Notes on domain registrars

What I've learned about domain registrars in the context of administering domains for clients. …

Many registrars are merely resellers of ICANN accredited registrars. It's often a good idea to cut out the middleman and go to an accredited registrar.

It's best practice to not obtain your domain and hosting from the same company. That way your exposure is minimized in case of dispute (been there) or company failure (been there, too).

Contacts are entitled to act legally or technically on behalf of the owner of the domain name. There are multiple contacts for a domain registration:

  • Registrant: The owner of the domain, usually the client.
  • Administrative contact: The owner's appointed agent, usually me. May make any changes required, including changing the other contacts.
  • Technical contact: The person responsible for handling the nameservers and other technical matters, usually me.
  • Billing contact: The person who pays the bills, usually me. Cannot make any changes; he only has access to billing information.

At the losing registrar, do the following:

* Insure the domain has been with the losing registrar for at least 60 days and will not expire in less than 30 days.
* Unlock the domain and disable automatic renewal of the domain.
* Insure that the administrative contact information shows you by name and has your correct email address.
* Obtain the losing registrar's authorization code. Do not rely on the losing registrar's support materials; confirm this code with an email or support ticket. Different registrars have different names for this: auth code, auth info code, EPP code, authorization key, etc.

At the gaining registrar, initiate a transfer request, having your credit card and auth code handy. Most gaining registrars will send you a confirmation email within 6 hours which you must reply to promptly.

Gaining registrars typically charge not per transfer but per request, so you will be billed even if the transfer is unsuccessful. Confirm your data, especially the auth code, before initiating a transfer. Better gaining registrars will allow you to resubmit a failed incoming transfer request at no additional charge, but no one will refund your money.

Losing registrars have no incentive to act quickly, so transfers can take as long as a month. Ensure the domain will not expire in less than 30 days.

I've previously used. Allows you to change registrant info for free, but only globally on all domains, not on a domain-by-domain basis, making it a bad fit for me. Unintuitive control panel. $9/yr, $150 redemption. Domain transfer fee is non-refundable if transfer is unsuccessful. Their FAQ auth code information is incorrect: instead, open a support ticket and ask, individually for each domain being transferred away. No major problems with outgoing transfers, which have taken between one hour and 8 days to approve.

One report of domain squatting implicated them.
Not recommended. Previously used. Multiple problems with accepting my credit cards and lack of interest in resolving the issue. Unnecessarily difficult to transfer out.
Not recommended. Multiple reliable reports of unethical behavior. I inherited one domain registered with them from a new client; I had little trouble transferring it out.

Many reports of outgoing transfer difficulties.
Recommended. My current registrar. €12/yr, redemption $130. Has order tracking for pending transfers. ToS clearly states your domain name is yours. Usage is not particularly intuitive, and English customer service gets poor reviews. Unlike many registrars, will allow you to resubmit a failed incoming transfer request at no additional charge. Their system seems designed especially to assist transfers from registrars that "accidentally" provide an incorrect auth code. Free email, so is a good choice to provide client with email right away, before web hosting is required. Free basic hosting appropriate for a brochure site. Free cloaking of email and physical address in whois. Auth code available online; you don't have to open a support ticket to request it.
Not recommended: multiple reputable reports of unethical behavior.
Repeatedly recommended. Called economical and reliable. US$12/yr. called them phisher-friendly. ICANN accredited. Domain transfer fee is non-refundable if transfer is unsuccessful. Tested: 7/2/10 initiated transfer of from AIT. Sent confirmation email 5 hours after initiation, which had to be replied to within 24 hours. There is no way to track a pending transfer in their system. Transfer failed (incorrect auth code); fee forfeited; not attempted again.

Registrar of The Pirate Bay. €12/yr.
I used them once and do not remember why I left them. aka NetSol, NSI
Not recommended; multiple reputable reports of unethical behavior. Front runs domains queried through them. $35/yr.
Must become a reseller (US$100 one time fee) or buy through one (directory at One customer reports "Allows you to change your Registrant or domain-owner info for any domain name as easily as changing the Admin/Tech/Billing contacts (OpenSRS calls this the Organization Contact)."
Expensive. Several complaints about difficulty of unlocking domains, and customers repeatedly advise others to not lock them. Allows you to change registrant info for free, but only globally within the account, not on a domain-by-domain basis. Very good support.

Questions to Ask Before You Pick Your Domain Name Registrar

What is a registrant/administrative/technical/billing contact?

Registrar Judge: Consumer reviews of registrars (few reviews, few registrars)


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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