Notion went down. Could Somalia be responsible?
The cult-favorite productivity tool Notion went down Friday morning, and the culprit for the outage might just be the government of Somalia.
Notion's domain, notion.so, is actually controlled by the government of Somalia (all country domains are technically under the purview of that country's government). Inquiries through ICANN's domain registry show that the Somalian government (called the domain's registrar) may have been preventing Notion from continuing its use of the domain, resulting in the DNS outage.
Notion has used the Somalian domain since its launch in 2018, though the Somalian government changed its rules for domain usage in 2015 to limit users to official government sites. The country did allow one-year renewals for some companies and people with the domain already in use. Notion later clarified the DNS issue was not related to a problem with the renewal.
The company purchased notion.com in early 2020, but it did not switch its official domain from .so, instead setting up a redirect. "We'll be switching to .com as soon as our engineering team has the bandwidth," a member of the Notion team wrote in an archived Reddit post in 2020.
The outage was resolved Friday morning, and Notion wrote on Twitter "that there is a complaint against Notion that we are resolving directly with the registrar."
"The reason for the downtime this morning was a very unusual DNS issue that occurred at the registry operator level," a Notion spokesperson told Protocol. "Our engineers jumped on it immediately. We're in touch with the registry operator and registrar putting protocols in place so that we can avoid this type of incident from repeating in the future."
If the Somalian government is responsible for the outage, it isn't the first time domain country codes have caused problems for unassociated sites. Art.sy was forced to change its name to Artsy.net because the .sy domain belonged to the Syrian government, making its use a violation of U.S. government sanctions. Websites that end with .ly belong to the Libyan government, which raises question about who actually controls those domains, as two warring factions in that country have both declared themselves the official state government.
Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.