When the .blog TLD was started by Automattic, employees were given the option to reserve a domain for free. In return for this “generous offer”, they asked that the domain be used as a primary domain (no forwarding to a different site), and that the site be updated with new content at least once a month.
From the very beginning people asked “What happens if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain?”. As far as I can tell, no one ever clearly answered that question. Some employees found that silence worrisome and declined to take the offer, while others trusted that Automattic would surely not be a jerk about the whole thing.
Well, guess what happened? Earlier this year people started receiving emails from Automattic telling them that they don’t appear to be holding up their end of the bargain. The email asked that the owner either start using the domain according to the requirements, or return it to Automattic.
Now this is really problemattic (see what I did there with the extra “t”?). Even if someone is not using the domain to host a website, they might be using it for email. Losing the domain could be a very serious security threat.
So who really owns these domains? According to most customs, gifts aren’t normally something that can be taken back. Can Automattic even legally take any of these domains back? Aren’t they officially registered to the individual owners?
In my case, their automattic (I did it again!) script made a mistake. I got that clarified and I also asked if they could answer the questions I had about who really owns my domain. I pinged them several times and never got an answer. Thanks for that.
Now I have a .blog domain that I want to use as my main site… but not if Automattic can take it back any time. I don’t want to be at their unpredictable mercy. What if I decide I don’t want to blog anymore and just want to point my site to onion.com? I wish I had just purchased the domain myself to avoid this mess.
I think it’s fair for Automattic to ask people to use their free domain according to the terms that were specified. However, taking the domain back shouldn’t be the only option for people not following those terms. How about revoking the free offer and making those people start paying for the domain?