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Tuesday: March 21, 2006

I’m Back — And Earthlink Sucks

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:34 PM UTC

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:

http://support.earthlink.net/email

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:
[www.doctorweevil.org            ]

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.

14 Comments

  1. ISP on you
    The last time we mentioned Earthlink in this space, they were causing Matt Deatherage entirely too much grief. Matt, you’ll remember, was trying to cancel. But Dr. Weevil was trying…

    Trackback by dustbury.com — Wednesday: March 22, 2006 @ 8:04 AM UTC

  2. I had earthlink as my ISP for about 3 years and while the customer service was pretty good in my case, every 3 or 4 months my service would go kaput and I’d have to spend around 2 hours on the phone with them in order to get things fixed (which was always a different solution). I finally got tired of the redundant outage & switched to bellsouth about two years ago and am still waiting on my first problem with their service.

    Comment by RW — Friday: March 24, 2006 @ 9:18 AM UTC

  3. Dr. Weevil is Back
    And he has a very good reason to despise Earthlink….

    Trackback by JunkYardBlog — Sunday: March 26, 2006 @ 8:39 PM UTC

  4. I never linked to you before, but after reading this (I came in through a link from Jay Manifold) I am blogrolling you now. Earthlink sure sounds like a bunch of *?!@*+= @!/?*-/*ers!

    Comment by Michael Gersh — Tuesday: March 28, 2006 @ 7:30 PM UTC

  5. Dr. Weevil has moved
    Dr. Weevil has a new URL, drweevil.org, due to the suckage of Earthlink….

    Trackback by joannejacobs.com — Wednesday: March 29, 2006 @ 2:04 AM UTC

  6. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I suspect that Earthlink is incompetent rather than malicious, not that it’s much consolation. IME there’s a lot of slop in the updating of WHOIS records, so that what you see may lag reality by a few weeks. Also, Earthlink should have given you first refusal on the domain transfer. Indeed I think there’s a significant grace period, maybe 40 days from the nominal date of your domain’s expiration, during which the registration is closed to outsiders but you are allowed to renew it. Earthlink should have notified you before the domain expired.

    Comment by Jonathan — Wednesday: March 29, 2006 @ 8:31 PM UTC

  7. Doc, get in touch with the FTC and the FCC about this. Be sure to include all information. Could be Earthlink is in violation regarding fraud, misrepresentation, wire fraud, and other such things.

    Hope it work out for you.

    Comment by Alan Kellogg — Wednesday: March 29, 2006 @ 11:00 PM UTC

  8. Dang, I was wondering where you’d disappeared to. Your link on my blogroll has been updated.

    Comment by Paul Burgess — Saturday: April 1, 2006 @ 7:10 AM UTC

  9. I updated all the links on my blog–although it’s unlikely that anyone would be reading old posts there. But at least the roloblog is updated now.

    Comment by Dave Trowbridge — Sunday: April 2, 2006 @ 11:33 PM UTC

  10. I AM PISSED AT EARTHLINK YES I HAVE BEEN ON THE PHONE WITH THE TECHS FOR SEVERAL HOURS. I ONLY HAD IT FOR 1 MONTH AND WAS TOLD I CAN’T CANCELL AS OF TODAY MY SERVICE IS STILL NOT WORKING BECAUSE OF THE EARTHLK PROTECTION CENTER CRAP. ALSO IT KEEPS POPPING UP FIRE WALLS ON ALL MY PC’S THAT I LINKED TO, I WAS TOLD THAT A MASTER TECH WILL CONTACT ME. NOTHING. WHY SHOULD I PAY FOR A SERVICE I CAN’T USE/ I SIGNED UP FOR THAT STUPID 1 YEAR PROMO SUPPOSE TO HAVE BEEN 1995 BUT 3995

    Comment by SELENE — Thursday: April 13, 2006 @ 1:15 PM UTC

  11. After my experience with Earthlink a year ago (see my blog at http://www.karlwinkler.blogspot.com) I would side with those thinking it was malicious rather than incompetence. I think they are crooks. The experience I had was a “bait and switch” scam, along with a ridiculous shipping cost for the DSL modem. Unfortunately, there are few alternatives here in New Mexico and the time it takes to figure out who has the best deal has so far left me continuing to use Earthlink for my DSL connection. After reading this, though, I’m glad I never had them host any of my sites.

    Comment by Karl Winkler — Wednesday: July 19, 2006 @ 12:05 PM UTC

  12. I almoust had a very similar issue with my old registrator (registerfly.com). They just forgot to notice me about my domain expiration. Fortunately I noticed that the domain is suspended, and I could get it back…
    Janos

    Comment by Domain regisztráció — Monday: January 8, 2007 @ 8:04 AM UTC

  13. Earthlink is great at giving trite comments and platitudes about how they value us as customers and how sympathetic they are to the connection problems. I’m shopping for a new ISP. I’ll use a tin can and string before I ever use Earthlink.

    Comment by Ling — Tuesday: January 23, 2007 @ 3:00 PM UTC

  14. Don’t even get me started about Earthlink. They provide some of the worst tech support in the business. They are real good at tooting their own horn, as if they actually had good tech support and cared about customers, but the truth is they are as bad as it gets!

    Comment by Trevor Williams — Tuesday: March 13, 2007 @ 4:47 AM UTC

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