Voyager demise may be fillip for private domain names

The departure of Voyager from the consumer ISP scene might bring a lift in the languishing demand for .nz domain names.

The departure of Voyager from the consumer ISP scene might bring a lift in the languishing demand for .nz domain names.

Stranded Voyager users such as Wellington software developer Steve Galyer and others lacking confidence in the future of their ISP may opt for a local domain address.

Galyer is facing the internet equivalent of the telephone network’s number portability problem. He has a large number of business contacts, many overseas, who have to date been receiving emails bearing his Voyager address. If he decides not to go to recommended successor Xtra, all those contacts will have to be notified by the end of the year. Support of Voyager addresses ceases on December 31, except for users moving to Xtra, who get another six months. Galyer prefers not to move to Xtra, with its $5-a-month base fee for email even if none is sent or received.

It’s not only the business contacts that worry him; it’s all those pieces of software, many of them application-building components vital for use in his occupation, for which he filled in licensing forms and upgrade agreements giving his then-valid email address.

If he fails to track every supplier down and advise them of the change, or if they fail to action it, he will be left unadvised of upgrades that might be commercially valuable, he says.

He also reckons the difference in the period of grace between Xtra and other users is discriminatory. “The cost of redirecting email is virtually nil,” he says, and he doesn’t see why the ISPs can’t continue to do it for the foreseeable future.

The logical resort, and one not yet available to telephone users, is to sign up for a personal domain name, which will be recognised no matter what ISP is used. Galyer says he is considering doing that, but it won’t help his current problems.

Xtra spokesman Matt Bostwick says the decision not to continue email forwarding for longer was made chiefly by Voyager and its parent company, WorldCom, and it is for those companies to justify it.

“All we have done is to lend [ex-Voyager customers] a helping hand,” he says. “We are offering them what we think is a really good deal, including waiving our start-up fee.”

Six months, he suggests, should be “ample" time for customers to advise friends, family and business contacts of the change of address. And $30 for six months' mail forwarding is a good deal, he says.

Users running a business from home would be well advised to get themselves a distinctive domain name anyway, as part of their branding, irrespective of what ISPs do, Bostwick says.

Voyager general manager Bob Davis agrees, calling it “poor business practice” to run a commercial enterprise from an ISP-assigned mail address. Customers with a business should not have been running on Voyager’s consumer service anyway, he says. Voyager will still run its commercial service, and if home-business customers like Galyer want to move to that and keep their existing address, Voyager will be pleased to help. The fee for the commercial grade of service is, however, higher than what Voyager was charging for the consumer service.

The mail-forwarding arrangement with Xtra is not “traditional mail forwarding”, where a forwarding file would simply be put into the user’s web-space, Davis says; in this case the translation files will go into Voyager's mail server, a more complex but more secure arrangment. That mail server is due to be upgraded next year and the process would be complicated by any requirement to move “legacy data” as well -- hence the six-month limit.

And for other ISPs to offer six months' or indefinite mail forwarding would complicate the process much more, leading to security risks such as users getting email intended for others, he says.

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