If your business has a website, your domain name is one of your most critical assets. It may be tied to your own name (CarolLoganNewbill.com) or it may be tied to your business name (2FishWeb.com). Either way, it’s critical that you own it, with your name (or company’s name) as the Registrant.
To check on the ownership of your domain name, go to Domain Tools and type the domain name into the search box. You will see the registration information of record, as in this example.
You or your business should always be listed at the top as Registrant. It’s perfectly ok if the hosting company is listed under Administrative or Technical Contact — the Registrant is the actual owner and the one who controls what happens to the name. The Billing Contact should be the person or entity that actually pays the domain renewal fees each year. This might be you or it might be your hosting company. Either is fine.
Many hosting companies offer a “free” domain name as part of your hosting package, but there can be a catch.
Now look at this WhoIs information. This is a real domain registration, a domain name that is the name of a real quilt artist. I’ve changed it here to “FamousQuilter.com” for the sake of anonymity.
This artist signed up for web hosting from a large hosting provider which offers a free domain name included with the cost of their inexpensive shared webhosting. After some period of time she became dissatisfied with the hosting account and changed hosts, only to realize that the original hosting company owned her domain name. Her own personal name, and they owned it. Nor would they consider releasing it to her for any amount of money.
She eventually registered “FamousQuilter.net” and set up her new website under that name, but the first hosting company still controls the .com version. Legal recourse is possible but very expensive; the artist must first file a legal trademark for her own name and then, if trademark protection is granted, file a dispute with ICANN concerning the improper use of her trademark. These two actions would cost a minimum of $2,500 and could require several years for resolution.
Note well the annotations I’ve circled in red: “Client Update Prohibited” and “Client Transfer Prohibited.” The artist has no control over her own personal name, and she can’t do anything about it without legal action and much expense.
Not all webhosting companies will hold your domain name hostage.
Many web hosts will offer to register a domain name in your name as a service or as part of a webhosting package. With some hosts, transferring your name to your own account is easy if you later decide to change web hosts; with others it’s a bit more hassle. However, if your name is listed as Registrant, you have final control over the account. And if someone else is managing your domain name(s), you generally don’t need to worry about renewals and other behind-the-scenes minutiae. It’s included in your monthly or annual hosting fees.
Make sure that your webhost offers registration in your own name if you choose to register through them.
How much does a domain name cost, if you register it yourself?
Domain name registrars are permitted to set their own rates by ICANN, the international entity which oversees all domain name registrations worldwide. Here is a sampling of current registration costs for .com domain name from several major companies (all rates are for one year; discounts often available for multi-year registrations):
- GoDaddy $10.69
- DotEarth $25.00
- EnomCentral.com $34.00
- Network Solutions $34.99
- Register.com $35.00
Note that rates for all registrars are increasing on July 1 of 2010, by order of ICANN.
How much is your business name — and your personal name as an artist — worth? Make sure that, whoever registers your domain name, you are listed as the owner/Registrant.
Don’t make a costly mistake in order to save a few dollars at the beginning.