Domain Name, Registrar, Registrant, Hosting and You
What are they talking about? Where to start?
Let’s first define each term and then we will explain what each means and the responsibilities of each.
Domain Name – A symbolic representation of a numerically represented internet resource. (example: Instead of typing 220.127.116.11 into your web browser you would type www.yourwebsitename.com.)
Registrar (domain name) – A domain name registrar is a company, accredited by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or by a national ccTLD authority, to register Internet domain names.
Registrant (domain name) – The authorized person(s), company, or entity which registers a domain name by means of an ICANN accredited registrar. (example: Mr. Projanhoax goes to the GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com website and chooses to register “mypopularmagazine-its-mine-now.com.” Accordingly Mr. Projanhoax now owns the domain name “mypopularmagazine-its-mine-now.com” and is considered to be the legal registrant of the domain name.)
Hosting (domain name/website) – A computer server on the internet that serves web pages as they are requested by users web browsers. This is the place where the files that make up your web site are stored.
Now, let’s put all of this together so we can understand the entire relationship. Take a deep breath and pay close attention.
As an example we have a domain name of “mrsockssupply.com” that was registered with the registrar GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com and Mr. Builder is the legal registrant and has chosen XYZ Hosting & Design to provide hosting for his website.
Here is a simplified view of who does what in the above scenario:
Domain Name = mrsockssupply.com
Registrar = GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com
Registrant = Mr. Builder (He has FULL CONTROL of mrsockssupply.com and can point to whatever hosting server he wants at any time. So if he no longer likes the hosting company he is using he is able to change that at any time. He does not need the cooperation of the hosting company.)
Hosting = XYZ Hosting & Design (All they do is make a COPY of the website files available for serving.)
What can go wrong and how do I fix it?
Several things might happen and have happened with domain names throughout history. The trouble is that most people lack the knowledge above to take an informed approach to solving whatever problem(s) they encounter.
The single most steadily growing problem is domain squatting or cyber-squatting. (The act of registering a unique domain name with the intention of reselling it to the highest bidder, for leverage, or other malicious intent.)
So your company is finally ready for the internet and you stroll on over to GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com and to your dismay you discover that “FancyYellowPowerDrills.com” has already been registered to some shady marketing company you’ve never heard of. What do you do? The first and foremost savior is a legal trademark. If your company has a legal trademark that was in existence prior to the registration date of the domain name in question you will in most cases be able to have your attorney send a cease-and-decist order citing infringement to the offending party politely requesting transfer of the domain name to your ownership immediately. Sometimes all you have to do is contact the registrar (GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com for example) and explain to them the situation and they will usually have you file a request through some formal process often requiring a copy of your business license, personal identification, or other information and upon their finding will or will not transfer ownership of the domain name.
What if I have a website that I do not host and have not registered myself?
Step 1: You need to do a WHOIS lookup on the domain name/website name to determine who is the legal registrant and who is the ICANN registrar. Hopefully you are listed as the REGISTRANT above all else. Being listed as the REGISTRANT will give you the full control that you need. If you are NOT the REGISTRANT then you’ve got a problem, especially if you’ve fully paid for the website design. Unfortunately as disguisting as it is, this is very common. It is very commonly seen with shady marketing companies, they seem to do this all of the time but fail to tell their own clients what is really going on. If you’ve fully paid for your design and other services as agreed you should definitely be listed as the REGISTRANT. Most companies that register domain names on your behalf will or should typically transfer ownership of the domain name after services have been paid in full. Remember not to take it out on the hosting company because they don’t control your domain name and do not have any responsibility to you unless you directly chose them, and even then they only bear the responsibility of providing hosting for your website files. They can’t help you with your domain name dilemma.
Step 2: Find out who the HOST is by getting the DNS Server(s) from the WHOIS lookup in step 1. At least you will know where your website files reside.
Step 3: Get yourself an attorney or other legal firm who understands all of these and get your problem taken care of. If you and your representation feel that the current courts are going to be ignorant to technology then get a change of venue so a fair legal process can take place.
Ignorance is bliss. Do your homework and make sure all parties, especially your legal team is well versed in the realm of domain names, registrars, registrants, and hosting or you’re for a lack of a better term “screwed.”
P.S. If you’re in this situation and are local to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/NEPA areas we would like to hear from you. Feel free to fill out our inquiry form and tell us your story, maybe we can help you in some way.