How your website and email could get shut down without even knowing

ICANN evil website offlineYou may be the most conscientious of business owners. You respond to your customers that email you within 1 business day and you pay all your bills on time every month.

If your website is offline, your business could come to a screeching halt.  Leads come in via email, the phone rings from click-to-call referrals, and customers use your site to interactively plan the services that you offer. (If you’re website can’t do these things – talk to us!)

But one day you wake and it’s all stopped. No email. No phone calls. You ponder all of this, and your assistant yells out “Our website and email’s down”! You panic. Your web host says nothing is wrong on their end and the domain name is paid up.

Enter ICANN. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is a private corporation that basically rules over all the domain names such as www.yourcompany.com. You may have never heard of them but ICANN has total control over domain name and won’t hesitate to take your website offline. It doesn’t matter what registration company you used. ICANN rules above them all.

WEBSITE OFFLINE

Last week one of our customers called us in a frenzy as their website was offline. Painfully, their email was down as well.  Their domain name was in a paid status, so the search led me to ICANN, who terminated their domain name at the topmost level because an email they sent them didn’t receive a response. ICANN sends annual verification emails to keep names and addresses current. If you don’t respond, or it gets trapped in your spam filter, your site can go offline instantly.

I was determined to help my client as quickly as possible as they were losing business by the hour. My research led me to the discovery that the email address on record for the domain name was no longer in use. That employee no longer worked at the company. ICANN’s annual e-mail confirmation bounced back. The site was quickly disconnected. For something as important as taking down a website and email, you would hope they would try other contact methods. No final warning. It’s almost if they enjoy the power.

Eager to get this client back online, I found out I just needed to change the email at the registration level so I could confirm a good email address. So I restored the email box that was deleted, and awaited their confirmation email. Yay!  I might actually get to leave the office at 5 tonight.

I was still there at 7pm.  After no email arrived, I had a revelation. I restored an email account and was waiting for an email on an account that ICANN shut down. How was I supposed to get an email they were sending when in fact they themselves had shut down the domain’s email?

It’s a catch 22. You can’t get your domain name turned back on without verifying your email address. If your email address is at your domain name–like it oftentimes is– they’ve shut that down so you never receive the verification email.

ICANN CAN’T HELP

At this point I was pretty livid at this impossible situation. I headed to the ICANN website to try and reach a human being. With no discernable way to talk to anyone on their website, I submitted an online ticket with my complaint. My question: How can I verify an email address that you yourself have shut down?

email down ICANN website offlineAn automated response arrived 10 minutes later with the friendly message “ICANN considers this matter now closed.” Wait. WHAT?

To make a long story short, my client was required to submit articles of incorporation, bank statements and other documents in order to get the domain working again.

Is this really the way a powerful agency like ICANN should be doing business? This isn’t the only example I can cite. A similar client just yesterday had their verification emails go into their spam box and their site was shut down as well.

Since ICANN seems to have so much power, be careful with your domain name registrations. Watch your WHOIS information and make sure the information is current. Skyhound manages this for the majority of our clients, and we now have a special email address to handle domain verification emails.

Maybe someday someone will teach ICANN about customer service and better business practices. Until then, be conscientious about updating your domain registration and make sure the administrator email address is current. If not, you too could be cut off from the series of tubes.