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Another Subdomain Service Nightmare

August 2, 2011

Thousands of UK small businesses were thrown into turmoil on the weekend after discovering their websites were no longer functioning due to a battle between a subdomain name provider and its founder.

According to a report on The Register, sites using subdomain names became unreachable after a former owner of the company took control of the domain.

A notice posted on the company's web site (as at 5pm August 2, Australian Eastern Time) states in part: "We are currently taking legal advice about this and will be taking urgent steps to restore the service. But we cannot achieve that instantly. In the interim we are taking every action possible to ensure that websites continue to function during the temporary period before our service is restored, to mitigate any losses to our clients."

Subdomain services can be attractive to businesses that haven't been able to register the name they want under a Top Level Domain extension. Unfortunately, use of these services doesn't offer the same protections as registering directly under a TLD (such as .com, or as it's essentially "piggy-backing" or sub-letting a name from another party.

This is the second incident in the last couple of months where thousands of users of subdomain services have been severely impacted. 

In early July, Google announced it had detected a number of bulk subdomain providers being targeted by malware distributors and sellers of fake anti-virus software. In order to protect Google users, the company then removed over 11 million domain web sites from its results - basically any site using a subdomain name.

While use of a subdomain name may be fine for hobbyists, many businesses cannot afford to be offline or invisible to search engine users for any length of time. Registering directly under a TLD through an accredited registrar provides flexibility in how a domain name is used, allows for transfer of a name between registrars and additional registrant rights and protection.

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