Changing domains? Check out these 3 cheap registrars

How to get or change your domain for $10 a year or less

If you haven't looked into the domain registrar market in the past year, you may have missed some big changes.

Competition for domain registration dollars is so fierce that well-established companies have thrown in lots of freebies -- including free Google Apps or templates to help create a starter Web site -- to lure customers. Of the top ten fastest growing registrars (according to domain market research site RegistrarStats), three -- GoDaddy, 1&1 Internet and Name.com -- now charge around ten dollars per year for domain registration, and throw in a grab-bag of bonus features to sweeten the pot.

These three services register names in all the usual domain spaces, from standard .coms, .nets. and .orgs to the content-descriptive domains .info, .biz and .name, and modified country codes such as .tv and .me. They also provide hosting packages and offer an upgrade path if you need more robust hosting options.

Supplying the basics

The three registrars we looked at are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which certifies that their systems are compliant and that they are held accountable.

Each provides at least one e-mail address at your domain that can be tapped via Web mail or a POP or IMAP e-mail client like Outlook or Thunderbird. They also all provide the option of setting up e-mail aliases -- forwarding addresses that redirect mail from your domain to an existing e-mail box elsewhere.

You can also set up a basic Web presence at your domain. You could put together a few template-based pages to be hosted at the registrar's servers, or set up domain forwarding to redirect Web browsers to a page you've already set up (your blog or social networking site, for example).

If you're already established at another registrar -- say, Network Solutions or Register.com -- don't assume you have to stay with them. Registrars must release domains for transfer if the registrant requests it and the transfer process is established and secure (see "Domain transfer 101" for step-by-step details).

The registrars also provide technical support via FAQ, e-mail, and even telephone. And for those who believe in safety in numbers, they each administer the registration records of millions of domains.

The base services from the three registrars we looked at all cost about the same. There's a spread of only a couple of dollars per year in registration fees between 1&1 Internet and Name.com (both with base prices of $8.99) and the marginally more expensive GoDaddy ($10.79) -- and that difference is often eroded by special-offer pricing.

What really makes the registrar selection decision is the match between the features they offer and the features you want. And there's some variety there. We decided to look at what approximately ten bucks can buy you from a domain registrar these days. And it's surprising.

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