Who or what is Sawbuck? A minor domain name mystery

Over the past 20 years or so, I have registered a number of domains in the UK, Canada, and elsewhere. I’d say that each registrar’s quirks comprise a personality, and of course .blog is no exception.

As part of exploring WordPress, I decided to buy my first .blog domain. I ended up not using it in the way I originally intended, but I learned something, so that’s OK.

Generic Top-Level Domain Appreciation Society

The story of the .blog top-level domain (TLD) is interesting in its own right, but the headline is that Automattic owns the rights to administer .blog, and that .blog sites are deservedly popular from both a marketing and a technical perspective.

Once my domain application was submitted, I searched for the registrar site so I could read the About Us page:

Knock Knock WHOIS There, LLC is a subsidiary of Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com and Jetpack. It was created in 2015 to manage the launch and development of the .blog gTLD.

Automattic has been working towards offering .blog domain names almost since its inception, in 2005. Its goal is to offer bloggers across the world a great new name space at a great price — whether they are WordPress users or not.

About Knock Knock, WHOIS There

Did it within a decade. Pretty cool.

Somehow, I do imagine that Automattic would prefer everyone to be a WordPress user, all else being equal.

Any colour you want, so long as it’s .com .edu .gov .mil or .org

Speaking of whois, CentOS 7’s default whois package is living in the past, and it doesn’t know about the .blog TLD:

% whois my.blog
No whois server is known for this kind of object.Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

Fortunately, Tom Freudenberg on Stack Exchange has a simple and effective method to determine the WHOIS server for the TLD by querying IANA, starting with:

whois -h whois.iana.org .blogCode language: CSS (css)

The full output is lengthy, but reveals that the business contact for .blog is in the US, but the technical contact is in the UK. The Stack Exchange example usefully filters the output right down to just the name of the WHOIS server for the TLD:

% whois -h whois.iana.org .blog | \
egrep -e '^whois:' | \
sed -e 's/[[:space:]][[:space:]]*/ /g' | \
cut -d " " -f 2Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

This caused a syntax complaint when I fired it into Zsh. However, Bash delivered the goods:

whois.nic.blogCode language: CSS (css)

We could add that value to /etc/whois.conf as suggested by another StackExchange user, who also suggests a list on GitHub with config for a number of gTLDs. However, I don’t need the list or the config change today; the GitHub page describes itself a mirror of a page hosted elsewhere, but that site doesn’t enforce or even suggest TLS, and I don’t have the time nor the inclination to try to vet all of the entries.

For now, let’s simply tell whois to connect to the .blog WHOIS server:

% whois -h whois.nic.blog my.blog
Domain Name: MY.BLOGCode language: CSS (css)

Great! That works nicely, except…

Who or what is Sawbuck?


Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.sawbuck.comCode language: CSS (css)

What? Is this legit?

The next line gives a clue:

Registrar URL: http://www.wordpress.comCode language: JavaScript (javascript)

OK, so it’s WordPress.com (although why is that URL not using HTTPS?)

A few lines down, a couple more reassuring values:

Registrar: Automattic Inc.
Registrar IANA ID: 1531

That was an emotional roller coaster for about two seconds, or at least, y’know, mild surprise to see a name I didn’t know right at the top of the whois. All good now though.

Of course, there’s an About Us page for Sawbuck on WordPress.com, too:

From time to time you might receive an email referencing sawbuck.com or wordpress.sawbuck.com.

Don’t worry! These aren’t phishing emails. Sawbuck.com is where our ICANN accredited domain name registrar communications originate, while subscription and billing related emails will come directly from a standard wordpress.com email address.

WordPress.com “What is Sawbuck?”

Not just email, either. Still, the important thing here is that Sawbuck is part of Automattic, and is not some separate entity which has mysteriously hijacked my new domain.

Why Sawbuck though?

All names have meaning.

Definition of sawbuck

1. slang : a 10-dollar bill
2. SAWHORSE especially: one with X-shaped ends

Mirriam-Webster “sawbuck”

If a sawbuck is a sawhorse, then a sawbuck is something you work on – a supporting framework for other work – just like a domain is.

In what I consider a neat twist, you can acquire a .blog domain for around 10 bucks.

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