As we’ve said previously, when you buy a domain name, you are actually “registering” it (since all your details are being registered, or recorded, in the DNS). This is why the companies that let you buy domain names are called “Registrars”. As an end user, or “Registrant”, this is all you would ever have to know about the structure of the domain Registry industry. But for those who want the details, here is the basic layout:
- ICANN: This is the organization that has ultimate control over the entire domain naming system. They make the policies, decide how to enforce them, and decide who will be Registries for which TLDs.
- Registry: The Registry controls their specific TLDs. VeriSign, for example, maintains all of the .com domain names (along with several other TLDs). In most cases, they delegate the ability to add and update information to Registrars.
- Registrar: The Registrars, for the most part, interact directly with the end users (Registrants). If a company decides they want the domain your-domain.com, they go to the Registrar, who then adds the domain name to DNS and stores the company’s information, connecting it to that domain name.
- Reseller: Some Registrars, instead of marketing their services directly to the public, use resellers to sell domains for them. The resellers do not have direct access to the DNS, but rather use the Registrars as portals. Resellers are often hosting companies or webmasters who find it easier to market their own services when they are able to register names for their clients themselves.
- Registrant: The Registrant is the end user, the person or organization who ”owns” or registers a domain name.
More On Registrars
Historically, Network Solutions was the only company authorized to register domain names. In 1999, ICANN approved five additional companies as Registrars for the competitive Shared Registry System. Since then, the domain name market has completely opened up to competition, with hundreds of companies now acting as ICANN-accredited Domain Name Registrars.
Domain Name Registrars must pay the Registries a fee for each domain name they register, but beyond that fixed cost they charge different amounts to cover their own costs and make a profit. This means that while a few years ago the price and duration of a domain name registration was fixed at $70 for 2 years, now different companies offer different registration rates, for periods from 1 to 10 years.
The requirements that must be fulfilled to become a Domain Name Registrar are not particularly stringent, which sometimes leads to trouble as some Registrars do not have the robust technical infrastructure necessary to handle and process large volumes of domain name registrations. Some Registrars have also cut corners by not implementing certain technical functionality in their local databases, such as the ability to transfer names to another party.