back to article This is how demon.co.uk ends, not with a bang but a blunder: Randomer swipes decommissioning domain

The last vestige of ye olde UK ISP Demon Internet, in the form of the demon.co.uk subdomain, was given its marching orders this year – after internet services outfit Namesco told customers to change their email address by 29 May. Vodafone extended the licence to September to give Namesco's customers a little more time to get …

  1. ortunk
    Flame

    bull CRP

    "Additionally," it said, "we have confirmed through our technical investigations that the logs were never accessed and have been permanently deleted."

    *it is flammable

  2. james_smith Silver badge

    "no email content was ever delivered to the third party, as the server rejected this content."

    Was this after it had been sent the content or in some prior handshake kind of step? If the former, then how do they know the third party wasn't logging the content and then claiming it had rejected it? Surely a case for the Information Commissioner.

    1. druck Silver badge

      If anyone gets reported to the IOC, it should be Vodafone for redirecting email to a domain they didn't own.

      Hopefully the 3rd party is just someone who noticed this idiocy, registered the dummy domain, and put server on it to reject traffic, before anybody nasty got in there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well said, but just what do the International Olympic Committee have to do with all of this?

    2. Doctor_Wibble
      Boffin

      From the network logging I have permanently running:

      The test email I tried to send on 3/8/20 tried to go to an Amazon hosted IP where it was greeted by an identifiable host name (domain reg'd with gandi) which is still there at the same IP, but unfortunately it did TLS though that did mean I got the public cert and contact email address (hosted with gandi) but as it was a short test message I can't tell for sure at first glance if the exchange was an immediate reject but fortunately I had already moved everything.

      The mail server here just logged it as "550 relay not permitted" which I had thought was an intentional thing to bounce things off a dummy server but started too early and didn't think it needed investigating. More fool me!

      At this point I don't know how sarcastic to be when congratulating the selfless individual who generously registered the domain to protect us all from fraud and villainy.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        > At this point I don't know how sarcastic to be when congratulating the selfless individual who generously registered the domain to protect us all from fraud and villainy.

        If I’d known it was available I would have grabbed it just for the (slightly selfish) ability to re-create my old Demon email address. And for a friend who I know misses his. But obviously no way to extend this to anyone else. Any other email received would have to be binned or bounced, probably binned. :-(

        1. Doctor_Wibble
          Pint

          As I had already moved stuff I would have done the announcement to world+dog and pointed it at a nonexistent IP to let stuff queue up while the respective companies got their act together.

          If this sounds too altruistic to be real, I venture to suggest that an accompanying 'send me a beer token' web page might also have featured in this cunning plan, even if that did have the chance of turning out to be the proverbial triumph of hope over experience.

      2. Number6

        I think the "relay not permitted" usually comes as a response to "RCPT TO:" because it figures out that it can't cope with that recipient. However, there's nothing to stop someone accepting the whole message and then issuing that response. My local spam filtering will accept the entire message and scan it before issuing a bounce (albeit not with that message, but it would be trivial for me to make it so) if it doesn't like the content. And yes, I do keep copies, helps with the occasional false positive.

  3. steamnut

    A sad day

    I was a Demon customer from the early days (32kbps dial-up USR modems) and I stayed with them until FTTC was available in my area. Demon did not offer the service - presumably as Vodafone knew it was going to can them - so I migrated to Zen (excellent BTW). Demon had excellent support staff which treated you like a valued customer with no scripts or foreign accents in sight....

    R.I.P. Demon.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: A sad day

      Yes, I am a little tearful that Demon is no more. The Good Olde Days when people were really passionate about their services.

      And totally agree on Zen: rock-solid.

      1. gotes

        Re: A sad day

        Zen also have decent support staff who actually know what they're talking about, at least that was my experience on the rare occasions I've needed to contact them.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: A sad day

      Nothing wrong with foreign call centres. Virgin have a bunch of cocks working in their English call centre, and a bunch of helpful Indians in their foreign one. Hence why I always called their support after hours if possible.

      1. Dave559 Bronze badge

        Re: A sad day

        The problem with some foreign call centres, particularly those that are half a world away and not in neighbouring countries, is that often the connection is over a poor quality VoIP link which certainly doesn't help, and that because both ends are having to try to understand accents that they don't encounter very often in everyday life, it can be harder for us to understand them, and also equally harder for them to understand us.

        For that reason, and also because a well designed and coded (hmm) web form is much less likely to mess up than if you get a call centre operator who is less competent, I much prefer to interact with utilities via website customer admin areas than call centres. You also don't have to wait in a queue to access a website, and they are available 24 hours a day at no extra staffing cost. It beats me why some companies spend more on call centres and have poor or no web admin areas, when it would surely quickly save them money,

    3. Chris 3

      Re: A sad day

      Same here - original tenner a month club member on CIX :(

    4. Lotaresco Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: A sad day

      I was a very early customer. But I left at the time of the Godfrey debacle. I didn't object to the way they handled things, I objected to their "crap legal team" which tried to get me to sign a document that indemnified them *without limit* for the consequences of their own decisions.

      All a shame because some of the Demon higher ups were friends but the wheels started to come loose with the sale to Thus plc. At least Cliff got a pink Rolls Royce out of it. Never found out who eVaPoR8 was.

      I still own one of Demon's domains that they let slip in a previous cock-up, but it's not demon.co.uk.

    5. KBeee Bronze badge

      Re: A sad day

      Did everybody that was with Demon end up on Zen? I know I did.

      1. Soruk

        Re: A sad day

        Not everyone, I went to PlusNet (FTTC) in December 2014 when I moved house.

  4. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    I suppose I'd better complain ...

    I was one of those subscribers ... very sad to see the email address disappear but that's at the whim of multinational organisations.

    <Vodafone email> Reminder: Your Demon email will stop working.

    Me on very protracted chatbot call: Hello Vodafone, I have an email to tell me that my Demon email will stop working.

    Bugger, being a crappy Techbot it does not work in any sensible way shape or form.

    Eventually, and many digital exasperation later ...

    Digi Tech: I understand your problem. Hello, are you on wi-fi at the moment?

    Me: err yes. Why?

    Tech: Can you open a browser window and sign into the router please. 192.168 ...

    Me: Why?

    Tech: So I can help you with your problem.

    Me: Why? My Demon domain is being stopped. What's that got to do with my router?

    Tech: It's to help you keep your email working. If you can just access 192.168 ...

    Me: How is signing into my router going to help? (I neglected to mention I was in lockdown away from home so it wasn't even my service ...)

    Tech: We've got to change DNS settings to keep your email working ...

    Me: Why? What has that got to do with my email domain being withdrawn?

    Tech: If you can just sign in to ...

    Me: Why? What's that got to do with my Demon email being stopped?

    Tech: <no response>

    At this point I suspended things and lodged a formal complaint that I felt I was being scammed by an official Vodaphone "tech" trying to gain access to my system. After a month Vodafone denied it was a problem and called it 'a misunderstanding'.

    Time passes ...

    <Vodafone email arrives> We can extend your licence for two months until dd/mm/yyyy. Aren't we just fab? Do you want us to?

    As it happens, the domain expiry date was that date and was fully paid up so I had already penned a draft "Give me my money back and compensate me for withdrawing the use of my domain early you gits" letter. I guess someone had realised the cock-up so the draft email was filed as almost the last entry in my Demon mailbox ... sad end to nearly three decades of use ...

    Many thumbs up for Demon - thumbs down in as many ways as possible for Vodafone.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
    Unhappy

    not with a bang but a cock-up

    That's the way technology usually ends.

    1. Dave559 Bronze badge

      Re: not with a bang but a cock-up

      Sometimes both.

  6. Franco Silver badge

    I've just thought about how many ISPs I've been with over the years who have been taken out in to the desert, shot in the back of the head and left in an unmarked grave. The total is now 5.

    Freeserve (swallowed up by Orange after Wannadoo)

    Publiconline (defunct)

    Supanet (defunct)

    Be Unlimited (swallowed up by O2)

    Demon (swallowed up by Vodafone)

    Happily with Origin these days, really hoping a mobile company doesn't decide to purchase them.

    1. tin 2

      oh god... Be unlimited. I forgot all about them. Anyone who held out eventually unceremoniously moved over to the dogturd factory that is Sky. Terrible.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Be Unlimited were great – I had a static IP with them (for cheapsies), and their techs really knew what they were talking about. As soon as I found out they were going to Sky, I jumped ship. Sad day.

      2. rmv

        Oh, yes... that was me.

        Belatedly jumped ship after the after the first invoice from Sky that included a surcharge for NOT getting Sky TV. Why? I was quite happily not getting Sky TV for free before.

        1. tin 2

          God yeah I remember that too. Ridiculous. Talk about unnecessarily naffing off your subscribers that you just acquired at great expense and were already guaranteed to be pretty unhappy.

          Mine went further in that (amongst other things) on the day of switchover my broadband went down and stayed down. Along with an email saying congratulations your broadband is up and running! They couldn't fix it, cue lots of "reset the router" "plug into the master socket" etc BS.

          There was a litany of mistakes. I remember holding that there wasn't a single facet of the service they hadn't screwed up. I also posted a factually accurate, narky, but clean rant on their message boards in the hope something would happen. It did. They deleted it due to not being within their T&Cs. I was apoplectic.

          Sky are a company that deliver great service while you're taking a service, it works without any effort on their behalf, and you keep paying. Any of those things go wrong they are the absolute worst.

    2. Falmari
      Unhappy

      Freeserve

      Wow that was the one I started with. did it belong to Dixons originally?

      After that same ISP, just company owner changed CableTel ->NTL->Virgin. So only two ISPs. :(

      Only went to CableTel as they were my landline company and I could get a second line for dial-up. As soon as CableTel brought out broadband I went to the highest tier, ok well then there was only one tier and dropped the second line. Since then as the speed goes up I stay on the top tier.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Freeserve

        Wow that was the one I started with

        I started with Demon (on a 14.4k modem and then migrated to a blazingly fast 33.6k linux auto-dial box. When we moved to our current house, I also got a Freeserve account (cos it was free) and used it to leech usenet and napster.. Until they cut me off for being on 24/7 and using up lots of data..

        Then I went onto Home Highway to Demon - 64k of bonded 24/7 bandwidth! That lasted until DSL came to the area..

        I eventually left Demon (post-Thus borging) after being screamed at by one of their Indial service-deskers (apparently, asking if we could just skip all the stuff that I'd told them before was 'disrespectful' and moved to another ISP (can't remember who) for a number of years. Then moved to Zen and got FTTC. And Openwoe were recently in the area putting in the equipment and cabling for FTTP so I'll upgrade to that one it's enabled (still with Zen).

        And, one day, I'll even work out how to implement the abomination that is IPV6. Well, one can dream..

    3. Timbo

      I'd add BlueYonder into the list as they were the ISP associated with Telewest who got merged into NTL, that then became Virgin.

      I think I've got some old freebie magazine CD's somewhere where every month some firm was offering a freebie ISP service...you just clicked on a brand icon on the first screen when you loaded up the auto-running CD and chose the one you wanted to sign up for...

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Nildram, swallowed by Pipex (who decided to roll out Nildram support to their existing customer base because it was better than their own), swallowed by someone I can't remember (who rolled out their own appalling support because that's the sort of thing they did) swallowed by TalkTalk (who were TalkTalk)

    5. Michael Felt

      Demon lives in the Netherlands!

      Demon was was first provider.

      Bought up, in the Netherlands, by XS4ALL - and Demon lived on in the UK....

      XS4ALL got bought up by KPN, and KPN is ending "XS4ALL" as a separate entity within KPN (i.e., separate support team).

      I am still very happy with the BSMTP (batched SMTP) that would be otherwise unavialble.

      Thank you "Spirit of Demon" for that forward thinking service and support.

      1. tin 2

        Re: Demon lives in the Netherlands!

        XS4ALL are ending too? Crazy to have such a well known name and squeeze the value out of it by basically extinguishing it. These big companies with their branding mania...

  7. Roland6 Silver badge

    Ends? Opportunity for a sequel...

    I note Vodafone's domain registration is due to expire on 5th May 2021. I wonder whether Vodafone will actually let it go and so enable some entrepreneur to resurrect it or they will simple domain squat for a decade or so...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ends? Opportunity for a sequel...

      It is registered with themselves though IIRC. They should be forced to keep it registered, will cost them nothing being the registrar. The same should apply to all other significant sized domain owners who have supplied email on a domain. Either that or the domain should be blacklisted and unregisterable without significant checks/auditing.

  8. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    I think the frustrating thing is that _if_ a company offers email service (supporting, say, joe@foo.com), the incremental cost of adding an additional domain (say, for fred@bar.com) is effectively zero (when amortized over a few dozen users). Sure, the capabilities of the 'new' implementation may not match those of the 'old' one, but that's a separate issue from whether fred@bar.com stops working for incoming mail...

    1. tin 2

      Came here to say the same thing. Have an email system that can handle multiple domains, and register the domain with whoever for £15 a year. Whatever the issue is I can't fathom. I can only guess that the corporate branding maniacs have got their hands on it.

      Also proves definitively that the big boys don't give the slightest bit of a shit about their customers, really.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Have an email system that can handle multiple domains

        I use qmail and vpopmail. Of course, it doesn't have a point-'n-drool interface so most support staff wouldn't be able to cope with it..

  9. IanTP
    Pint

    Who Me?

    I sense a story here in a couple of years. hey it's also Friday :)

  10. Criminny Rickets

    Why?

    Being from the other side of the pond, I was never a Demon subscriber, but do fondly remember, back in the day, visiting some sites on that domain. The yearly cost of a domain is not that much, and, as far as I know, it does not cost anything to have an extra domain on a mailserver. So my question is, why couldn't they just have kept the demon.co.uk subdomain running for the people that had that address, without accepting any new users of that domain?

    1. N2 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Why?

      Because its Vodaphone and they have to make a mess of everything and anything in every way they can.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All your outlook, gmail, facebook, youtube etc, goes through USA's spy network anyway, along with your phone calls through ECHELON.

    All good, carry on... Blame China!

  12. steelpillow Silver badge
    Devil

    05-May-2021

    That's the day Vodafone's registration of demon.co.uk expires.

    Will be an interesting few minutes...

    (icon for the memories)

  13. Number6

    It's sort of sad that it's gone. I wasn't one of the originals but based on my IP address I was somewhere around customer 700-800. Stayed with them a long time and finally jumped ship because I wanted to play IPv6 and they didn't support it. I did see the possibility of losing the email domain well before that though, my personal domain dates back twenty years.

    I see that the MX record now points to disabled.demon.co.uk, which doesn't resolve, so presumably mail eventually gets returned to sender as undeliverable.

  14. Warmtoffee

    Demon websites

    Vodafone sold my demon website domain to Namesco (Register Group(team.blue)) who now use it as a cheap ad launcher when people click on dead links to my site.

    If Vodafone had left well alone then the Brave browser by default and other browsers by add-ons pick up the archived website from the Wayback Machine and it’s as if we were back in the 1990s and thousands of websites appear again.

    Vodafone is the worst thing that happened to Demon.

  15. lazyleopard
    Devil

    Demon Zombies...

    I was with Demon for many years, but finally jumped ship when Vodaphone started shoving stuff off to other providers without telling us. There's still an April 2012 version of my old Demon-hosted website out there, visible but un-updatable. It's one of many zombie www.*.demon.co.uk sites. I wonder if it will finally vanish...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Customer Inertia

    Years ago I went into Thus to look at consolidating some of their Solaris estate. When we got to the Demon stuff, we looked at several systems where they said "We must do this without downtime because if we know there will be downtime then we must tell customers in advance. If we do that then they'll realise they're still paying for the service and cancel it".

    As for ISPs, I broke Demon's bandwidth caps so went to an uncapped Plusnet. They didn't do me proud when BT-OR wouldn't fix a dodgy linecard in my local cabinet, so jumped to Andrews and Arnold and haven't looked back.

  17. Andy Mitchell

    Namesco didn't discover the mistake, I did months ago

    Namesco didn't discover the fuck up themselves, I spent an hour and fifteen bloody minutes on the phone, sent them an email, was hung up on TWICE trying to get them to sort things out. All the while being told it can't happen by support people who clearly don't understand the basics of how email and DNS works. Vodafone were equally lack lustre in their response. As late at the 8th of September the Namesco support people and a director still didn't know what happened and were saying there was never a problem.

    They only acted at all as by a lucky coincidence one of my university friends knew someone outside their support group with a clue and told them what was going on.

    I know the guy who registered disabled-domain.com, he was one of several IT professionals I discussed the fuck up with to check I was correct as I've not worked on smtp/dns stuff in decades and wanted to check my facts. I didn't ask him to setup the server but he kindly offered to setup forwarding on my email address after he grabbed it :)

    I'm going to give Stephen Ewart (director) the benefit of the doubt, he owned up the day after he last told me it couldn't happen in a phone call and the moment I mentioned the ICO and the duty to inform customers he did say he would be.

    I know more but I don't want to say anymore until I touch base with the guy who owns disabled-domain.com

    From: Andy Mitchell *************

    To: Namesco Escalations Team <support@names.co.uk>

    Subject: Re: Tech/Dev Escalations Enquiry Ref: [ES13234201]

    Date: Thursday, July 30, 2020 7:07 PM

    I have an MSc Data Telecommunications and Networks and have actually written code to implement SMTP. I've also setup SMTP servers under linux.

    When the users local mail exchanger wants to deliver an email it looks for an MX record in the DNS coresponding to the hostname part of the email address. This returns one or more server hostnames and their priority values.

    These are still hostnames and they have to be translated into an IP address.

    The name is looked up as an A record. Who sets up the A record for disabled-domain.com? The person who buys it can and no one else.

    This is explained in the wikipedia page in the "overview" section of:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MX_record

    I was actually told the update had already been put live by one of the namesco employees I spoke to even though I pointed out I was literally looking it up from the authoritive server while on the call! That was about the time my call started "mysteriously" dropping.

    As for an extension to my exchange package its worthless without the demon email address.

    1. X5-332960073452
      Pint

      Re: Namesco didn't discover the mistake, I did months ago

      Nice post Andy.

      The only issue I see is that you were being technical with tech support (end sarc)

      Have one on me------->

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Namesco didn't discover the mistake, I did months ago

      You say you saw this months ago but never said anything on the vodafone forum thread

      https://forum.vodafone.co.uk/t5/Other-broadband-queries/Anyone-else-affected-by-Vodafone-disabling-demon-co-uk-emails/td-p/2655220/page/8

      and you said nothing about knowing the guy who registered the domain or that it was in safe hands and I think people would have been happy to know that, even if everything else was broken.

      1. Andy Mitchell

        Re: Namesco didn't discover the mistake, I did months ago

        With the benefit of hindsight I wish I had told the whole story far sooner. I didn't rush to do this initially as I had been trying to have a discussion with Vodafone to get the demon.co.uk domain name transferred to a not for profit user body. This of course proved a total waste of time.

        The guy who purchased the domain name did not seem comfortable about going public at the point when I had given up all hope of Vodafone being reasonable.

        It's been a difficult period where knowing how much to say publicly, at each stage, to encourage Vodafone to do the right thing with the domain name rather than just make them angry and more entrenched has never been clear to me.

        Looking back I think I held onto the slim outside chance of getting Vodafone to be reasonable far too long and I should of given up and let everyone know the full story sooner.

        I saw The Register story on Friday and submitted my previous comment then, but it got stuck waiting for moderation over the weekend. I exchanged a few emails with a US based editor Friday evening who told me the relevant team had gone home for the weekend but that he would pass on the info I gave to them.

        This whole demon story has come to a very sad end and it is deeply regrettable that everyone's use of the demon.co.uk domain could not be saved, which in my mind has been the goal since I learned of the planned closure in late April. There was never any real technical barrier to achieving this and Vodafone's real reasons for not engaging are a mystery to me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Namesco didn't discover the mistake, I did months ago

          Why would "going public" have to happen?

          "Someone I know has registered the domain and has set it to bounce everything".

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