RealTime IT News

Washington Post Misses Domain Deadline

Sean Michael Kerner

One of the first rules of journalism is to make sure you get the details right. The same holds true for networks as a simple overlooked item can cause a complete shutdown, which is exactly what happened to Washington Post staffers on Thursday when their e-mail access was cut off.

The reason? A small, yet mission critical, detail was overlooked: the domain washpost.com, which is the e-mail domain for the Post's print staff, lapsed and was not renewed by the deadline. The company quickly renewed the domain name. A spokesman for the company said the outage only impacted its Washpost.com domain for print operations and not the company's Web site, Washingtonpost.com.

According to a statement printed in the Friday edition of the newspaper, "The Washington Post inadvertently failed to renew its annual Internet address registration, causing the newspaper's e-mail address to expire yesterday. The address was restored early yesterday, but e-mail traffic to and from The Post was disrupted for most of the day. By evening, some mail was beginning to arrive, but volume was not expected to return to normal until today."

According to Michele Krisanda, vice president of communications at domain registrar Network Solution, tens of thousands of domain names expire every day of the week.

"At Network Solutions, we send multiple renewal and expiration notices to customers up to the time that a domain name expires," she told internetnews.com. "If a customer still wants the domain name and simply hasn't responded to the renewal notices, this often prompts them to contact us. By waiting before we delete the domain name and instead, putting it on hold first, it makes it easier for us to get our customers up and running quickly again if they inadvertently forgot to renew."

The Washington Post incident is certainly not the first time a large company has forgotten to renew their domain name. One of the most famous incidents occurred in 1999 when Microsoft neglected to renew the domain name for its popular Hotmail service. More recently in May of last year, California Utility Alameda Power and Telecom allowed its domain name to lapse as well.

"Unfortunately it happens every day," Krisanda said. "Companies move and change their e-mail addresses or physical address and forget to update their accounts."

Though these incidents seem to occur regularly there are a number of simple things that domain owners can do to prevent a domain lapse from occurring.

Krisanda suggests that contact information should always be kept up to date. She noted that Network Solutions account management system allows its customers to designate multiple administrative and technical contacts. She also suggests that business critical domains be registered for the maximum allowable time period of 10 years.

Though the washpost.com domain had expired, it was not at risk of being lost by the media giant and resold to another party. After a domain expires, the original registrant has up to 45 days before a registrar lists the domain as expired. After that period, there is an up to 30-day grace renewal period when the original registrant may still renew the domain. Following that, the domain will show a registration status of "Pending Delete," after which there is up to six additional days for the original registrant to renew.

Only at the end of the pending delete period is a domain then deleted by the original registrar and available for resale.