You own a domain name. Great.
Did you or someone at your organization register the domain name directly with domain name registrar? Or did a consultant do it for you? Maybe a web hosting company or marketing firm set it up?
A domain name is like a mask. It’s your public face on the Internet, and someon—the owner—is behind it. You probably think that’s you. But are you sure?
It’s worth a few minutes to confirm whether you really own that name.
When someone uses a registrar to sign up for a new domain name, ownership of the domain is defined by entering the information for three contacts:
Sounds simple, right? But it’s easy to mess this up:
Recently I noticed a problem with a client’s domain name registration. The organization itself wasn’t listed at all in the domain name’s record. Instead, the web hosting company that originally created their site over a decade ago was listed as the Registrant, Administrator, and Technical Contact.
In other words, according to our Internet Overlords (all hail them, may they leave me in peace), the nonprofit didn’t own its domain name.
A web host owned it for them.
Day-to-day that’s not a big deal. If the consultant stays in business, or the volunteer keeps volunteering, or your accidental techie remains an employee, and as long as those people still have a a good relationship with you, everything should be fine.
The operative word, of course, being “if”.
It’s easy. Bajillions of websites let you look up your domain registration record. It’s called a “whois” search (pronounced “who is”, not “hoys”, BTW), so just Google “whois”. I generally use Network Solutions or Whois.net.
If you try one and the information doesn’t seem complete, just try another.
The actual owner of the domain should be listed at least as the Registrant.
Listing your organization as the Administrative and Technical contact is less essential, though it can be a good idea. Whoever’s listed as your Administrative contact, for example, theoretically has the rights to make changes to how your domain is used. If that’s a trusted consultant or volunteer, great. If it’s your organization, more power to you.
How do you make the change? Well, that depends.
If you need a registrar’s help to sort things out, I recommend a phone call rather than an email. Things usually just go easier that way.
Confirming whether you really own your domain name will be two minutes well spent.
Why not spend them now?