Hi, I’m Jonas Lund, the real Jonas Lund. I used to be the owner of jonaslund.com. I registered it in October, 2003 and it was mine for the following 9 years. The 12th of December 2012 I lost control over my domain, a core piece of my identity, through a series of unfortunate and ‘scammy’ events. Here’s the story how it all went down.
The story begins in October 2003. I was a young aspiring photographer living in San Francisco with my dad and sister, I had just finished high school in Sweden and packed my bags to spend the autumn on the west coast. When I wasn’t spending time in the borrowed dark room developing prints for my portfolio I was working part-time and unpaid in a b/w photo gallery and assisted some fashion photographers. I was nineteen years old.
Half way through my time in San Francisco I started working on my online portfolio, my first website. With a lot of help from my dad, who happens to be a software developer, I built the first simple portfolio to promote my photography.
When it came to the time for publishing the website, I needed a domain, a complicated Geocities url simply wouldn’t cut it if I wanted to be a serious, professional photographer. Looking through the web for a domain registrar I found MyDomain.Com, 10 US dollars for one years registration for jonaslund.com seemed like a bargain so I committed to the deal and registered jonaslund.com on the 10th of October, 2003. Once it was mine, I found a cheap web host and uploaded my content, I was in business, I had my own online portfolio under my name, with a dot com top level domain, everything was perfect!
The 23rd of November I woke up freezing in Amsterdam, I had just returned from NYC two days ago and was still battling the jet lag and my bedroom was cold because of a forgotten open window. I checked my iPhone, like I normally do every morning and on the lock screen I saw a tweet from Aram that read
@jonas_lund all your servers are TANGO DOWN (email included) ...— Aram Bartholl (@arambartholl) November 23, 2012
I was thinking, crap, what’s wrong with my web host, dreamhost, this time. I knew that they had had some problems over the last weeks so I wasn’t too surprise, but the one thing that I found odd was that my email was down. I’ve been using Google Apps for my domain the last 4 years and that’s separate from my web hosting, so if my email was failing that must mean that my domain’s MX records were off and the reason for that must be something in relation to the domain registrar, MyDomain.com. (The MX records of a domain name specifies how email should be routed with the Smtp protocol.)
I hurry logging in to my domain account to check and see if everything is in order, and to my total shock and surprise I see that jonaslund.com has expired, 45 days ago no less. I’m thinking to myself, how is this possible, I’m always in control over these kinds of things, always on top of keeping everything in check. Then I remember, that the last time I renewed jonaslund.com was over two years ago, and because MyDomain.com is a registrar that’s spamming a lot of unnecessary, unwanted and impossible to unsubscribe from emails, I had create a specific filter for them to put all their emails into my Whatever label in my Google Apps account. So I had missed the one time email notice about my domain registration expiring. Regardless of the reason, I needed to rectify this situation as quickly as possible, but before jumping ahead, let’s take a moment to understand how domain expiring works, this will also be of crucial importance for the ending of this story.
When a domain passes the expiration date it enters a hold period for thirty days where it can be renewed by the owner without any additional costs. After this period there’s, depending on the registrar, a five day SnapName auction phase, where the domain can be bid on in an auction and bought by a third party. If no one bids on the domain, the domain will enter the grace redemption phase for thirty days, where the domain can be redeemed for a cost of around 150 US dollars. If it’s not renewed after the grace period, the domain enters the pending deletion phase, which lasts for five days, during this period the domain cannot be renewed. After the five days, the drop comes, which happens any time between 11 AM and 2 PM Pacific time and that’s when the domain is released into the open for anyone to register again. So simplified and summarized, expiration date, 30 days hold, 5 days SnapNames auction, 30 days grace period, 5 days pending deletion, and then the drop.
So I call MyDomain.com, realizing my domain is in the grace period, and I desperately want to redeem it. I talk to a guy called Alex and he assures me, after having payed 160 US Dollars, that he has redeemed my domain and that my services will be back up and running within 48 hours. And they are, after one day, my email is back in business and jonaslund.com DNS resolves nicely to my web host, so I relax and think, phew that was close.
Fast forward to the 12th of December, I get a phone call in the morning from a friend, he’s trying to send me an email but he says that the email to my address is bouncing. I’m thinking, WTF, how is that possible? I start checking all my services and everything seems normal. I conclude that something must be wrong with the domain’s MX records, somehow Google cannot relay the message to my domain. So I check the whois of jonaslund.com and that’s when it hits me, someone else is listed as the owner of jonaslund.com. So I panic and think, how is this even possible, I redeemed my domain so how can someone else be in charge over it. I call MyDomain and talk to them and the first guy I talk to agrees with me that it’s very odd and he doesn’t understand it either. His best guess is that they’ve accidentally put my domain under someone else user account and he escalates the support ticket to the higher ups to sort it out. I’m think, yeah, that could make sense, just a simple database error on their part as they were moving from an old platform to a newer one. So I relax for the moment, eagerly awaiting the response, saying that they’re rectified the situation and got my domain back under my control. That evening I call MyDomain again to complain and wonder why they haven’t solved the issue already, they excuse and say that they will escalate the support ticket even further up the chain. So I wait and wait and wait, and then the reply comes.
What? Is it true? Did I lose my domain to a SnapNames Auction? The whois record is the truth and not due to a misplaced domain name? It’s around 12 am and I need to get up very early the day after but I realize the consequence of someone else being in control of my number one online piece of identification, my email, so I go on a rush of changing primary email address for every web service I can think of, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Dreamhost, Linode, MediaTemple, NameCheap, Paypal, Ebay, Github, Quora, Spotify, Skype, Dropbox, Battlenet, Apple/iTunes, Online Banking, CSN, DigID, etc. As long as the new owner can’t get access to those I’ll be fine for now, until I can solve the situation proper. The following morning I send an email to every contact in my Google account with a notice, Please do not send any emails to email@example.com as that’s not me any more.
I start thinking, wait a minute, so if my domain was snapped in the SnapNames auction, how come it worked for the 30 days of the redemption period? And how come the MyDomain.com guy, Alex, didn’t realize it was in the SnapNames Auction phase and inform me so I could also place a bid? Something seems fishy with the whole situation. Especially since my works was still on jonaslund.com and it looks just normal. I checked the source and found <!-- Mirrored from jonaslund.com/ by HTTrack Website Copier/3.x [XR&CO'2010], Sun, 18 Nov 2012 18:44:38 GMT --> <!-- Added by HTTrack /Added by HTTrack --> so the new owner cloned my content, and all looks perfectly normal, except one major thing. The emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will no longer arrive in my inbox, but in his, in Siposs Lorand inbox. So he has effectively appropriated my online identity, he now owns a part of me, something that has been part of me since 2003, something I’ve identified myself with and through since almost a decade.
However, during the first scare I went on a domain registration rampage, I got jonaslund.biz, jonaslund.info, jonaslund.org and therealjonas.com just a precaution in case I would lose my primary domain, so I at least had some domains with my name in them. So now my Jonas Lund online identity has 301 (permanently moved) from jonaslund.com to http://jonaslund.biz. I’ve reached out to most places online to update the incoming links to my website from .com to .biz, so Google can recognize that the real Jonas Lund now resides under jonaslund.biz instead of the .com facsimile.
I’ve been emailing the new owner daily to recover my domain, to effectively buy it back for what I assume will be an atrocious sum of cash, which would be totally worth it. So far I’ve heard nothing...
I just visited jonaslund.com and saw the account that was hosting jonaslund.com has been suspended. So jonaslund.com is no longer showing my content on the website, which is really beneficial to me, as it clears out the confusion between fake Jonas Lund and the real Jonas Lund. I’m sending an email once a day to all possible @jonaslund.com emails, but so far no contact from the new owner.
Seems like it's back online again, the fake jonaslund.com, so back to the really bad situation again.