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Domain Registration

In the old days (not that long ago!) people would often host their websites and have email addresses on the domain of their ISP. For example, if their ISP's domain was, their website might be found at, and their email address might be These days any sort of professional hosting is done on a client's own domain, giving them far greater flexibility and (probably most importantly) portability and their own memorable identity on the Internet.

Domains are administered by a domain registry. In the case of most of the gTLDs (such as dot-com, dot-net, etc.) and the ccTLDs of many countries, the registry then delegates responsibility for registering domains to domain registrars who operate in competition with one another. Domain registrants (that would be you) register domains through a domain registrar. In some countries, the registry for the ccTLD does not delegate responsibility for registering domains to any registrars, and so fulfils both functions (this is also true for the gTLDs dot-edu, dot-gov, dot-int and dot-mil); in some countries it's a bit of a mix, as is the case in Canada with CIRA (the Canadian Internet Registration Authority), which delegates most functions to the registrars, while still reserving some functions for themselves.

Much like the hosting business, there is a lot of competition in the domain-registration market, with great ranges in price for seemingly similar services, and some registrars claiming to provide a whole bunch of services with their domains that, in reality, are simply basic services that are required for any domain to work and will need to be provided either by your domain registrar or your web host. In fact, such services are traditionally provided by hosting companies, although there is no technical reason they can't be provided by a domain registrar.

It is always very important to read the fine print when registering a new or transferring an existing domain. For example, take one well-known host -- possibly one of the biggest these days with a very popular and catchy image, and whose advertising will no doubt show up on these pages -- that will charge you about US$100 if you don't renew your domain before it expires. Now, we all want to renew our domains before they expire, of course, but the fact is that so many people don't; in fact, so many, that ICANN (the governing body for domains) has, several times in the last few years, changed the whole process surrounding how and when domains expire and are then actually deleted (or "dropped", in industry parlance), and a huge industry has developed around expiring domains. So the fact is that this big domain-registration and hosting company knows that a certain percentage of their customers will, despite the reminder notices sent out, fail to renew their domains in time, only getting around to it when everything comes to a screeching halt on the expiry date. At that point, in addition to their rock bottom price of $4.99 per year to renew your domain, they'll tack on an extra $100. Reputable companies that charge something a little more reasonable for domain registration and renewal don't do that. Does your $4.99 look like such a good deal after you've paid the equivalent of twenty years' worth of domain renewals to renew for just one year?! Probably not.

Another practice to look out for is the incorrect handling of multi-year domain registrations and renewals. Here it is important to understand the difference between the registry and a registrar, as described above. A TLD's registry is a monolithic entity either responsible to (directly or indirectly) or run by some level of government. It is simply not allowed to fail. If something goes horribly wrong in the management of the registry, steps can and will be taken to ensure that the TLD run by that registry will continue to operate, contracts will be honoured, and domains will continue to function. On the other hand, a registrar is, in most cases, a privately-run business, subject to all the whims of the marketplace, including going out of business for one reason or another. Keep this in mind as you read on.

If you contract with and pay ABC Registrar, Inc. for a ten-year domain registration, ABC Registrar, Inc. is then supposed to register or renew your domain with the registry for ten years. That way, if ABC Registrar, Inc. goes out of business tomorrow, your domain is still bought and paid for for ten years. However, some unscrupulous registrars will take your ten years' worth of domain-registration money, register or renew your domain for only one year, and put the rest of the money in their bank account. If they are still in business next year, they will renew your domain for another year. That's all well and good, as long as ABC Registrar, Inc. stays in business for the entire length of your ten-year domain registration. If they don't, the registry will not have been paid for the full ten years, so you will still have to cough up the money to continue renewing your domain (probably through a new registrar) and stand in line with the rest of the creditors of ABC Registrar, Inc. to get your money back. Think that won't happen to you? Read some of the links below, and realise that it happened to some of's hundreds of thousands of customers.

Relevant links:
NinerNet Communications™: Web and email hosting, domain registration, SSL certificates.