Welcome to Dr. Weevil: new URL, same old content.
If anyone is wondering how the original URL (www.doctorweevil.org — no, I will not link to it) turned into an anonymous site advertising links to abortionists, among other things, here’s what happened:
A year or so ago, I transferred both of my sites from Earthlink to Hosting Matters as part of the process of moving from Movable Type to WordPress. I was forced to move, since Earthlink couldn’t provide the MySQL required by WordPress. I decided to move my domain registration as well, to keep things simple, but left my e-mail account with Earthlink. Unfortunately, only one of the domains was transferred. Hosting Matters claims they told me this one was not completed, but I still have all of their e-mails and none of them gives any sign that anything was amiss. If I’d known they couldn’t handle a simple domain transfer, I would have used WhoIs to check up on it, but I never thought I’d have to WhoIs my own site to see who owned it. Last Friday, roughly thirteen months later, www.doctorweevil.org suddenly started displaying a set of medical links instead of my weblog. It took a couple of days to find out what happened, and a couple more to (more or less) fix it. Apparently Earthlink waited for my domain rental to expire, then let go of the domain (or didn’t let go — see below), without ever asking me to renew. They could have very easily billed me for the $20 renewal fee on my monthly statement, as they used to do, and as they still do for my e-mail account. Or they could have e-mailed me at the contact address on the upper left of this page, or snail-mailed me at the street address on my monthly bill.
So far, not too bad, and my troubles are partly from my own incompetence or (as I prefer to think of it) my overconfidence in the competence of others. So why do I think that Earthlink sucks? On Saturday, I filled out their on-line support form to see if I could find out what had happened and how to fix it. Here is the first paragraph of their reply:
We received your email on 3/18/06, however in order to better serve you EarthLink only accepts replies to outbound email messages or new messages created by completing our online email form. To ensure that your inquiry is handled by an EarthLink representative we ask that you resubmit your request using our online email form which you can access using the “support by email” link on your personal start page, or, by inserting the following URL in your web browser:
Using this form will help us direct your email to the right department so that we can provide you with an accurate and timely response.
The page they sent me to was the very same page I had already used to submit my complaint, which was not in fact an e-mail. Since they said they would accept “replies to outbound email messages”, I tried replying to this one, and was not surprised at the total lack of response. Gross incompetence or intentional evasion of disgruntled customers? I don’t know, and don’t much care, since the effect is the same.
When I finally got hold of a human being on the telephone Sunday evening, I was told that Earthlink no longer had possession of my domain, had nothing to do with it, and I should do a WhoIs through registrar.com to find out who has it now.
When I did that, I found this information (irrelevancies omitted):
Registrant Name: Host Master
Registrant Organization: Earthlink, Inc.
Registrant Street1: 1430 W. Peachtree St. NW
Registrant Street2: Suite 400
Registrant City: Atlanta
It certainly looks as if Earthlink still has possession of my domain, even if ‘Host Master’ (person, place, or thing?) is some kind of subsidiary. Earthlink headquarters is at 1375 W. Peachtree St., so the relationship between Host Master and Earthlink looks rather cozy, even if they are legally separate entities.
So why would Earthlink say they no longer have my domain? I may be wrong, but it looks as if they may be liars and common extortionists. When I went to the register.com website, I was invited to “make an offer” for the domain name:
Here’s how we can help you get the domain name you want:
When your name is unavailable, we can help you negotiate anonymously for it.
When the registrant agrees to sell, we can help protect your money and make sure you get your name.
Start now by entering the name you want:
Please enter your anonymous offer:
[ ] $200 minimum
You’ll be asked to become a member of the Exchange, which allows you unlimited use of our anonymous negotiating system and entitles you to buy and sell domain names on the aftermarket.
So I need to spend $49 to join afternic.com (“the Exchange”), then bid a minimum of $200 to get my domain back — possibly much more, since the anonymous bidding would (hypothetically) allow Host Master to pretend that there are other offers, even if there are none. All because Earthlink couldn’t be bothered to bill me for another year of domain registration with them, or even e-mail me before canceling the registration. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but it looks to me like a technically legal but morally contemptible scam designed to cheat unwary customers. Has this sort of thing happened to anyone else?
Anyway, I have now rented this domain, www.drweevil.org, and my site is now visible again to those few who know the new address. Of course, it is very inconvenient for me and others to have to write to everyone who links to me and ask them to update their links, but I’ll be damned if I’ll submit to extortion. Please delete your links to the old URL as soon as possible: I want www.doctorweevil.org off the Blogdex Top 200 as soon as possible.
The worst thing is that any link ever made to this site before last Friday is now dead, and will stay dead until the domain-thieves relinquish their booty, if they ever do. So a new URL is far from a full solution, and I will do everything I can within the bounds of American law and basic human morality (laxly interpreted) to screw Earthlink. Anyone have a recommendation for a good e-mail access company in Raleigh, NC? It won’t be convenient to have to change e-mail addresses as well as URLs, but I don’t want to send Earthlink another penny.
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