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Your Domain Name MATTERS!

The other day, I was trolling through the mail logs making sure all was well when I noticed that my server could not deliver mail to one of my client’s alternate email addresses – let’s call it ABC.org.

I was immediately on alert because this indicates either a problem with ABC.org’s mail server or domain name registration – and nine times out of ten, it is the latter. A bit of poking around with my tools indicated that indeed, ABC.org had expired – and that it had also been grabbed by third-party reseller who had no intention of playing nicely with the original owner of ABC.org. I notified my client that his organization had a problem that we needed to work to resolve right away – and like many of the clients I serve, he was shocked to learn that his organization did not actually OWN the name and that it was perfectly legal for another organization to buy it out from under them when it expired.

I have made a career out of rescuing domain names from these kinds of problems. Because I don’t provide services to ABC, I discovered the problem a day too late and after their email stopped working – which is the number one way my clients tend to discover that THEY have a problem with their domain name. I have taken many a panicky phone call over the years from people whose website and email have suddenly stopped working. They call me because I have a reputation for technical problem solving – I have been in this business a very long time and am hip to all the tools and tricks needed to unwind these kinds of messes. When I put on my white hat and ride in, I generally see the same set of issues over and over again. This article addresses some of the common problems I see and offers steps and advice about what to do so that you are not my next panicky phone call!

1. YOU DON’T OWN YOUR DOMAIN NAME. This is often shocking to people. You are simply renting it for the amount of time you selected when you went through the check-out process. Unless you are Coca-Cola or other ‘big name’ that can lawyer up when someone infringes on your intellectual property, ANYONE is free to buy your name if it expires and is put back into ‘inventory’. Those who can buy your name out from under you include domain name ‘squatters’ (people who buy up domain names, hoping to sell them back to YOU at a much higher price than the original registration cost) and yes, your competition. TIP #1: KNOW THE EXPIRATION DATE OF YOUR DOMAIN NAME – IT MATTERS! Renewing a name prior to expiration is fairly straight-forward – getting it back after it expires is messy and requires time, money and expertise to unwind – and even then it is possible it cannot be done. Allowing your name to expire means you may lose it forever and have to start all over again with your website, email and other branding that uses your domain name because you don’t own your name – you are simply renting it until it expires.

Image showing location of domain name expiration date
If you are not sure when your domain name expires, find out NOW! Enter your domain name in the lookup box on Whois.sc Find your expiration date as shown in this image: ABC.org did not know that there name had expired until it was too late because they did not know this small but valuable piece of information. Don’t let this be you! While you are looking at your domain name registration record, other items to note ….

2.THE REGISTRANT NAME MATTERS! While you are examining your domain name record, note to whom your domain name is registered. If it is your webmaster, your friend who helped you buy the name or ANYONE besides you or your company, you have a potential problem that needs to be corrected right away! I have seen many problems caused by the wrong name in the Registrant field, ranging from the hostile webmaster who will not relinquish control of the name to the long-lost friend whose whereabouts are now unknown. TIP #2: THE REGISTRANT HAS FULL CONTROL OF THE NAME REGARDLESS OF WHO PAID FOR IT OR WHO IT REPRESENTS. ABC.org was registered to their webmaster. He is friendly to ABC but that may not always be the case. ABC is going to be in a lot of trouble if the relationship ever goes south because at the end of the day, he is the Registrant and HE, not ABC, controls access to that name unless and until it expires and goes back into ‘inventory’ for repurchase. This problem can be hard and sometimes impossible to solve – I had a client in my early days in this business who tried in vain for many years to get their domain name back from a webmaster-gone-hostile – and though much time and money was spent, they were not able to regain control and finally gave up and moved on to another domain name. There is a sanctioned process for domain name disputes but it is long and arduous and again, unless you are ready to lawyer up and fight an expensive fight for your domain name, PLEASE make sure that the REGISTRANT is you or your organization so you can avoid a painful and expensive legal battle OR the loss of your valuable intellectual property later. Related to this issue….

3. THE REGISTRANT EMAIL MATTERS! If you need access to your domain name registration record – and you do in order to renew your domain or to update the Registrant record – and you have lost your username and/or password, the information will be sent to the REGISTRANT EMAIL ADDRESS ONLY! If your webmaster or long-lost friend put their email address in this field, you have a problem. Not only will you not be able to retrieve a lost username/password, you will not receive notices that your domain name is about to expire – putting you right back at Step #1. TIP #3: THE REGISTRANT EMAIL ADDRESS SHOULD BE OWNED PERMANENTLY BY YOU AND/OR YOUR ORGANIZATION. If you have the login credentials to your Registrar, login RIGHT NOW and update both the REGISTRANT NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS so that the name is properly registered to you and/or your organization using a permanent email address that you know you will always be able to access. This simple step gives you assurance you can access your domain name registration, even in the event of lost login credentials. If you don’t have the login credentials, you probably need to contact me so I can ride to your rescue! The webmaster at ABC.org used his email address as the Registrant email – while everything is super-friendly between ABC and their webmaster right now, I have untangled a good many problems caused by the wrong email address in the Registrant field. Sometimes, the problem is a conflict or hostility, other times, it is simply benign neglect. In either instance, the wrong email address has the potential to lock you out of access to your domain name. Don’t let this be you!

People are surprised when I point out to them that Domain Name Registration is a FOR-PROFIT business whose primary concern is NOT protecting you and your valuable intellectual property – their primary concern is making a profit. They are in the business of selling domain names to whomever will buy them, period – end of story. ABC’s domain name went into a reseller pool -and not all reseller pools are created equally. There are a LOT of unscrupulous registrars out there who will drop your domain name into a reseller pool one minute after it expires – making it difficult and expensive to get back – if it can be done at all. Tomorrow, I discuss what you need to know when selecting a domain name Registrar and what can be done if you find yourself in the clutches of an untrustworthy Registrar who has dropped your domain name off into a reseller pool. In the meantime, if you are worried about the status of your domain name and confused by what steps to take to protect this highly valuable asset, get in touch with me so we can asses your situation and I can give you advice on what to do next!

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