I used to blog a good bit about domain names and registrars and such, but I haven’t done so much recently because in general life has settled down in that area.
A long time ago I recommended eNom as my preferred domain name registrar because they were relatively small and they had a great support department that it was possible to talk to at any time when you had problems. That was before they were a part of DemandMedia, which in my opinion is about as evil as Network Solutions. eNom has become bloated, costly and a haven for bad resellers and bad reseller support. eNom does not protect its customers in any way. I have heard many reports in domain forums regarding the awful way that customers of resellers get treated when something happens to their domains (such as a reseller changing the “owner” info to their own).
I used to be an eNom reseller. I was drawn in initially by good prices on domain names provided by being a member of the reseller program. At the time I was accidentally made a reseller because only resellers could add funds to their accounts by using a check and at the time I was not of age to have any sort of credit or debit card. This is an instance where the “accident” was eNom overlooking their own policies in an effort to help me out, to allow me to do what I needed to do to be a functional member of their system. I stayed with eNom for a long time, from December 2000 until October 2011. In October 2011 I became frustrated with some of the changes to the way domains were managed and with the increasing prices of domains (or more accurately, my diminishing discount).
Before eNom I was with Network Solutions and then GoDaddy. Network Solutions was always overpriced. GoDaddy always seemed a little too incompetent. From those two options, eNom was amazing at the time. Recently however, some of my opinions have changed, a lot. I used to believe that Network Solutions was simply overpriced, but was overall trustable, since they were the direct successor to InterNIC. My feelings are now that not only is Network Solutions overpriced, but they are also unable to be trusted. Just for fun I registered a domain with Network Solutions in their $0.50 domain promotion. I could not believe the amount of up-selling and junk mail that came to my inbox as a result. Also their domain management interface is difficult to use and their methods of assigning contacts is backward (or perhaps “legacy” would be a better way to state it). You have to create each “contact” before you can assign them to a domain, just like back in the early days when every person was assigned a “NIC Handle” (I was CMK72) by the registry (this was before the thin-registry model, so it was all one registry). I would not want to manage a domain name portfolio with them.
GoDaddy… what can I say about their changes? Well, when I was using GoDaddy for a little while they were not as misogynistic or sexualized as they are now. No race car drivers of superbowl ads. Fortunately that’s where the negative changes seem to stop. Off and on I still use GoDaddy for single-domain registrations or situations where they can give me a better initial price than OpenSRS. I have heard a few negative things regarding their transfer-out process, but as far as I can tell, that has not been an issue recently. I can get my EPP keys by myself, even before the transfer window is open. They do enforce ICANN’s 60-day hold, which is often a complaint of many GD customers. I believe the issue there is that GoDaddy makes the transfer date visible in the panel, even though others do not. GoDaddy’s management panel can be a bit cumbersome at times, but in general makes managing multiple domains very easy. I personally, as a total DNS geek, love the fact that if you are using their DNS servers you can download a copy of the Zone file. Even for domains not on their DNS they have a great diagnostic system that may help resolve a lot of beginner mistakes with domains.
My absolute worst domain registrar experience was Register.com. They practically held my domain name hostage and would not issue me an EPP (domain transfer key) without an escalation to their compliance department and multiple forms of identification, which is a violation of ICANN’s policies on transfers. I had to invoke that policy and contact ICANN’s compliance office to have the policy enforced before the domain was released to me. While I could go into the domain and edit my DNS servers as much as I wanted (a normal procedure), requesting my EPP key required further validation, which by ICANN Uniform Transfer policy is a violation of the domain owner’s rights. I think their case was simply that they wanted to verify that I was the owner, even though my EPP request came from the same IP as my initial registration.
Currently the registrar I use on a daily basis is OpenSRS. Just like with eNom, I am a reseller with OpenSRS. In October 2011 I was lured into trying OpenSRS by a discount on their registration fee. I had been aware of OpenSRS for a while, but I always thought of it as some elite club for people with 10,000 domains under their control, or “serious domainers”. Turns out its open to anyone who will pay their registration fee. At first this sounds sort of pretentious, but it really isn’t. All domain costs in OpenSRS are the base registry fee + $3.00 + ICANN tax ($0.18). The worst feature of OpenSRS is the control panel where all of the serious features (not the day-to-day features) are located looks like it was written in 1999. It isn’t sleek, it isn’t cool, it isn’t even that functional sometimes, but its for those little tasks you only need to do once in a while, such as registering DNS servers in a foreign registry or canceling (refunding) a domain. The newer management panel which OpenSRS is working to make feature-complete is really nice, kind of sleek and has features that make managing many domains a breeze. It works as well for 5 domains as it does for 5000 domains. Other than the $95 registration fee to join, OpenSRS is a great registrar to be with.
If you have 5 or more domains, I might suggest OpenSRS as a good place to start. There is a fee to become a reseller, but it will pay for itself in the first few domains. If you are just managing one or two domains (or have no idea what you are doing) I would suggest GoDaddy.
As a third option, if you want me to manage your domain, you can register it through http://domains.pcfire.net and it will be registered through OpenSRS under my purview. Even though the domains registered there are under my administrative authority, the domain is registered to the actual registrant and the registrant retains control of the domain through the management panel. Also, I promise to take good care of any domain under my control.