Domain Registration Services - Initial Results
Benjamin Edelman - Berkman Center for Internet & Society - Harvard Law School
[ Background - Survey - Data - Analysis - Disclosures ]
Numerous competitive registrars offer diverse domain registration services to individuals, companies, and organizations. This site attempts to index and analyze their service offerings, facilitating analysis by other researchers and in preparation for additional analysis by the author.
Interested registrars have completed a survey of service offerings, and this page summarizes results. Surveys remain available for those additional registrars who care to submit information about their services.
From 1993 until 1999, registrar Network Solutions provided the sole source of domain registration services within the popular .COM, .NET, and .ORG top-level domains. Subsequent to Network Solutions' 1998 Amendment 11 to its cooperative agreement with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Department of Commerce, domain registration services were opened to competitive registration by other registrars. As required by the amendment, Network Solutions split its domain name operations into a registry (keeping the central list of registered domains and their technical parameters) and registrar (providing sales and customer support services). In 1999, ICANN selected five additional registrars to provide domain registration pservices, and eligible registrars have subsequently increased to 168.
These 168 registrars have come to offer a wide variety of products and services. For example, some registrars focus on simple web-based domain registration intended for individuals. Others offer extensive portfolio management systems intended for large firms. Some provide numerous additional services such as web hosting and email accounts, while others encourage users to obtain these services separately.
This site seeks to index, classify, and compare registrars' various offerings. These features build on the approach of existing sites such as RegSelect. However, while sites like RegSelect help prospective domain registrants choose a registrar, this site focuses on competition, regulatory, and market structure questions -- primarily for research purposes, in study of the dynamics of this developing market. This site also attempts to track and report an increased number of characteristics of each registrar -- an expansion that is possible because, while sites like RegSelect use a single team of centralized editors, this site invites interested registrar representatives to contribute data about their respective firms.
Domain name registrars
(and other companies providing domain name registration services, e.g. resellers)
are invited to contribute data to this project by completing the following survey:
Interested members of the public may also complete this survey, providing data as to registrars with which they are particularly familiar. Note that this survey is not an appropriate forum for submitting feedback as to the quality of a registrar's service.
Survey data was collected beginning during August 2003, with initial results posted in November 2003. The survey remains open for additional submissions, which will periodically be incorporated into the results posted to this site.
Survey data is posted in the following sections and formats:
Data is posted as HTML tables suitable for on-screen viewing (1024x768 or larger screen resolution recommended) or printing (landscape orientation recommended).
Data can readily be copied into spreadsheets or databases for further analysis. Send requests for alternative data formats to the Ben Edelman.
Data clarifications & explanations:
Survey data shows notable differentiation among registrars. Some registrars report serving individuals almost exclusively; others focus on corporate registrations or on resellers; at least one registrar purports to have a relatively even split between market channels, with at least 20% of its business coming from each of individuals, corporate registrations, bulk registrations, and resellers. Other product characteristics also vary dramatically -- from support options to online customer service to bundled services to pricing.
These varied characteristics -- and the choice they facilitate among competing registrars -- suggest that registrar competition has brought about large benefits to domain registrants relative to the prior market structure that offered only a single registration service. Future research will attempt to develop a structured model of choice among registrars and will attempt to quantify the consumer surplus resulting from registrar competition.
To date, registrar participation in this survey has been relatively limited. Fourteen registrars have completed the survey so far, out of 168 registrars in total. But many large registrars have participated -- including first-, second-, and third-, and fifth-largest registrars VeriSign (at least through its DBMS subsidiary; while its Network Solutions group is to be spun off to a separate firm), Tucows, Register.com, and eNom. The author's hope is that the posting of this preliminary data may inspire additional registrars to complete the survey, providing a fuller sense of available registration services.
This page is hosted on a server operated by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, using space and resources made available to the author in his capacity as a Berkman Center student fellow for academic and other scholarly work. The work is his own, and the Berkman Center does not express a position on its contents.
This research is supported in part by VeriSign, Inc. The survey was distributed in partnership with CircleID.
Last Updated: November 19, 2003 - Sign up for notification of major updates and related work.