Why you should not use 1and1 to register your domains

I was recently looking for a domain registrar to which to transfer my domains from Go Daddy (the whole SOPA-supporting, misogynistic-ads-running, whole-day-outage-allowing thing just wasn’t doing it for me anymore), and several friends recommended 1and1, so I went ahead and transferred my domains to them several days ago.

Boy, was that a mistake.

I like to run my own DNS server for several of my domains. I don’t want my DNS server to be a single point of failure, but at the same time, it’s a pain to run multiple DNS servers, so after initiating the domain transfer process to 1and1, I emailed their “expert” customer service department and asked if they could provide secondary DNS support for my domains and mirror the domains’ zone files from my the primary DNS server maintained by me.

I got back an answer which make it perfectly clear that the person writing it didn’t know what I was talking about. Lovely, a domain registrar whose “expert” customer support representatives don’t understand how DNS servers work.

I wrote back a second time, explaining again what I was asking, and ending my message with, If you don’t understand what I am asking, please escalate this issue to someone who does.”

I got back a second answer which, again, did not answer my question and made it clear that the (different) person at the other end of the line didn’t know what I was talking about.

But that’s actually small potatoes compared to what 1and1 really did wrong, which was to screw up my domain transfer in a way which caused the domains I was transferring, including my primary email domain, to be down for almost 24 hours, and to lie to me about the cause of the delay. Perhaps most people who register domains don’t understand how things work well enough to know when they’re being lied to, but I don’t fall into that category, and there’s nothing worse you can do to piss me off as a customer than lie to me to mask your incompetence.

Here’s how a domain transfer issupposed to work:

  1. The customer initiates the transfer.
  2. The new registrar requests the transfer from the old registrar.
  3. The old registrar notifies the customer and asks for approval of the transfer.
  4. The customer configures DNS etc. at the new registrar, so that when the transfer is approved, the new registrar can have things up and running essentially immediately.
  5. The customer approves the transfer with the old registrar.
  6. The old registrar notifies the new registrar that the transfer has been approved and relinquishes control of the domain to the new registrar.
  7. The new registrar immediately completes the registration process and brings the domain live on its DNS servers. This completes a successful transfer, with minimal downtime.

The only steps in this process which are not under the control of either the customer or the new registrar are steps 3 and 6, when the old registrar must take action. I suppose it’s possible that there are some registrars who do these steps manually (or worse, delay them on purpose because they don’t want to lose customers), but for Go Daddy, at least, it’s entirely automated.

Go Daddy asked for my approval almost immediately after I initiated the transfer through 1and1. After I approved the transfer, Go Daddy released the domains to 1and1 very quickly. In particular, Go Daddy notified me at 7:30pm on December 6, “This is to confirm that the following domain names have been successfully transferred away from Go Daddy to Schlund Partner AG.”

Sixteen hours later, 1and1′s web site claimed that they were still waiting for the transfer from Go Daddy. That’s bullshit. The only thing they were waiting for was to get their thumbs out of their asses and finish the transfer on their end. Which they didn’t do until 7:20pm, 10 minutes short of 24 hours after Go Daddy released the domains to them.

When I called 1and1′s “expert” customer service department to complain, I reached an offshore customer service farm which, judging from the name and accent of the person who answered the phone, was in India. Let’s face facts, here, folks: there are no “expert” customer service departments in India.

The guy I spoke with first claimed that the issue was “propagation.” I knew that was bullshit because (a) I know a thing or two about how this stuff works, having been in the business for more than two decades, and (b) the “whois” info for my domains showed that they were now registered with 1and1, which means there was nothing stopping 1and1 from completing the transfer.

When I told called him on that bullshit, he said that  the delays were ICANN’s fault, which is also bullshit.

Then he said, “Did you read the warning we displayed before you initiated the transfer? It said it would take 5-7 days.” To which I responded, “That’s because ICANN rules allow the old registrar to take up to 5 days to transfer the domain to the new one, but that’s irrelevant here, because the old registrar has already transferred the domain to you, and all that’s left is for you to finish setting up the domain on your end.”

The fact of the matter is that the only thing which caused our domains to be down for almost 24 hours was a 24-hour delay at 1and1.

I’d be a lot less pissed about all of this if the guy I spoke to on the phone had been just a tiny bit less clueless about the whole thing. If he had said to me, for example, “Once your old registrar finishes their part of the transfer, it can take 1and1 up to 24 hours to finish setting things up on our end,” I could have lived with that. I’d still have been upset about the unnecessary 1-day delay, but not nearly as upset as I am with the fact that the guy I spoke to on the phone was clueless and blamed other people for a delay which was only 1and1′s fault.

Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t running my own DNS servers for the domains in question; if I had been, none of this would have mattered, because my DNS servers would have stayed up and running during the entire delay, as opposed to Go Daddy’s, from which they removed my domains as soon as they relinquished them to 1and1. So now you know why I like to run my own DNS servers whenever possible. I’ll be making sure to set up my own DNS servers for all of my domains before I transfer them off of 1and1, which after this experience I most definitely intend to do.

Speaking of which, can anybody recommend a registrar that’s competent and doesn’t lie to customers?

This article is by Jonathan Kamens from blog.kamens.us.