There was news yesterday that FreshDirect went off-line for 13 hours after its domain name www.freshdirect.com expired and temporarily resolved to the parking page which is attached below.
The New York Times reported the snafu with a few references to tweets the company received highlighting the plight of New Yorkers unaccustomed to going to the grocery store. Mashable.com reported that the same thing happened to the Dallas Cowboys website in 2010.
Although FreshDirect has not come out with a specific explanation for the outage a spokeswoman at Network Solutions (FreshDirect’s former registrar) told Bloomberg News that the company has multiple safeguards and reminders that go out to customers letting them know about renewal dates prior to the expiration.
It is easy to see how companies like FreshDirect and other multi-million dollar enterprises can lose a domain name if no one at the organization is put in charge of minding the companies Intellectual Property or online assets. However, there is certainly a “teachable moment” here for other companies that operate online.
One thing that companies can do to prevent this from happening is to use registrar services that provide personal contact so that there is someone at the registrar who is actually in charge of servicing that companies account. For a company that is not focused on Internet issues the price of spending some more money for a domain registration is well worth it compared to using a discount registry service that does not distinguish between clients and will let a domain name expire without doing more than sending a random e-mail.
The other thing a company can do to avoid this give responsibility for dealing with renewals to their IT Dept. or Legal Dept. In either case it is much safer to make sure that the department as a whole is the listed administrative contact rather than an individual whose email address can change or expire.