If you’re not real knowledgeable on websites or website development you may not know what a domain name registrar is. Heck, you may not even know what a domain name is so let’s start there. If you have a website all the computers on the Internet need to be able to find it. You can think of it like a Google map — plug in an address and Google Maps shows you a red icon where this address is on their map. Your domain name is like the address on your house and tells all the servers on the Internet where the little red icon is on the virtual map that is your website. In most cases your domain name is the part of the address (also known as URL) after the “www” you see in the address bar of your browser.
In order to get a domain name, you must purchase and register it. You do this at what’s called a “domain name registrar.” For a more formal slash techy description you can read the Wikipedia definition. There are countless registrar companies out there but probably the biggest (and the best in my opinion) is GoDaddy. I’ve used them from Day 1 of my web design career and can never remember when I’ve not been quickly and graciously helped by their staff when I needed it. It’s easy to get around the interface of your account administration area, things are spelled out in terms one can understand and they just do an all-around good job. I’m sure you’ll find someone who will complain about them, but that’s the case with every business — Internet or not. How in the world they decided on the rather funky name GoDaddy for their domain name is beyond me but maybe it’s on their website somewhere.
Where It Starts to Get Sticky
Having currently been in the webbie business for 15 years at this point, I’ve had my share of having to deal with other top level registrars such as Network Solutions for example, which is just another registrar on the long list of them. I personally don’t like the Network Solutions interface, I find it confusing and time consuming to do anything there. But that’s just my own personal opinion.
Most if not all top level registrars offer affiliate or partnership programs to other companies such as your cable tv company for example and which I’ll use for this example. Dealing with an affiliate or partner to the top level registrar is where it starts to get sticky because you’ve got the cable company playing middle man. When you have to do something involving the maintenance of your domain name, instead of logging in directly to GoDaddy, Network Solutions or insert top level registrar name here — you log into your cable company account. I’ve found that locating and doing what I need to do in a third party registrar interface can be quite frustrating and time consuming. Additionally, if you need assistance you contact the cable company support department. Ok, so why would I want to ask for help from someone about my domain name by going through the tech support for my cable tv? Are you dizzy yet? You will be if you ever have to do this. After having had to do this a few times my personal opinion is that the cable company should stick to doing what they do best — cable tv.
This week I had to handle a domain name issue for a client who’d registered their own domain name umpteen years ago through their cable company. OMG! What a circus that turned out to be! After taking quite a bit of time to painstakingly write an email very carefully explaining what I needed (I wrote it so a kindergartner should be able to understand it) I got an email back from the cable company telling me they were forwarding my request to their domain name department. A short time later I then got an email from a domain name support tech who proceeded to give me what appeared to be cut & paste instructions of how to change the nameservers. Oh duh! I’ve only been changing nameservers for 15 years, I don’t need someone to tell me how to do this and this cut & paste set of instructions had absolutely nothing to do with what the actual issue was! They just totally did not get it! After a few back’n’forth’s I’d had absolutely enough of this and asked them to provide me with the authorization code to transfer the domain name into my account at GoDaddy. To my surprise they actually did what I asked — I think they were as frustrated with me as I was with them and they were happy to get me out of their hair at that point. This is just one example of what you may go through when dealing with an affiliate of a top level registrar.
Some domain registrar affiliate/partner companies don’t allow you access to your own domain name information. If you want something done with it such as updating your own contact information — you must ask them to do it. Depending on how backlogged they are, this could happen today, tomorrow, next week or next month. I hate to think of having someone else do this but even worse is when you personally don’t have access to your own nameservers or other vital information. When I need nameservers changed I need it done NOW because not having it done precisely when I need it could cause me some unacceptable delays and website troubles for my clients.
Some affiliates register the domain in their name and make you the contact person. Never ever let this happen! When you buy a domain name YOU or YOUR COMPANY should be listed as the REGISTRANT. The registrant is the LEGAL OWNER of the domain name. So, if your affiliate puts their name as the registrant, you just bought them a domain name. I’ve heard horror stories about people trying to get THEIR domain name back and either can’t or find it’s going to cost them big bucks to get what they already paid for because someone else or some other company is listed as the registrant.
My Suggestion? Skip the Middle Man
I’ve described just a few of the headaches you can run into if you register your domain through an affiliate. If you put your website online via your cable company and let *them* register the domain for you — in my opinion, you’re inviting headaches. Remember, I’m using “cable company” as a catch-all example. You will find a lot of this affiliate domain name registration stuff being offered at hosting companies. Knowing what I know, I would never ever let anyone else register my own domain name unless I specifically knew ahead of time that I could trust this person and that *I* would listed as the registrant. Affiliates that list themselves as the registrant is kind of like stealing in my book. You paid for it, it belongs to you.
Will you always run into trouble if you go through a third party registrar, partner or affiliate? Absolutely not. I’m not an affiliate to any domain registrar but I do register domain names for my clients, so you could technically call me a third party. I do it because these clients prefer that I handle this for them. However, I register them directly at GoDaddy and I register them correctly with their name or company name as the registrant. I have no use for collecting domain names that should legally belong to someone else. I haven’t run across a domain name yet that would do me a hill of beans of good anyway. None of them pertain to anything I would have any personal interest in.
Unfortunately, some affiliates may have a hidden agenda in registering YOUR domain name and listing them as the registrant. Is there any way to know ahead of time how your domain will be registered? Not that I’m aware of but that doesn’t mean their isn’t.
What this all boils down to is that your domain is a very vital part of your business. Either register it yourself or have your trusted web designer do it for you with a written and signed agreement that your name or company name will be listed as the registrant. That way you’ll have a leg to stand on should you ever need it.
If you want to know how your domain is registered you can always check this out. Click over to GoDaddy and do a domain name search on your domain. GoDaddy will tell you that the name is already taken so not available for registration. Look for the little link that says “Get Info.” Click it and you can see exactly how your domain is registered, when it expires along with quite a bit of other information that you may or may not understand. The most important thing you’re looking for is who is listed as the registrant and you want that to be you or your company. Make sure all the information listed is correct, if it’s not login and edit the details or ask your designer to do this for you.
There are a bazillion third party domain registration options out there but how will you know if they’re reputable or not? You don’t. To me, it’s not worth taking the chance. Do it yourself at a top level registrar or have your web designer do it for you. If you do it yourself, especially for first timers — have your web designer check the information to make sure you’ve done things correctly.