2007/11/24

Registering Website Domain Names

This post is for people who are interested in registering a new domain name for a website but who haven't had experience doing this.

Domain names are the website names that are typed in a browser address box located near the top center on a browser webpage. Examples of domain names are google.com, openoffice.org, or whitehouse.gov. Before putting up a new website, one first needs to register the domain name (website name).

This post is not a comprehensive overview of all the issues involved with choosing and registering domain names. Instead it gives five common and generally reliable options for registering a new domain name. If you want more registrar options to consider, do a Google search for "domain name registrar" or read the comments in this 2006 post on Lifehacker.

The five 'registrars' discussed below are:
  1. directNIC
  2. Go Daddy
  3. 1and1
  4. Yahoo!
  5. Microsoft LiveOffice
The reason registrar is written above in quotes is because there are various definitions or classifications of domain registrar. Some are just re-sellers rather than the actual registrar. For example, you can get a domain name through Google, but they are a re-seller for Go Daddy and eNom.

None of the registrars listed below are guaranteed to be trouble-free. If you check out forums and online complaints about registrars, you can find negative comments and reports of problems with every registrar out there. If you ask five people for a registrar recommendation, you will get three to five different recommendations. Sometimes this is because people are looking for different services and features from their registrar. Other times it will be because they had a bad experience with one or more registrars. If you want the highest chance of a trouble-free experience, use directNIC. If you want the lowest possible registration fee, or lowest cost for registration, website hosting and other services, do online research and talk to a number of people who have registered more than one website. Just remember, though, there's a reason some of the domain registrars are low-priced.

directNIC is Luke W's domain registrar of choice. He has used them for several websites, and has a hard-core geek friend who uses them for all his domain registration. Luke has never had a problem with directNIC and is familiar with how to access and use their various services. They are not the least expensive option, but neither are they the most expensive. A dot-com domain name registration through directNIC costs $15/year, which is double or triple what some registrars charge. If you register tens or hundreds of domain names, you'd probably want to go with a less expensive registrar. If you manage hundreds of domain names, you also might want to talk with the people at directNIC about a special price. They may have high-volume pricing that I don't know about simply because I have less than ten domain names.

Go Daddy has been recommended to me by several people who have used it. It's a large registrar, well-known amongst people who register domain names, especially the retail market. Although you can find companies who register domains for less, the absolutely lowest priced registrar could well be a roll of the dice as to how reliable they are. If your primary criteria is a low cost to register your domain, I'd recommend Go Daddy or 1and1 (described next). When Luke went through Go Daddy's domain registration process, he had advertising for additional services or products continually shoved in front of him, something that directNIC doesn't do. Google must figure Go Daddy is reliable enough, though, because that's the company they chose to work with when Google started to provide domain registration.

1and1 was recommended to me by a few people as a reliable low-cost domain registrar. I've never personally used them, so I can't give you any first-hand experiences. However, when doing a survey of available registrars, they seemed to be rated about the same as Go Daddy. The likelihood of having domain registrar problems is about the same with 1and1 as Go Daddy, and slightly higher with those two than with directNIC or Yahoo!.

Yahoo! provides domain registration as a way to attract small and medium businesses to their web services, as well as to make a bit of money on consumer website services. I've registered a number of sites with Yahoo! and have had no problems. The company is stable enough that I don't worry about dealing with going-out-of-business issues. The main concern I'd have with Yahoo! is that they're so large and domain registration is such a small part of their business, it might be a challenge finding a person to talk to if you did have problems. Yahoo! charges a couple dollars more per year for domains than Go Daddy or 1and1, but less than directNIC. (I guess I'd place Google on about the same level as Yahoo! for domain registration, although depending on the terms and conditions at the time you register, Google may give you private registration for your $10, while Yahoo! and the others generally charge an extra fee for private registration.)

Microsoft LiveOffice is an attractive option for some people when registering a domain name. The reason for this is they give you the domain name for free, along with free email and free website hosting. They offer this free package with the expectation that many people will outgrow the limited free package. If individuals or companies do outgrow the free package, the easiest way to expand the website capabilities is to start paying money for Microsoft's deluxe webservices. You're welcome to keep the website domain name and use somebody else's web services, like website hosting, but at that point you'll have to start paying the annual domain registration fees. Because Microsoft requires a valid credit card when signing up for the free domain name (although they don't charge you anything for the free domain name or site hosting), it's easy for you to just tell them to start charging the monthly or annual advanced services fee to the credit card. Also, the templates for the free websites are somewhat limiting, but it's a darned good deal for what it costs you. My company's nanofiber nonwovens website domain name and website were set-up through this free deal.

Above are five reasonable choices for you to use if you just thought of a great website domain name and don't know who to register it through. There are lots of reasons to pick one registrar over another and no room to discuss those reasons in this post. But for now you at least have five choices -- so don't delay; register that domain name TODAY!

*****

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