Whether you want to register a new name or your previous web designer registered one for you, domain ownership is crucial to your brand’s success. But who really owns your domain name? Find out now.
The domain name system, or DNS, is like a virtual phone directory, connecting your hosted website to the URL of your choice. Typically, Internet Service Providers hold the ultimate keys to every domain name, which they dole out to those who register them for a small fee.
Though you can pay to use a domain, you’ll never be the true domain owner.
Different organizations across the world control this system by leasing out each domain name for a specified time – typically, one year. After the year is over, you’ll be given the option to renew your domain registration.
If you’re building a brand-new website from scratch, perform a domain name search through any primary domain provider, including GoDaddy or Blue Host. You can also use the WhoIs Directory – more on that below.
If your website domain name is free during the instant domain search, you have the green light to register it and move forward.
What is the WhoIs Database?
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, requires every domain to submit the registrant name and contact information to their domain name lookup directory. Through the WhoIs lookup, you can perform a domain search to find domain names that are already registered. You can grab the owner’s contact information if you want to try to convince them to transfer their domain to you.
Though it’s not impossible to convince a registrant to perform a domain transfer, they’ll likely want a significant sum of money for their trouble. Often, you’re better off choosing a different variation of your ideal domain name than getting tied up in expensive negotiations.
Some people even register domains as a business model, buying up popular names and making a premium on their re-sale – they’re the ticket scalpers of the web.
Some website owners choose to make their data private on the WhoIs directory, though you’ll still have access to a masked email address to contact them if need be through the WhoIs domain checker.
If you already have a website, your business entity should be the registered domain owner.
Whether you use a web design agency to build your website or DIY, your business should be the one in control of its own domain.
Your domain is the public’s link to your website, with every outside link pointing to it. If you suddenly lose the rights to your name, you’ll lose the domain credibility you’ve built through Google, all outside links to your site break, and users that type in your address get an error. That problem can cause massive revenue loss and even tank your business altogether.
The primary contact regarding all things domain-related should be a secretary, manager, or the owner.
Our agency for web design in Burlington registers every client’s domain under their own name. In the modern design industry, giving the clients control is business best practice and the most ethical way to approach our work. A designer shouldn’t own your domain simply because they built the components of your website and control how it works.
Some web design businesses will register your domain in their name, then hold that ownership over your head when you try to move on to another designer. Is it shady? Yes, but we’ve unfortunately seen it happen countless times.
You pay a web design agency for their services – once a website is built, and that initial contract is complete, you shouldn’t have to pay any extra when you part ways with them. You should never have to repurchase a domain name from them.
Occasionally a designer may unintentionally register the domain under their name instead of yours when they’re building your website.
Solution: Politely ask them to transfer it to you – a quick conversation may be all you need to clear up the error and secure complete control over your domain name.
This situation is frustrating, so taking steps to prevent a “hostage situation” is well worth their time.
If a designer has registered your domain under their name, they’re legally entitled to control it.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve used the domain name for 12 months or 12 years – they hold the control. Designers that do this are:
Trying to make it difficult for you to cancel their monthly services (and the accompanying profits it means for them)
Trying to extort you for extra money
Planning to sell your domain name at auction if you cancel their services (this happens when the domain name is one that multiple entities would want)
Solution: Depending on the situation, you need to put a dollar value on your domain name, so you can decide whether you will pay them out and gain control or move on and start over again with a different domain name.
Though designers should always register you as the domain name owner, they may choose to register themselves for less nefarious reasons than to steal or extort more money from you.
Some more legitimate reasons designers hold registration:
They’ve been taking care of maintenance, like annual renewals
You’re on a payment plan for their design services, and you haven’t paid down your entire bill yet
To make changes conveniently without waiting for you to click verification emails, etc.
Though these options are far from the worst-case scenario, they point to an inexperienced or lazy web design team.
Solution: Asking the designer to swap registration names should be an easy fix. If you still owe your designer money on a payment plan, they may require your payment in full before transferring it over – it’s their security that you’ll pay.
Nail down who will own the domain name before you sign any contracts with a new designer. Register the domain yourself or put it in writing that the domain belongs to you when you sign the work contract.
If your designer registers it for you, ensure you get a receipt with your name and credit card from them ASAP. Use the login information provided to ensure the data they’ve given you is correct, and you can log into the account. A great working relationship can sour quickly, so ensure you’re protected, regardless of who you choose to work with.
Ready for a professional website design that leaves you 100% in control of your site’s future? Our expert team offers design and digital marketing in Hamilton, Burlington, and the GTA. We’re ready to build the website of your dreams and leave you with full ownership of your content and domain name. Contact us to learn more and get a free cost estimate.