Evening has fallen, and you've settled into your desk with nice cup of chai tea and some tunes on your Bluetooth speaker or radio for a quiet night of updating your website. You go to pull up your website, and nothing is there. In fact, the "spammy" looking link ads are there and you see something about this domain not being registered.
You email you programmer right away, demanding an answer. When you don't get an answer, as programmers usually respond in either minutes or days, you do your own investigative sleuthing because there is no one else to turn to. You call your website host, but they say all is peachy (as they always do...server hosts hardly take blame). Finally you check your domain registrar company - the company you bought your website domain through, like Dotster or Media Temple or GoDaddy. While you're on hold, you listen to a recording about ICANN-something-or-other wanting you to update your contact information. Whatever - you're hearing this about 200 times because you've been on hold for so long, it's become white noise.
A customer service rep picks up the phone, and agrees that your website is down, and that you need to simply update your contact information. Thanks to a new set of rules put place in 2013 by ICANN, (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), ICANN can suspend your domain name if you don't validate your contact information when they ask you to. ICANN is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and operable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers. Through its coordination role of the Internet's naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.
And in the name of Internet security, they just pulled the plug on your website to get your attention after you failed to respond to your registrar's repeated emails to you to go in and verify your contact information. This action was set into motion in 2013. Some people are upset about this use of authority, but the bottom line is, if you lose your domain name, you lose your business for awhile. In the digital space, there are no police cars driving around to protect you. It's everyone out for themselves, with a few institutions like this one, and good people looking out for each other, who are policing the system. And that could all work out just fine without too much other government involvement.
But before you sign off this article thinking that this would never happen to you, be warned: It happened to me. To two of my websites. Why? Because my account with Dotster was started back in 2005, back when I still used an earthlink.net email address. The domains in question were attached to that email. I don't remember if I set that email address to forward to my current Gmail address, or if the Earthlink address even still exists. Had I seen the emails, which I did not, I still may have ignored them because people are sent tons of spam emails daily, asking for contact verification, as pointed out in this article. From PayPal, to Chase, to AT&T, hackers and "phishers" mimic emails all of the time to get you to click on things.
Lesson Learned: If you get an email that needs you to verify your contact details, from anyone, don't click on the link. But do go to the website that the email says it's from, or call that company, to see if you in fact need to update your contact information.
PS: Isn't that desk in the picture above fancy? I know! I set it up piece by piece using a "scene creator" from Tobias Waaentz on Creative Market.