Free At Last,
21 December 1999
You can file this under: 1.) History of TheBeadSite.com, 2.) Footnote to the History of the Internet, 3.) A cautionary tale, or 4.) Several cautionary tales.
As I write this, TheBeadSite.com is now firmly, legally in my hands. This may surprise some old friends of the site. I am sure you assumed that I always owned it. Not so.
The story begins in late 1995. An old acquaintance (I had known him abroad) came back into my life. I'll call him Mr. S. He told me he admired what I was doing and that he wanted to help. He came up with the idea of a web site. I thought it was a good idea.
And so it was; the implementation was the hard part. We formed a corporation. His role was to provide capital, take care of the business end and provide the technological background. I was to produce the content. That was fine with me; I was not yet even on the Internet.
He hired a local web site developer, we'll call Miss X. She is good, but we didn't really know what we wanted and I was given no hint as to what form I should deliver content to her. We paid her US$4000 and ended up with nothing. Her brother (Mr. X) was our ISP; he lives in a different state.
After that fiasco, I was asked to invest some money into our company. Mr. S hired a high school (secondary school) student who knew something about HTML (Mr. S knew nothing). They managed to get a site up in October 1996. It was terrible, full of links that went nowhere and lots of typos.
Mr. S didn't even know how to fix the typos. I kept saying that we had to build this site. He told me that the boy had final exams, was choosing a college and had basketball tournament (he was 6' 9" -- 2.06 m tall). I replied that our business should not depend upon a high school basketball schedule.
Things went from bad to worse and I got more depressed about the situation. I wanted to get out of it, but didn't know how. We were still in debt US$3000 for my new computer and there were lots of loose ends.
Then on 12 January 1997 Mr. S came to visit again. He solemnly handed me a white envelope that contained his resignation. My heart leapt, but I kept a grave face and told him I would have to think about it.
Within a few days, I had borrowed some money, paid off the computer, arranged the separation to Mr. S's satisfaction (leaving me with TheBeadSite.com and him a big loss for tax purposes), bought needed hardware and software, and was on my way to figuring out how to make a web site.
For the next six weeks I sequestered myself, learning about building web sites and doing it. At the end of February the first alpha version of TheBeadSite.com was out there.
It has changed a great deal since then and is doing nicely, thank you. As of this writing, it is the most popular independent web site devoted entirely to beads. But that is not the point of this story.
What has been haunting TheBeadSite.com for a year and a half is the question of who really owns it. Mr. S does not lay claim to it. But remember Mr. X, our first ISP? He was charging $100 a month to host us and one of the first things I did was to cut that by 75% by moving to NorthNet.org.
But, in June of 1998 I got an email from Mr. X saying that he had gotten the bill for renewal of the domain name (TheBeadSite.com) from Network Solutions, Inc. (then called InterNIC). Seems the site was registered in Mr. X's name (Mr. S no doubt approved), not in the Center for Bead Research's name.
I was astounded. Then I was worried. If the site were not in my name, they could theoretically do anything with it they wanted to. They could have it removed. They could sell it. They could turn it into a porn site, a hate site, whatever.
To be sure, Mr. X had no intention of doing any of this. In fact, he and his sister, Miss X, have been very supportive of the process over the last two years, though I did have to kick start it at the end.
To change the registration of a domain name you must physically fill in a form from Network Solutions. You must then get it notarized and send to them. Mr. X and I did that. Nothing happened. The date for paying the renewal came and I paid it.
The next year, the situation came up again. Mr. X talked to people at Network Solutions. I thought seriously about allowing the name to expire and picking it up again as a new name. I asked all sorts of people about this, and most advised against it.
As the deadline for payment approached, I paid again on-line. You will note that Network Solutions doesn't mind taking the money, no matter where it comes from.
Then I started my third campaign to get the registration changed. This time in emails to Network Solutions, Mr. X and Miss X I named a recent court case I had read about and said that it would strengthen my hands.
The court case wasn't directly about my situation, but did address the question of the relative value of time on and off-line. Citing the case was enough to get Miss X into an active role.
Mr. X filled out another form and had it notarized. I sent it into Network Solutions by certified mail. I know they got it on 8 October, but they did nothing about it.
Then Mr. and Miss X got on the phone and reached someone who agreed to help out. Mr. X filled out and notarized a third form. I filled it and had it notarized (the form never tells you to do this). I sent it to Miss X, who faxed a copy to the guy helping us and sent the form on through the mail.
It still took more prodding, but finally it happened. In Whois and on Alexa the Center for Bead Research replaced Mr. X's company as owner of TheBeadSite.com and I became the contact name for all things having to do with the site.
On top of all this, Network Solutions sent me a bill for the next two years. I had just renewed a few months before. That didn't count for anything; I had to pay anew.
Outraged, I contacted one of the new domain name registrants to see if I could change registrants. They replied right away to tell me that there had to be a 30-day window to do that. OK. I'll do it next time. Last night Network Solutions got some more of my money, but the ordeal is finished.
At least I hope so. One of the conditions for being an affiliate of theirs is that you are not supposed to say anything bad about them on your site. I am not saying anything bad about them, just reporting the facts.
Go ahead and use their search engine to see if a name you want is available. But register somewhere else. There will be a list up soon.
P.S. My experience with Network Solutions is by no means unique.
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