Saturday, November 15, 2008

Your Blog, And Blogger, And Custom Domain Publishing

Blogger has thousands of computers that they control and support - their servers. They have millions of computers that they don't control, but still try to support - our computers. Then there are the remote servers, to where we (try to) publish blogs using FTP. They don't own, or support those computers, and that relationship creates a lot of challenges when we want to publish our Blogger blogs to those non-Google computers.

If we elect to publish our Blogger blogs to Google computers, but still want a non-BlogSpot URL to address our blogs, we can publish to a Google Custom Domain. Publishing to Google computers gives us all of the advantages of publishing to BlogSpot, and one improvement - a non-BlogSpot URL.

Like FTP Publishing, Custom Domain Publishing requires non-Google resources. FTP Publishing requires external host servers for the blog content. With Custom Domain Publishing, the blog content is hosted on Google servers, but addressing those servers requires DNS hosting, which is not provided by Google. And there is where the problems with custom domains start.

Right now, there are (at least) four classes of custom domain problems.


We are seeing a lot of individually reported custom domain symptoms, which are caused by, in my opinion, various combinations of the above issues. And Google causes further confusion, with their problem documentation.
Thursday, August 28, 2008

Some users with custom domains are seeing 404 errors when trying to view their blogs. A similar underlying issue is causing some new custom domain signups to return bX errors.
and a second, later issue of confusion
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some users are seeing that their custom domains are forwarding to www.google.com. We are working to resolve the issue.


The outages described here were major in scope, causing many blogs to be offline, and were each fixed shortly after they were identified. Yet the Known Issues blog entries remain labeled as "outstanding", or at least not labeled as "fixed". Various bloggers have been citing these issues, recently, as part of the "outage" which they perceive, based upon their personal involvement in one combination of the above 3 issues.

Blogger Support needs to update Blogger Status and Known Issues, to slightly reduce the confusion.

And bloggers, in general, need to be aware of the above issues, as they report their personal custom domain problems. The well known (and thoroughly disliked) "Another blog is already hosted at this address" and "Server Not Found Error 404" symptoms are caused by a combination of the above issues. Success in immediate recovery, of any one blog, depends upon the combination of issues actively affecting that one blog.

Some blogs can be personally recovered - by recycling domain settings within Google Apps, and / or by recycling publishing settings within Settings - Publishing. Other blogs can't be personally recovered, and will require patient use of the Custom Domain Reset Form.

Bloggers, and Blogger, must become aware of the combination of problem causes, and the issues, and must react appropriately. Each of these named problem causes create different scopes of symptoms, and each require different treatment for resolution.

Problems Caused By Individual bloggers
If you purchase a domain using the "Buy A Domain" wizard, or through Google Apps, the DNS is setup for you, in what I will call "Asymmetrical Configuration", or alternately "Google Apps Configuration". Alternately, Blogger Support may recommend a "Symmetrical Configuration". Any other configuration, created by bloggers who don't understand how simple custom domains should be when setup properly, and who attempt to develop their own, may or may not work. Sometimes, a blogger will attempt to use a setup which "should work!", and predictably cause the "404" by doing so. Some bloggers will listen to advice from the DNS hosting staff, and setup URL forwarding, which can be a problem. And there are still more configurations that simply aren't recommended.

Problems Caused By Blogger
The original "Google Apps" configuration was

mydomain.net. 3600 IN A 64.233.179.121
mydomain.net. 3600 IN A 66.249.81.121
mydomain.net. 3600 IN A 72.14.207.121
www.mydomain.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

In Octuber 2008, server "66.249.81.121" was removed from service, and blogs which referenced it were seen to exhibit the "Server Not Found Error 404" symptom. Yet as late Mid November, domains being setup at that time, apparently by "Buy A Domain", were observed to include that server in their DNS setups. Even in December, we are seeing reports of domains in "404" status, and we see HTTP traces which show attempts to actually use the server in question.

Problems Caused By Google Database Corruption
Google database corruption is known to be the most common (but not only) cause of the "Another blog ..." symptom. The symptom was, originally, resolved by recycling domain settings, using Google Apps. Later, Blogger Support developed a "Custom Domain Reset Form", which alerts them to a specific problem domain, and they manually examine the Google database, and find and fix the problem. With the recent changes to Google Apps, the "Reset Form" is the only solution for problems in newer domains.

Sometimes, the "Server Not Found Error 404" symptom is seen in a blog, and recycling publishing settings in Settings - Publishing is an effective solution. At other times, the "Another blog ..." error is seen in the Settings - Publishing wizard, during the republishing recycling process, and the "404" remains.

If no 404 error is seen, the blogger attempts to change the blog published to the domain, and sees the "Another blog ..." symptom, the domain settings in the Google database remain corrupt and the 404 error will be seen afterwards.

Sometimes the "Another blog ..." and "Server Not Found" symptoms are seen together. At other times, one symptom, but not the other, will be seen. Maybe the two symptoms have common causes in some cases, but they surely are not one for one. Bloggers observing one symptom in their blog or domain should not assume that a solution used by another blogger will automatically work, for their symptom, in all cases. Neither symptom should be assumed as the cause for the other.

Problems Caused By Use Of Outside (non Google) Resources
Google Custom Domains require the use of DNS servers, that are not provided by Google. Caching policies on non-Google servers are unpredictable, and the status of DNS addresses on any one - or a group - of DNS servers causes completely random problems.

The bottom line? The Custom Domain Reset Form isn't going to be retired from service, in this lifetime.
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3 comments:

Elizabeth said...

If 66.249.81.121 is out of date, how to I remove it? (It's still there on my dig)

Happiness Helper said...

Hi Chuck,

I am developing a blog, Happiness Help at happinesshelp.org. I have been at it for a couple of weeks. I knew nothing of blog publishing, received a brief overview from a friend, bought a domain through Google, opened an account with Blogger & signed up w/ Yahoo Small Business to host the blog. Although I am new to blogging, I am somewhat computer literate & have learned much in a short time. For instance, it seems as if using Yahoo to host my Blogger blog may prove to be more problematic than beneficial. I was initially lead to believe that I needed another hosting company, other than Blogger, but I've since learned that I may not be able to transfer a template that I've altered, that my header pic may be too large to transfer & that the links/gadgets may not work. Yahoo seems to make it easy to add PayPal & credit card processing, which I must have on my blog. Are these features an easy ad to a Blogger hosted blog? Can you describe the pros & cons of Yahoo vs Blogger in regards to their hosting features? I am sorry for the length of this post. I have been trying to find help with these issues but to no avail as of yet. I hope you can help. I have been reading your posts, so you have already helped me. Thanks!

Alan

Chuck said...

Alan,

I'll try to help, but it's easier to discuss the issues in the online forum GBH: How Do I?. Support community help, use the forums.