t an intermittent network issue. Regions Bank had forgotten to renew its domain, plain and simple.

#5       DALLASCOWBOYS.COM (2010)
For a couple of days during the 2010-2011 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys’ website was down due to failure to renew the domain. The timing was especially bad because it was right after coach Wade Phillips was fired. Tons of fans were heading to DallasCowboys.com to get official news only to be disappointed with a generic hosting page. What a fumble.

#4       FOURSQUARE.COM (2010)
Foursquare has had some ups and downs since it’s launch in 2009. One of the most embarrassing points was when the site went down in March 2010. Instead of logging into Foursquare, users found themselves at a generic GoDaddy landing page. Adding to the ordeal, Foursquare was in the middle of securing its $20M series B funding round. Investors must have been skeptical to lay down money on a company that can’t keep its domains registered! Here’s what Foursquare tweeted to explain the situation:

Whoops on our part if you’re seeing that GoDaddy page…billing glitch on our end (and should be fixed in the next hour). Stay tuned!

Foursquare? More like Fourget.

#3       FRESHDIRECT.COM (2012)
Around Christmas of 2012, if you went to FreshDirect.com, instead of seeing the online grocery shopping website, you would’ve been greeted by Network Solutions’ generic placeholder page. FreshDirect had failed to renew its domain. This was posted on FreshDirect’s Facebook wall:

We are sorry about the site outages being experienced by some of our customers with Time Warner and Verizon Wireless. We’ve identified the problem and we are working to quickly resolve it.

That is a shady response because it places blame on the internet service providers instead of acknowledging that FreshDirect itself allowed its own domain registration to expire.

#2       YATRA.COM (2013)
Yatra.com is one of India’s largest online travel websites. According to Yatra’s CEO, they sell 20,000 domestic tickets and 5,000 hotel/holiday packages per day. In August 2013, Yatra.com went down because it forgot to renew its domain name. The 2-day outage cost the company millions of dollars in lost sales — a very expensive mistake.

#1       SONYONLINE.NET (2014)
This is number one because it happened so recently. A domain renewal mishap in 2014, really? Sony forgot to renew a key domain name, SonyOnline.net. This resulted in the Sony Online Entertainment gaming website (SOE.com) being unavailable for millions of users. Note that SOE.com itself did not expire, but SOE.com redirects to SonyOnline.net and when SonyOnline.net went out, it took SOE.com with it. We have a lot of respect for John Smedley, President of Sony Online Entertainment, because he took responsibility and apologized on Twitter:

DNS issues may take up to 48 hours to resolve. We are really sorry on this one folks. Embarrassing and preventable. We screwed up

Our response is a quote from an unknown individual: “It takes a man to admit his mistakes but it takes an even better man to stop making them.”

In summary, what are the lessons here?

1. For business-critical websites, register the domain for the maximum 10-years.

2. Sign up for automatic renewal of your vital domains.

3. Be sure to update your domain’s administrative contact to be sure that notification emails go to the appropriate individual.

Follow these steps and you will never end up on a list like this one.

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