Coming Soon: CloudFlare as a Registrar

For awhile now, CloudFlare has been quietly advertising “coming-soon” no-added-fees registrar services for CloudFlare customers – even those like me on the free tier. According to the sales pitch, CF will charge exactly $0 for this service, adding no fee at all to the Wholesale Registry fee (currently $7.85 for dot com) + the $0.18 ICANN fee. So, CF will register a dot com domain for the bargain annual cost of $8.03.

 

I have been extremely happy with my current registrar, NameSilo. They charge $8.99 per year per dot com, almost a full dollar more than CloudFlare. So, CF is – or will be – a better deal, right? I’m not so sure.

First, transferring domains is a time-consuming and complicated royal pain in the rear. Even for a notorious cheapskate like me, it may not be worth all the hassle to save a buck/domain/year.

Second, I really like the concept of keeping my registrar services separate from other web services. CF is planning to offer registrar services only for domains already on CF – including, very generously, on the free tier. But if I ever decide to move on from CF, I would have to once again endure the time-consuming and complicated process to transfer my domains back to NameSilo. Or, if CF fell out of love with me, they could conceivably hold my domain names hostage. I have no reason to suspect the good people at CF would do such a thing, but it has happened to many domain owners when dealing with less ethical web companies.

Third, there are some troubling ambiguities and seeming contradictions in the CF sales pitch:

  • The sales pitch clearly states … “we promise to never charge you anything more than the wholesale price each TLD charges. That’s true the first year and it’s true every subsequent year. If you register your domain with Cloudflare Registrar you’ll always pay the wholesale price with no markup.”
    • All well and good for the registration fee. What about for associated support services? CF is much more ambiguous. The sales pitch lists the following services – note that only DNSSEC is explicitly listed as free: “Two-factor authentication; Multi-user support; WHOIS management; Automatic domain renewal; Registrar Locking; DNSSEC (free); Bulk Domain Transfers; Developer-friendly API.”
    • Will the other services be free, or $1 each/year, or $10 each/month? Who knows? CF doesn’t say.
    • What is clear is that NameSilo offers most of these services – including: Two-factor authentication; WHOIS management; Automatic domain renewal; Registrar Locking; DNSSEC; and Bulk Domain Transfers – as well as others not mentioned by CF, like Domain Defender and Domain Parking (with my advertisements) – absolutely for free.
  • There is also a disconcerting disconnect between CF’s sales pitch … “we promise to never charge you anything more than the wholesale price each TLD charges”, and the fine-print legal language in their Domain Registration Agreement … “Cloudflare expressly reserves the right to change or modify its prices and fees for the Registrar Services at any time”.

So, I think I’ll stick with NameSilo. For now at least. When CF’s registrar service is actually offered, no longer “coming soon” for an unknown period, I’ll probably move a domain over and try it out, and update this post with my experience.

Update 2019-01-20: I received notification of early entry to the CF registrar service. I transferred a domain (this one) for a test drive. My initial impression … pretty awesome! See CloudFlare as a Registrar, Part II.

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