Marketing giant Marketo forgets to renew domain name. Hilarity ensues

Red faces all round at dotcom after emails, tracking links go TITSUP


With a perfect dose of irony, a biz that sells automated marketing software online failed to automatically renew its dotcom.

Silicon Valley-based Marketo started receiving customer complaints Tuesday morning that its reporting systems weren't working.

Since the corp's marketing emails use "marketo.com" links to track user interactions, suddenly every hyperlink, image and form in millions of client emails went dead. The company's main website vanished, so clients were unable to log in to their accounts, and its apps failed.

Two hours later, at just after 7:00am Pacific Time, the company tweeted – with some degree of panic – that it was looking into the problem: "We are aware of the issue with the marketo.com domain and are working quickly to resolve it. We apologize for any inconvenience," it told customers.

Fortunately one of those customers was a domain name specialist and quickly figured out the problem – the company had somehow, unfathomably, failed to renew its dotcom and its registration had expired.

While Marketo was floundering, Travis Prebble decided to help out, registering the domain for a year for $38 and paying the $35.99 restatement fee. He tweeted the invoice at the company – seventy-four bucks for an organization once valued at $1.8bn.

"I renewed your domain @Marketo. Hopefully things will be back up soon."

Unfortunately, Travis' renewal did not give him access to the domain control panel, so he was unable to change the internet address' nameservers away from the registrar's "pending renewal deletion" domain and back to Marketo's servers.

Tick, tock

Nearly three hours later – at 9:30am – Marketo finally found their domains guy and switched the nameservers back. Slowly the service came back online as the change propagated through the domain name system.

It's safe to say the issue took up a lot of the Marketo CEO's morning. "Resolving DNS issues re: our site and I profusely apologize to everyone. No excuses, just fixing," tweeted Steve Lucas.

And to his credit, before leaving at the end of the day, he responded to Travis Prebble thanking him for helping out. "Travis – I am grateful to you for your help today. It means a lot that you care enough to take action. Thank you."

Of course, that doesn't answer the obvious question: how did a multi-billion-dollar company forget to renew its own dotcom domain? Or, at least, simply click on the auto-renew button that every single registrar offers?

Marketo is being tight-lipped about how it managed to screw up so badly, putting out a vague statement about how "all Marketo web domains experienced access issues with our DNS" and a concise FAQ about the impacts.

Process error

CEO Lucas was a little more open on Twitter in response to furious customers, however.

"We identified process errors with auto renewals as well as human errors," he tweeted, promising to share more information with customers if they emailed him directly.

Well, we emailed him to ask for more information. Within minutes, Lucas got back to us to say: "I issued an email to our customers yesterday that clarified everything."

Considering the size of Marketo, and the fact that the registrar – Network Solutions – would be more than happy to sell the company its premium renewal service, where it will contact a specific person before any changes are made, it's safe to assume Marketo has never done a domain management audit. Here's betting it has one soon.

Meanwhile, across corporate America, CTOs are emailing their IT departments frantically ensuring that their domains don't expire anytime soon. ®

Updated to add

A source familiar with the matter says Marketo has made a "substantial donation" to a charity chosen by Travis Prebble. And the biz has kicked off a "detailed review of internal operating procedures" to make sure this doesn't happen again in future.

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