Saturday, September 29, 2007

Google Custom Domains - Elegant Yet Unreliable

Google Custom Domains are a simple solution for providing non-Blog*Spot URLs for blogs published on Blogger servers. They are very elegant in their design, which uses nothing special, just industry standard DNS referrals ("CNAME") to a load balancing DNS server. Neither the "CNAME" entry (on the server provided by the DNS registrar), nor the load balancing ("ghs.google.com") are anything innovative.

And that's what makes them so elegant.

But, there's a downside - they don't work, consistently. And the cases where they don't work are inconsistently similar to those cases where they do work.

  • The DNS provider is one major weakness which is not, totally, Google's fault. Not all DNS registrars support "CNAME" referrals - some only support "A" referrals, and many bloggers have trouble understanding the distinction between the two.

    Not all support staff, working for the DNS Hosting companies, consistently know how to implement a "CNAME" either. GoDaddy supports it, and their "Total DNS Control" wizard will let you create a "CNAME". But the process is confusing, and more than one hopeful Blogger has reported being told, when contacting GoDaddy personally, to use an "A" record.

  • When attempting to publish a blog, after the proper "CNAME" referral has been setup and verified, the Blogger may see the monolithic error
    Another blog is already hosted at this address.
    Sometimes, this error can be corrected, but not always.

  • After publishing the blog successfully, to say "mydomain.com", the Blogger will frequently find that "www.mydomain.com" won't respond with the same content (generally, a 404 error is observed) ((Update 2007/10/05): This may not be an issue, any more). This is in spite of the fact that
    • With normal publishing to Blog*Spot, "www.myblog.blogspot.com" will, reliably, equal "myblog.blogspot.com".
    • With Custom Domain publishing, "myblog.blogspot.com" will redirect to "mydomain.com", and "www.myblog.blogspot.com" will show the same content as "mydomain.com" (though remaining on "www.myblog.blogspot.com").

  • Even when none of the above problems are observed, the various blog aliases publish asymmetrically, in a way that must be demonstrated, to be effectively explained.((Update 2007/10/05): This also may not be an issue, any more)

  • With the asymmetric publishing results, many Bloggers have found their search weights, and Page Ranks, dramatically reduced. This does not make them cooperative for further analysis.

  • Having observed some or all of the above symptoms, some Bloggers try using URL forwarding, sometimes when recommended by their DNS hosting company. URL forwarding stopped working sometime during the weekend of September 15, 2007, and affected many blogs.

Not all Bloggers experience all of the above. Some Bloggers do, successfully, publish to a Custom Domain, with all 4 aliases showing identical content, though the "www.myblog.blogspot.com" irregularity is still normal. It's seldom that these cases are identified, though, as Bloggers with no problems seldom post in Google Blogger Help.

This needs to be fixed - tell Blogger that this is stupid.

>> (Update 6/6): Blogger is aware of our concerns, and may be working on the problem.

>> Forum thread links - Inconsistent or unsuccessful: bX-*00023

>> Forum thread links - Complete success: bX-*00024

>> Copy (either of) these tags: bX-*00023 bX-*00024

>> Top

2 comments:

Robin Malau said...

Dear Chuck, so i have this problem. I redirect my old blog to a custom domain but the i had this 'Another blog is already hosted at this address'. This is the first time i experience this. Was it because i once clicked yes to 'redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com?'. I'm confused. Seems like noone is in Blogger, got nowhere to get help.

Chuck said...

Robin,

Without knowing the actual URLs involved, I'd be shooting in the dark. But see if this workaround is useful for you. It worked for me, in two custom domain setups.