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poached site

If you’re reading this anywhere near the time I’m writing this, you’re either getting it in an email, or it’s popping up in your RSS feeds. How do I know you’re not looking at the website? Because it’s not there.

If you were to visit the website New Music Strategies right now, you would not see what you would ordinarily expect. It has been replaced by one of those holding pages with ads on it of the kind that unscrupulous domain poachers tend to use.

What unscrupulous domain poachers could possibly have done such a heinous thing? My own webhosts, actually: UKHost4U. Let me explain.

Putting all the eggs in one basket
I have quite a few websites for a number of different reasons. And I have a bunch of domain names as well. 44 of them, in fact. I just sort of pick them up from time to time. And they’re all on GoDaddy.com – a reputable and affordable hosting provider in the US that came highly recommended to me, and I have had nothing but good experiences with them, even though their site navigation is a little counterintuitive.

But New Music Strategies was set up before I discovered GoDaddy, and I’ve long been meaning to shift my hosting and domain registration over to them so that everything’s all in one place.

But sometimes, when you’re putting all your eggs in one basket, one of them will break. I was aware that the contract with UKHost4U was coming to an end, because around this time last year they switched off my website without warning. And this year, they did it again.

I had started proceedings in transferring everything over to GoDaddy, and had bought hosting with them. The domain transfer, I was informed, would require for UKHost4U to release the domain. However, that conversation and the shutting down of my hosting overlapped. And that’s where the problems started.

Final demand? What about a first request?
They may have sent through a payment reminder – I found just one message from them in my junk mail letting me know the date the payment was due, though nothing else. Two days before the due date, the database started playing up – possibly unrelated. The morning of the due date, the site vanished.

I rang them and spoke to accounts. A surly Scottish gentleman said “We switched it off because you didn’t pay your bill.”

“But the contract ends today. Surely the website should be live until at least the close of business,” I said, trying to buy just a little time.

“No the payment is due today. We haven’t seen it, and so we’ve shut your site down.”

I tried to explain the thing with the hosting and domain transfer. He wasn’t having a bar of it.

“Are you going to pay or not?!”

I politely informed him that I had no intention of giving him another year’s worth of money just so I could move to another provider, so I declined and hung up the phone.

Not all web providers are in the communication business
I followed up with an email, asking that the domain be released so that I could transfer it to GoDaddy. No response other than a “We have received your email, and your ticket number is ….” email, which informed me that this was at Low Priority status.

I followed up with a second email. Same deal.

Through a process of investigation, support from my trusty IT guy Jon, and a phone call to the Accounts department at UKHost 4U (seemingly that same surly Scottish bloke from Support), I learned that a) within 24 hours of shutting my site, UKHost4U had bought the http://newmusicstrategies.com domain; b) they’d gone and parked a big ad on it; and c) would not further communicate with me in any way other than autoresponder emails.

I’m still here…
As things stand at the moment, I’m able to communicate with the few thousand people who get the RSS feed and the email version (you being one of them), because at the moment, I’m redirecting that from elsewhere.

But the people who visit the site because they’ve bookmarked it or they’re following a link are getting crap right now. And I wish I had a decent way of apologising to them for that. If you know someone who likes the site, say sorry from me, would you?

I may have been at fault for badly timing my attempted hosting transfer, but I think it’s fair to say that UKHost4U have been rude, unhelpful and obstructive so far.

Seems a bit too opportunistic to be legit…
As far as I can tell (though I am looking at this through the lens of the losing team) this seems a bit unscrupulous – not to mention rubbish PR.

I’d be keen to hear about the legality of this. They’re a British company, and I’m in the UK. I’ve built up a fair deal of intellectual property in the New Music Strategies brand, as far as I can tell, and my best guess is that their next move is to try and sell me the domain back at a profit – if it isn’t already up on the open market.

Of course, you can’t tell me what you think in the comments (there’s no website at the moment, remember?), but an email with your views and expert opinion would be more than welcome.

My email address is dubber@gmail.com.

[Update: of course you can read this on the webpage – and so you can leave comments here if you wish. The RSS feed links back to the site of origin – even if it is a temporary use of the http://newmusicstrategies.com domain (a possible hint towards a future development…). Temporary brain fade on my part. As you were.]

And – of course – if you know anyone who may have something helpful to contribute, please feel free to pass this on to them.

Whatever happens, you’ll still get your New Music Strategies fix the way you’re getting this right now – and I hope to have the domain thing sorted out in a few days so there’ll be a site for you to visit as well.

Though that might just be optimistic.