Domain name registrars are not all the same. Aside from pricing, features like grace periods for expired domains and protections against domain name hijacking are important criteria when choosing a registrar.
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This article is not intended to compare registrars against one another or to recommend a single service, but rather to provide important criteria for choosing a registrar.
Domain name registrars are businesses that enable people and organization to register domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has authorized hundreds of companies to act as domain name registrars, each with its own unique pricing model, feature set, and security protocols. Let’s explore key considerations in picking a registrar
Those looking to register a domain name (registrants) usually know the domain name they wish to register. When considering a registrar, they should first make sure the registrar offers the desired domain name. Not all registrars have access to the same top-level domains (e.g. ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.io’, ‘.biz’, etc.). A good registrar should have a user-friendly domain name search that can be used to confirm whether or not they can register a particular domain name.
Some registrars offer excellent deals on domain name registrations, but be sure to read the fine print: Extras like domain renewal and private registration* may be unreasonably expensive, and sometimes even get bundled in. For users who buy domains at these low introductory prices, the best option is often to transfer the domain to another registrar for renewal in order to avoid an inflated renewal fee.
*A private registration is a privacy feature that allows users to register domains without having to publish personal information in ICANN’s WHOIS registry.
Once a domain name has been registered for 60 days, it becomes eligible for transfer to another registrar. Some registrars impose costly transfer fees to discourage customers from transferring their domains; this can place their customers in a difficult position if they decide they want to switch registrars and still keep their domain name. It’s best to choose a registrar that either has a very minimal transfer fee, or none at all.
Although most registrars offer auto-renewal services, they don’t all offer a grace period for expired domain names. The grace period after expiration can help customers who missed the expiration deadline. This can even affect users who were on auto-renewal, if their credit card on file has expired. Choosing a registrar with a grace period is essential for users who want to ensure that they don’t lose their domains. It’s also a good sign that the registrar isn’t trying to capitalize on expired domains; for more on this, see below.
When domain names expire, many registrars will auction off those domains; this is somewhat of a standard practice. Assuming the domain name isn’t highly sought after, the previous registrant can usually get their domain name back at a reasonable price. But some registrars actually comb through their expired domains and set exorbitant prices if they think the previous registrant or someone else is willing to pay a high price for it. This predatory practice can cost the registrant thousands of dollars, and it’s worth researching to see which registrars are engaging in this process.
Many registrars offer their customers add-ons, including web hosting, private domain name registration, email hosting, SSL certificates, and web design services. Customers should consider which of these add-ons they are interested in when choosing a registrar. Some registrants prefer to get all of these services from more specialized vendors, which usually results in better prices, while others prefer the convenience of using a single account, with a single vendor to manage everything.
Domain name hijacking is the practice of changing the registration information of a domain name without the original registrant’s knowledge. In other words, this is a way of fraudulently taking control of a domain name, often with the intent of selling the domain back to the victim or a competitor. Anyone concerned with domain name hijacking should thoroughly vet a registrar’s authorization and security processes.
While last on this list, user experience might be the most important piece of criteria to consider in a registrar. A registrar’s website should be easy to navigate and use. Actions like changing DNS records, and transferring domains, should be intuitive. Additionally, the registrar should provide good customer support. A prospective customer should be able to create a support query and see how the response time is before registering a domain. It’s also a good idea to look at the company’s knowledge base or other support documentation. User reviews can be helpful in assessing a registrar’s user experience as well.
The features outlined above should all be considered when choosing a domain name registrar. Customers should make note of features that matter the most to them in order to make an informed decision.