72. A Kazakhstan Revolution nearly took down Mailoji

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

Yesterday I went to Byron Bay. The sun was shining, it was 32°C, and there were literally dolphins swimming in the ocean in front of me.

I wish the past week for Mailoji could compare to such a happy scene, because I've been quite convinced for the past few days I would have to shut it down.

Mailoji has been caught in the middle of a Kazakhstan revolution - which is not what I expected to get into when starting a joke emoji email address service.

I'll rewind to the start.

This time last year I forked over $2,400 and purchased 300 emoji domain names from Kazakhstan. I then used them to build Mailoji, an emoji email address service, which lets you have emails like 👋@🚀.kz.

It was a bit of fun. I wrote a blog post about it, and I actually managed to get over 1,500 customers paying $10/year for their own emoji email address.

Fast forward to last week, and I get this tweet:

Emoji domains are weird, so this wasn't surprising. I assumed this person was using a strange browser and that's why the domains weren't resolving.

However, after trying, and nervously retrying, I realised that all 300 emoji domain names definitely weren't working. Uh oh.

Therefore, I went to the website where I registered the domain names to see if something had broken in the DNS settings. The registrar was also based in Kazakhstan, and had a .kz domain name.

I typed the domain into my address bar in Google Chrome. I waited.. waited.

The website wouldn't load. Big uh oh.

I tried some more .kz websites but none worked. Perhaps because I was in a random Airbnb in Australia, the ISP didn't like Kazakhstan domains? Why wasn't it working?

My question was answered when I went over to BBC News and saw this headline:

I'm not an expert in current affairs in Kazakhstan, and there has been limited information about what exactly has happened, but apparently fuel prices were raised, the public were not happy, the public didn't like the government anyway, so there were massive riots.

Cars, buildings, and even the president's house got set on fire - therefore the government turned off the internet for the entire country to quell the violence and stop people organising themselves via Telegram & Whatsapp.

By shutting down the internet, none of my domains were working, which meant emoji email addresses weren't working, which meant Mailoji was completely broken.

I find it crazy that an internet blackout can happen like that. I run a novelty email business that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter. But, for important things like banks, hospitals, and contacting friends and family: all of these would have suffered, or halted completely.

We are very reliant on the Internet now.

Back at the beach, I got a notification on my phone from the domain registrar. They were back online. I checked Mailoji and saw that emails were sending again.

That's the great thing about email. It retries sending for a long period of time, so hopefully not too many emails were lost forever in cyberspace.

Only a few people emailed asking why Mailoji wasn't working, so overall things weren't too bad. It would've just been a massive shame to shut it down. Many thousands of dollars would've disappeared in an instant.

More importantly though, if you are living in Kazakhstan right now, I hope you are all safe and well!