Charles Petzold on writing books, reading books, and exercising the internal UTM

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Dear EarthLink Customer Support

January 13, 2010
New York, N.Y.

Dear EarthLink Customer Support,

This blog entry may seem like an unusual way to get in touch with you, but I've run out of options. You don't accept postal mail or phone calls, and your Support Center Feedback page generates an email to, which your email system bounces! I've considered visiting your office in Atlanta and demanding to see a corporate representative, but I suspect I'll only find myself in a crowd of many thousands of other crazed dissatisfied customers wailing in agony in your lobby.

Here's the problem: For about 96 hours — from at least Saturday morning to sometime before this morning — visitors to my web site were greeted with the following image:

Totally Inaccurate EarthLink Greeting

What a horrifying thing to see on a web site that's been around for over 10 years! People thought I had retired or died! Even I had to check my pulse to see if I was OK. (Turned out my pulse was running much faster than usual, and I think even a little steam was coming out of my ears.)

What was really bizarre — and I think you can confirm this if you check your records — is that my web site isn't even hosted by EarthLink! It was at one time, but I fixed that problem late last summer. What EarthLink effectively did here was hijack my web site and replace it with a ridiculously inaccurate advertisement for your obviously incompetant web-hosting services.

Suppose I ran a small store, and one morning I discovered that my store had been boarded up — not by my landlord, but by my former landlord — and a big sign had been nailed up advertising my former landlord's other properties. Would I be far off in characterizing this behavior as outrageous, inexcusable, and despicable?

Yet, that's exactly what you did to my web site and my email. As a freelance writer and programmer, my web site is my public identity and the face of my business, and by hijacking my web site, EarthLink — whether willfully or not — has been destroying my business and obstructing free trade. Obviously you should be punished for what you've done. But what legal recourse do I have? Basically none that I know of. The idea of hauling EarthLink into court and getting some satisfaction is, of course, only a pleasant fantasy.

What's worse is that some visitors to my site might have assumed that I was actually endorsing EarthLink. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I never even wanted EarthLink to host my web site. My very first Internet Service Provider (and host of my first web site,, was The Pipeline, a small company with plenty of warm fuzzies, and which, if I recall, was called Pipeline New York in its local incarnation, so it always seemed very close and dear — right in the neighborhood.

In 1996, The Pipeline was assimilated into MindSpring, which was still a pretty decent company. It was through MindSpring that I started up my current web site, Then, in 1999, MindSpring was assimilated into EarthLink, and largely through inertia my web site remained with EarthLink until it became very apparent that EarthLink simply does not offer a reasonably priced hosting plan that gives me the moderate disk space and bandwidth my tiny web site requires.

So I left. I have a new web host now. They're not perfect, but they have what you do not. I'm sorry, but it was time for me to move on.

Now, apparently, you want me back, and I'm afraid that our long relationship has caused you to behave in a pathological manner. Like a rejected and demented lover, you've chosen to express your loss and disappointment by retaliating with vandalism and violence. It's not going to work!

Let me speak honestly: In the many years that we've known each other, you've let yourself go. You're not looking after your health. You've become bloated and even a little (I hate to say it) smelly. Frankly, I can no longer stand to be in the same room as you, and this latest tactic to get me back simply causes you to seem much uglier in my eyes.

Whatever we had in the past, it's over. Please, please, please, just leave me alone.

Your former customer,
Charles Petzold


This past summer I moved from NH to MD. I had Earthlink DSL in NH and tried to get it moved to MD. After many, many calls to a service center in India I got no service. (Many promises of service but no service). At one point the Earthlink service person asked, "from what part of India are you calling from?" I ended up switching to Verizon DSL.

Pazdziernik, Sun, 24 Jan 2010 22:32:43 -0500

That's indeed outrageous.

On a possibly related note, I ran across the Microsoft BizSpark program yesterday (, and it appears they offer *Free Hosting* plus free development tools if you start a new software business.

There are some constraints, though, so I'm not sure if a blog qualifies. But if you have plans start a certain software as a service kind of venture, the BizSpark is a good place to look at.

— Wei, Fri, 29 Jan 2010 00:34:59 -0500

what an ABSURD but great story.

i'm glad you finally got your site back.

but the details to that are missing -- i'm curious if you found out exactly how Earthlink hijacked your site.

were they actually continuing to host it without transferring to your new ISP, possibly renting your ISP the space (like some of the cellphone companies do with tower frequencies)?

just curious.

we have Earthlink DSL and I use the default userspace to host a personal site. (

but i'm getting increasingly unhappy with it.

now I cant seem to get to those pages through the EL website, which used to be available. links just take me in circles, the "support" search is laughable. i'll have to dig out Fetch and use the ftp connection. ugh

prbeacon, Fri, 26 Feb 2010 15:58:14 -0500

I don't think your DNS records have been updated cleanly. A WHOIS search on your domain still shows EarthLink as the technical contact:

Technical Contact:
1430 West Peachtree St. NW, Ste. 400, Atlanta, GA 30309, US
Phone: 888-932-1997
Fax: 123 123 1234

— Richard, Tue, 2 Mar 2010 13:55:38 -0500

Just a small clarification: MindSpring wasn't assimilated into Earthlink in the sense that Earthlink bought them, which is what might be inferred from your text. My understanding at the time was that MindSpring was actually the bigger company in the merger, but they thought the Earthlink name was superior so the merged entity went with that. Wikipedia doesn't entirely confirm this, simply describing it as "a merger of equals", but it definitely wasn't a buyout.

— Bob, Mon, 19 Apr 2010 11:30:19 -0400

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