You've worked hard to come up with a catchy and meaningful domain name for your new website and now you want to register it. But the large number of domain registration companies, along with the myriad add-ons and services they offer, confuses the relatively simple process of buying a domain name. Price is no longer such a differentiating factor, but domain registration providers do differ in the ease of use of their website, how they handle the registration process and their business practices.
Reviewers recommend Namecheap.com (*Est. $10 per year) for both first-time and seasoned domain name purchasers. Along with its competitive prices, Namecheap.com has a clean website that makes the process of buying, selling and transferring domain names efficient. Namecheap has a reputation among reviewers for its no-frills approach and transparency of business practices, with the editors at DomainRadar.com awarding it 4.75 stars out of a possible 5.
Jennifer Kyrnin of About.com cites it as the best place to register a domain, saying that Namecheap is better than most when it comes to trying to sell you add-on services you may not need (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation). However, reviewers also state that Namecheap's occasional system problems can sometimes prevent purchasers from completing a transaction.
GoDaddy.com (*Est. $12 per year) is undisputedly the most popular domain registration service, having sold more than 25 percent of all Internet domains. This provider's prices to register domain names are on a par with other companies, though it usually offers discounts and coupons to reduce the price, especially when bundled with other services such as web hosting.
Reviewers at DomainRadar.com and About.com, as well as users at DomainBots.com, highlight GoDaddy's aggressive upselling techniques, both at the time of sale, by making purchasers go through screens of sales pitches in order to buy their domain names, and after the purchase. Its cluttered website also draws criticism from professional reviewers and users alike, who state that it's difficult to navigate. On the plus side, reviewers praise the range of support products available, such as privacy tools, and the fact that GoDaddy can register nearly every extension out there, including country codes, such as .ca for Canada and .nz for New Zealand.
If you're merely registering a domain name for future use -- or registering a domain so no one else can use it -- then Namecheap or GoDaddy is just fine. But if you're ready to actually build a site or blog, an alternative approach is to register your domain name through your web hosting service -- the company on whose servers your site will actually reside. Reviewers have mixed feelings about this option. The relative longevity of web service providers is a plus as is the ease of having all your web needs met by one company.
Cost may be another advantage, as web hosts frequently offer discounted or even free domain registration when you purchase their services. David Strom of PC World identifies a downside as the possible difficulty of transferring your domain name to a new registrar if you grow dissatisfied with your web hosting service. Registering your domain name through your web service provider is not the best option if you don't intend to develop your website in the near future, or if you're buying domain names to resell at a later date. See our related report on Web Hosting for more information.
There's a distinct lack of up-to-date credible professional and user reviews of domain registration providers. The most useful, and current, reviews we found are from 2009 at DomainRadar.com, where the anonymous reviewer provides the pros and cons of each domain provider's services and features. User reviews at DomainBots.com rate domain name providers but the reviews are undated. We also found a relevant evaluation of GoDaddy in TopTenReviews.com's round-up of domain hosting providers. The websites of Smallbusiness-Domain.com and WebHostLead.com provide detailed and useful information about the offerings of domain name registrars without explaining how they arrived at their ratings.