It has been a long time since the site went offline, and I am very glad to say that it is back and better than ever.
There are two main changes that our visitors can notice: 1.) The domain is now "thinking.withportals.com", with the extra DOT in there. I’ll go in to why this is necessary in a little bit. And 2.) The site is now running on a TLS secure domain, which doesn’t mean very much unless you are a stickler about privacy like I am.
As for why TWP went away and came back with a new weird domain, here’s what happened.
In September 2015, the site went offline. There was an error with the company that handles my domain purchases, and although I did renew the domain and paid the fee, some how the domain still expired and was turned off.
When a domain expires it goes offline, but there is a short period where the owner can still renew it. Because of whatever happened, thinkingwithportals.com didn’t enter this redemption period, and immediately expired.
It was then bought by a domain squatter – someone who buys domains just to buy them and/or extort people into paying for them – and there was nothing I could do about that. If I held any sort of copyright over the intellectual property I could possibly begin some sort of legal process… But since Portal is owned by Valve, I was pretty much shit out of luck.
I hoped that the domain would expire in 2016, but the squatters renewed it and so the domain sits on a parked page for another year.
So, why did the site come back?
ThinkingWithPortals, along with my personal website and a few others that I run, are sitting on a server that I own. This server started giving errors suggesting the drive would be dying – and I was not about to let 10 years of custom Portal maps die along with it. So I replaced the server’s hard drive, reinstalled a new OS, and made a handful of other improvements. While I was doing this, I decided that I should try to bring ThinkingWithPortals back in some way.
It definitely wasn’t easy. There is a lot of custom code that run behind the curtain to keep this site up in the fashion that it is. There are also about 300,000 links on the forum (in posts and signatures and whatnot) that all link to the old domain. Things like the 2012 Contest listings? Every link in that thread had to be updated. This process wasn’t particularly time consuming or hard (I had some tools I wrote to help me) but I had to make 100% sure that every single reference to the old domain was fixed.
So that’s pretty much the story. Will I ever get the old domain back? Possibly. I make damn sure to keep an eye on it when it comes time to renew. I would love if we did manage to get it back, but there’s no way to know for sure. Will this new version be going away? No chance.
I have to run but I have some more thoughts I’ll post up later.