Australia's web hosts are considering setting up a new online community after domain renewal issues took WebHostingTalk Australia offline a fortnight ago.
The WebHostingTalk .com.au disappeared suddenly on November 16, 2012.
The United States-based operators of the site, iNET Interactive, finally issued a formal explanation of the problems on a .com mirror of the WebHostingTalk Australian site yesterday.
"We deeply regret the inconveniences you have experienced with WebHostingTalk.com.au over the past weeks," iNET stated.
"The issue is with the domain name. iNET Interactive had completed the appropriate paperwork on time, the paperwork was issued and the process underway. However, we were not notified that the paperwork was incomplete.
"The domain name was updated to 'pending delete' status. We worked with the registrar to re-submit all required documents and paid the fees they imposed. Regardless, the domain was released and registered to a different entity."
iNET indicated it was "working various avenues to re-secure the domain for which we own the AU trademarks".
"We hope you'll help us recover from this situation and continue your participation in the forum," the operator said.
However, iNET faced several challenges in re-establishing the forum at the .com domain, webhostingtalkau.com.
The .com.au domain it lost control over now bears the message from its new owners: "Site under construction... Please come back for a new and exciting site on the 15/01/2013."
In addition, former participants of the WebHostingTalk Australia community — before it was bought out by iNET — are talking up the prospect of re-establishing an Australian owned and operated community site once more.
WebHostingTalk Australia had "over 5000 members" when it was bought out by iNET in 2008.
Micron21 infrastructure manager James Braunegg is one of the advocates for a new Australian community site for the web hosting industry though he — as with other proponents — are grappling with how to set it up as a genuine community initiative.
Braunegg saw WebHostingTalk Australia as "a good little community" prior to its takeover by iNET.
"It was an Australian community run by Australians, and it just worked," he told iTnews. "Then obviously [iNET] came in and changed all the rules and regulations, and it just burnt really everyone."
Braunegg believes changes in advertising policies and fees initiated by iNET changed the complexion of the forum. Once small hosts stopped advertising their services, they also stopped posting there.
Some hosts shifted discussion to Whirlpool's web hosting sub-forum. However, Whirlpool's rules on advertising means it has not completely replaced WebHostingTalk Australia.
One of WebHostingTalk Australia's key selling points is it allowed providers to post special offers, field requests from prospective customers for quotes, as well as engage in technical discussions.
"From where I'm sitting, the community, I believe, requires something," he said.
"I'd love to see a new community formed but it needs to be a community that's full of everyone."
Challenges — which are currently being nutted out in a burgeoning Whirlpool thread —include how the establishment of a new site might work, who will control it, and how it can be truly driven as a community initiative.
"How do you put your hand up and say, 'I've got all these ideas'? How is that being community? That's being driven by a single person's ideas," Braunegg said of the challenges.
"How do you brainstorm ideas? How do you understand who's in and who's out?
"What's the point of putting all the effort into making a new site if you don't have the support of a large majority of people who are going to help supporting that site?
"It's easy when it's already established but establishing something from scratch is very difficult."