Hi Ashley! So its that time of the year when I have to renew my domain, when I originally bought it I got a fantastic deal on both the domain and private registration by Proxy. Now however I have to pay both full price and was wondering if renewing my domain along with the private registration is worth it? Thanks! 🙂
Hi Kaina! This is a tough question. There are definitely pros and cons to private domain registration. In fact, there are mostly pros until you learn about one little con that might sound scary. So let’s dig in!
The Cons: Your information is made public
Let’s say you don’t buy private registration. You could go to a site like whois.domaintools.com (or one of the thousands of alternatives), put your domain name in the box, click “Search” and see your full name, home address, telephone number, and email address… all right there! This primarily results in you getting a lot more spam emails, but it can also result in spam phone calls and snail mail.
No one likes having all their information on public display like that.
The Pros: Private registration hides these details
When you get private domain registration, you enter into an agreement with your registrar. In exchange for an extra fee (usually about $5 per year extra) they mask your personal details. Instead of using your name, they use their own name or some kind of anonymous organization. This means none of your details are visible and you’re protected from all that unwanted spam!
But who owns your domain?
I’m going to quote a great article called, Dangers of Private Domain Registrations and WHOIS Masking. When you get private registration,
You are no longer the “owner” or your domain name. The domain authorities, like ICANN, define who owns the domain by what is published in WHOIS. They discount any contracts between you and the registrar. Whoever is listed in WHOIS is the domain owner.
You no longer have any rights unless you sue the registrar. If you are not listed in WHOIS, then you have no legal rights to the domain. The only way to assert your rights would be to sue the folks listed in WHOIS and cite whatever contract you have with them in the suit. This may be difficult if they are in a foreign location or, worse, out of business.
When you register a domain name, you’re registering with ICANN. The way they determine who owns a domain name is by checking those WHOIS databases. Whoever is listed as the owner there is the legal owner in their eyes. If you get private domain registration, your name is NOT listed there, which means in the eyes of ICANN you are not the owner of that domain.
Now, in 99% of cases this will never actually be an issue. The registrar isn’t going to steal your domain, you won’t have to mess with ICANN, and you’re not going to get caught up in a legal battle. Usually.
So is private registration worth it?
As I said, legal issues with domain ownership probably won’t be an issue for you. The general rule of thinking is that domain registrars want repeat business. They want to keep making sales. In order to do that, they need to be trustworthy. If they start trying to steal domain names from people and get into legal battles, it’s going to drive customers away. They want you to keep coming back and paying for private registration.
So ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. Are you okay with having your personal information released to the world? Are you okay with getting spam emails, phone calls, and snail mail?
I’d say the best choice is to get a PO box and second email address, then fill out that information when registering a domain name. That way your home address and primary email address aren’t on display, and you don’t have much of a need for private registration. But renting a PO box can be much more expensive than private registration, so it may not be ideal for everyone.