As a domain registrar and web hosting provider you can send reminders to customers who need to renew their domain name, but you can’t force them to renew their domains. The consequences of not renewing a domain on time, as the City of Oakland learned last week, can make a website completely inaccessible.
According to a report by the East Bay Times, the website for the city of Oakland experienced a service disruption Thursday after it failed to renew its domain name. People attempting to visit oaklandnet.com landed on a page for domain name registrar Network Solutions.
The problem was noticed quickly and the domain name renewed, but some users continued to be unable to access the site while it propagated, city spokeswoman Karen Boyd said in the report. “Depending on where you try to access it, you may have different levels of success,” she said. The city acknowledged the disruption on Twitter several hours after it began, though Twitter users continued to report difficulty accessing the site on Friday.
A domain name like oaklandnet.com is not very desirable, so though it’s unlikely that it would have been snatched up in the time it took the city to renew it, opportunistic domain squatters could have taken advantage. Also, arguably the website for the City of Oakland does not provide any mission-critical services, so an outage would not mean any lost business, just more of an inconvenience for visitors hoping to square up a parking ticket.
Oakland is transitioning to a new website, currently found at beta.oaklandca.gov, which continued to operate during the disruption.
— richard k belew (@rikbelew) April 17, 2017
Lapsed domain names have previously been rescued for many websites, including ones belonging to Google and movie director Oliver Stone, but for many companies it could be a potentially devastating and completely preventable oversight.