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Inheritance Is a Wonderful Thing

Once you license a domain name, it's yours forever. If you ever let it go, you will never get it back. And most likely, you won't like its destination minutes after you neglect to pay the fee.


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etween April 1998 and December 2001, I was granted a 1000-word monthly soapbox on the back page of a competitor's magazine for Office developers. The chance to rant, complain, chastise, and otherwise blab on any topic that crossed my path each month was a privilege, and some readers even found it mildly amusing. That magazine is now defunct, or at least so modified that no one would recognize it, and my column was unceremoniously dumped soon after the terrible world events of September 2001. I've missed the chance to stand on my soapbox ever since, and when the editorial staff of this vastly more alive publication offered me the opportunity, I jumped at the chance. Just to get you up to speed: the basic structure of these things is highly predictable. For the most part, each edition starts with a story (normally with a moral) followed by some loosely connected bit of developer-based trivia. Following the loose connection can often be tricky, but if you really work at it, there's always some link. I often gossip about other writers in the magazine, or speakers at conferences, public figures, or events in the news. Everything is fair game.

This month, our story starts with two young developers (ok, "younger than today," not "young"): your intrepid author, and his frequent collaborator and co-conspirator, Paul D. Sheriff. It's August of 2000, and we're digging hard into the alpha version of this new Microsoft .NET thing. Seizing upon what seems an obvious money-making opportunity, we conspire to set up a Web site where we'll post tons of useful tips, walkthroughs, how-to's, and so on, and people will pay us tons of money for the opportunity to download and learn from our immense wisdom. Little did we know that (a) we weren't all that wise and, (b) everybody else was planning the same thing, except for free. Not knowing any better, we marketed the site, both in print and in e-mail—the name of that Web site appeared on many slide decks I used for conference talks during this period, and on e-mail threads floating around the Web. After several months of attempting to craft material for the site, then letting it languish for another few months, it came time to renew the domain name. My co-author, in a moment of uncharacteristic frugality, decided not to renew the name. And so the terror began. Little did we know that there are vultures out there, awaiting unsuspecting domain owners, ready to latch on and grab any used domain name that goes up for grabs. Within days—nay, within minutes—of Paul letting the lease on the domain name lapse, it was grabbed up for, well, unseemly pursuits. I won't post the original URL here (its current contents are guaranteed to offend many readers), but let's just say that the current owners of the domain name are in a very different business than Paul and I, yet they're probably making a lot more money than we ever did or could have.

The moral of this particular story: Once you license a domain name, it's yours forever. If you ever let it go, you will never get it back. And most likely, you won't like its destination minutes after you neglect to pay the fee. We've learned our lesson, and hope you learn from the errors of our ways. The bad guys inherited our name, and took it in a direction we hadn't intended. (If you're desperate to see what happened to our innocent domain name, drop me a line; I'll send it to you. Be afraid. Be very afraid.)



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