I received a notice about renewing my domain name... What do I do?

Your domain name is a valuable asset. If you are marketing your business effectively, your domain name appears everywhere your phone number and address appear... on your business cards, stationery, Yellow Pages ad, etc. You spent a lot of time, energy, and money marketing your domain name, right? So the last thing you want to have happen is to have your registration lapse, freeing up your domain name for someone else (possibly your competitors?) to register and use it as their own. So, of course you want to make sure that your domain name registration remains current.

There are several companies in the world that handle domain name registrations. These companies (referred to as "registrars") offer you the opportunity to register a domain name so that you can use it as your website address. In order to register a name, you must do so through an accredited registrar. Until recently, Network Solutions was the only accredited registrar. However, ICANN, the governing body in such matters, opened up domain name registration to competition in 1999, and now there are literally thousands of registrars who would like you to register your name through them.  (An appropriate analogy would be the case of AT&T. Several years ago, AT&T lost their monopoly on long distance telephone service and other providers such as MCI and Sprint entered the scene, giving customers a choice of plans and prices)

This deregulation leads to the possibility of unscrupulousness. Much like the long distance carriers, these competing registrars want nothing more than to convince you to switch your registration from your existing registrar to them, offering lower prices, etc. There have been two disturbing trends in recent months. While they are both legitimate on the surface, they are potentially misleading to you, the domain name owner. If you get one of the following notices, please make sure you know what you are agreeing to before you commit to anything.

Domain name "slamming" - You receive an official looking bill notifying you that your domain name registration will be up for renewal shortly. By paying the renewal fee you retain your name for another year (or varying period of time). Upon reading the fine print, what you will find is that you are authorizing the transfer of your domain name from your existing registrar to a different one. If you are presented with this opportunity, research the potential new registrar to make sure that they are accredited and will service you in the manner that you require.

False competition - You receive notification, usually through e-mail, that since you are listed as the owner of the domain name "www.yourdomainname.com", you are being notified that someone, possibly your competitor, is in the process of "stealing your identity" by registering the domain name "www.yourdomainname.net" or "www.yourdomainname.ws" or something similar. Of course, since you had the dot com name first, they feel obligated to offer you the new name first so that you can protect your identity. The reality is that no registrar has the authority to offer this kind of deal. More likely, they checked to see who owned the dot com name (you) and are hoping to make a quick buck by scaring you into buying additional names. In truth, there is no "competitor" about to buy the name. Of course, there is no harm in securing additional domain names, but if it is presented to you in this way it is most likely a scam.

February 1, 2001

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