U-C WEBS' founder Nardo KuitertBy Nardo Kuitert, U-C WEBS
[Published in The Wellington Advertiser, January 2012 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce]

It has happened several times that I had to tell a client or a prospect that they did not own their own domain name. Yes, sometimes you THINK you own your domain name, but your web developer seems to have registered the domain name in THEIR name, not yours.

This is not always malicious – the web developer may not be aware of the fact that they should add you as the domain name registrant. Since they do the registration on your behalf, they enter their own information – effectively registering your domain name to themselves. This does not have to be a problem, but it is not too hard to imagine a few scenarios where this might become one – a problem, that is. Your relationship with the developer may turn sour, for instance, or the developer’s business may go bankrupt or otherwise disappear.

For the web developers who do this intentionally it may have a darker reason: they may want to use it as a tool to keep you on as a client when you decide to leave them. In that case, your domain name is held hostage. And either the developer may not let go of it altogether, or you have to pay a hefty “ransom” to get your domain name transferred to yourself by buying the domain name from them.

These scenarios will leave you without your most precious online asset (or at least: you thought it was yours): your domain name. All that’s left in these situations is to register a new domain name! Or you have to wait until the domain name expires (and the subsequent “grace” or “redemption” period), after which you can re-register it again. But that may take years…

So check the “whois” for your domain, and double check whether your domain name is actually yours. You will find plenty of websites where you can check a website’s whois; just Google “whois”. Your (company’s) name should be the “Registrant” of the domain name. And while you are at it: make sure that all the contact information is still up to date; it would be a shame if the renewal notices were sent to an email address that is no longer in use.

Be sure to contact your website developer if you have any questions or when you can’t find out who the real owner of your domain is (it may be a “private” registration); if you still have a good working relationship he or she will be happy to look this up for you and send you some screenshots to calm your mind.

Do it now. It is better to get things in order before problems arise, and make sure that you actually are the owner of your own domain name!

Nardo Kuitert is an Internet Consultant with Fergus Website Development and Optimization firm U-C WEBS (www.u-cwebs.com). U-C WEBS also offers Internet advertising opportunities on www.ferguspages.com. (link opens in a new window)

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