A registrar has direct relationships with domain name registries and is authorized to sell domain names. In order to become a registrar, one has to be accredited through ICANN, which requires that they meet certain business and technical requirements.
See our list of registrars.
- Accredited Registrar: A Registrar that has been certified as meeting certain minimum criteria to act as a Registrar for a specific TLD. This term is almost solely used when referring to Registrars that have been certified by ICANN. ccTLD Registries also accredit registrars through a separate process, however though they may use differing terms, the concepts are largely the same.
- Sponsoring Registrar: The Registrar responsible for the submission of the domain name to the Registry.
- Registrar Operator: A term used to denote the entity providing the technical services to a Registrar in support of their registration services. Also referred to as a "Registrar Outsourcer" or "Registrar Provider".
NSI Cooperative Agreement & the SRS
From 1993 to 1998, Network Solutions (NSI) was the only Registrar and Registry Operator for the .com, .net and .org top level domain names (TLDs), based on a Cooperative Agreement between NSI and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Department of Commerce (DOC) extended and amended the Cooperative Agreement with NSI when the contract expired in 1998. Under the new Cooperative Agreement, NSI would continue to serve as a Registry Operator, but would implement a Shared Registry System (SRS) by June 1, 1999, meaning that multiple registrars could be accredited by a new non-profit organization that was to be created to take over the technical management of the DNS. Five new registrars were to be chosen by the new corporation to test the SRS. The Agreement was modified twice in order to adjust the date of the deployment of the SRS from June 1 to June 25, 1999, to include a registration fee for new domain names ($9 for one year and $18 for two years), and to include the Registrar License Agreement.
ICANN's Registrar Accreditation Policy
On November 1998, the DOC officially recognized ICANN as the new private, non-profit organization responsible in administering the technical management of DNS. Some of its responsibilities would include supervision of the deployment and transition to SRS, development and implementation procedures for registrar accreditation that would ensure a competitive registration system, and to maintain the stability and security of the internet.
On March 4, 1999, the ICANN Board adopted the Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy for the .com, .net and .org TLDs. Under the policy, registrars seeking to participate in the SRS Testbed Program would be required to pay $2,500, while all other registrar applicants would pay $1,000. Applicants that were not selected for the test bed would be considered for regular accreditation.
Participants for the SRS Testbed Program
ICANN accepted applicantions for the SRS Testbed Program from March 11 to April 8, 1999. On April 21, 1999, ICANN announced that the following five registrars had been selected to participate in the testbed:
- America Online (AOL)
- CORE (Internet Council of Registrars)
- France Telecom/Oléane
- Melbourne IT
In addition, ICANN also announced the names of 29 additional companies that would receive accreditation after the completion of the SRS Testbed Program. The testbed ended on November 30, 1999. The List of Businesses to be Accredited as Post-Testbed Registrars is available here.
ICANN has continued to accept applications for registrar accreditation since then. Here is a complete list of existing ICANN Accredited Registrars.
The Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)
ICANN implemented a new version of Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) on March 17, 2001 effective until March 21, 2009. A new revision was again introduced on March 21, 2009 with 17 amendments. Some of the revisions include:
- improved enforcement tools to ensure full compliance with the ICANN contract and policies
- expansion of requirements for reseller agreements
- additional requirements for audit and data escrow
- additional requirements to ensure precise contact information
- new notice requirements
- provisions for termination
Read the 2013 RAA.
Registry and Registrar
When the U.S. Department of Commerce amended Network Solutions' (NSI) cooperative agreement and implemented the Shared Registry System (SRS), the DOC also put a condition on the renewal of NSI's contract: the company would be able to automatically renew its contract for another four years as long as it separated its registry and registrar businesses. This was done in order to promote more competition in the domain space.
In 2000, Verisign purchased Network Solutions for $16 billion. Verisign decided to sell the registrar business to Pivotal Private for $100 million in order to concentrate on its new registry business. This move enabled Verisign to re-negotiate its registry agreement with ICANN. On April 16, 2001, a Revised Registry Agreement for .com, .net and .org was adopted. Number 23 (C) Fair Treatment of ICANN-Accredited Registrars on the revised agreement stipulated, "Registry Operator shall not act as a registrar with respect to the Registry TLD. This shall not preclude Registry Operator from registering names within the domain of the Registry TLD in compliance with Section 24. This also shall not preclude an affiliate (including wholly-owned subsidiaries) of Registry Operator from acting as a registrar with respect to the Registry TLD, provided that Registry Operator complies with the provisions of Subsection 23(E)." Sub-section E also stated that Registry Operators must ensure that their assets and revenues would not be utilized to advance the interests of their affiliate registrars against other accredited competitor registrars.
The separation of ownership, or vertical separation, was also implemented to all un-sponsored TLD registry operators to maintain registrar competition.
ICANN's Policy Change on Vertical Separation
On November 5, 2010, the ICANN Board passed a resolution allowing the removal of registry-registrar cross-ownership restriction for existing and new gTLDs. Further explanation on this issue, vertical integration, is available here.
ICANN maintains Registrar Contact Information Database, called RADAR, that Registrars can log into to perform Domain Name transfers and other functions.
On 29 May 2014, ICANN announced that a security breach had occurred and RADAR would be taken offline until a review was conducted. Registrar's passwords, usernames, and email addresses may have been accessed. ICANN stated that they had no evidence unauthorized logins had occurred but was resetting all Registrar passwords as precautionary measure. ICANN stated the database will be offline for at least two weeks while the organization conducts a security audit of RADAR and other ICANN processes.
- Registrar Definition
- A Brief History of NSF and the Internet
- Special Award Conditions NCR-9218742 Amendment No. 11
- Amendment Number 12
- Amendment Number 13
- Registrar Accreditation: History of the Shared Registry System
- Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy
- ICANN Names Competitive Domain-Name Registrars
- Registrar Accreditation: History of the Shared Registry System
- ICANN-NSI Registry Agreement
- VeriSign selling domain registrar business
- Revised VeriSign .com Registry Agreement, 16 April 2001
- Proposed Unsponsored TLD Agreement, 26 February 2001
- Special Meeting of the ICANN Board of Directors
- RADAR announcement 28 May 2014 Retrieved 29 May 2014
- ICANN Registrar Database Hacked, DomainIncite Retrieved 29 May 2014
- RADAR to be down at least two weeks, DomainIncite Retrieved 30 May 2014