back to article Thousands cut off from email after EE bungles domain renewal

Thousands of UK internet users were cut off from email after their ISP failed to renew the domain name used to route them. The address "FSNet.co.uk" is the legacy domain used by Freeserve, which later merged with Orange. The domain was first registered and used back in 1999 but it expired on 4 August, leading to its suspension …

  1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    This is a wake-up call

    To anyone not using their own domain name for email or web-hosting.

    1. Adam JC

      Re: This is a wake-up call

      Whilst I agree, I feel this is a tad unrealistic for Joe Bloggs. At the very least, a move away from ISP-provided e-mail services is an absolute necessity.

      Outlook.com / Google Mail accounts are about all I'll suggest nowadays, infact I'm tempted to stop recommending Outlook.com as recovering the accounts is a pain the ass.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: This is a wake-up call

        I think the original poster is correct, it is a wake up call for those people using ISP served email accounts. The problem is that ordinary Joe Bloggs actually doesn't want the responsibility of looking after their own stuff, they'd rather they trusted a free service to provide them with that service. So when it does go wrong, they don't feel that they have to do anything other than rant and rave that their freebie service isn't working and that it's affecting their business.

        At the end of the day, you get what you pay for.

        1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: This is a wake-up call

          Is it true that you cannot export your contacts from BT mail? (Yahoo! presumably, I was told this in the pub)

      2. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

        Re: This is a wake-up call

        Totally agree. The internet providers are under no obligation to provide a working email address. Neither are Google of course, but it's one of their flagship products and if that keeps going down, nobody will trust their business email offerings, or the company itself, so it's very much in their interest to provide a working email service, which they do.

        We have a customer who had a domain registered through BT for their business, and the domain matched their company name, which was good. One day, their email stopped working. They called BT to ask what was happening and they basically said "what domain?" followed by "what account?". They even sent BT screenshots of their account page that they took when it used to work, and BT said "no, nothing to do with us". It turned out that the domain was registered in the name of the idiot at BT who did it, not the customer. But BT system deleted the whole email account and hosting, so there was no way of easily reusing the domain or moving it elsewhere. The customer gave up and registered another similar name. A year or so later, they got a call from some company who had bought the domain when it expired and tried to sell it back to them for €1000. They said no.

        Not sure about Outlook.com or yahoo accounts, they're probably best avoided (yahoo in particular).

        I spend a disproportionately large amount of time explaining to people why their "btconnect.com" address or talktalk.co.uk address is a bad idea. And people I meet with addresses like "joeandjoannabloggs@thebloggses45123.freeserve.co.uk" really deserve what's coming to them...

        Actually so many times I see something like "joe.bloogs@btinternet.com" or "stehpen.bloggs@" because the idiot at BT doesn't know or care how to spell or listen or make decisions or anything

        1. The other JJ

          Re: This is a wake-up call

          The reality is that half (90%?) of the people out there don't understand the distinction between connectivity, ISP, domain, email, website and it's hardly in the interests of ISPs and web hosts to clarify that as it undermines their lock-ins.

          After all, how often do you see a business card or van livery for, say "Quality London Plumber" with underneath "website: www.qualitylondonplumber.co.uk" and below that "email: qualitylondonplumber@aol.com" or "...@btinternet.com" or even "...@fsnet.com"?

        2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Anthony H. post

          This sounds like a dot com domain, rather than a Nominet domain. I've had to deal with situations where the domain ownership is wrong and Nominet will only change it if you accept in writing the repercussions for the change should an interested party make a claim.

          On your misspellings theme, I was asked a while ago to setup an email client for someone who'd just got their broadband. Everything was urgent, so I just setup the information from what I was told, rather than from any documents that had been sent. Could not get the blasted thing to work. Gone through all the hoops and I could not login to the account. Had a few conversations with BT. No joy until I spoke to a techie at BT who asked me (yet again) for the account name (which was a very common name), and he said "how are you spelling Barry?" Turned out the person taking the order had setup "bary" instead. And of course Barry had to explain forevermore to anyone emailing him the non-obvious variant.

  2. Jim 48

    I'm just surprised that nobody else had picked it up in the meantime, they could have made a tidy profit.

    1. Adam JC

      The domain typically remains in a state of limbo for a period of 90 days in order for Nominet to offer the original holder another change to reclaim it before being released to the domain.

      Have you ever waited to try and nab a domain that's been allowed to lapse? Each registrar seemingly has an imaginary policy ranging from 3 months to nearly a year before you can grab one! (Source: I had a domain on 'back order' through 123-Reg, took nearly 8 months to get it after the domain expired)

      I've also grabbed one of my domains back after letting it expire, I was advised that on a .me domain if you don't renew it 14 days after it's officially expired that you cannot reclaim it. Oops! :-)

  3. Chloe Cresswell

    Those who don't learn from history..

    Years ago, when it was still freeserve, they let fsbusiness.co.uk and another business aimed domain expire, with exactly the same results.

    Trying to report it just got the normal "your email isn't working" scripted response.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DNS Names should be treated as a proper corporate asset

    and monitored and managed as such.

    Often bought with a temporary project manager's credit card and some technicians email address these get lost as people move on.

    Management are not always aware that the domain is a brand asset, that it has a shelf life that requires renewal, and really should have a central function accountable for making sure they never expire. I wouldnt be surprised either if someone had got the email but there was no way of refunding some intern the credit card fee...

    I am sure this happened to another big brand a few years back although I can't recall which one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DNS Names should be treated as a proper corporate asset

      "[...] really should have a central function accountable for making sure they never expire."

      We used to have lot of MS Developer subscriptions dotted round a large IT company. Every department took care of the annual renewals. Then the purchasing was centralised. Everyone's subscription then expired.

      It transpired that Microsoft had been paid a chunk of money to renew them - but there was apparently no way for the centralised renewals to be linked to the person using the existing subscription.

    2. Picky
      FAIL

      Re: DNS Names should be treated as a proper corporate asset

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/11/06/microsoft_forgets_to_renew_hotmail/

      Yup Microsoft

  5. zaax

    Its EE and you expected more?

  6. frank ly

    Correction

    "We're very sorry for any inconvenience caused by the technical issues on FSNet," ->

    "We're experiencing piss-poor management at EE."

    1. paulf Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Correction

      Thank you, I've just received funny looks for laughing at that in the office. So very true regarding EE who must have a most egregious infestation of PHBs. Perhaps they should call Rentokil?

      Unfortunately my need for a new keyboard means no Beer icon.

  7. michael cadoux

    as per usual

    As an olde-tyme mainframe contractor, I enjoyed the countdown on "Your licence for this product expires in xx days" warnings. Then came a last-minute managerial scrabble for renewal - though too late in one case, so the only organisation I ever worked in that had somebody actually tasked with maintaining licences was AFTER a cock-up.

  8. wyatt

    My dad just had his BT Internet email account deleted by BT. No reason for them to do it but they did. They're convinced that it can't be retrieved, however are still trying after raising it to their 'Executive Complaints Team. I asked him if he had a copy of it and he looked at me blankly, I explained that unless he has control of his data, it is very easy to lose access. Still received blank looks..

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    I think.. .

    My parents are still using there's, quite surprised I didn't get a panicked call over it (Also feeling smug as I've snuck my own domain onto the work server. Perks of the job and all that)

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: I think.. .

      snuck your own domain onto the work server eh?

      That is grounds for instant termination (to use a US term) in many companies. You'd better just hope that your boss can't track you from your username here or you might be looking for a new position pronto.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think.. .

        "That is grounds for instant termination (to use a US term) in many companies. You'd better just hope that your boss can't track you from your username here or you might be looking for a new position pronto"

        Don't be so melodramatic. We don't all work for Barclays Bank or wherever.

        If this guy just works in a little office, and has popped his domain name onto the company's SBS box.. the boss isn't likely to give a monkeys either way.

      2. Fatman Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: I think.. .snuck your own domain onto the work server eh?

        We had someone at WROK PALCE do exactly THAT, and he was launched on a new career trajectory via the roof mounted Trebuchet.

        Poor fool landed in the cactus patch. Damn those spines hurt.

    2. NickW1

      Re: I think.. .

      Just use Zoho mail - it's free even with your own domain

  10. An0n C0w4rd

    all ee domains seem to be 1 yr renewals

    orange.co.uk, t-mobile.co.uk, ee.co.uk, etc, all expire in 2016. guess they're short of money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: all ee domains seem to be 1 yr renewals

      Either that or they want to get the best/cheapest deal every year.

      Buying a domain name for anything longer than 5 years is a long time. Companies get sold, people move etc. The email address that is the contact for the domain might have been long gone.

      But on the other hand this is EE we are talking about. You would have thought they would have had something in place to track this.

      1. Norm DePlume

        Re: all ee domains seem to be 1 yr renewals

        > But on the other hand this is EE we are talking about. You would have thought they would have

        > let all their domains expire every year to see which ones people complain about.

        There. FTFY.

    2. Polyphonic
      Happy

      Re: all ee domains seem to be 1 yr renewals

      Or, could it be that they are merging with BT this year and next year all those domains will be defunct?

      Could it be that this time next year Orange, T-Mobile, ee, etc branding will be dust? Not sure I want to lose my name@surname.orangehome.co.uk email, but there again, byeeee.

  11. Vagnerr

    You can't rely on the nominet mails

    Owning a couple of .uk domains myself I can attest to the fact that you don't always get the renewal notice emails from them. The last time mine where up for expiry its was the Google webmaster tools that informed me that the googlebot couldn't access the site. But then I'm not a big commercial entity so I suspect the only person who noticed was the webtrawlers :-)

    So yes its your asset. you are responsible for maintaining it. you should know when your own domains are going to expire

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All too common

    I worked for a national newspaper a few year ago and we had a big web site launch put back two weeks because the numpties forgot to renew the domain name registrations.

    They were pretty good at forgetting to renew SSL certificates too.

  13. batfastad

    ISP

    ISP e-mail addresses? From an ISP that's been defunct for probably 15 years? These people deserved it.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Thunderbird 2

    No bacon jokes?

  16. David Roberts Silver badge

    Propogation delay?

    I flagged this up to El Reg on the day it happened with a link to the page in the forum with the complaints.

    I thought they had ignored it as not newsworthy - so interesting to see it pop up two weeks later.

    Unless they missed the email, of course.

  17. xeroks

    1 year renewal

    I reckon that the 1 yr renewal suggests that a tech somewhere looked at the paperwork and lag time required to request accounts to renew that domain. Then they just paid for it themselves.

    1. Stuart 22

      Re: 1 year renewal

      AFAIR its £3.50 for one year and £5.00 for two which is the standard for Nominet (+vat) .

      Its just silly and not good business after one cock-up not to put the next one off for two years. And how much does it cost EE to process each payment?

      And to think Orange & Freeserve were both brilliant companies in their day. Merging companies is a great way to lose your way trapped in the corporate spaghetti machine.

      1. paulf Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: 1 year renewal

        I suspect @xeroks was considering the PO approval process in a company like EE where the PO has to be completed (perfectly, natch) get signed off by the boss, then sent to accounts, then to Purchasing (Procurement?), then to a Senior Director or Veep for extra approval (it's cumputters innit, must be important) then back to Accounts, then over to Purchasing and finally send the money to the Registrar by which time it's been nabbed by an opportune cyber-squatter and it's flinging out Malware and V1agr@ adverts.

        There's no swimming in treacle icon.

  18. BenBell
    Pint

    Time to start making notes

    Expiry for some big domins could be big business. I'll be adding stuff to my calendar if you need me.

  19. Lee D Silver badge

    Any tech who relies on renewal emails to renew anything - contracts, services, products, licences - is an idiot that shouldn't be in charge of such things.

    Are you honestly telling me that they don't collate a list of domains, plus their renewal dates, and check every month? They must have dozens of domains, you can't just rely on someone spotting something coming into a spam-filled postmaster@ mailbox.

    And, hell, it's one calendar shared around with the IT department - it doesn't need to have anything privileged and "the guy who did that left/worked for another company" isn't an excuse either.

    That's a potentially serious data-revelation flaw... hundreds of user's emails, including complete password reset access for example, potentially going to some random party with £10 and a keen eye for such things. That's inexcusable.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      I think anyone is halfway competent with a database could have all this stored for easy retrieval. What relatively small table in your favorite db and a cron job to query the db on the first day of the month.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and yet....

    Of the people's whose email has now been restored, how many will be spending this weekend taking steps to stop this in future.... probably only a handful... and i bet about 0% will actually spend any money on paying a local techie to do it for them (y'know those people at the indie IT shop that advertise virus removal and the like).

    Like the other poster said above... EE can be expected to F*uck up, if you are using a 10 year defunct ISP email you deserve these problems.

  21. PeterM42
    FAIL

    Everything Everywhere........?

    AKA

    NOTHING, NOWHERE

  22. PeterM42

    Everything Everywhere........?

    AKA

    NOTHING NOWHERE

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