Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Uh-oh, better get WaPo!

Last week, the Washington Post lost its domain name. Well, not “the” domain name used for online readers, but the domain name the WaPo uses for email, washpost.com. Living here near D.C., I’ve infrequently corresponded with various reporters. It should be no surprise that they use email quite a bit. So imagine the disruption to their operations when emails from their domain were ‘bounced’ because expiration warnings had been sent to an ‘unmonitored‘ email address. Now imagine the disruption to your church or charity’s operations if your organization lost its domain.

“Frustrated employees, who also lost some other internal Internet-based functions, were told that renewal notices from Herndon, Va.-based Network Solutions, which registers domain names, went to a “drop box” that was not monitored.” – Washington Post

Not a pretty picture, is it? Especially if some ‘pr0n0grapher’ gets hold of it! We’ve discussed this scenario in the past. What we haven’t discussed in great detail are possible ways of preventing this problem. So indulge me as I speculate as to the causes for this oversight by an organization as large and well-funded as the Washington Post.

Theory One: Spam
Anyone who’s ever registered a domain has more than likely received spam sent to the email address identified as the ‘administrative’ or ‘technical’ contact for the domain. So it could have been that after tons of spammage, some frustrated geek tossed all incoming mail to the contact address straight into the bit bucket. That or someone set-up an anti-spam filter that accidentally directed the warnings to >/dev/null.

Theory Two: Staff Changes
It could have been that the contact email address was an individual who once worked at The Post, but is now gainfully employed elsewhere.

Theory Three: Passing the Buck
Another possibility could be that the warnings about the domain expiration came in, but since it was being sent to a generic or catch-all email address, the information was never passed along to the individual paying the bills.

“Champ Mitchell, chief executive of Network Solutions, said that in the past six months the Post was sent “no less than seven” notifications that the registration was about to expire, most of them by e-mail. A manager in the newspaper’s technology division is listed as the contact for the account.” – Washington Post

Theory Four: Check’s in the Mail
Even if the information did get to the correct parties, large organizations often pay bills on cycles. I could be that the bill for renewal was thrown on a stack of others to be paid at the end of January because various individuals in accounting weren’t aware of the situation’s urgency.

So what lessons can those of us running church or charity websites take away from this? First is training. Embue upon your staff the importance of protecting the domain name. Not only because of the evils that can ensue and/or the painful disruption in business, but also because a good domain is worth its weight in gold as it helps you brand and advertise your organization.

Second, obey Proverbs 6:21a, that is “Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck.” In other words, make sure the email from your registrar doesn’t get bounced, tossed, filtered or otherwise deleted. I realize that the registrars themselves sometimes spam, but usually they provide legitimate opt-out options; or do what I do, forward it into a separate folder (or account) so the messages get read … which leads me to my last suggestion.

But allowing domains to expire poses greater risks for some who let them slip. Entrepreneurs are constantly trolling for unused or soon-to-expire domains that they try to snap up, often to sell to other businesses that might want them. – Washington Post

Third, make someone the ‘designated domain monitor‘. When an email comes in from the registrar, it is their job to read it and act upon it. It is their job to make sure that the people paying the bills are following through on it in an expeditious manner. It is this ‘domain monitors’ responsibility to NOT sit around and wait for email, but to actively check the registration information periodically to make sure the domain is still theirs and up-to-date.

I’m sure you guys and gals can come up with some more theories and solutions, if so, leave a comment.

And now my question to you: its 11-February-2004, do you know where your domain is?

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only …” – James 1:22a


  1. Also, when trying to find out when your domain expires, don’t just do a whois and look at the information there. I did that for the charity I work fors domain name and thought we had a week longer than we did. For some reason our old hosts (so very rubbish) gave you a year’s domain name service from when you paid them, as opposed to from when the domain actually got registered. So for some reason it took them a week to get the domain registered initially, which meant that we had a week less of ‘domain-in-use’ time even though the domain was still registered

  2. whois.sc is a very nice tool. Thanks for the (subliminal) tip.

    Non-relevant story: two days after we went live with a new hosting provider, the church got several emails from a guy claiming that we had stolen his domain name. He was going to sue the church and everyone we knew. A real jerk. Turned out his site had been hosted by our new provider, but was kicked out for alleged spam abuse. We inherited the IP address used by his (former) site. All was straightened out.

  3. There are companies out there that take advance purchasing on domain names in a hope that someone did not pay the bill on a domain name in order to sweep it up and ‘extort charge’ the original owner later on to re-retrieve it.

    BTW. I have e-mailed Julia Duin numerous times myself because I like the articles she has written on Christianity for the Washington Post and also some of her freelance work.

  4. OOPS!!!!

    My mistake about Julia Duin, she works at the Washington Times, not the Post. I apologize.

  5. When registering for services that are not specific to an individual, don’t use an individual’s email address as the contact address. Use a generic address like “info@company.com,” even if a specific individual is responsible for checking that mailbox. When the person leaves your organization, it will be easier to get info@company.com directed to a new person than it will to remember, find, and change all your registrations.