Network Solutions and their routines for outbound domain transfers

At work, I had a .com domain registered with Network Solutions Inc. (from now on referred to as NSI). This was not by purpose, but for historical reasons - it was registered at a time when the only .com registrar was networksolutions.

It was getting near the time of renewal, so yesterday I decided I should try to move it to GANDI, where we have the rest of our .com-domains registered. We like GANDI, they are easy to deal with and their web interface is designed to be as helpful as possible, not to make it hard to do things, something which seems to be the main design criteria for the web site of NSI.

That GANDI, who are based in France, sometimes forgets to translate one or two words from french to english, and that the word order of some of the sentences are french rather than english is just.. charming! :-)

The process of changing domain registrar turned out to be really time-consuming, mostly because of NSI doing all they can to keep their customers by confusing them. In a perfect world, companies would compete by providing advantages to the customer, not by making it extremely difficult to switch to another, competing, company.

To transfer a domain from NSI to GANDI, you have to:

  1. Unlock the domain from unathourized transfer at NSI.

    Now, to do that, you must login as a user which is the primary contact. In my case, that was not the user I had access to, but fortunately, I had access to the e-mail account registered with that user, so I could fetch a new password and login.

    This is the first overcomplicated part of the NSI administrative website - it has too many roles, with too many configurable permissions. It probably fits big hierarchial american companies, but for small users, it just sucks. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS!)

  2. Wait for NSI to update their whois records. In my case, this took about 24 hours. Well done, NSI. I guess they stick a piece of paper with the domain name change to go into whois to a turtle who has to crawl a hundred meters over a highway before reaching the next administrative station where they actually change the data in whois.

    My turtle must have been killed in the first run, because I had to try twice.

    Poor turtle.

  3. Initiate the transfer at Gandi. You can’t do that until the WHOIS information is updated, because it says the domain is locked from domain transfer.

  4. Find out that the whois data is still flawed - the primary administrative contact, which the NSI website indicated I was logged in as, had a correct mail adress listed. In whois, another, incorrect mail adress was listed. It turned out that there were two accounts with the name ‘AAA BBBBBBB’, and the second one, the one with the incorrect mail address, was listed in whois.

    After a while, I found a part of the NSI website which was completely new to me, where you could actually change which information was set in whois. Again, overcomplicated - one administrative contact should be enough, always being the same in both the web interface and in whois.

    This time, they sent another turtle (a cousin of the first turtle) with a small rocket motor attached, which flew over the highway to the whois department, because this change, got into whois almost at once. Unfortunately, the poor turtle smashed into the wall of the whois department and was killed.

    Poor turtle. Not only was he mourning his cousin. Now he was himself killed in the dangerous whois update business.

  5. Re-initiate transfer.

  6. Receive mail from Gandi to confirm that domain should be moved. Reply to this with accept code. Get confirmation from Gandi that reply mail was received.

    At this stage, you have been assigned a dynamic web page at Gandi where you can see the status of the transfer.

  7. Wait for NSI to send a porcupine, which is slightly faster than a turtle, over to the department who sends domain transfer confirmation e-mails. As a side note, this porcupine was a near friend of the turtle killed in step 4, so it’s a very unhappy porcupine.

    At the domain transfer confirmation e-mail team, a collection of university dropouts who were specially recruited because of their unique combination of being unable to write understandable sentences while maintaing a high level of legal bullshit, handwrites each transfer confirmation mail to make it amazingly hard to understand.

    The general idea seems to be that the reader should be given the impression that the only thing that can be done is to cancel the transfer, that way keeping the domain at NSI.

    The secret hidden inside the long letter is that the website address which is used to cancel the transfer is actually also used to accept transfers. So, visit the URL and think twice before clicking on the correct button.

    The domain name for this site is not under Odd.

    Each time a customer accepts a transfer, they kill the messenger (i.e., the poor unhappy porcupine).

    I’m feeling bad about killing a porcupine.

  8. Gandi sends a mail about the completion of the domain transfer.

  9. Now, if it’s time for renewal, NSI sends a mail where they tell you that you can renew the domain that were transferred. I’d guess that clicking one of the links in this letter will activate the jet-fueled department of incoming transfer, which will re-transfer the domain back to NSI in just about 0.2 seconds.

I’m a happier person now, even though I’ve implicitly killed two turtles and one porcupine.

Written on January 7, 2006