Then, on approximately Friday, 10th June, this happened:
And it wasn’t because I had decided to capitalise on my site’s massive traffic by turning it into a highly profitable music-based search portal (because it doesn’t get any).
What had actually happened is that I lost my domain name. This is because my domain provider, Web Mania, went out of business without telling me. But they did notify me that my domain was due for renewal – back in April. They sent a reminder email saying,
To prevent any disruption in service, it is important that you renew your account before it expires.
Yes Web Mania, it is important – which is why I did it immediately. I paid my renewal fee, and received email confirmation that said,
Thank you for renewing your account. Payment has been received.
So I naively assumed everything was fine. I mean, Web Mania took my money and sent me email confirmation that they had renewed my domain.
Unfortunately, one vital step was somehow missed from this process: the bit where they actually renewed my domain. That bit didn’t happen. I was no longer master of my domain, and I only found out that Web Mania had gone into liquidation by googling it when they didn’t reply to my emails or phone calls. There was absolutely no indication on their site, I received no notification by email, and there wasn’t even an apologetic message on their helpline.
And it looks like I’m not the only one. I can’t say I ever thought to contact my local paper about my website going missing, but this man did having been in exactly my situation.
Where to get help
Thankfully it seems that this is actually a well-documented problem. Thanks to this post I was brought quickly up to speed, and found a number of sympathetic – and generally more solvent – hosts and resellers who were ready to help former Web Mania customers regain what they had lost.
I discovered that I could retrieve my domain name from OnlineNIC, who are the registrar for whom Web Mania were a reseller. They are happy to assist victims of Web Mania, though unfortunately transferring my domain was still an incredibly protracted process that involved sending toenail clippings and a photo of my bum to prove my identity. Well, I think that was what they wanted anyway. Either that or a copy of my passport.
123-Reg have also been pretty good as my new domain provider, though communicating through them solely via their ticketed support system in which each reply was seen by a different operator was quite trial. The whole process is so excruciatingly slow and impenetrable that I think if my livelihood relied on my website, I would probably have had a breakdown.
Beware of YorHost
In the midst of all this, something remarkable has happened: Web Mania has come back to life. Sort of. They have rebranded as ‘YorHost‘, offering exactly the same services as before. They even had the tenacity to get back in touch, while this blog post was gestating in draft form. Out of the blue I received an email that said that all emails for Web Mania should now be addressed to YorHost. So I sent them one. It said:
In April you reminded me to renew my domain, which I did immediately. You sent me an invoice, took my money and sent confirmation.
But you did not renew my domain. Because, as it turns out, you went out of business without warning me or leaving any indication that this had happened on your website, or a message on your support line or even an email.
So my website went down and I spent the last three weeks trying to recover it from OnlineNIC and transfer it to another registrar, and only managed to get it back online yesterday. I’m just in the middle of writing a blog post about it, so this is good timing!
Are you going to refund me my domain renewal fee? And how about paying for the transfer fee to recover the domain?
The reply was simply:
Unfortunately I don’t have access to the system to issue a refund, however, if you contact your card issuer and let them know that you tried to renew the domain name and it wasn’t done as the company went into liquidation, the card company should be able to retrieve the money for you.
Isn’t that great? So my advice is…. no matter how good those prices look, do not choose YorHost.
What’s frustrating about losing a domain name is that you can’t even post a notice on it saying “I’m still here really!”. What was going to happen to all those people looking up the man with the pyramid hat while it was gone? And you’re left helpless to do anything in the meantime.
So, dear Google: hello! It’s me! I’m here! The website’s back! Please keep indexing it! Hopefully it won’t be going anywhere soon.