5Dec2010

Moniker Deactivated My Domain 26 Days BEFORE The Expiration Date

We've all seen domains people have forgotten to renew. A high profile one was rubyonrails.org in 2009. We chuckle and think "Oh dear! I bet I wouldn't forget something like that!" but it turns out that some registrars will cut you off without you forgetting a thing..

On December 31, 2009, I came up with a name for my new coding news site - coder.io - and registered the domain name at Moniker.com. Few registrars do .io domains and Moniker seemed the most reputable. As their control panel and their frequent update e-mails stressed, coder.io expires on December 31, 2010, so I had it in my calendar to renew mid-December.

Today (December 5, 2010) I received several tweets and e-mails from users asking why I've taken coder.io offline and lamenting its loss (aww!). I went to http://coder.io/ and saw a "parked domain" page full of ads:

My site isn't looking so good - like spam, basically

I looked up the WHOIS record (all fine and dandy) and logged in to Moniker's control panel to work out what had happened:

The Moniker control panel showed the expiration date as December 31, 2010, yet had it listed in the Pending Delete section. This is where domains go when they are not renewed by the renewal date but not 26 whole days before! The only solution available was to renew the domain immediately - so I did. Despite that, over an hour later coder.io is not working, though it's not going to a PPC ads page anymore at least - I hope it will burst back into action soon.

The crux of the matter, though, is Moniker deactivated a customer's domain name 26 days before renewal was due. If you're thinking of using Moniker or use them already and want a proper registrar, for most TLDs I'd recommend NameCheap, as they've been good to me and I have many tens of domains there. For .io domains? I'm stuck at Moniker for now but I Want My Name has been recommended to me and I'll be checking them out once the dust settles.

P.S. I'm not looking for general registrar recommendations - I like NameCheap! But if you have a .io domain and are happy with your registrar, I'm all ears.

Update 1- Moniker Replies and their Terms of Service

It was suggested that I hit up Moniker's customer service agent on Twitter - @MonikerSnap. So I did, and I got a response too (credit to them for being helpful, at least):

The link is to Moniker's Domain Name Deletion and Auto-Renew Details page. It explains little. It's basically a chart of times for different TLDs that Moniker will process an auto-renewal (if you have this turned on - I don't) and when Moniker will "delete" domains. For .io, the auto-renewal is 60 days prior to expiration and the deletion is 6 days prior to expiration.

I take issue that a registrar has the right to delete a domain name prior to the expiration date, as that makes a mockery of what an "expiration date" is. But ignoring that, 26 days still isn't 6 and even Moniker's own Terms of Service that I agreed to demonstrate Moniker's violation (from paragraph 6 - emphasis is mine):

You agree that after the expiration date of your domain name registration and before it is deleted or renewed, we may direct your domain name to an IP address designated by us, including, without limitation, to an IP address which hosts a parking, under construction, or other temporary page that may include promotions and advertisements for, and links to, Moniker's Web site, Moniker product and service offerings, third-party Web sites, third-party product and service offerings, and/or Internet search engines and/or advertisements, and you agree that we may place our contact information in the WHOIS output for the expired domain name.

I agreed that after the expiration date, they can do the typical registrar thing of redirecting my domain name to their parked domain advertising page, not 26 days before. Moniker's TOS stands for nothing.

Moniker's Domain Name Deletion and Auto-Renew Policy provides no more defense for them. They state:

At Moniker.com, domain names are registered for fixed periods and are subject to renewal any time during a valid registration prior to the domain registration expiration date.

I had planned to renew mid December and this is clearly "prior to the domain registration expiration date" of December 31, 2010. They also state:

If a customer does not renew a domain name registration by the expiration date, the registration may be subject to deletion [..]

Perhaps Moniker or someone else can prove me wrong, but I can find no basis for them to deactivate people's domains 26 days before they even expire.

P.S. It's now 6 hours after I renewed and Google's DNS is still returning the IP for Oversee/Moniker's parked domain server. Not cool. We've now been "down" over 14 hours. However, OpenDNS's cache checker and more direct querying yields success. Maybe this part is a Google issue..

Update 2 - My Theory

I suspect that because the .io TLD is managed by a small, independent registry, registrars like Moniker have to fit in with weird payment terms or even file renewals and registrations by hand. Given this, Moniker would prefer to auto renew you 60 days prior to expiry in order to guarantee they have the money in hand for the process. I can sympathize with this and if I'd had an e-mail noting my domain was not safe to the expiry date, I'd have renewed early. But I had no such e-mail and their TOS do not, by my reading, reflect this possibility.

Comments

  1. Andrew Warner says:

    Thanks for getting this out in public.

  2. David Ulevitch says:

    You can use http://cache.opendns.com/ and check out what we see. :-)

  3. Peter Cooper says:

    Thanks David. OpenDNS gets it right. So I'm thinking Google has something weird going on there, possibly due to the TLD. I'm using dig and it shows the TTL expiring correctly yet Moniker's IP keeps getting dished up..

    (Before you ask, I used to use OpenDNS rather than Google but frequently got OpenDNS "this site appears to be down" pages for domains/sites I knew were up and which, when checked independently, were. It was frequent enough for me to switch, alas, but that was over a year ago. It seems that DNS Is Hard(tm)! :-))

  4. Jason says:

    I've got all my names with Moniker, never had this problem... probably something to do with dot io... =/

  5. Peter Cooper says:

    Yeah, my theory is dealing with the smaller third parties that maintain many unpopular TLDs causes billing lags and oddities in the processes of companies like Moniker.

  6. Peter Cooper says:

    BTW, if Moniker's reading this far, the very least you could do as a fix is add a warning separate to "expiry" that says something like "Your domain will be suspended and be pending deletion from December 5, 2010." At the least that'd be a warning that something's going on.

  7. mike bailey says:

    I used to be a big domainer, and when I was going around registering domain names on obscure TLDs, I had great luck using idotz.net for my registrations. They appear to have .io domain names available for registrations, I'd recommend you give them a shot.

  8. Roland says:

    That's why I became a .io registrar with the registry itself. But they have a really poor registry infrastructure and bad API (broken XML required etc.). I'm still not sure if I should provide services ontop of that thing…

  9. David Ulevitch says:

    FWIW, I'm also a big Moniker customer. Switching to name.com slowly though.

  10. dude says:

    Well, obviously 26 days before is not an appropriate time to park the domain. However, hurr-derp on your part for 'putting it in your calendar' to renew and not just, you know, renewing. I renew my domains usually a year before they expire. Why not, afterall? Pretty silly to wait until _days_ before it expires, just do it as soon as you get the notification email next time.

  11. Michael says:

    Your website is back up.

    Thank you for letting us know about this issue and hopefully you can find out what exactly happened and inform the rest of us.

  12. Peter Cooper says:

    @dude: Yes, there are ways to mitigate the risk. Nonetheless, if you follow the rules to the letter, you should not be getting burned. I only purchased one year when I bought the domain as they cost $75 per year and I did not know if the project was going to last or even if I was going to use that domain long term. I am now considering switching over to coderio.com as .com doesn't have these weird issues.

  13. Peter Cooper says:

    In a separate issue, coder.io is STILL resolving to the wrong IP address at both 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. All other DNS servers seem to be fine, but Google's are screwed (and this is being confirmed by people in my IRC channel of choice).

  14. Peter Cooper says:

    And, yet, it's working OK for others. Wondering if UK ISPs are doing a bit of sneaky transparent DNS work ;-) It's been suggested I get the serial number incremented on the old DNS, so I've added a silly throwaway entry. Fingers crossed..

  15. Bryan says:

    "Yeah, my theory is dealing with the smaller third parties that maintain many unpopular TLDs causes billing lags and oddities in the processes of companies like Moniker."

    A customer should not have to do as much work as you have done to investigate "theories" of why they would delete the domain 26 days before expiration. Moniker customer service needs to give you an definitive answer. I'm glad I consolidated all my domain names to godaddy last month. They are definitely more expensive for renewals.

    Also, for weird TLDs I prefer to go the country's registrar itself rather than a 101domain or US based registrar. Is there a reason you go to US registrar rather than the source?

  16. Peter Cooper says:

    Bryan: I could be wrong but I recall the official .io TLD site wasn't at all like it is now. Perhaps my memory is faulty but I thought they only pointed me to buy it elsewhere. As I'd heard of Moniker before and the price was keen, it seemed the safest route to go.