November 1, 2016

Do You Own Your Domain?


For Sale By Owner - Or Not

What would you think if one day you found out that after years of paying your mortgage, the title of your house was in someone else’s name?

Unfortunately, this is a common scenario with websites and domain names.

Like your home, your domain name and your website are assets. They have value.

The Top 10 Most Expensive Domain Names of All Time Are:

  1. $345,000,000 according to WSJ
  2. $35,600,000*
  3. $35,000,000*
  4. $35,100,000*
  5. $18,000,000*
  6. $16,000,000*
  7. $13,000,000*
  8. ~$11,000,000*
  9. $9,999,950*
  10. $9,500,000*
  11. *According to Business Insider

Every domain name has several contacts:
Registrant: The legal owner of the domain. This can be both a person and a company/organization
Administrative Contact: This is the non-technical contact. this should always be the client and never the web designer. this is the contact used for authorizing things like transferring the domain to a different hosting company
Technical Contact: This should be the designer or CTO
Billing Contact: The person who pays the bills.

Screenshot explaining WHOIS

Web designers often register domain names for their clients and, out of ignorance, register them in their own names instead of those of their clients.

You can easily check who owns your domain and if your domain is registered with the appropriate contacts by running a WHOIS check. WHOIS will display all the publicly accessible records. (Note: If your domain has been registered as a “private” domain, these records will be hidden and it is more complicated to check this.)

To run a WHOIS on your domain name, just go to

In addition to the contact information, it is also important to know where your domain is registered. Domains are registered at “Registrars.” Most registrars have accounts for their clients. Client can hold multiple domains registered to multiple owners in one account. For instance J-Town Internet Services Ltd. Has one registrar account at one registrar. Within this account we register our clients’ domains. Each domain is registered with each respective client as the registrant and the administrative contact attached to that particular domain.

What Do You Do If Your Domain Name Is Not Registered To You?

To transfer the domain to you, the easiest thing to do is to ask the person to whom it is registered to transfer it. They can usually do this relatively easily through the account they have with the domain registrar through which the domain is registered.

If the person to whom the domain is registered is unavailable, you may contact the domain’s registrar (The place where it is registered) and start a process to try to transfer it to you. This information is in the WHOIS record. Taking this road will generally involve sending documentation and may even involve legal action against the registered owner.

What Do You Do If Your Domain Name Is Not Accessible To You?

Even if the domain is registered in your name according to the WHOIS record, you may not have access to it because it may not be in your account at a registrar. In this case you will need to contact the registrar and prove you are who you are (the registrant according to the WHOIS record). Then (hopefully) they will transfer it to a new account which they will open in your name.

This is more common than you would think. GoDaddy has a special form just for this purpose which you can access here.

If you need help sorting out ownership of a domain – or a bunch of domains – feel free to contact us.

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