Pelland Blog

The Inside Scoop on Domain Name Registrars

April 16th, 2008

When it is time to register a domain name these days, there are understandably times when some of us almost yearn for the “Good Old Days” when Network Solutions held a monopoly on registrations. Prices have certainly come down, but it has become more important than ever for the buyer to beware and to remember the old adage that you get what you pay for.

For starters, we all know that the “standard” price for domain name registrations back in the days of the NetSol monopoly was $35.00 per year. I just performed a search on Google for the term “cheap domain name registry”, and the first page of results included listings which allegedly offer domain name registrations, some including free website hosting and others claiming to include free website design, for $6.95, $5.95, $2.85, $1.99 and $1.00. What … no registrar is willing to pay me $100.00 for the privilege of registering a domain name? Remember TINSTAAFL: There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

For any company to provide registrar services, they must pay the necessary fees to ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). These fees begin with a non-refundable $2,500 application fee (scheduled to increase) and end with added per-transaction fees. So how can any registrar stay in business offering $6.95 (or less) registration packages? How can they do this and still buy expensive ads on the Super Bowl or 10-12 page spreads in IT magazines? Quite simply, add-ons and fine print.

If you should ever fail to renew your domain name registration, does your registrar offer a renewal grace period? In many instances, the “bargain” registrars will put your domain name on the auction block the second that it expires, where it will be bought up two seconds later, and where you will have lost it forever. This practice is known as “drop catching”. Quite a price to pay for an oversight, isn’t it?

Of even greater concern are the registrars who routinely engage in deceptive marketing practices, using any combination e-mail scams, junk faxes or direct mail. You may have seen these solicitations. They usually look like invoices, until you read the fine print at the bottom, and they generally arrive months before a domain name registration’s renewal date, sometimes listing inaccurate renewal dates in an attempt to trick the recipient into making an urgent decision. In most instances, these shady registrars are trying to get you to transfer your domain name registration(s) from your existing registrar into their portfolio. In other instances, they are trying to get you to register variations of your domain name under a variety of worthless country codes (such as .cc and .cn). These solicitations are a spin on the old “slamming” techniques that had been used by long-distance telephone companies back in the 1980’s. One of the most notorious companies is Domain Registry of America. Do a Google search for their company name, and (after the link to their own website) you will see an entire page of websites warning about these scam operators. Another similar outfit is called Liberty Names of America. Same scam. Check out a Google search for their company name. My recommendation to my clients is to save any solicitations from these companies. Eventually, there are likely to be some sort of class action legal actions in response to their deceptive marketing practices, and your letter, fax or e-mail could allow you to be included in any settlement.

As if these were not bad enough, a new registrar scam just came to my attention last week, when one of my clients received an e-mail solicitation. This one, from a company in Hong Kong called Asia Network Online, claimed that it was sending a “courtesy” notification that a (fictitious) person was attempting to register versions of the client’s domain name under a variety of TLD’s (top level domains), including .hk, .cn., and .info. First of all, there is no registrar who would offer any such “courtesy”. Secondly, if somebody did, in fact, want to register the .hk version of a domain name, they would take the money and run. If it smells like a scam, it is because it IS a scam.

Do I have a suggestion for a registrar whom I have learned to trust? Yes. I hesitate to make recommendations because there are so many good registrars out there. My best advice is to avoid any company which has an offer which appears to be too good to be true. Over the years, I have been very happy with a company called directNIC, located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Their basic registration fee is $15.00 per year, and they offer a variety of added services, many at no additional charge. And, yes, they do have a grace period.

This post was written by Peter Pelland