OurGoods is a three year-old barter network based in New York City. A nonprofit run by volunteers, OurGoods has an intensely devoted community of about 1,000 users. So, when the site accidentally let its domain name OurGoods.org lapse, cofounder Caroline Woolard got dozens of frantic “What is going on?!” emails on a Saturday night. What happened was the usual: OurGoods neglected to pay $8.99 on time because emails from the registrar 1and1 were going to a spam folder. After the grace period expired, 1and1 shuffled the domain over to its partner, DomCollect, where it will sit until it goes up for public auction.
“We unintentionally let a payment of $8.99 lapse, and they refuse to let us re-open our account. Instead, they are letting it sit with DomCollect and Sedo, showing horrible ads and making everyone who relies on our site crazy,” Ms. Woolard said. In the meantime, OurGoods is at OurGoods.net.
In addition to breaking all their backlinks, the mistake could cost OurGoods much more. The site’s up for some big grants right now, and the existence of the spammy OurGoods.org could confuse the process, she said.
“There’s an ICANN website that says that you can get a domain back if you didn’t pay a fee, but it was unintentional,” she said. “Then you’re allowed hopefully in a grace period to make up for it.”
OurGoods is considering filing for arbitration with ICANN, but it’s $1,300 and the startup has no money, she explained, with more than a slight hint of exhaustion. “We hope that no one buys it and I don’t know why 1and1 doesn’t want to work with us… I was just telling them we are a nonprofit, it’s $9 a year, can we really just pay you $9 They say the grace period is over somehow and because we didn’t pay they want to blacklist us and just let it go up for grabs in a month.”
“Now we have to be a .net, which means everything we worked on with Google, all those links are just going to die and Google is going to think we’re a spammer and we’re not going to get any links through the internet anymore,” she continued, sounding desperate.
After the incident, Ms. Woolard discovered other complaints about 1and1 across the internet. “It was kind of a bad decision on our part to be with such an inflexible registrar, but that was who was recommended to us,” she said.
They went with GoDaddy for the .net, she said.
The owner of OurGoods.com has been trying to sell the domain to them for $1,000, which they would love to have, she said, but “we just dont have any money; it’s all volunteer.”
OurGoods has 3,000 registered users, although about a third use the site regularly. It features community projects in addition to one-for-one trades; a choreographer’s skills for carpentry advice (yeah, actually), meal of local meat, grain, and produce for web development/social media skills; other offers include canning/preserving skills, “a car for transportation and a pretty flexible schedule,” photography, video, editing, film scoring, drawing lessons, financial modeling, “I make bread.” It is associated with the barter-for-teaching organization Trade School. It was founded in 2009 by Caroline Woolard, Rich Watts, Jen Abrams, Louise Ma and Carl Tashian.
OurGoods is probably just going to wait for the domain to come up for auction and then bid on it then, Ms. Woolard said, as advised by their lawyer.