Apr 162008
 
Part of the Domain Registrars Series - Previous in series         

It’s no secret I used to be a huge fan of Dotster, or that they crashed and burned pretty severely in my opinion. But tonight I received a Dotster coupon code offer not even I can refuse. After all, free, is free. And that’s exactly what Dotster is offering tomorrow afternoon: free domain names! You read that right, Dotster is giving away free domain names tomorrow (04/17/08). They’re calling it their Happy Hour event and it’s essentially a race to the finish line. Dotster’s giving away 500 .com, .net or .org domain names starting at 1pm PDT / 4pm EDT.

All you’ve got to do is follow this link and look for the Happy Hour banner. You’ll receive a coupon code for a free domain name that may be used immediately or up until Tuesday, April 22nd.

But be fast and sure to read my latest Dotster review first so you know what you’re getting in to!

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Feb 042008
 

Reuters’ Oddly Enough headline RSS is probably one of the most subscribed to feeds on the web. So getting your website plugged in one of their articles can generate thousands, if not tens of thousands, of visitors to your site. Well, today I clicked over to check out the latest world oddities only to find a (rather weak) article on “The dumbest ever quiz answers” and, being unimpressed overall, clicked over to their source site to see if there were any better offerings. Unfortunately, the webmaster at www.jumpingjacksbar.com allowed the domain to expire just a few days ago. Ouch!

Whoever they are just lost a huge amount of traffic, and its accompanying revenue. All over a $15 domain registration fee. So, consider this a warning to all webmaster’s out there. You never know exactly when your site’s going to receive a massive traffic influx, so be sure to keep the domain registration up to date.

Dec 242007
 
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Almost seven years ago I wrote a glowing review of Dotster focusing primarily on their service. Over the years since domain registration has become highly competitive and prices have dropped dramatically, but I’ve always stuck with Dotster.com as my primary registrar. I’ve also highly recommended them to friends and argued that their higher prices (currently $15.25/year) are worth it. Most people won’t ever need service from their domain registrar (it’s mainly a “set it and forget it” issue), but I always warned that when you do need it, you’ll need it badly. Then the extra money would be worthwhile. Well, I was right and I was wrong. I figure I’ve spent more than $500 ‘extra’ by registering my domains at Dotster over the years and right now I need some support, really bad. It would totally be worth the extra money I’ve spent over the years except for one thing: I’m getting horrible support! Last year I purchased several pre-registered domains that were already on GoDaddy.com. Their service has been acceptable even though they’re two-thirds the price of Dotster, so when my latest batch of Dotster registered domains were coming up for renewal I decided to transfer them to GoDaddy.com. That was in November. One of the domains is set to expire in 3 days, and Dotster’s still holding on to them! They simply won’t let them go! They did, however, send me the following email-

Dear Aahz, Our records indicate you are transferring your domain(s) from Dotster to GoDaddy.com. If you are transferring due to your current account pricing, I would like to take this opportunity to offer you a competitive price reduction on your Dotster account. If you decide to take advantage of this offer, your new Dotster account pricing will include the following – $9.37 Registrations / Renewals on com, net, org, info, us, and biz domains $7.75 Transfer pricing for the same TLD’s listed above. FREE URL Forwarding FREE Email Forwarding FREE DNS Management FREE Whois Privacy If you are transferring to an ICANN-accredited registrar that has a more competitive offer, please let me know. I will do my best to match or beat its offer. To take advantage of this new account pricing, simply reply to this e-mail with your interest. Please include in your correspondence your agreement to the updated account pricing, as well as your preference with respect to your pending transfer. Once I’ve updated your account with the new pricing I’ll send you a confirmation e-mail. If you have no interest in taking advantage of this offer, you do not need to reply to this e-mail. Your transfer is only canceled if you specify you want it to be canceled. If you need additional support or have any other questions, Dotster customer service can be reached by phone at 360.449.5900 or by visiting http://www.dotster.com/support.php

Best Regards,

Brian Tapio
Dotster.com
btapio@dotster.com
360.449.5945 – p
360.397.2903 – f

* All domain registrations are subject to the terms of the Registration Agreement. Click the link below to review the Registration Agreement.

https://secure.registerapi.com/order/register/agreement.php?siteid=4798

Great! So not only have I been paying way too much for all these years, but you were perfectly willing to host them for less the whole time! Hah! How about just doing what you’re supposed to do and allow me to transfer my domains! I suppose I shoulda tried to transfer them to one of the bottom of the barrel $1.99 registrars to see if they’d match that price. But at this point, Dotster will never see another dime of mine. As if refusing to transfer the domains wasn’t bad enough I finally got fed up with waiting and sent them an email asking how much longer until the domains would be transferred. The response stated only that my domains were “in pendingtransfer status”[sic]. Um, wonderful. But what I asked was when would they be transferred. My further request for clarification has gone unanswered. Tonight was supposed to be the night that I finally transferred Philaahzophy to Top Hosting Center. However, I can’t do that, because Dotster is now refusing to change the nameservers (which tell your web browser where to find a specific website)! After spending the last few days preparing to move the site, and specifically planning to do it on Christmas Eve as traffic would be lighter, I’m now screwed because Dotster, who I’ve been over paying for years by their own admission, refuses to perform the one service required of a domain registrar. When I enter the new nameservers for THC I get a message saying: “PHILAAHZOPHY.COM:Unable to Change Name Servers with Registry, or invalid Name Server.” Say, what?!? Not only do I know the nameservers are valid, but it was only a few days ago that I used them to transfer a different domain over to THC. I even went through the process of changing them on a different domain that I own and that worked just fine. It’s only on the domain that I need transferred right now that they’re refusing to do so. Dotster no longer has a toll free phone number, so I first tried their Chat Support. According to their Support page I will find the link to this on the “My Services” page of my account. Of course when I navigate away from the Support page to the My Services page, all it has to say is that”There are no services for this account.” Well, I guess that just about sums it up, doesn’t it! So, email takes 24 hour-plus, chat support is apparently a myth, and there’s no toll free number. But I need to get these nameservers changed now, so I waste more of my money on a long distance call to their support line. Although it’s not a 24 hour support line (whic is what 80% of internet companies have) the site says they’ll be open until 6pm PST even though it’s Christmas Eve. So I call them at 5:30pm PST only to go through a bunch of automated crap, be told I’m calling outside their service hours, and then be told to leave a message! Leave a message?!? What good is that supposed to do. Their wonderful “customer service” reps obviously left the office early and since Dotster’s too cheap to offer real customer support there will be no one in the office until Wednesday. At that point my window will be completely passed. Just as an experiment I placed a call to GoDaddy’s 24×7 customer support line just now (7:47pm PST) and they picked up right away! Of course, my domains aren’t at GoDaddy yet because Dotster’s been screwing around refusing to release them or share any info with me. BTW, Network Solutions, not only has 24×7 support, but a toll free line as well as 24×7 chat support! As does my new web host, Top Hosting Center. I am soooooooooo frustrated right now, but I’m also powerless against these BS companies that control the internet. Aaarrrgggghhhh!!!!! Merry bloody Christmas to all!

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Mar 112001
 
Part of the Deciphering Domains Series - Previous in series         

The Bottom Line There is more than one DNS system out there and this article takes a look at the true alternative domain resources.

All of the other articles in this series have made statements based on the TLDs approved by ICANN. For the vast majority of internet users these are the only TLDs they will ever encounter. However, there are alternatives out there. This article will examine these alternatives.

DNS and You

DNS servers are essentially computers attached to the internet that store directories connecting domain names (such as http://www.philaahzophy.com) to IP addresses (such as 238.18.56.129) which are essentially uniques addresses for each computer connected to the internet. ICANN is the organization that maintains these DNS servers and is responsible for approving the standardized systems that makes the internet truly global.

You are able to find your way around the internet largely thanks to the DNS (Domain Name System) server used by your ISP. You have little to no control over which DNS servers your ISP uses, but this generally doesn’t matter as most use one of the 13 root DNS servers approved and maintained (to at least some degree) by ICANN. All of these share the same information on which domain names direct you to which IP addresses. Of course, this does limit you to the TLDs approved by ICANN (currently the seven gTLDs and the 237 ccTLDs).

If you were to enter the URL http://abc.news into your web browser you would receive a message stating that “The page cannot be displayed” or something similar.
This is because ICANN has not yet approved the .news TLD. In fact, they aren’t even considering it at this time. However, I assure you that not only is there a web page there, but it is possible to access it. You simply need to use an alternative DNS system.

Alternative DNS Background

Since the creation of the internet debates have raged over which TLDs to permit (or even whether or not these should be limited). The TLDs that are now considered standard (.com, .net, etc) quickly gained dominance, but have never had universal acceptance. There have always been nay-sayers and rebels who have wanted to do things there own way and one of the most glorious things about the internet is that this is possible. Hence, the alternative DNS systems.

Alternative DNS servers are created and maintained by individuals or companies interested in expanding the number of TLDs available to internet users. Almost all alternative DNS servers contain the same information available in ICANN approved root servers, but also contain information for additional TLDs.

How Alternative DNS Works

Essentially, to use an alternative DNS system you must change which DNS servers your computer looks to when resolving domain names. There are two ways to do this:

1)Convince your ISP to use use the alternative DNS you are interested in.

2)Download software from the DNS home page that will redirect your browser to the appropriate DNS servers.

Benefits

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

The primary benefit of using alternative DNS servers is the wider selection of Top Level Domains. Depending on which alternative DNS you select, you will be offered between four and 550 new TLDs. In fact one alternative DNS (Name.Space) allows anyone to create their own TLD at will.

With the internet ‘land’ rush of recent years many prime domain names have already been registered. Using the TLDs available through alternative DNS systems allows greater opportunity for registering an easy to remember domain name.

The Cool Factor

If you’re interested in being truly cutting edge, then alternative DNS servers may be just the thing for you. Just imagine how awed your friends will be when you’re the first geek on your node to host your website at http://music.mp3 or http://porn.xxx

Fight The Power

If you just have to rebel, then perhaps this is the way to do it. ICANN has been accused of being far too authoritarian by the majority of alternative DNS operators. It’s power comes largely from the power of the United States government and many people feel the internet should be free of these government controls.

The Next Big Thing

Frustrated that someone received more than $7.5 million for business.com when you never really had a chance to register it yourself? Many people are grabbing up domains from alternative DNS providers in hopes that these TLDs will one day become mainstream and they’ll be sitting (or rather cybersquatting) on the next big internet gold mine.

Drawbacks

Lack Of Awareness

The biggest drawback to these domains is that few people are even aware that they exist, much less how to access them. It’s taken several years to get people to know that when the see www.coke.com it’s a web address they can type into their browsers. With alternative DNS systems people need to actually download software or lobby their ISPs in order to get access. This is highly unlikely at this point in time.

Limited Hosting Options

Most web hosting companies are not set-up to host alternative TLDs. Thus, you are very limited in choosing a web hosting company for your site. Most alternative DNS providers offer hosting services as well as providing a list of 1 to 3 companies that can host your site.

Choosing Which Alternative

There are dozens of alternative DNS systems available. Unfortunately, your computer can only point to one of them. So, while if you go with a domainisland TLD, you will still be able to access all of the ICANN domains, you won’t be able to access any from Name.Space or biztld.

There are a few organizations working to unify the alternative DNS systems, but this is a tough road to travel since each is generally created by people who prefer to work outside the system. Not to mention that several TLDs are available on more than one alternative DNS system which leads to…

Always The Alternative

The way things have progressed over the last decade or so makes it seem far more likely that these alternative DNS systems will never be mainstreamed. Most of the new TLDs being considered by ICANN for implementation into the traditional DNS system already exist in alternative DNS systems. However, when ICANN finally approves the new TLDs the peopl who currently have them registered at the alternative DNS sites are unlikely to have any claim to the new “official” ones.

There are still legal questions being debated on this very topic, but I’d be very surprised if prior registration with an alternative DNS held any weight.

Domain Conflicts

If you register the domain Record.Shop at new.net and I register the domain Record.Shop at domainisland, we will both have websites with the same name “Record.Shop”. Which of our sites will come up when an end user types http://record.shop into his browser? That depends on which DNS system he’s currently pointed at.

So this means your advertising will have to say something like:

“Visit our website at Record.Shop on the New.Net DNS system.”

So much for simplicity.

Alternative DNS Systems

There are currently dozens of alternative DNS systems available. While I have not actually registered a domain with any of these alternative DNS systems I have spent a fair amount of time examining all of those listed below and have downloaded their software to connect to their DNS servers. With that disclaimer out of the way, here is a list of the best known alternative DNS providers:

Pacific Root – http://www.pacificroot.com

Pacific Root is currently the best attempt at replacing ICANN as a governing body. They offer dozens of alternative TLDs themselves and have joined with dozens of other DNS systems to provide even more alternative TLDs.
Pacific Root is also a large part of the Open Root Server Confederation (ORSC) which is the closest thing to an overall organization the alternative DNS servers have. (More on the ORSC in a future article)

Domain registration starts at only $5.00/year and they offer hosting services as well.

To use their domains you must either download a 46.5k zip file (PC only) or follow the directions on their site.

Name.Space – http://www.namespace.org

Name.Space offers more than 250 TLDs from .2000 to .zone and allows you to create your own TLD if you can’t find one you like in their extensive list.

Domain registration costs $30.00 per year and includes free URL forwarding and email forwarding. If you host your site with Name.Space they will also mirror your site at yourdomain.yourTLD.XS2.net

In order to connect to their DNS servers you must download a 80.1k zip file (available for Mac & Windows) or by following the simple steps on their website.

DomainIsland – http://www.domainisland.com

DomainIsland offers registration of domains in 7,000 different languages (using the appropriate character set) and a dozen different TLDs in English including such esoteric options as .(^o^) and .:-)

Domain registration prices range from $10/year to $199/year depending on the domain you’re interested in with a minimum registration period of two years. They also offer multilingual KeyWord service for $100/year per word (minimum $200).

In order to connect to their DNS servers you must download their 20k zip file or follow the instructions on their site.

New.Net – http://new.net

New.net offers 20 different TLDs including such popular options as .shop, .kids, and .xxx.

Domain registration is $25/year and includes a mirrored domain at yourdomain.yourTLD.new.net

According to the site you merely need to make one click to download their self-installing applet in order to use their DNS servers. However, I have yet to get it to work.

Conclusions

While alternatives to the traditional, ICANN-controlled DNS system do exist, they aren’t really viable at this time. For most people registering a domain with these alternative DNS companies will simply be like throwing money down a hole. And none of them offer any type of refund should you not clearly understand what you’re getting into. If you’re really interested in using an alternative DNS system I recommend you do plenty of research first, so that you clearly understand what is and is not possible with these companies.

Part of the Deciphering Domains Series - Previous in series        
Mar 102001
 
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ICANN has been debating for what seems like forever on whether or not to create new Top Level Domains (TLDs) and what those new TLDs should be. Finally, on November 12, 2000 they decided to implement seven new TLDs: .biz, .info, .name, .pro, .aero, .coop, and .museum. The first of these new TLDs may finally be available within the next few months. However, there are a few problems which must first be overcome.

Unsponsored vs. Sponsored

The new domains are grouped into two large categories: unsponsored and sponsored. According to ICANN:

“Generally speaking, an “unsponsored” TLD operates under policies established by the global Internet community directly through the ICANN process, while a “sponsored” TLD is a specialized TLD that has a sponsoring organization representing the narrower community that is most affected by the TLD. The sponsoring organization thus carries out delegated policy-formulation responsibilities over many matters concerning the TLD.”
– from the ICANN Melbourne Meeting Topic: New TLD Agreements Posted: 26 February 2001 available at http://www.icann.org/melbourne/new-tld-agreements-topic.htm

In other words, the unsponsored TLDs will be handled like “standard” or generic TLDs, while the sponsored TLDs will be handled in a manner similar to the “non-standard” or country-code TLDs.

Negotiations for the unsponsored TLDs are “nearing completion” while those for sponsored TLDs “are still in a formative stage”. Thus, the unsponsored TLDs will likely be the the first to be implemented and the sponsored TLDs may still have a wait of several years.

Unsponsored TLDs: .biz, .info, .name, and .pro
Sponsored TLDs: .aero, .coop, and .museum

What They “Mean”

Actually, like all gTLDs, they don’t really mean anything. However, the seven new domain names are intended for use by the following:

.aero – air-transport industry
.biz – businesses
.coop – non-profit cooperatives
.info – unrestricted use
.museum – museums
.name – individual registrations
.pro – accountants, lawyers, physicians

Pre-Registration and Reservation

Many domain registrars (as well as other companies) have begun offering pre-registration and/or reservation of your domain name at these new TLDs for a fee. This is a scam! Do not do it! No company can promise that you will receive your domain name at any of these TLDs no matter how much money you pay them. Period.

If your registrar is offering a service similar to this for free then there is no harm involved in signing up. However, if they are charging a fee (I’ve seen some as high as $100.00), then I not only would not sign-up, but I’d look into finding another registrar.

Quotes from ICANN’s New TLD FAQ: (available at http://www.icann.org/tlds/)

“No companies have been accredited yet to register names in any of the new TLDs. Registration procedures have not yet been formalized, and there is no
guarantee that any particular organization will be authorized to take registrations for any particular TLD.”

“No one has been authorized to “pre-register” domain names in the new TLDs. Persons who attempt to “pre-register” such domain names do so at their own risk and with no assurance that they will receive the pre-registered names once the TLDs become operational.”

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a Consumer Alert about these practices that can be read at:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/domainalrt.htm

Obstacles

A number of obstacles remain in the path of these new TLDs. None will become available until all of these hurdles have been cleared:

1)The standards for registering these new TLDs are still being negotiated. The unsponsored TLDs are at about 85% agreement while the sponsored TLDs are more like 40% agreement. Negotiations for the unsponsored TLDs should be completed very soon.

2)There is at least one lawsuit being filed against ICANN to prevent their implementation of some of these new domains. A number of “alternative” DNS services (such as domainisland.com and new.net) have been created over the years (these will be the subject of Part 6 in this series) and they currently use both the .name and .info TLDs. North Pole of America Inc. claims to hold a trademark on both of these TLDs as well.

While not well known, the existence of sites using these alternative DNS systems will create serious confusion should ICANN approve these domain names and the legal issues could remain unresolved for several more years.

3)Since no one is currently set up to accept registrations for these new TLDs and ICANN insists (rightly so) on making the new registrations available to as wide a market as possible in as fair a manner as possible, there must be some sort of lead time between final approval and implementation. I imagine there will be a minimum of 90 days between final approval (which could come as soon as this week for the unsponsored TLDs) and actually opening them to registration.

Conclusions

So, what does this all mean? At the moment, not much. Yes, the rumors of these new TLDs are true…sort of. However, no other new TLDs are being considered at this time, so if you’re waiting for .xxx or .kids, you’ve got an incredibly long wait ahead of you. Of course, if you really can’t wait, then you can always try one of the alternative DNS systems. Don’t know what those are? Then hang on for part 6 in this series: Rebel Domains (Alternative TLDs)

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