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I am slightly paranoid about my domain name I have. I think the site I am building could have potential and take off in the future. I am worried though if the people I registered the domain name with might try and extort more money off me or take away my domain name for themselves.

I am guessing when Google first started out they must have bought their domain name through a registrar, so how did they get to keep a hold of it and make sure no one stole it from them or prevent the company they registered it with extorting more money from them?

How much do you think Google pay to keep their domain name? Do you think its still the original price they paid back all those years ago?

Do registrars do this?

If so, what is the likelihood it could happen with my domain name?

How can I protect my domain name?

Who actually owns a domain name?

Maybe I am just being paranoid but I would hate to see that when my domain needs renewal the cost jumps from $10 to like $1 million dollars etc.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 23 down vote accepted

Answering your questions in a logical order:

Google probably paid $10/year for their domain name. Yes, it's probably a similar price.

You own your domain name. If your registrar said "it's going to cost you $1000 to renew" then they will go out of business, because you can transfer it to someone else who will charge you less. (Transferring around the time of renewal is a complex topic I'm not going into.) If the registrar does something wrong then you can appeal to the organisation that looks after that Top Level Domain. For example, it's a different organisation that looks after .com compare to, say, .uk. As they have ultimate control over domains they can put it right.

Provided you keep renewing it then no-one can take it away from you. Even if you forget to pay on time there is a short period where you can still renew and not lose it. See this question: How long is the redemption period on a domain?.

One thing to make sure is that if you change email address or postal address then you tell your registrar so they can still contact you for renewal.

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No registrar would get away with charging different annual prices for different domains. –  DisgruntledGoat Feb 2 '12 at 14:18
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By the way, Google is their own register, so they only need to pay the fees associated to the domain (not the part that would go to the register). –  user5888 Feb 2 '12 at 16:00
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While Google is a registrar, they are not their own registrar. They use MarkMonitor as their registrar. MarkMonitor is a very exspensive registrar. They do things like automatically register many variants of your domain to avoid typosquatters, etc. They also immediately place a regristrar lock on all their domains to ensure that fradulent tansfer requests cannot occur, etc. Many of the largest companies use them. –  Kevin Cathcart Feb 2 '12 at 20:18
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The only exception to the answer by paulmorriss is that some hosting companies actually register themselves as owner of the domain and let you use it. Did you register your domain name yourself? with a reputable company? If your domain name was part of a domain name/hosting/email bundle you might want to read your contract.

Have read of stories when hosting companies went bankrupt and closed down they took all the domain names with them. People that had 'bought' the names were not the recognized owners and could not transfer them to another hosting company

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Which is why you go direct to a registrar, register your domain and properly fill in your whois contacts. Having a third party purchase your domain for you in this era is highly foolish. –  Fiasco Labs Feb 2 '12 at 19:52
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@Fiasco: That's the wrong way to look at it. If your web host is the type of company that would steal their subscribers' domains, then you're not safe doing business with them regardless. –  Lèse majesté Feb 6 '12 at 9:35
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If you think your registrar is this flakey, transfer your domain registration to someone you trust. This is not "Standard Operating Procedure" and would rapidly destroy any registrar foolish enough to play the extortion game. Legally, you could fight it and get your name back, but that takes cubic dollars. (Sporty's Pilot Shop name recovery from domain squatter before the trademark laws went through)

How do you protect a domain name? Keep your domain name paid up at least two years out into the future. Put a transfer lock on it. Fill in the whois information with valid physical contact information to phones, emails and addresses that you answer to. Keep all this information up-to-date. Develop a real business with a registered trademark/servicemark name and use that for your domain name.

You more or less own your domain name as long as you keep your registration fee paid up to date, unless you decide to try registering one that either is trademark/servicemark by someone else or is considered to be an infringement upon a registered trademark or service mark. An example is Sparc International who decided that SparkFun (a website devoted to electronics experimentation and kits) was infringing upon a high end computing trademark). SparkFun proved that a SPARC system could not be built from the microprocessors and sensors they sell and got a free license partly because the ire it raised made Sparc International look kind of foolish. But then you gotta' defend what you gotta' defend so Sparc had to despite looking pants.

In these instances your lawyers get with their lawyers, establish that you are in no way in competition and then you license the use of your website name with the original trade/service mark owner if they allow it. You may have to pay for the privilege.

Also, in all instances where domain names have been stolen, it has been account security where people have broken into accounts and changed the ownership information. (Lapsed registry fees because you didn't pay don't count, especially if you let it go beyond the grace period)

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While the exact scenario you're describing is incredibly unlikely, lots of people have been screwed over by bad registrars. So when registering a domain, definitely look beyond just the lowest advertised price. There are a lot of ways that a bad registrar can screw you over.

Some of the stories I've come across include:

  • Registrars that charge you extra for standard services like private registration.
  • Registrars that operate cross-TLD sales scams (e.g. you registered example.com and later receive an email from your registrar that another user is trying to register example.net, but you can prevent them from doing so by purchasing example.net ASAP).
  • Registrars that frontrun, i.e. snatch up domains you intend to purchase so that they can auction them or force you to register the domain with them.
  • Registrars that charge extortionate rates to recover domains during the "grace period".
  • Registrars that typosquat against your domains/trademarks.
  • Web hosts that register their subscriber's domain to themselves, and basically just leasing the domain to the subscriber while legally maintaining ownership.
  • Registrars that give away your domain due to incompetence.
  • Registrars that intentionally delay the transfer of your domain to another registrar, keep billing you, and then take down your site when you fail to pay.
  • Registrars who use your domains as their private billboards, and even going so far as advertising your competitors on your domain.

Because of "domaining", the domain registration industry has evolved to be quite sleazy and typically has lower ethical standards than other industries. This can be seen in the fact that GoDaddy, the biggest registrar in the world, does much of its business with domain squatters and even spammers. Naturally, registrars like GoDaddy and Namecheap also have no qualms with doing business with domain thieves.

In light of the inherent sleaziness of the industry, it may be better to register your domain via a web host who just happens to run their own registrar but which isn't their primary source of revenue. In my experience, these registrars are much less likely to be involved in domain squatting/speculation or other unsavory practices, as they're carrying web hosting industry ethical standards over to domain registration rather than GoDaddy's case of carrying domain registrar ethics to web hosting.

Edit:

My general rule of thumb for picking registrars/web hosts is to find a different company if:

  • ...they charge extra for standard features that cost them nothing (e.g. private registration, email addresses, subdomains, etc.);
  • ...they operate a domain auctioning service or otherwise partner with or do business with domainers/squatters;
  • ...they use parked and/or expired/suspended domains as billboards and derive profit from contributing to the sea of spam sites on the web;

They're a good registrar if they don't do any of these things and even go the extra step to discourage domain squatting and the creation of low-value spam sites by refusing to do business with such individuals/organizations. One such registrar I can vouch for is DreamHost (technically their registrar is New Dream Network, but they don't have a separate site), who prohibits the use of their services for putting up spam or affiliate/MLM marketing sites.

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Thanks, I am using Hover.com . What is your opinion of them? Is there any sites I can use to find review for domain registrars? :) –  loosebruce Feb 6 '12 at 10:38
    
@loosebruce: I typically just use Google to look for reviews/complaints/testimonials for companies I'm unsure about. I don't trust most review sites since I find many are complete scams (e.g. web hosting review sites often make money primarily from referrals, a complete conflict of interests) or otherwise have skewed ratings due to astroturfing and/or communities comprised of the lowest common denominator. Web developer forums would probably be a good source to ask for genuine testimonials. See my edit for more. –  Lèse majesté Feb 6 '12 at 11:37
    
@Lèse majesté my domains are all in Godaddy. Is it risky? –  AgA Feb 8 '12 at 17:57
    
@John: There are a lot of GoDaddy horror stories, e.g. they had/have a glitch in their system where internal transfer domains may not autorenew even if you have it set to, they've held people's domains hostage/for ransom, wrongful deactivations, working with domain squatters, and lots of domains stolen from Godaddy users. Though the gripe site nodaddy.com that hosted most of these horror stories was taken down by Godaddy some time ago. –  Lèse majesté Feb 9 '12 at 1:35
    
Where can I get a true list of reliable registrars? –  AgA Feb 9 '12 at 4:29
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Honestly you're being paranoid. But at least make sure your domain name is with an actual ICANN-accredited registrar rather than a reseller for one such as a hosting provider. (e.g. Bluehost, Hostgator, etc.)

Do a WHOIS lookup and look at the line Registrar. If the one listed is NOT who you're knowingly doing business with, then try to move your domain name to an actual registrar (e.g. Go Daddy, Name.com, NameCheap, Dynadot) when you can.

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My registrar is Hover.com which is part of Tucows , do you rate them highly? –  loosebruce Feb 6 '12 at 9:45
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Yahoo is very reliable. They lock your domains until you're ready to transfer them. Your domains will not disappear into another planet. If the name is available, you'll get it without paying extra. Google is also very reliable and safe.

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