If you own the rights to a domain (i.e. yourwebaddress.com), you have likely received emails from your domain name hosting service (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, HostGator, etc.) regarding the non-profit organization known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Whoa! That’s quite a name, so they’ve shortened it to ICANN.
Ever since the Internet was pioneered in the U.S., an organization needed to be created to dish out domain names and Web addresses for the entire Internet. This allows computers to find the right servers to the websites for which people are looking. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce contracted with ICANN to manage these things, and ICANN has been doing so ever since. So who cares? You must, and here’s why.
ICANN requires annual verification of who owns the rights to domain names. They require a particular person, known as the registrar, to have accurate contact information on record for that domain. Domain hosting services are required to seek this verification and routinely send out emails to the person listed as the registrar. One thing it will say is: “If all information is up-to-date, then no changes are necessary,” meaning you do not have to respond. So, if you’re like me, you’ve been ignoring these emails. But you cannot do that anymore.
Last year, ICANN set new rules we all need to be aware of because missing these could bring your website and email down, which of course is never a good thing when you’re trying to run a business.
If you have a .COM, .NET, .ORG, .BIZ or any other gTLD (generic top level domain) and enter new contact information in your account, transfer the rights of the domain to someone else or set up a new domain, you’ll receive an email from your domain hosting service saying you must click on a link they provide in their email to verify these changes. This must be done within 15 days or your website (and your email accounts associated with that domain, too) will temporarily go down until you click on the link. Don’t blame your website creator if this happens; it’s on whomever owns the rights to your domain. They’re the ones who would have received the email, and it’s up to them to click on the link to verify the changes that had been made.
What happens if the verification email is ignored, you rarely check that email account or that email goes to your spam? Your website will be disabled and you’ll wonder why. Now you know that this does happen.
When you click on the link, it’s simple to do the verification, but your website and emails may still be disabled for another 24 to 48 hours as the verification is processed. The good news is that this issue can be fixed by the owner of the rights to the domain in relatively short order. The bad news is that your online lobby – your website – will be down for a bit and you could lose business.
Steps to Take
Here are some things you need to do right now:
- Understand everything about your domain name. Who owns the rights to it? Do you? If you’re the business owner, you should own it unless you totally trust the person who does, and even then we’ve seen too many things happen when a disgruntled developer won’t release the domain to the owner of the business, or someone dies. Know what domain service the domain registered with. Who has the logins to get into it? See my article from the July 2014 issue of BodyShop Business about keeping your passwords safe.
- Be vigilant about checking your email regularly for notices from your domain name service. Use the search feature to look for ICANN periodically in case you’ve missed something. Check your spam folder and search that, too, in case the email was filtered out as junk mail.
- Beware of scams. Carefully read any emails related to ICANN to ensure they’re coming from your domain registration service. This verification is free, so do not pay anything for this. Do not give your credit card number out to any service indicating there’s a fee to do this.
- If you have recently changed registrars, be on the lookout for the verification email to come soon; it’s only a matter of time. Same thing for new domain names.
Remember, the annual verification emails almost always require no action, but you need to scan each email to make sure. You cannot afford to have your website and email go down because of this.