The woes of the .co domain - I'm sorry Columbia.


I'm changing my name. Again. It used to be PeteWright.co. That was then.

Now, it's RashPixel.com.

See the twist there? It's subtle, and it happens right after the "o" in the ".co…" … … that's right: I've added an "m". Let me tell you why.

Late last week, I got a call from Linda Bonder, the fantastic director of marketing for The International School. I do some support and web work for the school, so it's not wholly unusual for Linda to be calling me.

"Do you have a second?" she asks me. "This one is so strange I don't know how to write it out in email."

"Yeah. Go ahead," I say.

"There's a woman in California who is receiving our emails. Random emails. From the teachers."

I was sure this random woman in California was on the school's mailing list somewhere. That's how these things happen. Even smart people can go cross-eyed looking at long lists of names.

"And she's not on the list. Anywhere."

Hrm. So I asked Linda to forward me a few of the messages. The California woman had been receiving them for some time, but the frequency had picked up in the last few weeks, since school started.

I ended up in an unrelated meeting for the next hour, but Linda had taken the liberty of sending me a few samples that Ms. California had passed on. Then, toward the end of the hour, she texted me.

"Isn't Sophie in Ann's class?"

"Yeah… why?" I asked.

One of the emails she had forwarded, which I had yet to see, was from Sophie's teacher. I cracked open my laptop and checked mail. Sure enough, there were two messages from Linda containing messages from Ann to the parents of my daughter's class, which I'd never seen. Next in the list, a message from my son's teacher, same deal.

Last, a message from the Chautauqua Institution Special Studies office confirming receipt of my pitch to teach for them this summer. I hadn't received that either.

These things trigger the Sherlock Holmes vibe in me. And in hindsight, I wish the resolution to this mess hadn't been so obvious. This is where we get back to the "m" in .com.

In looking at the expanded headers on each message, sure enough, the address for yours truly was pete@petewright.com.

My email address was supposed to be @petewright.co. When I registered the domain, a year ago, I'd thought optimistically that the world was ready for the .co domain, that variants on top level domains had permeated through Internet culture and .co would be included in the canon of Internet reflex. Amazon, Google, Twitter, they've all gone with a .co for their products. And it is, after all, the top level domain for the proud Republic of Columbia.

As it turns out, sadly for the Republic of Columbia, most of the world sees .co as a typo.

Sophie's teacher did. As did my son's. And so it was with the Chautauqua institution. All had corrected my address to @petewright.com, an address which does not exist … for me. Any time they had sent an email to me at my address@petewright.com, any address @petewright.com, it would miss me completely. Today, I have the benefit of knowing that this email was arriving in the inbox of my new friend, Ms. California. But Ms. California was not the owner of petewright.com. She hadn't heard of it, doesn't know any Wrights, and has been using the same email address for more than 15 years. So, for as long as this issue had been happening, she'd been deleting it, marking it junk.

The domain is actually registered by a nice family in California. I know this because as any enterprising citizen of the Internet would do, I looked them up in WHOIS and called them directly. Visiting the site shows it at the registrar's landing page -- clearly they weren't actually using it for anything. So, I had two objectives: 1) make sure they know that there is a redirect problem and that *@petewright.com email is being redirected to Ms. California. 2) If they really weren't doing anything with it, might they be interested in letting me have a go with it for a few ducats?

No. They'd registered it for their son when he was born and were sitting on it until he was "of age." As for the email redirect, they said they might get to it. The nice woman who answered said that it was her husband that handled all the "net stuff" and that I should leave my name and he would call me back. No calls yet.

This weekend, I ended up at a meeting with a group of clients wondering why I hadn't written them back. They hadn't heard from me in months. Turns out, Ms. California had been deleting their messages, too.

And my bills, statements, friend's messages, the works. I don't know how much mail ended up in Ms. California's inbox as a result of this snafu, but that any of it missed me because of this typo creates a failing system -- one I can't trust.

So, for now, petewright.co will be retired in favor of rashpixel.com. There's a story to be told about the new name, one that, I think, represents more of who I am as a service provider, and who I've become over the last half-decade of work. I look forward to telling it, as this site evolves over the coming months. I'll be retiring the original name of my business in this whole messy process, so with this I bid farewell to fifthandmain.com, too. It was fun while it lasted. But I'm really looking forward to what's next.