Many years ago, back when I was first starting to experiment with running services on the Internet, I was using an ADSL connection with a dynamic IP address. This meant that the IP address I was working with could change, typically whenever my home router was rebooted. This made running Internet services (web, ftp, mail etc) rather awkward, but at the time I didn’t want to pay out for a connection with static IP addresses and a proper domain name.
Fortunately there was a solution to this; a company called Dyn offered a service called DynDNS where (as a private individual) you could register with them and get up to 5 sub-domains from a fairly large, reasonably-named set of base domains.
Better still, they had implemented a system where you could regularly nudge their DNS servers with your domain names and your current IP address, and they made sure that those domains were mapped to whatever IP address you had at the time. This became so popular that most of the router device manufacturers added support for the DynDNS protocol into their devices.
And so life was good. I used one of their free domains, appleby.homeip.net, to hang a website and a mailserver off, and my router ensured that the domain name was always properly mapped to my (changing) IP address. And it worked pretty well – I had a little laptop running my Internet services on a domestic ADSL connection, without any problems.
Of course, times changed. I moved to a higher speed connection, and obtained a block of static IP addresses and some real domain names. Thanks to the problems of SPAM, running a mailserver got a lot more complex, and the need for proper r-DNS meant I ended up moving my mail to one of my proper domains. However, my Postfix install still maintained my old email@example.com as a virtual domain for anyone who was still using them. Similarly, Apache ran virtual hosts for all my old DynDNS domains as well as my new “real” ones.
And all was good with the world again.
Then back in May 2011 I noticed that there was a problem; somehow some of my DynDNS domains had fallen off the net. It seemed that Dyn had changed their policies around the frequency with which they expected their servers to be updated. Some fiddling with the Linux DynDNS client, ddclient, and with my DynDNS account settings eventually got the domains back up and running.
Then in November 2011 Dyn announced that they were going to reduce the number of free domains for private individuals from 5 to 1, although existing customers could keep any existing active domains. Alarm bells should have started ringing at this point. If I’d looked more closely I’d have noticed that Dyn were moving upmarket, and targeting corporate customers. Those of us with free accounts were becoming a nuisance, and were being encouraged to migrate to their paid-for “pro” accounts at $30 a year.
But sadly I didn’t notice any of that; I had bigger problems to deal with at the time…
Finally, this summer Dyn killed off the ability to create free accounts, and announced that to maintain existing free accounts you had to login to their website at least every 30 days; updates to the DynDNS service from a DynDNS compatible client was no longer sufficient. Another turn of the screw to force free
loaders users to go elsewhere.
In my case, by the time I got out of hospital to discover what they’d done, my free domains were already toast, which was really frustrating, as I was still getting occasional emails via the appleby.homeip.net domain, and I had a couple of low-traffic websites running on their domains. Worse, it seems my wife
was still had been receiving quite a lot of email via her appleby.homeip.net account.
While I am fairly frustrated by the way that Dyn have managed this, I can see it from their point of view too. I had free use of a service for many years that enabled me to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. It didn’t cost Dyn much to provide that, but it did cost something. That was probably easy for them to justify when they were more of an Internet startup, but it’s a lot harder now that they’re a proper corporation with Wall Street breathing down their necks all the time. So I’m being philosophical about it; the moral of the story is, as always, never to depend on free services that are controlled by someone else.
I’ve now rationalised all my web content down onto a single new website, hosted on a domain that I completely control. So if you were interested in the content of appleby.is-a-geek.net, or super6.kicks-ass.org, you might want to check out theapplebyclan.com.
But the email addresses are more problematic. We’ve tracked down all the people we can think of who might be using that old domain and notified them of the change, but the nature of email is that we’re bound to have missed some. And for them, we’ve apparently just fallen off the edge of the (digital) world.