By the time the city of Rutland realized its website wasn't working this past weekend, it was already in the hands of someone nowhere near Vermont.
"Unfortunately, it was picked up by an entity out there, that quote unquote, apparently hijacks domain names, looking to see if maybe they can sell them back," Rutland City Clerk Henry Heck said.
Rutland officials determined that the original rutlandcity.com website had been registered to the email address of someone who no longer works for the city, and therefore they did not get any notices of renewal. They called in IT professionals.
"They established that the domain name had been purchased by an individual in Panama City, Panama," Heck said.
Internet and marketing professional David Morgan says snatching up expired websites is big business.
"Usually when a domain name is expired and been released to the public, companies pick up these names because they have been generating traffic," Morgan said.
The city of Rutland's old website already has Vermont-related advertisements that Morgan says is generating income for the new owner.
"Those links are basically advertising, so every time someone clicks on one of those links, they generate some income from it," Morgan explained.
The practice of waiting for websites to expire is fairly common.
"Quite a few domain names that have been in the same type of predicament," Morgan said.
Rutland residents use the site to order birth certificates and pay taxes and other city fees. Resident Raymond Clifford, who came to pay in person at the office, says he doesn't see how the city could lose track of such important online property.
"Gee, why aren't they on top of it more, you know, and taking care of things?" Clifford asked.
"The inconvenience to the general public was minimal, basically all of Monday, part of Tuesday the site was reestablished," Heck said.
The city of Rutland now has a new domain name at RutlandCity.org, and all city officials with RutlandCity.com email addresses have also been changed.
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