In the morning of January 9th, 2023 the website and all services became unreachable because the gianmarco.ga domain had stopped working. I first noticed when I was at the Apple Developer Academy and my phone could not connect to my Matrix server, at first glance it seemed like a simple connection error probably caused by the university network, but then I noticed that even with my mobile data it did not work.
I tried reaching my website and it didn’t work either, so I tought that the server at home might have gone offline because of a power outage, but the fact is that whenever that happens I should recieve a notification on my phone which I never got. My last suspicion was that the domain had expired, so I take out my laptop to go to Freenom’s website and that’s when I made a shocking discovery: all of my domains were gone from my account, and if I tried to register them back or to register new ones it would just say that registration was out of order due to alleged technical issues.
I immediately tried to reach them out with an email asking what was wrong, but they never responded. So all I could do was warning people on Mastodon and waiting, and waiting, and waiting… the issue was still there many hours later. I knew Freenom was a crappy company that could also take your free domain away from you and sell it at a premium but it seemed so strange that all of a sudden things are affected by ’technical issues’ and for so long. I even asked around on Reddit and found out I was not alone, other people were affected by this and for several weeks, so my domains weren’t being reselled and trying to register them even via Tor, so without being logged in, resulted in the same error.
After 12 hours of agony, I just decided to do something I had delayed for a long time due to how stingy I am: I bought a real domain on Namecheap, the new gianmarco.gg domain you’re all using right now to read this (I think). I wanted to do this since I moved from the old gsoftwares.tk domain to gianmarco.ga, because I knew that eventually the day Freenom would fuck me over would come since they just give shit out for free meaning you have no legal recourse what so ever, but I didn’t expect it to be so sudden and not related to them trying to cashgrab on my domains becaue they got too much traffic for their taste. Also another good reason to move away from those free domains is because they usually get marked as spam when using them for emails. I wanted to make this transition with much more calm and organization, maybe while trying to deploy a brand new NixOS-based server and a new website design (it’s currently in alpha and it’s being worked on the next branch), but I couldn’t stand another day of my server being totally unreachable.
The day after, while I was again at the ADA, I was highly stressed trying to reconfigure the server domain while paying attention to the activities of the Academy, but luckily by the time I got home I managed to restore the website, the downloads repo, the Git server and the Nextcloud instance, but my devices still required changes or resets of certain app settings (e.g. the Nextcloud sync client, the browsers). I deployed a new mail server, now no longer using Yandex like last time, using Luke Smith’s emailwiz script and also had to update my PGP key and a bunch of accounts to have the new address. The two things that are still not working are the Matrix and XMPP servers and it’s not easy (as far as I can tell) to bring them up online without having to purge all their data and start from scratch.
In conclusion I would advise anybody trying to spin up their own server to avoid Freenom at all costs, get one of those cheap .xyz domains or something since I don’t reccommend .gg domains either because they tend to be quite expensive (luckily I got a discount, not sponsored), any registrar will do as long as it’s not them. I’d advise you to take a read at this Hosting Revelations article that talks shit about them exposing their fucked up practices and past, you could also look for other people’s reviews on sites like Quora, TrustPilot, Ycombinator and Reddit.
Edit from May 3rd
I discovered that Freenom stopped working because they got sued by Meta due to the constant phishing that was going on with their free domains. More detail here.