Network Solutions Failed Its Customers (Again)

Network Solutions a domain registrar. It often markets itself as the first ever domain registrar. Maybe that schoolyard chant we had about “The first is the worst” was more on point than a lot of us realized as children. That was a cheap shot, I know, but I’m allowed to have a few jokes after what happened.

If your domain is registered on Network Solutions, odds are that you had your day ruined by the first ever domain registrar. On July 6th, at around 1:00 PM, a client alerted me that one of her websites was returning a server not found message. After ensuring that the domain hadn’t lapsed or had any kind of hold put on it, I contacted WPEngine to make sure all was well from the hosting side. The always helpful (and I mean that sincerely) WPEngine support rep noticed that the Network Solutions nameservers weren’t resolving properly. Unlike the CloudFlare outage that brought down half the Internet recently this was localized to Network Solutions.

Having scrapped my afternoon plans I dutifully ran a WhatsMyDNS check on both the client’s domain and about ten other domains registered through Network Solutions. Sure enough, the client’s domain and two others were simply not propagating. The others (including another business owned by the same client) seemed unaffected.

There’s a lot to criticize about Twitter these days but when it comes to crowdsourcing information on network outages the blue bird network is invaluable. So I checked Network Solution’s Twitter page and saw…nothing. No news of the outage, no maintenance reports, nothing. Their most recent tweet at the time was six months prior reporting weather issues on December 21, 2021. I was, however, able to confirm with a Network Solutions chat support rep that an issue was ongoing and they were aware of it. Even so, Network Solutions didn’t seem to have anything to say.

Everyday people, on the other hand, clearly had quite a bit to say. Down Detector reported a surge in issues with Network Solutions and a few Twitter searches for people mentioning the Network Solutions Twitter account showcased an increasing number of furious web developers, business owners and consultants having the same issues I was.

As relieving as it was that this wasn’t some sort of issue localized to my server or clients, the near radio silence from Network Solutions was shocking. Especially when Down Detector’s data shows that a number of issues were raised the prior day – July 5th – with zero resolution other than the usual canned responses from Network Solutions Twitter representatives. Network Solutions would only post a single Twitter statement saying they were working towards a full resolution at 5:17 PM. This was more than 24 hours after people first started reporting problems and more than five hours after the DNS outages peaked at 12:00 PM EST. They hadn’t posted anything on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or their own website which conspicuously lacks any kind of network status page.

Before this goes any further, I don’t want people to think that I’m dunking on the social media reps themselves. They’re not engineers, communications manager or decision makers and in all likelihood they may just be contractors rather than Network Solutions employees. Part of why I generally try to stay civil is that there’s no point in screaming at anyone on the ground level who probably deals with as much crap from management as they do us.

So bearing in mind that my ire is directed towards Network Solutions and its leadership as a company, what was allowed to happen here was nothing short of unbelievable. A DNS issue “intermittently” and sporadically took down websites across the United States and possibly the world at random for different people, throwing business owners and their website managers into confusion.

This happened over a period of a day and a half and it took nearly a full day for Network Solutions to even comment on this. They were content to just be reactive until the angry messages rolled in. Network Solutions talks proudly on its website about how it proactively monitors for outages. If it did, I don’t know how this happened.

We’re finally at a point of as this writing where this ongoing saga appears to be stabilizing and reaching some kind of normal-ish level. Albeit with no explanation from Network Solutions as to what happened, without recompense for potentially a full day of lost business, and without any assurance that this won’t continue to undermine your business, personal website, or hobby through no fault of your own other than making the mistake of registering a domain through a company that claims to pride itself on transparency and trust.

Because that’s ultimately the problem. Network Solutions is trying to sweep this under the rug by giving the illusion of progress without engaging in the specifics. How did this happen? What’s going to change next time? This isn’t even the bare minimum; with a lot of outages we’re at least given a general idea that there was a server outage or some sort of update failed. The bare minimum would be explaining how you plan to regain trust.

Hell, the bare minimum is already in the past. The bare minimum was when Network Solutions obviously saw these DNS issues given that they were ready to issue canned tweets in response to them. They presumably thought about whether or not they should alert of their clients to this issue beforehand and decided “nah.” Network Solutions made their choice.

Fortunately, we can make our own choices too. I have 10 clients using Network Solutions as a domain registrar. Sooner rather than later, they will be migrated to other registrars. Network Solutions, in the unlikely event you read this, you do not have the monopoly you seem to have deluded yourself into thinking you have. You may get a free ride on brand recognition (something you have in common with GoDaddy) but you are far from the only game in town.