We Were Deleted
Friday, April 30, 1999 by Dave Winer.
If you go back and look thru the DaveNet archives you'll find that around the beginning of May I get looser and take more chances. I'm not sure how the idea came to me, maybe it's a tradition that on my birthday anything goes, people have to let you speak your piece. "It's his birthday," they might say. And they would be right. On Sunday I'll turn 44.
This is a birthday I've thought about ever since I could do simple arithmetic. As a child I tried to imagine what I would be like when the calendar flipped over. I wondered if I would make it.
Last year, around this time, some people, Frontier users mostly, were telling me that I was full of shit.
"You don't know how true that is," I thought at the time. A month passed, with no progress, so I went to the doctor. When I told her how long it had been, a look of shock appeared on her face. Believe me, you don't want to be in the room when your doctor looks that way..
Off to a specialist. It's time for a colonscopy, my first, and almost certainly not my last. The worst part was the preparation. You drink a huge amount of foul-tasting liquid called Go Litely. A funny name. It would be better named Go Go Go! because that's what it makes you do.
I asked to remain conscious during the operation because I wanted to see what was happening. A tiny high-resolution TV camera was sent on a tour of my digestive system. On a big monitor I could see the color version of me, viewed from the inside out. It's good that I was sedated because that allowed my sense of wonder to kick in. "Is that me?" I asked the surgeon. They all laughed. "Yes, that's you," they said. "Wow. It's beautiful in there." (Good drugs!)
Everything was fine, no blockages, no strange colors, the doctors shrugged, "You are healthy," they said. That was quite a relief, and after the Go Litely treatment, I wasn't full of it anymore. At least for a year, when everything clogged up again, and around the loop one more time.
Getting unclogged is the best feeling ever. My body feels strong again, there's nothing I can't do, and the feeling of post-vacation well-being remains. The sky is blue, the birds are singin, life is coooool.
I'm learning more about DNS than I ever wanted to.
The DNS, or Domain Name Service, is the glue that creates the Domain Name System. It's how dave.userland.com is translated to a physical address, 188.8.131.52. DNS is a distributed database, with one central node, running on a few machines at Network Solutions Inc, in Herndon, VA.
Somehow, a few days ago, Network Solutions deleted userland.com. They have the power to do that. It takes a while for the mistake to percolate. Some people could find us, then most people couldn't, then no one could. My email slowed to a trickle and then dried up. Our discussion group stopped discussing. And worst of all customers stopped buying our software.
It's an outage that sneaks up on you. It's hard to know why you're not getting email or no one's visiting the site or buying the software. Maybe it's our fault? Maybe it's the ISP's? Maybe no one has anything to say or nothing they want to know or buy? For the most part you're flying blind.
We told the story as well as we could on www.scripting.com, which was working fine. We have a bunch of DNS experts in our community so we quickly found the problem, but it took a long time to get thru to Network Solutions and they wouldn't acknowledge it. Then around midnight last night, as the new version of the database started percolating, the lights starting coming on. Someone at Network Solutions had fixed the problem. Old email started arriving, their servers in a continual spin, trying again and again to find userland.com, on the 538th iteration, bingo, it's there. I get the mail. I feel connected again. Channels are being registered. The cash is flowing. Relief.
It's not just modest flow sites like ours that get caught in Network Solutions' screwups. An email from Jason Levine, a webmaster at Sports Illustrated: "They shut off our domain once for no reason, and it took three days to get back up. They never admitted their mistake, and they didn't think that it was their job to fix it. And their system, which they designed, and yet they also use its design as an excuse for their lack of speed in solving problems, it only lets them make updates at night, every 24 hours."
Right now Network Solutions, the "Dot Com People", are a major weak spot in the architecture of the Internet, as we found out this week. Luckily they are no longer a monopoly. America Online, France Telecom, Register.Com, Melbourne IT, and the Internet Council of Registrars have been certified to compete with Network Solutions. Based on what I've heard from other system managers about Network Solutions, bet on the competition. We'll certainly be looking for a less overworked domain registrar, one who makes prompt customer service a priority.
PS: To Marimba, congratulations on a spectacular IPO. Priced at 20, it immediately rose to $59. The company is worth $1.5 billion. Wow!
PPS: John Gilmore says I was fooled by deceptive press.