Art.sy, the New York City-based startup that has created a Pandora Radio-like discovery engine for artwork, has attracted some controversy over the years because of its domain name — .sy is the official domain suffix for the Syrian Arab Republic, a currently war-torn country which is the subject of several U.S. sanctions.
Now, as violent conflict in Syria continues to escalate, it looks like Art.sy may be feeling some side effects — and making changes of its own.
Yesterday, Art.sy’s main webpage went down, and the company was redirecting traffic to a backup site at Artsy.net. At the time, a spokesperson confirmed the issues via email but could not provide details on whether the outage was related to the Syrian conflict. The spokesperson did say, however, that things would be back to normal soon:
“The only information we have now is that our domain, which was registered and paid for through the end of 2013, is incorrectly appearing as expired, but we should be back tomorrow.”
Now today, it does appear as if the domain has been re-registered — but apparently only for three days, until January 6th, 2013. More importantly, Art.sy is serving an HTTP 301 response redirecting to Artsy.net. The key here is that a 301 redirect is a permanent move, not a temporary one — that is typically done with an HTTP 302.
It bears mention that obtaining the Art.sy domain did not come easily. The company’s founder Carter Cleveland originally got into purchasing Syrian domain names at least three years ago when he gave a Syrian law firm power of attorney to represent him in the country. He also had to go through lots of little bureaucratic hurdles and legal red tape as regulations in the country changed: He had to get his signature authorized by the Syrian embassy, for example.
Since then, though, the country has descended into brutal civil conflict over the past year and a half, following the Arab Spring demonstrations throughout the Middle East early last year. The United Nations said yesterday that Syria’s conflict, which has decimated historic cities like Aleppo, has now seen more than 60,000 casualties (which is 15,000 more than human rights agencies had previously expected).
Internet access has also been unreliable in Syria. In more than one instance, the government has blacked out Internet access in the country for several days. Renesys also reported that access has been unreliable in the first few days of the new year.
We’ve reached out to Art.sy today for more details on the situation, but have yet to hear back; we will update this with any information we do receive. But at the moment, it looks as if Art.sy, which has been steadily growing in stature with millions in backing from some of the industry’s most serious investors, has decided that having a more dependable web presence is more important than a snappy domain name.