[conspire] Care and feeding of domain registrars

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Mar 31 15:20:51 PST 2005

Even though my domain registration (linuxmafia.com) won't expire for
another 15 months (July 2006), I've just sent a renewal -- to tack on
_four_ more years -- along with a nice personal note to my domains guy.
If you own domains, consider doing likewise.

You might wonder why.  So, I'll explain.

A bunch of volunteers I know in... some other state put on a 100%
fan-run, multiday science fiction convention each year -- one rather
like BayCon, the one held in San Jose every Memorial Day weekend.  Doing
this requires a lot of equipment:  display panels for the art show,
computers and printers, cash boxes, lots of paperwork, tables, chairs,
supplies of all sorts.  For 11 months of each year, that stuff went a
rented storage locker.

They got in the habit of paying each year's storage rental minimally as
the bill came up.  This past year, they somehow forgot to pay and didn't
heed the warning notice that their rental was going to expire.  The
rental outfit then emptied their locker and auctioned off its contents
to strangers at pennies on the dollar.  The volunteers are now shy by
many thousands of dollars' worth of essential gear -- just because
someone missed a payment.

The rental outfit wasn't motivated to give them a break -- e.g.,
telephone them up on expiration day and give them a chance to hustle
down with a cheque, because they were just here-today-gone-tomorrow 

BayCon has a storage locker.  Rental fees for it are kept paid up for
many years in advance.  The firm loves BayCon (it being a reliable,
no-hassle customer), and probably _would_ give it a break, if there were
a problem.

The domain registration business tends to be a low-profit, high-volume 
industry.  Firms that stay in it tend to either change $45 and up per
year and promise (and sometimes deliver) personal service or are heavily
automated and basically self-service.  Price pressure is intense, in
part because a lot of us techies are cheap bastards who resent having to
pay annual tolls to support an artificial monopoly.

Cheap bastards (and I certainly admit to being one) tend to hop around
registrars trying to find the cheapest, and then resist sending in
renewal money until just before expiration.  If the renewal then appears
to hit a snag, we suddenly want personal service to "deal with the
emergency", regardless of how little we pay.

The registrars know this.  They tend to get a little tired of
"emergencies" from people who wait until the last moment.  Do that, and
you'll probably get treated like those convention folks who didn't get
any telephone call before their gear was auctioned off.

Thus my strategy.  

My domain registrar is an OpenSRS reseller.  He doesn't really want more
business; he can't possibly make money at commodity domain rates anyway,
and (like OpenSRS resellers generally) basically does it as a favour to 
consulting clients, and friends, to the extent that it's not a huge
hassle to do it.

One way to telegraph that you're not going to be a high-stress customer
is to be self-sufficient, send the guy pleasant, appreciative notes on
occasion, and pay well in advance. 

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