CloudFlare as a Registrar, Part II

I received notification of early entry to the CloudFlare registrar service. I transferred a domain (this one) for a test drive. My initial impression … pretty awesome!

The process of transferring the domain was less time consuming and onerous than I expected. It required actions at both CloudFlare and NameSilo, as well as email. The steps at CloudFlare were a bit confusing, not always clear what was happening or where and when to click, and instructions seemed lacking. I almost gave up a couple of times. But the CF registrar service is in its infancy and I’m sure the user experience will improve. There were several delays while things got sorted out. Overall the process took maybe an hour of work over the course of a couple of days.

And … I think I’m going to really, really like CF as a registrar. In a nutshell, it is the exact opposite of GoDaddy:

  • The CF registrar service is bare bones. The full extent of the CF domain manager (see image) is a small section of the site’s Overview page. That’s it. Just the essentials. Everything I need with nothing extra to get in my way.
  • Absolutely no obnoxious up-selling. Maybe because there is nothing to up-sell.
  • My concerns over extra-cost services appear to be groundless.
    • Whois Privacy is included for free, by default.
    • Two-Factor Authentication is the existing, free service that CF has long offered, and which I already use.
  • As an unexpected bonus, DNSSEC is not only free, but setup automatically if I already was using it.

CF as a registrar has a lot going for it. But, I can think of a couple of good reasons to stick with NameSilo. First, NameSilo is also awesome, has provided me superb service, and is just slightly more expensive than CF. Also, I really like keeping my registrar service separate from all other services. So, I will likely stick with NameSilo for most of my domains. That said, CF as a registrar is absolutely worthy of consideration. If I ever have a need to move on from NameSilo, it gives me great peace of mind to know that CF is waiting patiently as a safety net.

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.

Domain Registrar

I use NameSilo as my domain registrar, and recommend it without reservation. I believe it provides by far the best value among registrars. Not that there is anything horribly wrong with GoDaddy or NameCheap – I’ve used both in the past – or any of the other major registrars. It’s just that with NameSilo I get: Lower cost; free-forever whois privacy; free domain protection; no hidden fees; and no BS marketing games. I am not affiliated with NameSilo, by the way, just a customer. I can’t offer you a coupon or other discount, and if I did you shouldn’t trust me. best value among registrars

As I write this post, GoDaddy is running a special on dot com names for $2.99 each, reduced from their $14.99 regular price. I might be tempted to register with GoDaddy and move later to NameSilo. I select a name and go to checkout. GoDaddy automatically adds Whois Privacy at $7.99/year. Already the drastically discounted GoDaddy price is higher than the NameSilo regular price of $8.99. It gets much worse. To get the $2.99 first year price I have to pre-pay for a second year at the regular price of $14.99. And, just to twist the knife, GoDaddy adds on an ICANN fee, which is already included in the regular NameSilo price. Total for two years:

GoDaddy special sale NameSilo regular price
Domain Registration: $2.99 + $14.99 = $17.98 $8.99 + $8.99 = $17.98
Whois Privacy: $7.99 + $ 7.99 = $15.98 Included
ICANN Fee: $0.18 + $ 0.18 = $ 0.36 Included
Domain Defender: N/A Included
TOTAL: $34.32 $17.98

It still gets worse. When I decide to transfer to NameSilo, I have to deal with the lengthy and burdensome domain transfer process. If I do not get the transfer completed in time, or if I forget to do it, I am stuck paying the much higher GoDaddy prices for another year, while also enduring GoDaddy’s notoriously aggressive up-selling BS.

Under no circumstance would I register a domain name through my hosting provider. Many hosting providers offer a free domain name registration as an incentive to sign up for hosting. In this case free is just not worth it. My domain name is my brand. It is much too important to put at unnecessary risk. If I have issues with my hosting provider – or if they have issues with me – I need to be able to move on to a new provider, without the risk of my domain name being held hostage.

Update 2018-10-27: Interesting. CloudFlare is getting in to the registrar business, promising no-markup pricing with free whois privacy and 2FA. They are rolling out the new service in waves, I am due in mid-November. Switching registrars is a time-consuming pain in the unmentionables, and NameSilo has been awfully good to me, so it would take quite a bit to get me to switch. I may just move a domain there to try it out though.