Friday, January 02, 2009

domain name woes

I bought the domain name for nerdstogether.org from 1and1.com, but I'm now realizing that domain name ownership isn't as straightforward as I thought.

Apparently, the Domain Name Servers of the world have not been alerted that nerdstogether.org now points to 66.35.48.8, the IP address where I'm hosting nerdstogether. Instead, they believe that it points to a server at 1and1, which then is responsible for passing the request along to my machine.

1and1 offers two choices for how this can be done.

HTTP forwarding

This simply sends the user's browser off to 66.35.48.8. There are two drawbacks:
  • The browser's URL bar shows 66.35.48.8; "nerdstogether.org" would be much prettier.
  • 1and1 truncates the URL before sending it on; this makes RESTful access impossible, since http://nerdstogether.org/dayton goes to 66.35.48.8/ instead of 66.35.48.8/dayton

Frame redirect

In this case, 1and1 hosts a webpage which simply contains a single frame; the contents of this frame are requested from my server. This looks better, since the user's URL bar continues to display "nerdstogether.org". Furthermore, 1and1 does attach the remainder of the requested URL, so RESTful access remains possible.

The problem? I'd like to provide not just visible HTML access from this domain, but a JSON web service as well. JSON data should be returned raw, as "content-type: text/json", not as an HTML frame embedded in an HTML webpage. No web service consumer can digest that! So I need to distribute a separate URL, with my raw IP address, to web service consumers.

Virtual servers

Finally, both HTTP forwarding and frame redirect also make virtual servers impossible. I'd like to serve multiple unrelated websites from my machine, which I can do by configuring my webserver to react differently based on whether the URL requested was for nerdstogether.org or for a different domain name. Unfortunately, either of 1and1's options remove this information from the request before it is passed along to my machine; my machine only sees a request with its IP address. The fact that nerdstogether.org was the domain name requested is not passed along.

It's still possible to host multiple sites, by specifying a separate directory within 66.35.48.8 for each separate domain. Virtual servers would enable a cleaner separation between sites, though, with no possibility of navigating back up the directory hierarchy.

As far as I can tell, there is no ideal solution for me, aside from buying my domain name from a different provider, one who would actually propagate my domain name ownership out through the worldwide DNS network. I don't even know what the term would be for that kind of "full ownership" of a domain name.

This is my first trip through this wilderness, and I'd be delighted if I've missed some better solution that someone wise can point out to me.

3 comments:

paulv said...

Well, you *do* own nerdstogether.com, so 1and1 can only make it difficult, not impossible, to do what you want.

What you need to do is find some DNS servers that are willing to be authoritative for nerdstogether.com. This can be from another company (eg gandi.net or donet), or on some other DNS server (eg the one I run, or the one DMA runs).

Then, you need to get 1and1 to change the DNS servers for your domain to be whatever the addresses of the DNS servers you are going to use. This may be the tricky part.

You may need to transfer it to a different registrar if 1and1 won't let you make the changes you want. This is more complicated, but again, because you own the domain, not impossible.

I would recommend gandi.net as your future registrar. They are free software friendly, and very easy to deal with. Not exactly the cheapest place, but reasonable. I have been using them for years and haven't had any problems. They have documentation about how to do the registrar transfer thing on their site. Note that they *don't* do any website hosting, but that's what you want -- to split the registration of the site and the hosting of the site apart, so the hosting people don't also control your DNS settings.

Feel free to send me email (or talk to me at the dynamic languages meeting) with any questions.

Leigh Honeywell said...

i use 1and1 for domain registration, but run my own nameservers.

you can run primary dns on the same server your hosting is on, and your secondary on a free one like zoneedit, or a friend's as paulv suggests above.

Brother Rolf said...

I believe I made the horrendous mistake of choosing a company because it had a 5 page ad in a popular computer magazine. In my opinion 1and1, with CEO Oliver Mauss, is a horrible company and many customers have voiced a host of complaints on various blogs. It should be a warning that when their phone is answered by a recording that tells you if you have gotten a notice from NCO, a collection agency, to press a certain number. If they are a reputable business, why do they have to send so many accounts to a collection agency?
Also Investigative journalist, Kelli Jack, has written 30 articles about this company and has a suit pending against them. Kelli alleges that 1and1 stole her domain name and sold it. Kelli states: "1and1 should be shut down."

And finally, the Washington DC, Pennsylvania Better Business Bureau has them listed as "Unsatisfactory" Read comments on the BBB why. Read some customer comments on Red Flag.