Domain Registrars Ain’t Sexy, But…

Most of us don’t think very much about Domain Registrars. It’s where we initially register a domain name, and then we renew the domain registration in the future. Contact with the Registrar is minimal.

It’s a little different for web developers that work with a considerable amount of web sites, as there is need to work with domain registrars very regularly. Most of that work is perfunctory – such as renewing a domain registration or changing DNS for a web site server move. But there are things that require more work, such as a registrar transfer (such as changing a domain registration to be managed under Registrar B rather than Registrar A). And for a web developer, you want the domain registrar to work easily, efficiently and without what seems to be bureaucratic hitches designed to frustrate the person seeking the registrar transfer into simply bailing on it.

Like in most services on the Internet, and software as well, we look for the most effective management tool for us that provides the greatest flexibility and the least impediments. Cost is secondary.

Domain registrars have changed considerably in the last 10 years. They used to offer a very limited amount of service, but now almost all of them offer server hosting, mail hosting, and various other domain-related and web-site related services. I would not say they offer much in the way of quality of those services, but they try to bundle everything in a way that is profitable for them and discouraging for a web site owner to move.

Network Solutions was a leader in this development. Now, leader is a bit of a misnomer I suppose, since offering the most expensive domain registration prices with server hosting that I can’t recommend doesn’t seem like leading, but they were early to this party. Network Solutions was also the leader in domain registrations. It is no longer. I suspect that if one researched the domain registrations managed through Network Solutions, you’d find that most of them have either been been registered with Network Solutions for over a decade OR are bundled with some kind of hosting package.

Considering that Network Solutions is at least 2 or 3 times the domain registration price of other registrars, simply staying with them due to lack of effort has a cost. On the other hand, Network Solutions makes moving a domain away from them to another registrar WAY MORE WORK than it should be – by their design. It’s kinda sad it works this way, but it does.

For years we’ve used Dotster for domain registration. But it is changing, and it doesn’t feel like it is for the better. Recently they went through a user interface change, and the process of our accounts’ management being transferred to the new interface was not done seamlessly. Dotster and have combined, and their emphasis now seems to be much more about selling server space and the other components that are aligned with a domain, and less about domain management. We’ll give them some time to sort this out for the domains we have registered there, but they’ve caused us to look at other registrars again. They’re starting to feel a bit like Network Solutions.

We have a couple of clients that still have domains registered at Network Solutions that we are going to transfer over to NameCheap. NameCheap costs a little less than Dotster and the admin interface is pretty easy to use. We’ll see how it goes with NameCheap, and how Dotster works in the next few months. But it is possible we may be transferring a lot of client domains to a new registrar in 2013.

BTW, if you do find that domain registrar and industry news is your thing, you’ll probably want to check out DomainNews.