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Hover.com trouble, continued

You may remember the tale of my issues with the domain name registrar Hover.com back in , and how I regretted transferring all my domains to them. Some 1600 words in I vowed to transfer my domain names to a better registrar at the end of the 60-day transfer lock-in period. Well, this is part two documenting the issues I had transferring my domain names out of the service.

To recap part one: I transferred all my domain names to Hover.com at the recommendation of podcast hosts. I felt uneasy about the entire purchase process which saw me transferring control of my domain names to Hover even before they had my email address or knew who I was. The transfer process also involved unavoidable downtime unless I gave Hover my account passwords for my old registrar etc. I then ran into various technical issues with their new customer dashboard, and was pretty dissatisfied with paying premium rates for what turned out to be a substandard service. Due to ICANN rules governing domain name transfers, I was locked-in with Hover.com for 60-days.

It has been more than two months since I transferred my domain names, meaning that I can now transfer them to another registrar! I wanted to get away from Hover.com and over to a more reliable service provider. I’ve held out hopes that Namecheap.com would add support for transferring in .blog top-level domains (TLD), but some twelve weeks later they still don’t support my TLD.

I’ve instead settled on Gandi.net as my new registrar. They’re a French service provider who not only accept .blog TLDs, but also my .no domain names; something Hover.com never did. They’re more expensive than most other service providers, but they appear to have an almost flawless reputation.

To transfer my domain names to a new registrar I would first need to remove the transfer locks held by Hover.com and disable domain privacy protections so that the new registrar can see my email address in the WHOIS records and initiate the transfer request This meant that I would need to login to and interact with the Hover.com accounts dashboard again.

By this time, I surmise that you’ve gathered that this didn’t go down to well. —and you’re entirely right. I logged in to my account on Hover, found my domain names, clicked on the little button to disable transfer protection, and then nothing happened. As I noted in part one, the Hover.com web interface assumes everything will always work flawlessly and they’ve not bothered to implement any kind of error handling or feedback in error situations.

I reloaded the page and tried again a few times, but still nothing. I opened up the developer tools in my web browser, and sure enough:

HTTP 422 Unprocessable Entity
{ "succeeded": false,
  "id": "domain-ctrl.blog",
  "errors": ["SSL_connect returned=1 errno=0 state=error: certificate verify failed"]

Hover.com’s backend responded to my actions with an error message, but the account dashboard gave no visual indicator that anything was wrong. This is actually the most frustrating thing about the whole experience. Any developer worth their pants should know that you must handle error messages or present them to the user if there is no better option available for dealing with it. Giving me no feedback was just a frustrating experience.

There were no noticed anywhere on the account dashboard about service outages, so I reached out to their support staff via chat. A minute later and I was informed that they were aware of the issue and working on it. I ended the chat and explicitly chose not to receive a transcript of the chat by email. A minute later I received a chat transcript by email anyway ….

The incident report page published by Hover says the problem affected every customers ability to purchase or modify any domain names for five hours. Domain names is Hover.com’s only business so this outage was — albeit short — crippling to their business.

I’m not upset with Hover for having a random service outage. Unforeseen things happen all the time. I am, however, upset with them for not preparing better. The error message reported by their backend should have been brought to the user’s attention instead of just being ignored. There should have been a system in place to include a notice at the top of their website saying “Hey, we’re having trouble right now. Here is a 10% off coupon. Please come back later!””

I waited half a day and tried again. This time I was able to get the domain transfer authentication codes from Hover and disable domain privacy. Within half an hour I’d transferred most of my domains to Gandi. Unlike Hover.com, Gandi even copied my existing nameserver (NS) records when they transferred the domains — leading to no downtime at all. I don’t have much to say about them yet, which is a already a huge improvement over Hover.com.

It has already been a couple of hours since the domains were transferred out of Hover.com. However, Hover.com still show all the domains I’ve transferred out as still being “active” with their service. Their only business is registering and managing domain names, and their systems don’t even realize when they’ve lost a few? I’m really not impressed.