Ask the [Domain Registration] Hive Mind: Which registrar do you use?

ask the hive mind


I have a cunning plan, and it involves registering a new domain name. My registrar of choice apparently lost ICANN accreditation a while back, so I’m registrar shopping. What registrar do you recommend (or use yourself) these days? And if you have the time, I’d love to know what makes them your choice.

Full Version

I know that a good number of you have more than a little experience with domain registration. (I also know that this is a woefully inadequate statement to reflect the history, experience, and involvement some of you have with the domain name policy world.) In an attempt to make a long story short1, I am looking for a new registrar, and am soliciting suggestions from those in the know.

I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.

At some point over the (… errr, many) years I’ve been registering domains, things have gone wonky. It used to be you filled out a form (in a text file), and sent it off the InterNIC, and waited a few days to get a response back. Generally, the response was a form letter declaring your domain approved and anointed and all that. Sometimes, if the person (!!) processing your form had questions about some of the answers you provided regarding the purpose (!!) and/or planned use of the domain (… ah, screw it, I’m running out of exclamation marks), you would get questions, and a discussion could start. I find myself wryly amused that I sometimes miss dealing with the InterNIC.

Back, foul demonic purveyors of techno-babble snake oil!

While I’m a  big fan of the decentralization of the registry reigns, the process has gone from a trip to the DMV (with a generally — though certainly not always — polite clerk, and the wildly variable wait times implied therein) to a trip through the candy aisle at your local Walmart.2 No longer happy to get a single sale, today’s registrars3 do everything in their power to attach any number add-on services before you finalize your purchase. In my experience, the language used generally falls into three categories:

  • “The internet is a scary place full of bad people! We’ll save you!” Here, the general intent is to remind people of all the evils that could happen just by looking at a web browser. Your web site could be hacked. Your personal data compromised and your identity stolen. Your very family is at danger, here! But, rest assured, the provider will save you from all the evils of the internet… for a low, low monthly fee.
  • “If you have problems operating anything more complex a simple light switch, then goodness, how ever are you going to manage to configure something as difficult as a domain name?” Failure to set every one of the countless options properly — using obscure technobabble just to understand, not to mention the cryptic nature of the actual settings — will result in your web site going down, your email suddenly being deleted, and hair loss. Isn’t it ludicrous that the technorati have developed such a convoluted system to keep the power of the Internet out of the hands of the people who should have it: the uninformed masses. Like you. Never fear. The provider will cut through the techno mumbo-jumbo and let you get back to what really matters: running your thriving alopecia treatment business. Isn’t it worth a small monthly fee to never have to worry about clicking the wrong button, the consequences of which could be dire, and are in no way predictable for a layperson such as yourself.
  • Finally, you need to be aware that your web site is literally one in a billion. While this may sound like a good thing, what it really means is you have to go the extra mile to make your site stand out from the crowd. Forget not seeing the forest for the trees: we’ll give you a chainsaw! You can make sure your tree is the only living thing left for miles! All you have to do is add these 93 packages to your domain name purchase, and you’ll be slicing through your competitors in no time. They’re a steal at half the price, and you know you have to spend money to make money!

You get the idea.

I assure you that I know the internet has a lot of bad people on it. This is because it has a lot of people on it, and some of those people are bad. See how that works? I do not need an extra special tin foil hat to protect my domain name from bad people. I have also mostly mastered the art of the light switch, and am not terribly afraid of setting up and managing a new zone file or two. It’ll be ok, really. As for being found… I’ve had a web site — in one form or another — online almost continuously since mid-1997. My goal has never been to draw in All The People. Rather, my site’s have always been about providing information I find interesting or amusing to people with similar tastes. This generally means that my sites’  visitors’ have a pre-existing relationship with me of some sort: friends, co-workers, family members. I really havef no desire to be the next big thing to attract the world’s attention until the next next big thing comes along.

So I don’t need to be followed around by a programmatically generated used-car salesman, offering me features I don’t want, additional domains I have no use for, or services I fully intend to run myself. As a result, any suggestions for registrars who offer a more clean-cut approach to the process (while still providing meeting my other requirements) are definitely welcome.

My wish (and do not want) lists.

This is my attempt at compiling both the list of things I actually want from a registrar as well as the list of things that will result in a registrar being removed from consideration.

Shortcuts to being excluded from consideration:

  • Any registrar that does not allow for the simple transfer of a registered domain out to another registrar is completely, totally out of the running.4
  • Any registrar that is not on the (incredibly poorly formatted, in both the report and tabular styles) list of ICANN-Accredited registrars is out.
  • Any registrar that requires domains registered with their service to also use their DNS5 hosting product is out.
  • Any registrar that has a reputation for poor customer service, for being a poor citizen on the net, or for being a poor steward for the domains under its umbrella is out.

The registrar I choose will:

  • Provide me with simple, straightforward registration and transfer processes.
  • Support the original trio of .com/.net/.org TLDs (as I currently have domains in each).
  • Support the weird new TLDs out there.6
  • Support some reasonable implementation of REGISTRAR-LOCK.
  • Allow me to confirm my identity (and thus my right to make decisions for my domains) in a reasonable manner.7 Has anyone gotten around to implementing a decent 2FA method for dealing with domain registration / management matters?
  • Work seamlessly with Google Apps for Business. This pretty much translates to “full control of the zone file” and is only an issue if I choose to use the registrar’s hosted DNS solution.

Acceptable bells and whistles:

  • DNS hosting is nice, but not absolutely necessary. (And, as mentioned early, cannot be required.)
  • If used, the management interface for host DNS should be easy to find and easy to use. Interfaces that simply reflect a zone file are dandy, and will receive bonus points.
  • Support for some reasonable domain privacy implementation would be nice. (I know it’s not entirely kosher from a ‘doing business online’ perspective. If I ever reach a point where the site looks even remotely commercial, I’ll worry about it then. I have no problems with exposing an email address or ten. Physical addresses — and phone numbers! — are a different story.)

In summary…

So tell me, my great geeky gurus: who do you turn to when the urge (or need, I suppose) to register a new domain strikes? And why?


  1. Hey, it could happen!
  2. Or the process of passing a bill in Congress.
  3. Or domain resellers passing themselves off as registrars.
  4. The existence of standard waiting periods prior to transfer is both acknowledged and accepted.
  5. Or, really, any other service.
  6. (As much as I hate to admit this, my cunning plan requires one of these new TLDs.)
  7. They will not require me to provide a DNA sample, sworn affidavits from persons who have known for at least 23.8 years, or any other such nonsense to confirm I am who I say I am. I appreciate the need to for this step. I also feel that this step has been implemented in some incredibly irrational ways over the years.


Comments are closed.