Your Guide to Buying Web Domains


The total number of domain names registered worldwide crossed the 215 million mark in Q2 2011 [source: Verisign].

The .com/.net renewal rate for the second quarter of 2011 was 73.1 percent, down from 73.8 percent for the first quarter.

To give you some sense of comparison, the number of registered domain names was a little over 200 million in December 2010 [source: Verisign].


I had a pretty intense weekend working on moving one of my domains to a new provider.

I was moving it to take advantage of the approaching renewal. To make a long story short, it wasn't the smoothest process. Not even close, not by a long shot.

The new provider was just as bad as the old one, even more unpleasant to deal with. Which is probably why I spent some time reading and sharing this guide to buying wines online. In Pennsylvania we're still dependent upon state stores, so it won't do me much good.

It gave me an idea, though.

With my own transfer and technical issues finally sorted out, it occurred to me that it might be useful to have a place where you can get to and share information about Web domain providers.

What is a domain name?

Here's a definition from Wikipedia

an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System (DNS).

Domain names are used in various networking contexts and application-specific naming and addressing purposes. In general, a domain name represents an Internet Protocol (IP) resource, such as a personal computer used to access the Internet, a server computer hosting a web site, or the web site itself or any other service communicated via the Internet.

Domain names serve as humanly-memorable names for Internet participants, like computers, networks, and services.

Choosing a provider

One of two things happen when you choose a provider. We either go with what the company we work at uses, or take a recommendation from a firend.

You would think something as important as a URL we have chosen for our business, blog, store, etc. we would apply ourselves and do more due diligence.

The truth is, we don't.

We could get lucky and land well, or our small expense (comparatively) could be come a frustrating time suck and threat our ability to trade online, as well as our sanity.

If you've ever thought you made a poor choice, you are not alone.

I would not particularly recommend any of the providers I have used so far. Instead, what I can do, is collect tips from the community and put the information in a place you can find again, both through search and bookmarking.

Domain registrants

I put the question on Google+ and have already collected a few names. Although few have made strong recommendations so far. I will add your comments to the post as they come in.

Some of the following providers also do hosting and you can find information about that at their Websites. 

+ – The site advertises registrations as low as $15/year and privacy at $1.95/month.They cater to small businesses and also do hosting.

FatCow – Free domain names with hosting packages that start at $38/year. You can pay a little extra for gold customer service support.

[both recommended by JD Savage]


Bluehost – Free domain names with hosting packages that start at $5.95/month now.

[recommended by Mana Jonescu and used by Sharon Strandskov (who would not recommend)]


Joker -Pricing is $12.80/year for the first year. The site provides ample information about how they calculate pricing for transfers, European domains, and the reseller program.

[recommended by Esa Evik]


GoDaddy – New .coms are $11.90/year, transfers are $7.49/year, privacy is $9.99/year.

[recommended by Chris Baskind, Al Remetch and Fakhrul Alam]


NameCheap – Pricing starts at $2.99/year, $4.99/year for transfers, privacy at $1.58/year. It's been voted best domain registrar by Lifehacker readers.

[used by Jari Huomo]


A2Hosting – Pricing is $12.95/year for new and for transfers.

[suggested by Armando Galvan]


Dreamhost – Domains go for $9.95/year.

[recommended by Jan Hemmingsen]


Register – Registrations are $35/year, $9/year on privacy. They apply a $12 fee to transfers. 

[I use them, would not recommend due to cost/service gap]


Have I missed your preferred provider? Add it in the comments and I will update the post.


[chart by Verisign – also see a complete list of providers]

12 responses to “Your Guide to Buying Web Domains”

  1. For a long time I used IX Web Hosting, but over time I found their service steadily declining (and their user interface was terrible and not intuitive). A year or two ago I switched to InspiroHost, which had courted me on Twitter when I complained about IX. I liked their style and the fact that they were a smaller company not outsourcing colocation or support, and their UI is much easier to use. They did have an invoicing problem awhile back which double-billed me, but resolved it quickly. So I’m pretty happy with them.

  2. I’m laughing because I had the same issue and with two providers. They don’t seem to use experience designers for those Web sites. They are an IT interface slapped on as a customer dashboard…
    Yes, if you are in the domain business, you need to do essentially two things really well:
    1) customer support
    2) customer dashboard for self-service
    Do your UX well, and you will use your customer support people to upsell vs. constantly chasing problems, some of which, as in my experience, created by harried sales people.

  3. We use to manage the registration process, DNA pointers etc and though not the cheapest around they are solid, reliable and zero problems in 4 years.
    We use a Content Management Service called Marqui based in Vancouver B.C. to actually host the site. CMS is not for everybody but for us it means we can host and manage all our site content with no fuss. Support is generally free with our yearly package, no outages in a couple of years and we’re working with them on a site re-development and their rates are reasonable. Any problems I’ve had making sure I’ve done the DNS management properly (DNA is a black art I swear ), they have even been known to go and solve it for us and not just give the old “not our problem” answer. (better yet they have a sense of humour and are a joy on the phone )
    While not the ideal mix for a really small site or company, we are a non-profit with limited resources and it is value for our money.

  4. In the price for Dreamhost privacy is included. I just mention it because it seems to cost extra elsewhere. My domains only list Dreamhost, which suits me because I don’t like getting spammed and what not.
    Since everything is handled from a the control panel it is also easy to keep an overview, decide which to let expire, which to extend automatically and so on.
    Since they also have an overview for moving domains, including the authorization codes, you can really transfer in and out without any hassles. I have testet it both ways as I have a lot of domains and wanted to make sure before putting them all in one place.
    And no I do not work for them. They work for me at a rate of 10.95 a month actually… 🙂
    PS: I had to switch browers to post :-/ When you try to submit in Google Chrome for Mac the Text disappears and nothing happens. Usually the only problem is that I have to dig for code to enter, but that at least works…

  5. Another happy DreamHost customer. I guess I just took the privacy thing for granted. All my sites are hosted by DreamHost (6 or 7), and it’s been their consistently superb customer service that’s kept me coming back for more.
    They are one of the only 4 brands I can think of which I can go on record as saying I believe in. Not like. Not love. Believe.
    And it’s all service. 🙂

  6. Hi Valeria – I work for Network Solutions and just wanted to let you know we are currently having a offer for our friends in social media – register a domain right now for $1.99/yr . +JD Savage Thank you for mentioning (Network Solutions is one of brands through a recent acquisition)
    Good article and people don;t always pay attention to this. One suggestion is to make sure they always keep their contact information updated for their domain registration.

  7. In view of GoDaddy’s support of the detestable SOPA bill, I’m going to withdraw my recommendation.
    I’ll be testing other registrars and DNS management services, starting with NameCheap and DNSimple.

  8. I thought about switching to Go Daddy a few years ago but stayed with not because I think they are great but because I know their systems after 10 years.
    Web hosting is akin to government services and if you have expectations of excellent service, then you are delusional. The cost is insignificant. It’s not like hiring a lawyer for $600 an hour to win a $200 Million lawsuit.

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