This is one of the most prevalent scams in the web hosting industry; get a free domain name with your hosting package. Where’s the scam in that? Isn’t that a bonus?!
Before you think I’ve gone mad, allow me to clarify. It is a good freebie provided the domain is registered under your name. I’ve seen a lot of hosting companies who registered customers’ domains under the company’s name.
What’s so bad about this? Glad you asked! In the event that you want to switch hosting providers, you might find yourself entangled in a complicated situation:
- In order to change hosting providers, you need to change the DNS server and MX settings for your domain
- You find yourself confused about these things since you haven’t had to do all this with your current or previous web hosting provider (the one that so-called gave you the “free” domain)
There are three possible outcomes in this scenario:
- The hosting provider plays fair and hands over domain ownership to you
- The hosting provider refuses to hand over the domain to you
- The hosting provider no longer operates (eg. gone bankrupt, was actually ran as an “experiment” in making money online by a 12 year old kid with a reseller account, was shut down for any other reasons, etc) and your domain is left to expire
The first one is of course how things should be. Professional web hosting companies should have no problems doing this.
The second possible outcome is very bad indeed. This is a telltale sign that you’ve signed with a web hosting provider from hell! Not only is the service bad (why else would you want to move away from them in the first place), but they’re also stealing what’s rightfully yours.
As for the third possible outcome, this can even be worse. If the domain registrar marks the domain for deletion, you can only re-register the domain name after roughly 30 days, if you’re lucky!
In case you’re wondering what lucky means in this context, let me explain. Domains are big business. You’ve probably heard about the recent $1 million purchase price of Topix.com. Some people speculate on the potential worth of a domain name in hope to make a quick buck by reselling it at higher prices.
Some people really want to make use of a domain name for their own purposes, and some purposely target expired domains that have high PageRank or some other search engine ranking values.
To make it worse, many domain speculators (sometimes referred to as domain squatters or domain blackmailers) use automated programs that grabs expired domains as soon as it is available for registration. Needless to say, normal human beings have almost 0% chance in beating these programs!
You can find out who really owns a domain by using a whois service. I recommend Domain Tools because of its nice user interface and detailed reports. However, it has a daily lookup limit based on IP, if I’m not mistaken.
You can also find out if your web hosting company is an accredited domain registrar by following the relevant links in this page. If they’re not in the list, then chances are, the company is merely a reseller. Worse still, they might register your “free” domain under their name with a real domain registrar!
Be careful of who you purchase a domain name from. You might never get it back if you don’t really own it!