A domain name registrar is a company accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and/or by a national ccTLD authority to register Internet domain names. These "retail" companies are often distinct from the "wholesale" domain name registry operator.
A domain name registrar is an intermediary between a domain name registry and someone who wishes to obtain a unique domain name for its website. For example, a firm could employ the services of a registrar to help the firm choose the registry best suited to its demands and register the client's domain name and IP number with the chosen registry.
Registrars collect contact information from the registrants and make the information publicly available on the Internet through a service known as Whois. Although registrants are required to provide accurate contact information during the domain name registration process, they may supply false or incomplete information in order to hide their identities or to shield themselves from being contacted by members of the public.
ICANN has authority over gTLDs, or generic top-level domains. Examples of gTLDs include .com, .net, .org and .mobi. ICANN does not have authority over ccTLDs, or Country-code top-level domains, though it is quite common for domain name registrars to offer ccTLD registration services as well. Most registrars provide DNS hosting service, but this is not required, and is often considered a separate service.
In some domains (some country codes and gTLDs for example), the same organization acts as the domain name registry and domain name registrar for names in the domain. There is no middle organization that registers names on behalf of the domain holder.
Registrar contact information and descriptions are available at http://www.icann.org/registrars/accreditation-qualified-list.html.
Until 1999, there was no Shared Registration System (SRS). Network Solutions (NSI) operated the .com, .net, and .org registries, and was the de jure registrar and domain name registry operator. However, several companies had set up as de facto registrars, including NetNames, who invented the idea of a commercial standalone domain name registration service in 1996. Registrars formed another link in the food chain, introducing the concept of domain name sales, effectively introducing the wholesale model into the industry. NSI followed suit, forcing the issue of separation of registry and registrar.
In October 1998, following pressure from the growing domain name registration business and other interested parties, NSI's agreement with the United States Department of Commerce was amended, requiring the creation of an SRS that supported multiple registrars. The SRS officially opened on November 30, 1999 under the supervision of ICANN, though there had been several testbed registrars using the system since March 11, 1999. Since then, over 500 registrars have entered the market for domain name registration services.
An end-user registers either directly with a registrar, or indirectly through one or more layers of resellers. The maximum period of registration is generally 10 years ahead. Some registrars offer longer periods, up to one hundred years, but such services are implemented internally, by promising to renew annually, not in the official registration database. Some packages of services, such as web hosting, include the domain registration in the total package pricing.
How a registrar works
When a registrar receives the user’s registration request, the registrar verifies that the domain name is available by checking with the registry that manages the corresponding TLD (or sub-domain under the TLD). If the domain name is available, the registrar registers the name with the appropriate registry. The registry then adds the new name to its database and publishes the new name in DNS.
In some domains (some country codes and gTLDs for example), the same organization acts as the registry and registrar for names in the domain. There is no middle organization that registers names on behalf of the domain holder.
Organizations that register and obtain an enterprise-level domain name often have to create child domains to properly identify Internet resources associated with various functional units. For example, the owner of the domain name example.com might create the subdomain shipping to create and identify resources associated with the shipping department of the organization. Similarly, many other subdomains (in this context, third-level domains) may be created to properly identify all of the Internet resources of the organization. Often, however, in any one organization (that is, the owner of a second-level domain) there will be many third-level domains but few Internet resources (Web servers, application servers, etc.) in each of these domains. Hence, it is not economical to assign a unique name server for each of these third-level and lower-level domains. Furthermore, it is administratively convenient to group all information pertaining to an organization’s primary domain (i.e., a second-level or enterprise-level domain) and all its subdomains into a single resource and manage it as a unit.
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