Greg Hewgill (ghewgill) wrote,
Greg Hewgill
ghewgill

a story about a domain name

Back in 1993, I was working for a company called Mustang Software, Inc. We were in the electronic BBS industry, and produced software called "Wildcat! BBS" (yes, the ! was part of the official name). Anyway, we were reasonably progressive at the time and connected ourselves via UUCP to somebody who had an internet feed. At the time we just had a subdomain hanging off somebody else's domain, but it worked. We hooked up internet email to the BBS system.

Pretty soon we realised that we wanted our very own domain name, so we applied for mustang.com. Back then, domain names were free but it took something like three weeks for everything to get set up. On 23 June 1993, the domain name was issued to us and we were official. It would take another two years or so for us to get our own actual internet connection to the office (IIRC, it was a T1 from Sprint which cost like $5000 per month). Back in those days nobody bothered with firewalls, and NAT as we know it today probably wasn't even invented, so we just hooked up the internet to the office LAN and gave everybody a globally routable IP address.

Anyway, we hooked up the mustang.com domain to our flagship customer support BBS, and suddenly everybody who had an account on the BBS (all our customers) also had access to internet email. With the recent release of Netscape Navigator, the WWW was just starting to really grow. People started using their @mustang.com email addresses for all manner of purposes. And the spam came rolling in.

At some point we changed the name of the product from "Wildcat! BBS" to "WIN Server" (WIN stood for Wildcat Interactive Network or something), and gave the support BBS a new domain name, winserver.com. We made all our customers change to the new domain name, and reserved mustang.com for our own corporate use. All the spam that was rolling in to random other people, we just rejected (probably with bounces, but that was before bounces were such a bad thing).

Fast forward to the year 2000. Mustang had already sold off the old BBS software, and was concentrating on new newly developing CRM software field. In early 2000, the company was bought (for $290 million!) by Quintus Corporation. For a while, the mustang.com domain pointed to a web page that explained the acquisition and whatnot. At the end of 2000, Quintus imploded under the newly fashionable "irregular accounting practices" scam, and in early 2001 the pieces were scraped up and bought by Avaya.

The pieces at the time included assets such as the mustang.com domain name. The ownership of the name was duly transferred to Avaya, and I had assumed that after a year or two they would forget about it and let the registration lapse. Every year about this time, I would check on the status to see if they had quit paying for it yet. I was intending to snag the domain name just for the nostalgia (I worked for Mustang for eight years).

Sometime in the last couple of years, the domain name changed ownership from Avaya to being specifically owned by Avaya's IT person. That is, the administrative contact name and address stayed the same but Avaya's name disappeared from the domain registration details.

Sometime fairly recently, mustang.com has changed from not working at all to being a fairly generic "Ultimate Mustang Website", referring to the car produced by Ford. It has news, articles, forums, pictures, an online shop, etc. It all looks very boilerplate and is probably generated by some random CMS (possibly Remository). I imagine this is all just a way for the current domain name owner to cash in on the fact that a nice clean valuable domain name just happened to land in his lap a few years ago.

Yes, I'm a little bitter. It's sad to see a domain name that meant so much to so many people, now appropriated for such a banal purpose. Of course it's not the first time this has happened and won't be the last time this will happen on the internet, but this is just one of the important ones in my little corner of the world.
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