In an information economy, it is paramount to ensure that
the company with which you trust to register your online identity is
technologically competent and operates in an ethical and trustworthy
manner. Although
all domain registrars operate under the authorization of ICANN, not all
registrar—including certain market leaders—operate with integrity and customer
service in mind. 

Domain name holders should take great care in selecting a
trustworthy registrar. A proper domain registrar requires more than a flashy advertising campaign and the deep pockets requisite to airing a commercial during the Super
Bowl. Here’s what to look for during your search, along with some additional tips and recommendations.

Four things you should do

1: Ensure your registrar is actually a registrar

Many companies offering domain
registration services aren’t ICANN accredited registrars; these companies are licensees reselling services from properly accredited registrars.
Reseller organizations are unlikely to provide adequate customer support, and
frequently use domain registration as a hook to upsell potential consumers on
added services.

You can ensure that your prospective registrar isn’t a reseller
by checking the ICANN list of accredited domain registrars.

2: Avoid faux-renewal forms sent via standard mail

Ink and paper should not be involved when you renew a domain name. Some unscrupulous registrars send out “renewal” forms to the contact listed in public WHOIS records. These organizations are
typically not the originating registrar—they are attempting to initiate a
transfer to register your domain at vastly inflated rates (around $100 per
year). Some of these registrars have been reportedly convicted of mail fraud, though others have continued using this strategy of “domain
slamming” unabated.

3: Evade compulsory “value-added” services

In an effort to combat fraud such as domain slamming or
registration hijacking, some registrars have taken it upon themselves to
unilaterally enroll customers in “value-added security services” to prevent the
customer’s domains from being transferred from the registrar, at a cost of over
$1,000 per domain per year.

Following a recent news story about such practices, the registrar in question dialed back its efforts,
claiming that the service would be offered to “about one percent” of account holders. In
other cases, certain registrars attempted to sign up users for “value-added” services by silently adding the items to the cart before checkout, in the hope
that users would not notice before completing payment.

4: Research its corporate responsibility record

The looming threat of bills being passed into U.S. law by legislators that quite likely do not understand the Internet is one that many take seriously. Many registrars (primarily those in the U.S.) have been responsible stewards of the Internet in opposing such heavy-handed legislation, and have a long track record of doing so.

It may also be of interest to ensure that the founder of your domain registrar is not using the profits gained from that company to shoot endangered species.

Additional domain registration tips

Take advantage of bulk registration discounts

For individuals or large organizations that hold hundreds of domain names, the potential savings from a bulk registration discount can be a great savings in aggregate. If you are tasked with the responsibility of managing a large portfolio of domain names, check to see if your registrar offers bulk registration discounts.

Note: This information may not be easily accessible to people who do not qualify for bulk discounts; therefore, some Google searching to see if a bulk registration discount exists may be required.

Avoid bundling at one-stop-shop registrars and hosts

Despite the convenience of registrars that also offer
basic-tier shared hosting or VPS services in addition to domain registrar
services, the damage to your online presence in the event you are locked out of
your account by accident—or malicious intent—could be severe. In the interest
of minimizing potential risk, do not register your domain with the same firm at which your website is hosted.

My personal recommendations

Few things are better than a personal endorsement. For my
domain names, my portfolio is split between the Florida-based Moniker.com, and the Germany-based DomainDiscount24.com.

If you’ve
had a great experience with a registrar, or an absolutely dreadful experience that
others can learn from vicariously, let us know in the comments section.