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Trust, Domain Registrars, and Hosting Companies

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I currently have a little over 20 domains registered via Joker.com. Lately, I've been going through my various accounts trying to retire an old e-mail address, and so I had the task of doing owner-change updates for these domains. As I'm not a reseller and hence cannot use the e-mail gateway or HTTP API, I had to do the owner changes by hand. That required several-second load times per page: quite a nuisance.

I thought about becoming a Joker.com reseller, but becoming a reseller appears to require a $250 deposit. My next step was to start working on a Perl script based on the excellent WWW::Mechanize to help with future changes. Along the way, I started to think about switching registrars.

One might assume that ever since domain registration was opened up to a competitive market, it would be quite easy to select a registrar. In this day and age, you can register a domain name and have a site running in just minutes. But selecting a great registrar (or, for that matter, a hosting provider) is difficult.

GoDaddy.com is one of the bigger names these days, but its reputation goes to illustrate the biggest problem I have with the industry. The terms of service agreements you must accept to become a customer are written to favor the provider's whims to an outrageous extent. The truth is that most providers have these kind of crazy agreements, which means you may be pretty cornered when trying to select a provider that will look after your interests. Just because a provider doesn't have any horror stories like GoDaddy.com's termination of Fyodor's seclists.org domain doesn't mean they're not capable, or that they wouldn't buckle in a nanosecond if an attorney waved gracefully to them on the street. Given the incredibly poor terms of service agreements that form the industry standard, it is hardly surprising.

In the end, I decided to stay with Joker.com, specifically because their terms of service agreement is one of the most fair and balanced agreements I've ever seen. If I were Joker, I'd promote the agreement as a feature of being their customer. I'd personally pay a premium for a terms of service agreement, written in plain English, that declares the only reasons a provider can terminate service and is contractually binding on both parties.

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