Exclusive Microsoft was busy covering up an almighty cock-up last night after forgetting to renew its hotmail.co.uk domain name.
Despite being warned that the domain for its popular Web mail service was up for renewal, it seems Microsoft - or whoever had the task of managing its hotmail.co.uk domain - overlooked this vital piece of administration.
As a result, last month Microsoft lost its claim to the domain and it was duly returned to the open market to be picked up by whomever fancied it
Luckily, the domain was snapped up on the same day - October 23. The new owner - a good hearted soul - then proceeded immediately to contact Microsoft, inform the giant of its slip and arrange to hand back the domain.
However, Microsoft didn't want to know. Despite phone calls and emails - and being fobbed off by Microsoft drones - our man behind this public-spirited deed was completely blanked by the software empire.
Microsoft only took notice when The Register contacted the company yesterday afternoon to enquire why its hotmail.co.uk site was registered to a private individual.
It was then we were told that the matter was under investigation and being "escalated". Worryingly, no one in the UK could deal with the matter so it was up to the US to sort things out.
Of course, while Microsoft's spinstresses tried to stall for time, the company was busy scurrying behind the scenes to sort out this embarrassing episode. It managed to contact hotmail.co.uk's new owner, grovel at their mistake and sort out the mess. By all accounts, hotmail.co.uk will be returned in a few days.
A spokeswoman for Nominet UK - the registry for all .uk domains - confirmed that hotmail.co.uk had failed to be renewed and was placed back into pool of available domains.
For Nominet's part, she confirmed that "all the standard renewal procedures were followed regarding hotmail.co.uk".
"I would like to remind companies and their agents that it is their responsibility to renew their domains," she said.
Despite repeated attempts to seek comment from Microsoft, the software giant has failed to cobble together any form of statement that might shed light on this situation.
In December 1999, Microsoft forgot to renew the domain name Passport.com, and so rendered its Hotmail service partially crippled. A Linux programmer, Michael Chaney, paid the $35 fee and promptly handed over ownership to Microsoft. Here is his story. ®