What Is Private Domain Registration and Do I Need It?Posted: October 16, 2011
I see the subject of private domain registration come up a lot. Usually people are asking whether it actually works, why it costs so much at certain registrars and so on. Some people feel it’s absolutely necessary for numerous reasons and others feel it’s either not worth the money, not necessary, or is bad to do.
What is private domain registration?
When you register a domain without private registration, you are expected to keep accurate contact details for yourself or your company on the domain’s whois record. This record is public and can be accessed by anyone.
When you register a domain with private registration, you use a 3rd party service called a proxy service that will put their contact details on the domain. The email address will generally forward to you or go to the proxy service who will forward any email received to you. Similarly, they would let you know about any phone calls or emails received regarding your domain.
The main purpose of private registration is that your contact details do not show publicly for anyone looking up the whois record on the domain.
Why might you need private registration?
1. To prevent people from knowing you own the domain
One of the recent news trends that has ramped up in recent years are the rumors surrounding new registrations by certain companies. A tech news blog might see that Apple registered some new iPhone related domains and speculate on whether those registrations may mean a new iPhone is coming out. These stories could lead to untrue or possibly true rumors about a rebranding, new product, new service or new promotion coming up that you would rather not be made public.
Additionally, if you are planning on starting a new business on the domain, your contact information may give away that you are a serious registrant planning on building a major site, and could lead to domain speculation on typos, misspellings and other variations of your domain.
2. To prevent unwanted spam
Unfortunately, with whois records being public and email addresses often being easy to harvest from them, many spammers and scammers collect email addresses and spam the owner regarding the domain or something completely unrelated. While private registration may not stop this completely, it does prevent those spammers from getting your name, address and phone number and they are less likely to add a proxy service email to a list of email addresses to spam.
3. May guide visitors or customers to contact you through proper channels on your website instead
Sometimes when there are problems or urgent matters that a visitor or customer of your website wants answered or resolved immediately, they might go to the whois record for the domain to try and reach the business owner. This may cause some unwanted contact direct to you that would be better going to a support team or sales department. Putting up private registration strongly deters that contact medium and may keep those contacts coming through your website through proper channels.
Why might you not want to get private registration?
1. Can be seen as shady or otherwise untrustworthy
As a business or entrepreneur, you always want to maintain the highest level of trust and rapport. For new visitors to your site, the best you can hope for is to convey a trustful image on your website and wherever else they may look. Unfortunately almost every scam and spam site uses private registration to hide from the law, so visitors may see private registration and subconsciously attach those attributes to your site.
2. May prevent some legitimate business contacts
While not a common practice, someone trying to reach a decision maker at a particular company may get the idea to contact the owner of the domain on whois. Someone interested in buying a domain would also likely contact the registrant showing on whois to express their interest and/or put forth an offer. Private registration discourages this contact, which may cause it to not happen at all.
3. Costs money, which can add up if using it on hundreds of domain names
Almost every domain registrar charges for whois privacy – if not for the first year, they typically charge for every year thereafter. At some registrars it can be as much as $8-$15 per domain per year, which costs as much as registration fees themselves at some registrars. While this isn’t a serious expense if you only use a couple domains, get into the hundreds and you’re looking at possibly thousands of dollars per year to simply keep your contact information from showing on your domains.
Are there alternatives to private registration?
If you’re a company with a tech department or a support team and you designate at least one person on it to look after your domains, you can put a general support or webmaster contact on the domain. You would have your own company details on it, but you would not directly have to deal with any contact coming from the whois records and your own contact details not being on it may stop a lot of spam and contact you don’t want.
Also, rather than get it on all of your domains, you can get private on one of your domains and use that domain as a proxy service for your other domains. This may involve setting up another phone number and a PO Box as well to completely shield you or your company’s contact information. While this wouldn’t be recommended if you only have a few domains, with hundreds or thousands of them, it could save you thousands of dollars per year.
So is private registration something you may need? It depends on how major you find the benefits to be and whether it’s worth the downsides. It’s definitely not for all businesses and entrepreneurs, but it can help you avoid some unwanted contact and maintain some privacy in your online ventures if you want it.