Choosing a Registrar

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I generally have a pretty simple list of things to consider.

  1. Do they offer DNS service? Unless you can afford to manage dozens of servers around the globe, you are going to do better with a DNS service. Some of these, like Dyn, DNS Made Easy, and EasyDNS, cost money, while registrars offering this service tend to do it for free for their customers.
  2. Not your host. Your host may offer registration, and your registrar may offer hosting, but letting one company handle both is never a good idea. If something happens to your Registrar, but you still have your data, you can recover. If something happens to your host, but you still have your domain name, you can keep people updated. If both go down, you are done.
  3. Reputation. Ideally, you want a mid-sized to larger company who automates your needs. Also check to see if the company revokes for political reasons, etc.
  4. Pricing. "You get what you pay for" is not a consideration regarding domains. ICANN charges a base price, the tld sponsor charges a price on top of that, and this final value is what your registrar pays. Network Solutions still charges $35 a year. The only reason anyone would put up with their service is inertia.
  5. Privacy services and their pricing. You may or may not want this. Keep in mind, this effectively transfers ownership of the domain to the registrar - they are 'holding' it for you. If you have a site that has taken off, you probably will want to set something up that maintains your ownership.

Recommendations

  • NameCheap: Namecheap offers privacy, SSL and DNS management services, and they are relatively true to their name. Namecheap is an eNom reseller.
  • Gandi.net: Gandi.net has their no-bullshit policy, is non-US (French), and also offers SSL and DNS management, though with a much smaller amount of servers than a typical service. They are more expensive, and rather than a full privacy service, they offer to mask contact information only. This might suit for you, and their policies give them a better reputation as 'domains not likely to be abused'.

If you are thinking of purchasing a lot of domains, but are not at the point where setting yourself up as a registrar will save you money, you may want to consider a reseller program:

  • eNom: eNom is the world's second largest domain registrar on its own, after GoDaddy. Along with name.com, eNom is owned by Demand Media. Empire strategy in a nutshell, that company. If $7k is looking like one or two years' worth of registration costs for you, you may want to consider them.
  • OpenSRS (Tucows): OpenSRS is a Canadian company best known in the webhosting business for enabling smaller operations to offer their own domain registration service. Their reputation is rather hit or miss, but they are a large operation.

If you have a truly major operation

  • MarkMonitor: MarkMonitor is the registrar of choice for Wikimedia, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and other large operations. Their pricing structure is not publicized, but is generally considered to be in "If you have to ask..." territory. This is somewhat relative - you need to consider the possibility of typoed domains, bit-flipped domains, etc. A squatter picked up a typo of my largest domain (Elliquiy gets typoed enough that Google will correct it for you), and now I spend another $90 per year covering the rest of them. I can easily see how scaling this up, going with a company like MarkMonitor may be an option that saves money.

This is far from an exhaustive list. Save for MarkMonitor, these are all companies who I have either dealt with in the past or worked with people who were dealing with them. While I have seen (and sometimes had) negative interactions, you are not going to have a perfectly smooth ride with any company.