Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mysterious Domain Name Heist!

*UPDATE 9/12/2012*: I finally got my DistressedVolatility.com domain name back in my GoDaddy account after 15 days. Thank you Google Enterprises for resolving this issue as quick as possible and for keeping me in the know. And thank you @GoDaddy for responding to all of my complaints on Twitter. Keep a close eye on your domain names people.

I'm having a mysterious domain ownership issue. My DistressedVolatility.com domain name on GoDaddy expired even after I paid $10 to renew it through Google Apps (a GoDaddy partner). And I was never notified that an error occurred. I'm still waiting to hear from a specialist team at Google to figure out what happened. In the meantime, old posts with internal links beginning with 'distressedvolatility.com' are being redirected to Cing.com, a daily deals startup site like Groupon it looks like (Dealing with deal websites, SunTimes, 2/24/2012). So, to not get redirected to Cing.com, you will have to change old links on old posts to 'distressedvolatility.blogspot.com' for now. Nothing has changed with the blog layout or content. I was redirecting the 'distressedvolatility.blogspot.com' address to 'distressedvolatility.com' the whole time, which is an option on Blogger. Sorry to all who have been redirected to that site. Hopefully this gets resolved ASAP and I won't have to start up a new blog from scratch.

Update 9/8: Wow, it looks like I'm another victim of a domain name "drop catcher"! A "drop catcher" is someone who backorders domain names that people let expire or let expire unintentionally (or pays to renew them and lets them expire unintentionally) for pennies on the dollar and tries to sell them back to the previous owner at massively inflated prices ('Drop Catchers' Buy and Sell Web Names Others Let Slip, WSJ, 2/22/2006 or at Empoweryou.ca). But I did not let my domain name expire, as you can see below. After reading the SunTimes and WSJ articles and the domain name's whois, it appears that the founder of Cing.com also runs Lease Domains Inc., which now owns DistressedVolatility.com and is redirecting it to Cing.com. Here are quotations from that 2006 WSJ article on the "drop catcher".

Last month, Chicago real-estate agent Judy Orr discovered that a Web site she used to showcase area homes had gone off-line. It turned out she had failed to pay the $9 annual renewal fee for her Web address, oak-lawn-real-estate.com.

But getting her site back online wasn't as easy as she had hoped: Another company had snapped up the domain name and wanted nearly $2,500 to return it to her. "I was sick to my stomach," Ms. Orr says. It took two years of work to build up the site so it would rank prominently in Google's search results, and that time "went down the drain," she says.

The new owner of the address was Lease Domains Inc., which is run by a 21-year-old graduate student, Anthos Chrysanthou, who works out of his parents' house in a Chicago suburb. Mr. Chrysanthou says his two-year-old company owns more than 2,000 domain names, many obtained through a process called "drop catching" -- snagging names owners have let expire, either accidentally or because they no longer want them.

"I liken the whole situation to tangible real estate," says Mr. Chrysanthou, who is pursuing his master's in business administration at St. Xavier University in Chicago. "If you're not paying your mortgage or your taxes on it, it's going to get taken away." (WSJ, 2006)

I personally emailed the contact at Lease Domains Inc. a week ago explaining what happened, but I still haven't heard back! If I simply let my domain name expire through the grace period, I would obviously be at fault here, but I already paid the $10 annual renewal fee. Does this internet entrepreneur not know how much money active bloggers make off minimal traffic that is now down 80+% as a result of this domain heist? The domain redirect to Cing also affected the actress Bethany Joy Lenz's blog last week at BethanyJoy.com (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). Her domain name was back up after 5 days it looks like, so obviously there was mistake in renewing domain names. Or she paid him off. Here is a snapshot of my traffic getting destroyed.




So somehow "drop catching" turned into legalized domain stealing via some billing issue between Google and GoDaddy. And now it looks like the owner (?) is trying to make money off my stolen domain name, rather than trying to quickly work something out with the actual owner. My domain name is now listed on GoDaddy.com for $18,000! Is this a joke? The idea to buy up expired domain names with decent traffic to get free click throughs to Cing.com was a great idea, I'll admit that (100% free click-through-rate, not bad at all). But the guy is now knowingly using my domain name (and all of my pages indexed on Google, which are being redirected to MittRomney.com right now, WTF?), which was actually paid for, to redirect my traffic to his site Cing.com, which ultimately ended up destroying my blog traffic, subscriber count, index on Google, and income as a result. With social media everywhere these days, it's odd to me why these huge internet companies, and especially this domain name/internet entrepreneur, would let this issue of stolen property go on unresolved for so long.

Source: GoDaddy.com
It's like a domain name heist video game. If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is to keep a very close tab on your domain names even after paying to renew them. Because it seems like the domain name market can be shadier than the mortgage and opaque over-the-counter credit and credit default swap markets between 2005-2008. Someone ends up making a killing off wealth destruction via loopholes in a system vulnerable to stealing.

So WTF could have gone wrong here with Google Apps and GoDaddy?!



Update 9/10: Wow, domain name craziness didn't end with me.

  1. GoDaddy Outage Takes Down Millions Of Sites, Anonymous Member Claims Responsibility (TechCrunch)
  2. GoDaddy Says Crash Wasn’t Anonymous, It Wasn’t A Hack, It Wasn’t A DDoS. It Was Internal Network Issues (TechCrunch)
  3. What really caused the massive GoDaddy outage? (FoxNews)
  4. GoDaddy’s DNS Servers Go Down, Along With Thousands of Sites (Mashable)

And a message from GoDaddy's CEO:

CEO Addresses Sept. 10 Service Outage

Date Submitted: 9-11-2012 by Go Daddy

Go Daddy Customers and Community,

We owe you a big apology for the intermittent service outages we experienced on September 10th that may have impacted your website and your interaction with GoDaddy.com.

The service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and GoDaddy.com. We have implemented measures to prevent this from occurring again.

At no time was any sensitive customer information, such as credit card data, passwords or names and addresses, compromised.

Throughout our history, we have provided 99.999% uptime in our DNS infrastructure. This is the level of performance our customers have come to expect from us and that we expect from ourselves. We pride ourselves on providing world-class service — through our products, our site experience and customer care.

We have let our customers down and we know it. I cannot express how sorry I am to those of you who were inconvenienced. We will learn from this.

I’d like to express my profound gratitude to all our customers. We are thankful for your straightforward feedback and the confidence you have shown in us.

In appreciation, we will reach out to affected customers in the coming days with a good faith gesture that acknowledges the disruption. We are grateful for your continued loyalty and support.

If you have any questions or require further assistance, please call us at 1-480-505-8877.

Sincerely,

Scott Wagner
Go Daddy CEO

Wow, it's been a crazy few months for the internet. But I'm happy to say that Google finally got my domain name back in my GoDaddy account after 15 days of grief. And now I also own Dvolatility.com (t/y). Case closed.

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