Does GoDaddy or Bluehost or Any Other Hosting Company Own My Domain Name?
No they do not own your domain name. They are simply the middle-men who facilitate the purchase and registration of your domain name through a domain registry (such as a .com registry) on your behalf. As far as ownership is concerned, technically the registry owns the domain name.
When you purchase and register a domain name, you are registering it under your name or entity, thereby borrowing or leasing it from the registry for your own use. GoDaddy or Bluehost (or insert your hosting company here) has the responsibility of registering the domain on your behalf in a centralised database, maintained by the registry.
You see, the hosting company such as GoDaddy is referred to as the registrar and is in business of making money by doing the leg work in registering the domain name for you.
Enter a domain name you would like to look up the owner of, then select the Lookup button. For example let’s lookup YouTube.com.
The result of the lookup indicates that Google LLC has registered the domain through MarkMonitor Inc, who is the registrar in this case.
If we look even further into the results by selecting Raw Registrar RDAP Response, we’ll notice that the registrant, admin and tech contact information is hidden and managed by the registrar, under domain name privacy protection. This keeps the information under the lid and away from the public eye.
Technically speaking, the owner of the domain name, as we saw earlier, is the domain name registry. We, as users, lease it from the registry through places like GoDaddy who make money from us by facilitating the entire registration process.
Can I Buy a Domain Name Permanently?
No, you cannot buy a domain name permanently. When you purchase and register your domain name, you are doing so in a recurring manner. Typically, you have to renew your registration annually, the cost of which is dependent on the registrar through which the registration is made.
You could however, argue that if you were to automatically renew the registration every year for the rest of your lifetime, that you would technically be the sole owner and thus ‘permanently’ have exclusive possession of the domain name.
Can Domain Names Be Stolen?
Yes, unfortunately, domain names can be stolen. The most common way is through identity theft, whereby the perpetrator poses as the owner of the domain name, and successfully convinces the registrar, such as GoDaddy, to give them access to the registration account.
Stealing the domain name usually involves changing ownership details and/or transferring the domain name over to a different registrar of their choosing.
Another common way of gaining control of your account is through a phishing attack, which usually involves luring the owner of the domain name to provide account credentials on a spoofed login page.
Attacks like above are very sophisticated and difficult to track. One the act has been done, it is almost impossible to reverse.
Is Domain Name Privacy Protection Worth It?
Yes, having privacy protection on your domain name is most definitely worth it, and far outweighs any overhead in putting it place. In fact, the effort of having it installed involves just a flick of a switch, the cost of which is mere pocket money.
The main benefit of having the privacy protection significantly reduces the risk of identity theft, spamming and unwanted solicitors by keeping important information hidden from the public domain. This prevents your personal details from being compromised and ultimately keeping your domain name safe.
Domain name registrars (such as GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hostgator, or Wix) most definitely do not own your domain name. When you purchase a domain name, they register it on your behalf, and you are technically leasing it for a period of time from a registry, which ultimately owns the domain name.
If you want to own or perhaps the most appropriate term is to have exclusivity over the domain name indefinitely or ‘permanently’, you will need to continually renew the domain name registration to avoid expiration.
Of course, owning your domain name comes with its own risks and having appropriate measures put it place can help mitigate those risks. Keeping your contact information private and protected, through domain name privacy protection is the first step to preventing would-be attackers from stealing your identity and ultimately stealing your domain name.