A little while ago, I received a notification that a domain I owned was about to expire and set to auto-renew. This reminder prompted me to start a search to replace the incumbent registrar I was using, Go Daddy, with something else. I asked around on Twitter, looked at related blog posts, and read some old threads on Hacker News and Metafilter. After exploring my options, I’ve finally landed on Namecheap.
Why I Switched
I was always unimpressed with Go Daddy’s marketing strategy. As a leader in the space, it was clear that “sex sells” was a mantra working well for them. Super Bowl ads and spokeswomen featuring fast cars and scantily clad women were the main selling points of the “service”. I felt that supporting Go Daddy was equivalent to supporting this tactic and confirming that the quality of the product mattered less than how much boob you could fit in a Super Bowl ad. This belief is further reinforced by the fact that it’s actually a terrible product. At every turn, Go Daddy’s site feels like a Las Vegas casino while every interaction feels like you’re buying from a used car salesman who wants to up-sell you two cigarette lighters with your vehicle.
The last straw was the video Bob Parsons, CEO of Go Daddy, proudly posted on his site earlier this year. In it, he proudly depicts a trip he took to Zimbabwe where he shot and killed a “problem” elephant, stood gloating next to the corpse, then carves up the elephant and hands it out to villagers wearing Go Daddy baseball caps. Even if there were “problem elephants” (which is untrue), it’s very clear from the footage that Parsons was rationalizing an expensive hunting trip as a “rewarding” thing to do in life. Indicatively, the original video has been edited. Though the poor grammar remains, the AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” overlay, the close-ups of villagers with Go Daddy hats, and the focus on Parsons making the kill have been removed. Thankfully, the internet, like elephants, always remembers:
Update 23 Dec 11: GoDaddy supported the misguided SOPA, and then dismissed boycotts, and finally, when business was clearly going to get hurt, rescinded on their support after 24hrs. Seriously, who wants to give money to these guys?
Update 28 Jan 14: GoDaddy also has questionable security practices.
Enough about No Daddy. With the decision to change domain registrars, I had to pick an alternative—and there were many highly recommended options. To help with the selection, I boiled down my needs to 3 main areas:
- User Experience: If the site makes it even remotely difficult for me to transfer, register, or find information, I’ll stay away from it. If the design makes my eyes bleed, I’ll assume their focus is much more on making money than on creating a pleasant service to use.
- Coverage: With the ever-increasing number of domain extensions, I wanted to make sure the registrar was one I could keep as many of my domains in as possible. I looked for companies that could register .com, .co, .io, .it, .me, .tv, and .us as a rough sample.
- Cost: As much as I am willing to pay a premium for a better service, this is a commodity service and a recurring cost.
What I did not look at were additional services such as hosting, SSl certificates, etc. Although Namecheap did have one of the lowest transfer costs (made even cheaper with coupon code SWITCH2NC), I didn’t seriously factor in that cost in my decision because it was a one-time cost. While a lot of registrars were recommended, there was a sharp drop-off after the first handful so I’ll only cover those.
By far the most recommended was Namecheap and for good reason. Their pricing is like their namesake—cheapest across many extensions (though tied with Name.com in many cases). They offer an average number of extensions (23). Their design isn’t spectacular but it’s friendly and easy to get around without the feeling you’re getting sold to every step of the way. I ended up using Namecheap due to the many recommendations. They also were voted best domain registrar on Lifehacker.
Gandi.net was mentioned a great deal. I love their tagline “no bullshit” and based on their copy, I think their approach is great. Finding information was also fairly easy but I’ve read that they’re “techie” in past reviews and I feel the design matches that vibe. The services they offer seem to also support that their audience are those with much more technical and complex demands. They are a French company so their pricing is in Euros. Sadly, even if the € was a $, the price would still be the priciest of all the options by a large margin. One exception is in the international domains, where they are much cheaper. Given Namecheap doesn’t have nearly the same level of coverage, I may still use Gandi.net as the secondary registrar.
Hover has the best design among the registrars but their pricing is nearly the worst as is their selection (15 TLDs). Having their phone number right on the top of their homepage is a very encouraging sign that you get what you pay for in terms of service. If you don’t have too many domains and don’t tend to use international domains, Hover may still be worth a look.
There were far fewer mentions of Name.com. I guess having the best domain name doesn’t make you the best domain registrar. Their homepage is cute, with the trendy sketch motif, but everything underneath the cover is pretty barebones. Finding the pricing information and TLDs was only possible through digging around in their footer. In terms of pricing, they are the best in many, though they’re three times the price for .it, one of the international samples I used. They also have a really large selection of TLDs and have additional services such as Name Grabber and auctions.
Editor’s choice winner for Webhost Magazine, they’ve taken a Google-like approach in their design. It’s barebones, easy to navigate, and does the job. The have a huge selection of domain extensions but their price is the worst across many. It’s worth noting that of these registrars, only iWantMyName and the previously mentioned Name.com offer .io registration for now.
I still remember when these guys were offering free hosting back in the early 2000s for spamming your friends. I think I still have an old account with them somewhere.They also have a phone number posted which is definitely positive. But overall, 1&1 is unremarkable. The offer the least number of extensions and are roughly comparable on the ones they do offer.
Again, I looked at a few different types of domain extensions to try to get a good cross-section and understanding of the cost distribution for common, international, and popular vanity domains.
I actually did my domain switch before I was able to complete this in-depth comparison. Namecheap is where all my domains are now but looking at this chart, I might recommend Name.com instead to those asking. I have no regrets on my selection—the transfer experience was painless and the pricing very attractive. But now I need to have a secondary provider for some domain extensions. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Namecheap offers more extensions, too.
Some additional views:
- Marco Arment on Why Is It So Hard To Be A Good Registrar?
- Chris Shiflett’s overview of domain registrars.
What registrar do you use? What factors are important to you when you chose yours?