I remember being a university student. Saturdays on campus were pretty regular. Finishing assessments, meeting up for group work, cramming for a Monday morning exam or just going by the student hub for some free internet to browse Reddit on. Presumably, students at the University of Queensland were doing all of these things when all of the university's official sites and email addresses stopped working on Saturday. The cause? The university had forgotten to renew its own domain name. Fuuuuuuuuuuuu—
The domain name in question — uq.edu.au — dropped out of registration early Saturday morning, affecting services across the whole campus including staff and student email, internet connectivity, shared student services, right down to a whole bunch of "miscellaneous" nonsense nobody would even expect.
Reports began flooding the IT department that anything involving *.uq.edu.au was having trouble resolving. It could only be one thing. A quick search of whois and the .edu.au zone revealed the problem. The university told students and staff:
Initial investigation shows that the uq.edu.au domain is absent from the edu.au zone and whois is showing the domain as expired. The domain will be progressively dropping out from nameservers across the Internet as the TTL expires in each nameserver.
Support staff scrambled to re-register the domain name which, for some reason, was still a manual process as uq.edu.au dropped out of name servers all over the internet.
The domain was re-registered and by 3:30pm, services gradually came back online. It took until 5:30pm for services to be restored to most, if not all ISPs.
The university told us today that the process for re-registration was manual at the time, and automated processes have now been put in place to ensure it doesn't happen again.
Of course that's cold comfort to those who actually had things to do that they couldn't on Saturday. A tipster has informed us that one lecturer has even pushed back the due date on a crucial assessment to any students who felt disadvantaged.
The university wasn't at a huge risk of anyone coming in and squatting on its domain. The .edu.au domain is closed to the general public, meaning you or I couldn't go in and snipe it away from UQ the second they were too stupid to renew it, but let this be a sage lesson to anyone with a domain name: they do expire, and you do need to be ready.