Who owns your domain?
“I thought I owned my domain because my friend registered it for me.”
So who DOES own your domain? There’s only one way to find out. You must do a “whois” search in a domain registrar database. But be prepared. You might be in for an unpleasant shock.
Unbelievable as it may seem, when you rely on someone else to register your domain name, more often than not they list themselves, and not you, as the legal, administrative, and technical owner of the domain. Some ISPs and HSPs are guilty of this practice. Almost all “friends”, computer gurus, and in-house tech people are guilty of this practice. Why? Well, there are several reasons.
First, since domains are reserved on a first come, first served basis, there is usually a mad scramble to register and reserve the domain once you’ve determined what it will be. Remember, you are competing with everyone else in the WORLD for that domain name. The person helping you register it must act quickly and competently. For ease and fast results, that person will most likely secure the domain using THEIR established account and listing them selves as the owner.
Second, the Internet has no rules or regulations which prohibit someone from arbitrarily registering and reserving domains in which they have no intent on using. In fact, it is a common practice for people to register a gamut of domains with the clear goal of reselling the domains at a higher price to businesses for which the domain has more relevance. This is called domain speculation and/or domain squatting.
Third, most ISPs would rather deal with experienced, technical people. They don’t hold high regard for end users and often consider them ” stupid users who’ll mess up the records if they had an ounce of real authority” (quoted verbatim from a respected officer of a well known ISP).
So, unless you know the procedure and specifically ask to be the LEGAL, TECHNICAL and ADMINISTRATIVE contact for the domain, whoever goes through the motions to register the domain will usually list themselves as the owner. In other words, they become the Registrant. Ironically, what may start out as a well-intentioned act to make things easier, will often produce more headaches and difficulty than anything else.
There are endless nightmares to endure when domains are registered by those who do not place your interests first and foremost.
Nightmare #1: Your website does well. In fact, it does extremely well! Now you want the professionalism and security of owning your own domain. Well, the original Registrant has just bought themselves little “insurance”.The question becomes “how much will it cost you to get your domain in your name?” Technically, the cost is whatever the Registrant says it is. While there is legal precedence to combat this brand of “domain squatting”, the costs to pursue the matter legally can be astronomical. You will either pay the Registrant’s asking price, or pay for time spent in arbitration, if not Court.
Nightmare #2 : You ask your in-house quasi-computer guy (you know, the one that was originally hired under a completely different job description?) to register your company domain. Not having much experience, nor knowing the difference, he registers the domain in his own name. Six months later, he leaves your company. Yet he is still the owner of your company domain. You will still be tied to this person for the life of your domain unless and until you get it transferred to the company’s name. So, even when the registering party truly cares about you, problems arise if they don’t have the big picture.
We know all of the problems that can result, because we’ve been through it. Clients who were intimidated by the process often requested that we “do it for them”. So, we’ve made the mistake of registering domains in our own name simply as a matter of what we considered to be a convenience. Then, in the course of becoming educated and more comfortable in all other areas of their computer system, they became more confident and were willing to accept responsibility for their domain. However, that meant entering the whole convoluted realm of domain transfers, which is another headache unto itself, filled with endless administrative pitfalls and snags that complicate the process beyond reason.
The point is that these nightmares and headaches are completely avoidable. We know this and we now have strict, yet simple procedures in place that are meant to protect everyone: While we still do the legwork, ownership is given to the client at the outset and we are listed as the technical contact for front line troubleshooting in technical matters.
That’s how it should be for everyone, not just our clients. However, some of the most popular ISPs still continue to use procedures that do not benefit the users in the long run. Even worse is the plethora of do-it-yourself domain name registration websites, whose instructions are ambiguous and vague at best. It both delights us and chills us when a prospective client calls and says, “I just registered my own domain. How do I get a website and 10 e-mail addresses?” While on the one hand, they’ve accepted responsibility and taken the initial step, on the other hand, they’ll probably need a lot of guidance the in technical aspects of managing and developing the domain.
So, do you know who owns your domain?