Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the sad state of domain registrars

My first business, started when I was 17, was an ISP - run out of my bedroom with a Portmaster and Redhat servers. I offered some unused bandwidth for a Tucows mirror and was later offered to join their pilot OpenSRS program.

Of course, there's many OpenSRS resellers today. Anyone paying a nominal fee can get setup to sell $10/year domain names purchased as bulk domain credits from OpenSRS. It's a great service that has really opened up hosting and registration for small businesses.

When was registered, I went with an OpenSRS reseller called IPower who was advertising domain registration at only a small margin above cost. The first trouble we ran into was, while the credit card was charged and control panel access granted, the registrations didn't actually get done on OpenSRS. It took 3+ hours on the phone with a tech support rep who finally had to re-create the accounts to get the registrations through their flaky system.

Their control panel was made of a series of icons, appearing to have been made using Windows Paint, with almost all of them not working because I wasn't getting hosting from them. After quite awhile of clicking into poorly named icons I found that it would not allow me to update the nameservers, but would allow me to setup custom zone files on their nameservers - with a limited number of subdomains.

Now I will say, this has been working mostly trouble-free since 2006. Last year my former partner, who was paying for these domains on his credit card, elected to remove his card from the account and we disabled auto-renewal. This year their notices for renewal ended up in my spam folder, and they ignored or reset the auto-renew settings, charging his card once again. He calls them, where they set him up as the authorized contact (note, his name only appears as the credit card owner which was removed a year prior, he is none of the domain contacts) in the agreement that he chooses not to challenge their illegal charges to his card and they agree to remove his card from the accounts. In short, it wasn't worth $30 to fight it.

Now, everything is amicable between us, but their willingness to add someone to my account without contacting me is a bit frightening. In checking my spam folder this morning I noticed some new emails from them stating that they would now also be charging $8.99 per domain for domain privacy, which was previously free and which payment was never agreed to, unless I opted-out by tomorrow.

Of course, calling them wouldn't be so easy, after three attempts to contact billing only to get put on hold for ~10 minutes each only to get dead air and a "click". After speaking to several reps, who all demanded the security code set by my former partner when he called (which I don't have) and over an hour struggling to get their control panel to give me new passwords, I finally get a security code set for one of the reps to speak to me. His tells me "a specialist" will get back to me about removing domain privacy.

I am very tired of this, and the truth is this only slightly worse than my experience with most domain registrars. I'm going to do what I should have done in 2006, near the end of the registration periods of all my domains I'm just going to transfer them to my own OpenSRS reseller account and pay the flat $10/year.

I'll extend this to any other free software project managers out there, if you're tired of dealing with crap like what I've gone through with IPower, I'll give you at-cost pricing on your domains. If your site is Python-powered (WSGI) I'll throw in hosting for a beer next time you see me.

My email address is my full name

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