Is there such a thing as a decent registrar?

This week I had to decommission an old server which had been a DNS server and move to a new server with a new ISP. This meant making what I thought would be some pretty simple changes with my various registrars and ended up being pure pain and suffering throughout.

Register.com – the worst of the worst

For example, one site we host is for a non-profit. Their registrar is Register.com, which really may rank as the worst of the worst for a variety of reasons. They allowed one of the non-profit’s domains to move to the new DNS, but blocked the other 10 domains the organization uses saying that the function of changing name servers was “unavailable”, whatever that means. After 20 minutes with a pleasant but clueless support rep we were told the issue had to be escalated and they’d get back to us. We heard nothing until the next morning when they had reset the name servers for the primary domain to their own servers and started serving ads on the site. This the day before the organizations capital campaign mailings hit mailboxes. The other domains remain unavailable. The executive director of the organization is both technical and a lawyer, but she is at her wit’s end just trying to get her site back up.

In the past, I’ve seen Register.com fail to notify one of my other clients that her domain was expiring until after they already allowed it to lapse and be snatched up on the secondary market. Their excuse in this case was that they’d sent an email to let her know, an email that was later found to have been put in the spam box by GMail. If major registrars not only can’t give any backup notification (like a letter or an automated phone call) but also can’t get good enough sender reputation to stay out of the junk box, they out to get out of the business. Especially a “premium” registrar who charges triple what most others do. (I did once ask one of their managers what made them “premium” – he never was able to tell me saying just “I can’t comment on other registrars.”)

I’ve also found Register.com’s tools to be unreliable and poorly thought out. I’m sure there are worse registrars in terms of functionality, but again, Register also charges triple the average rate I’ve seen and I’m really not sure what you are buying.

Oh – and if you want to transfer your domains away, Register is the only registrar I’ve found so far that makes you call them for the authorization code (everyone else at least has it somewhere on the site even if they hide it.)

eNom – shady

Remember that client whose personal domain Register.com allowed to lapse? It was snatched up by an outfit called AcquireThisName.com. A little net research revealed a bit of scuttlebutt on them. Though I didn’t see any proof, there’s some pretty deep circumstantial evidence that they are a trolling site started by eNom both to generate some extra revenue and push sites into eNom. Every registrar has an auction service, but I don’t know of any others who work quite like this. And they demanded more than $5k for a site that was just this woman’s name with a dot com on the end (and it’s a very unique name – it is valueless to anyone else).

I’m still waiting for the transfer off eNom to come through and I haven’t worked with them much other than this, but it wasn’t a nice start.

goDaddy – best so far

So far my experience with goDaddy had been OK. Their site is infinitely frustrating and I imagine very off-putting to female visitors since it has models all over it in tight shirts. Buying anything makes you want to pull your hair out (too late for me) since they make you click through so many different offers but the tools seem to be OK and the price is cheaper than most.

Conclusions…

I’ve read through a lot of related sites and basically found that registrars are like telephone companies – everyone hates theirs but stays with them since changing is hard and they don’t have a better option. If someone just had a simple site that protected domains from being stolen or pirated and offered a decent, simple service I think there are a lot of people who would pay a premium price for it. The points seem to be simple:

  1. Allow me to register my domains with minimal fuss.
  2. Add an optional secondary authentication lock for all changes (including DNS).
  3. Allow two backup methods of payment for automatic renewals.
  4. Provide at least two methods of notification pre-expiration (email and phone for example).
  5. Don’t shower everything in ads for upsell services – just let me get what I need (I’ll pay extra to be ad free).
  6. Have clean management tools or individual domain and bulk domains.
  7. Allow a requirement for offline verification before allowing registrar changes.

I’m not sure what to tell my clients any more and I’m not quite up for becoming a registrar myself. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

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