On .name and third-level domains

And, we’re back! After being off-line for several weeks, this site is now live again! I can’t imagine you missed it.

Here’s what happened. Let’s start at the beginning. In 2003, ICANN added .name to the list of top-level domains (like .com, .edu, etc.). The idea is that individuals would use it for personal sites and email addresses. You can still do this, but (in case you haven’t noticed), it’s not very popular, and most domain name registrars don’t even sell .name addresses.

I purchased harlan.harris.name in 2003. Unlike .com addresses, you don’t generally buy second-level domains in .name, you buy third-level domains. (.name is the top-level domain, harris.name is the second-level domain, which you can’t buy, and harlan.harris.name is the third-level domain.) A cool feature is that if you buy a.b.name, you can get the email address a@b.name, not something like me@a.b.name (although you can set that up too). So my email address has been harlan@harris.name for ten years.

Fast forward to April, 2013. I notice that my personal web site (where you are now) has been replaced by a generic sales screen. You know, with a bunch of random keywords, a stock photo, and “buy this domain!” in big red print. Not good. At first I thought that my WordPress site (which hosts this blog) had gotten hacked, but no such luck. It turns out to be a convoluted mess of broken technology and confused customer support reps. The fortunate thing is that I don’t use this site extensively, and the problem with the web forwarding didn’t seem to affect my email address forwarding, so I didn’t lose any email.

The simplified version of what happened is that the company I bought the domain from in 2003, PersonalNames, merged with a company called Dotster a year or two ago. They presumably merged their technical systems together, which makes sense. But they for some reason failed to properly set up a system for third-level .name domain administration. And so my account failed to get properly transferred into their systems, and they stopped sending me notices about problems.

Although I still technically owned harlan.harris.name, I could no longer log in and administer it, and the redirection to this web site (at another company, HostGator) was reset at some point for still-unknown reasons.

It took a week and a dozen email messages and several hours on the phone for Dotster to figure out that yes, they owned this domain, but no, they didn’t have the technical chops to administer it.

I then set up an account with another company, eNom (nom, nom…), that does support third-level .name domains. Transferring the domain took another week and three attempts, due to errors on both sides. Add 48 hours for DNS forwarding to propagate around the Internet, and I’m finally back online yesterday!

Except that although my email forwarding still works, I don’t yet have control over that, because Dotster seemingly neglected to transfer email forwarding rights at the same time as the rest of the domain. So if you need me tomorrow, I’ll be back on the phone with tech support.

Sad Rain

5 thoughts on “On .name and third-level domains

  1. Steve

    Any further updates on this? Just curious how it all worked out.

    I just smacked headfirst into the same wall of epic failure this week – renewed my former-PersonalNames-now-Dotster domain in May, suddenly lost email this week. Friends reported DNS failures and bouncebacks. Two days and 10+ messages with Dotster support later, it’s still utterly unresolved. I’d complain more but you’ve already been through the clusterf**k and no need to live through that again!

  2. Harlan Post author

    @Steve, I didn’t think I was the only one having this problem! Getting the forwarding ownership resolved is still underway, but I think we’re close. I definitely recommend getting in touch with the tech support people at Versign, the owners of the top-level .name domain, using the address info@verisign-grs.com. They know what’s up, and can definitely help. You might also try calling Dotster sales to complain about the customer support person you’re working with — that helped for me. Best of luck!

  3. Steve

    Thanks for the tip – I’ll be sending them an email now. This really is quite a mess. Like you, literally everything I use is tied to that email address and lord knows how many important messages are currently bouncing!

    I’ve debated switching away from the .name for a couple years (since I’ve run into more and more sites/logins that don’t even recognize the extension as valid) but this might be the final straw. Not that making that switch prevents me from having to manually change my email in hundreds of not thousands of locations. Hopefully I can at least get the .name back up and running for a couple months to ease the transition if I go that route.

  4. Steve

    And the plot thickens…

    Verisign is actually telling me that the domain is available for purchase, even though Dotster (in my account control panel) lists the domain as active and valid through next year.

    Maybe I should just try bypassing all this Dotster nonsense and re-purchase it from a different registrar?

  5. Steve

    Well it worked. I registered the domain (like new, since it was *not* currently registered, regardless of what Dotster tried to tell me) with eNom this evening and it looks like email forwarding is already back up and running – at least partially, as it’s still propagating through the DNS servers. Since it’s a direct registration with them, I’m even able to manage/change the forwarding address.

    So, in short, +100 to eNom, +10 to Verisign, and -∞ to Dotster.


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