How I Almost Lost my Domain

Posted By BrokenClaw on August 2, 2008

By the year 2000, I had been online with a modest website for several years under the persona of Broken Claw. Until that time, I had been using the online services of what were known in those days as Personal Pages, first with some free ad-sponsored websites like Yahoo Geocities, and then with my local ISP. When I had first signed up with Yahoo, someone else already had the name of brokenclaw, but I was able to get a reasonable variation of the name. Then in October of 2000, I decided to make the jump into the web world with my own domain, and I was fortunate to find that brokenclaw.com was available.

At that time, domain registration and web hosting were still rather specialized endeavors, so I decided to go with a well-known company, Yahoo.com. Yahoo offered reasonable pricing for small websites, and they included the domain registration in the price. When I signed up for my domain and web hosting, it was automatically linked to my email account.

The actual domain registration was handled through Network Solutions. As I said, the cost of domain registration was included in my web hosting plan, so I never had any dealings with Network Solutions directly. Every year, when it came time to renew the domain registration, Yahoo would send me an email reiterating the fact that they, Yahoo, would renew my registration, and that I should ignore any emails or notices, including those from Network Solutions, that I might receive with regard to domain renewal.

The tone of these yearly emails from Yahoo made it seem that some unscrupulous dealer might try to confuse me into switching to another domain registrar. Yahoo wanted to make sure I understood that I didn’t have to do anything, because Yahoo was taking care of my domain renewal as part of my hosting fee. So I did as they instructed. I continued to ignore any emails about domain renewal.

All went well until October, 2005. That’s when I received a notice in the mail (the actual postal service) from Network Solutions, addressed to Broken Claw, telling me that my domain registration was going to expire in 15 days. I immediately recognized that this message was more serious than the previous email reminders I had received from them. So I contacted Yahoo and basically asked, “What’s up with that? I thought you were handling my domain renewal?”

Yahoo’s response was like, “Oh, no, we don’t do that anymore.” I had never received any notification from Yahoo that domain registration was no longer part of my web hosting fee.

So I sent an email to Network Solutions, referencing the account in the letter, and asked what I needed to do. They said I just needed to log into their website with the administrators account. The administrators account? I didn’t have an administrators account. I had never even been to their website. I asked if they could email me the account number and password. They said I could use the domain name as the account ID, but they could only email the password to the administrator’s email address of record.

After several more emails, I learned that there were two administrator accounts for my domain: Yahoo and Broken Claw. Obviously, Yahoo had registered my domain using my Yahoo nickname! And the email address that Yahoo had given them in 2000 was my email address from my local dial-up ISP, which I had canceled years ago when I switched to broadband. Again, since I had never logged onto Network Solutions, I never had the opportunity to update the email address.

I exchanged several more emails with Yahoo customer service, explaining that they needed to do something from their end, because it was their fault that I had no access to my own domain! All I needed for them to do was to log in and change my email address to my Yahoo address. I sent very detailed explanations, with specific points written in declarative sentences, followed by a question to see if they understood. But they just kept repeating that they no longer dealt with Network Solutions.

I exchanged several more emails with Network Solutions, explaining the whole story with Yahoo and that “Broken Claw” was me, but without satisfaction.

By now the 15 days had passed and www.brokenclaw.com disappeared from the Internet. I was totally frustrated and angry that I could lose the domain I had worked on for nearly a decade. I still had no resolution to the problem. In the meantime, I created a new account with Network Solutions, using my real name, and I registered the domain, brokenclaw.net. My hosting account was still active with Yahoo, so I was able to point the new domain to my website, so at least I was back online.

Network Solutions had a 30 day grace period on expired domains (I believe that’s a requirement of ICANN), so brokenclaw.com had not yet gone out on the market. Nevertheless, I registered with another domain broker to buy brokenclaw.com if it became available. Then I found out that Network Solutions would allow me to renew the domain registration over the phone! In other words, they didn’t really care who paid for the renewal. But I still didn’t have access to administer the domain account.

The next option was a long documentation process to prove that I had the consent of Broken Claw. I did everything they asked. I filled out the form and mailed it back to them along with a photocopy of my drivers license and a photocopy of the letter sent to Broken Claw at my home address. I also explained that they could clearly see that the person whose multiple photos appear on the website is the same person whose photo appears on my drivers license.

Their reply came back: Denied. They said they needed to have some official document signed by Broken Claw. Signed by Broken Claw? Broken Claw doesn’t have a signature. I AM BROKEN CLAW!

So I started thinking again about my long-lost email address. My old ISP was still online, so I figured it might be possible to re-register with them, just to get my email address back. I called them up, and sure enough, my old handle was available! Without telling them why, I went through the whole process of setting up a new dial-up account. And then the next brick hit me in the head. I found out that their company had been bought out by a regional ISP, so my email address would be assigned to the domain of their parent company. Aaack!

I knew that the local domain still had an email server, because the customer service links on their website used it. So I told them that my whole reason for registering was because I needed my old email address on their local domain to receive some official correspondence. They kindly explained that they only use the domain for administrative purposes and not for customers. But after speaking to someone else, the person on the line came back and said that they would allow me to have my old email address back exactly as it was. Thank you, thank you.

That’s the value of dealing with local people in a small company. Someone is there who can listen to a customer, see the need, and act on it under their own authority.

I tested the email address, and it was a go. I went back to Network Solutions, put in my domain name, and then clicked on “Forgot my password”. It said, “Would you like us to email your password?” I said, “Yes”. It showed up in my inbox within minutes.

I was able to log into Network Solutions, where I immediately added my real self as an administrator. I logged out and then logged in as myself. I deleted Yahoo from the account. I deleted Broken Claw from the account. I combined the account with my other real self as the administrator of brokenclaw.net. And then I went shopping for a new web host. Eventually I moved my domain registration off of Network Solutions, too.

I decided not to change my domain back to brokenclaw.com, since my website has never been a commercial site anyway. Naturally, I have brokenclaw.com point to my website, but I like the idea of being a dot net instead of dot com. Over the last few years, I have developed the website into several subdomains with a different look for each, so I consider BrokenClaw now to be a network of websites.

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