Down but not out

On the 28th of last month (2013/06/28) I lost my subdomain name that I had previously been getting for Dyn for free. For a long time Dyn offered free dynamic DNS. I setup my subdomain with them on their homelinux.org. This was initially needed because the server was being run from my, well, home. This provided a convenient method to automatically update the DNS records when my IP would change. This worked well, and it worked well for a long time. So, time went on, ddclient worked its magic to keep my subdomain active (Dyn, for those who don’t know, required a login every 30 days via web interface or update client.)

I guess sometime in April or so of this year, Dyn completely removed new free user signups. And sometime in June, they changed their service level agreement to disallow update clients. On 2013/06/22 I received an email letting me know I needed to login to keep my subdomains active. Unfortunately, that went to my spam folder. When I could no longer access my home network (another subdomain from Dyn) my first thought was that ddclient had quit working for some reason and that my IP hadn’t been updated. After I got home I checked that ddclient was still running, but noticed that it wasn’t updating, or even returning, my IP. So, I logged into Dyn’s website only to find my subdomains had vanished. Obviously my heart dropped as I rushed to my email client to see if I had missed an email from them in my inbox. When that yielded nothing, I checked the spam folder, and sure enough, there was the email letting me know that my subdomains would expire on June 28th. My first instinct was to blame ddclient for working as it should have been.

After a few days of contemplating what to do about the situation, on 2013/07/01 I received an email from Dyn announcing to me that the service level agreement had changed, and that update clients were not good enough anymore to keep free accounts active. Obviously, I felt my accounts had been removed in error since I hadn’t received any notice of the SLA change prior to it happening. I contacted billing and explained the situation. Their response was very brief which basically read: “pay $25 for the ‘Pro’ service to get it back.” I tried several times to plead my case that I wasn’t informed of the change until after it had already affected me, in which case, the representative replied: “you were sent an email on 2013/06/22 about the account expiring.” And that was it. There was no more correspondence after that from the Dyn representative. Even after I sent two more messages, there was no response. I assume they basically went to /dev/null never to be seen again.

Honestly, though, it’s fine. I unfortunately lose current links to my site because of this, but after their unsympathetic responses, I have no desire to ever give Dyn money at this point. If they would have notified me about changing the agreement, I would have more seriously looked at spending the $25 a year for their service, just so I wouldn’t have to log in every month. It felt a bit on the high side, but would have likely put up with it. However, because of their poor handling of the situation to this point, I don’t think there’s much they could do to “fix” the situation for me. They’ve burned their bridges. $25 now seems completely unreasonable for the service they’d be providing me at that level. The only real option, for me, is to move on to a service provider. (Mid correspondence I had briefly considered shelling out the $25 to basically redirect for a year, but I didn’t think it would end up being too effective to get links updated. Also, the thought of giving Dyn any money at that point wasn’t sitting very well with me.)

Enter FreeDNS. From what I can tell of the service, it’s quite cool really. So, like Dyn, they have several hostnames which are owned that they provide subdomains to. However, they also have a pool of domains which users contribute to allow people to use (both public & private ones, the main difference being the owner can remove subdomains from the private ones.) This pool is said to be around 100,000 domains. It’s hard to really fit in all the great bits that FreeDNS offers to the free/basic members. Unlike Dyn, I’d actually feel good about purchasing a subscription from FreeDNS (which is actually $30 at its lowest tier, and $60 for the next step up.) I can’t help but wonder though if things like this subdomain might suddenly quit working when the owner decides to quit paying for it. Of course, my quick look at the Dyn service agreement seemed to indicate they made no promise to keep services running (even paid services.) So, it wouldn’t seem completely unreasonable for them to sell off domains and all the subdomains would just stop working. What I’m really getting at is that it’s an issue with any service like this (especially free ones.) The only SNAFU has been activating sites with Google. Being a subdomain, according to FAQ #16, it needs explicit permission to be visible to Google verification.

To wrap up, I’d say that the take away from this, at least for me, is that Dyn isn’t the type of company I’d trust to do business with in any capacity. I can’t help but feel that the recent agreement changes are an attempt to strongarm more people into buying services from them.


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