Welcome to the Domain Name Registrar Challenge Sweet 16. The challenge started with 64 registrars, much like the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament dubbed March Madness. Like that tournament, we’re down to the final 16 registrars, and there will only be one winner.
Before we move on, if you want to see how each registrar got to the sweet sixteen, check out the links below which break down each match-up. If you’re interested on how each registrar was seeded and what inspired me to write about this challenge, check out the article where I introduced the 2020 Best Domain Registrar Challenge.
Bracket: updated bracket
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these registrars. All of these notes are my opinions. My opinions were based upon observations of services as provided on the registrar website.
South Regional Sweet 16
(1) godaddy.com vs (5)openprovider.com
GoDaddy has been making splashes in 2020 by first acquiring Uniregistry and then Neustar’s registry business. However, those were made before tournament rosters were set, so were not counting that for this challenge. But as the self-proclaimed Big Kahuna in Domains since 2001, they may not need these acquisitions to bolster their roster. Godaddy offers a very popular aftermarket at auctions.godaddy.com – as of right now, you have to pay $4.99 per year to be able to bid on expiring or closeout domain auctions. They include an app that was revamped in 2020 to make the auction process a lot better and easier. Let’s not overlook the fact that GoDaddy is not close to being the most affordable or user-friendly registrar. I see posts on twitter daily of people who are frustrated with the UX on GoDaddy’s websites. More, while offering privacy, it’s at a premium, annual fee on each domain.
OpenProvider is not a registrar for GoDaddy to overlook in a march to the championship. Having a CEO who is a domain-name entrepreneur certainly helps OpenProvider stay relevant and provide services to other entrepreneur’s in the space. Not unlike GoDaddy auctions, OpenProvider takes the subscription route to help domain investors buy and accumulate domain names. Ranging from €49-€9,999 ($53.65 – $10,947), they offer at-cost domain registrations, renewals and transfers. A draw-back for new subscribers is their subscriptions run on a calendar year, so join by January first for the best offer. WHOIS privacy is offered at €0.50 per year. They have an easy to follow guide for domain registration if you want to check that out.
At the end of the day, it’s all about what each registrar offers domain investors. OpenProvider fails to offer a marketplace or marketplace integrations, both of which GoDaddy offer. Despite a strong membership model and fair pricing, GoDaddy will move on to the Domain Registrar Challenge Elite Eight.
Final Score: GoDaddy 88, OpenProvider 81
(7) namesilo.com vs (11) porkbun.com
NameSilo currently offers among the best-prices for dot com registrations, including bulk discounts. On top of that, for the domain investors who use domain parking, they offer a nice platform to support that as well. However, to be real, parking is seemingly a dying investment for domainers. What they do offer is cheap domains, easy registrations (that don’t bombard you for other services), and powerful tooling. A service they include is Domain Link, which allows you to “view all of your domains in one place no matter how many registrars you use”. As mentioned their previous challenge, they offer privacy but on a month-by-month basis. They’re not the only registrar to do this, but it really seems like an odd model to me. NameSilo offers a marketplace as well.
Porkbun, on the other hand, offers free privacy for all domain registrations. They also offer a large number of TLDs, at seemingly average cost, though they currently offer some “1st year” promotions. Porkbun does not have a marketplace or other tools for domain investors.
NameSilo comes into the matchup a strong seven seed, and Porkbun’s Cinderella story will end at the sweet sixteen, as they don’t offer the tooling the NameSilo does.
Final Score: NameSilo 100, Porkbun 84
West Regional Sweet 16
(1) domains.google.com vs (13) namespro.ca
Google is one of the world’s largest registrars with more than 4 million active registrations. They offer competitive pricing (dot coms are currently $8.99) and free privacy protection. Outside of a stable platform that offers very good integrations, google doesn’t offer a marketplace, expired auctions, or other investor-centric integrations.
Canadian registrar NamesPro is the lowest remaining seed in the tournament. They got to this challenge by defeating registrars one.com and crazydomains.com, thanks in large part to their transparency. As mentioned in previous challenges, NamesPro offers privacy after a one-time charge of $8.88, which applies to all domains you may have registered there.
From a cost perspective, that’s strike one. Next, comparing the most popular TLD amongst investors, it currently cost nearly $5 more at NamesPro than Google. Both Google and NamesPro offer many TLDs for registration, so that’s not a differentiator. Next, let’s compare customer service. Google is a multi-national corporation – I’m sure they have chat integration and you can call them, but their call centers are most-likely not located in North America, much like their counterpart GoDaddy. For me, however, there is some speculation there. Smaller companies don’t always provide superior customer service.
At the end of the day, though I naturally root for the underdog, Google will barely win this challenge (in triple overtime) based pricing and a more responsive and modern website – but it was very close call here.
Final Score: Google 88, NamesPro 87 3OT
(6) uniregistry.com vs (7) networksolutions.com
Uniregistry’s offerings to domain investors include a robust marketplace and a domain parking service, which can allow domainers to make money by having advertising on their landing page. Their registration prices are currently a couple dollars above the “cost”, leaving them in the competitive range. They do offer a tiered pricing structure, which also benefits domainers. Either way, they do offer free WHOIS privacy to those who value that. And these are just to start!
Network Solutions, as noted in previous challenges, and proclaimed on their website, is the first domain registrar. They offer a light-weight version of a domain marketplace, through their premium domains listing – where they also offer to broker domain names. Through this same interface, they offer the opportunity to bid on expired domains, but this occurs through integration with NameJet. As far as privacy, they offer it for $1.99 per-month-per-domain.
While being the World’s First Registrar certainly gets them bragging rights, Network Solutions offers a lot of added value through various integrations, such as email, hosting and the like. However, these services aren’t the most sought-after services by domain investors. Uniregistry easily fills the void left by Network Solutions, offering many powerful tools for domainers. This is the primary reason Uniregistry is able to pull away and advance to the Elite Eight.
Final Score: Uniregistry 80, Network Solutions 71
East Regional Sweet 16
(2) hover.com vs (3) epik.com
The east regional might be the toughest regional, so it’s a bit of a surprise that the top four seeds remain. Hover is a powerful registrar that best feature is offering volume discounts on renewals, but to get to the Sweet Sixteen, they offer more than just that as they knocked Fabulous and Domain Registry out of the tournament. Now it’s time to tell the difference between those that matter, and those that matter most. While offering .com at $12.99 currently, and free WHOIS privacy, their starting point is not bad. More, they even offer a tiered pricing plan to help those in the domaining industry manage their investments. However, Hover does not offer a marketplace or other tooling that may interest investors to their platform.
Epik has become more and more popular based upon their integrations for domain investors, including perhaps the most robust marketplace for all registrars. One interesting feature they have, similar to offerings by Efty, they allow you to build your very own marketplace. More, they offer a preorders, backorders, and even an escrow service to sell your domains through.
There is much more to expand upon for Epik, but they’ll save their big guns for a later matchup, as they easily knockoff challenger Hover.
Final Score: Epik 112, However 87
(3) hexonet.net vs (8) namebright.com
Hexonet is one of only two registrars in the Sweet 16 that does not use the touted dot com TLD. Hexonet knocked off domaine.fr in the first round and The MetaRegistry in the second round to get their seat at the table. What they offer the domaining industry is a backorder service, featuring a daily .com/.net drop list. They also offer an domain aftermarket. As noted before, I cannot tell if they offer privacy.
NameBright arrived in the Sweet 16 on the heals of defeating the number one seed in the East Regional, NameCheap. Their victory came by putting their marketplace on full display, powered by their at-cost registration. Momentum will do a lot for a team in a tournament, but let’s dig into the facts a bit. Free WHOIS privacy and a free domain history are just two perks this registrar is offering customers. They offer an extremely easy way to transfer domains into NameBright as well. Other registrars should take note, transferring is not always this easy.
While I personally don’t have any domains registered with NameBright, I’m going to say that this will happen soon. I’m extremely impressed with their offerings and transparency. But how exactly do they matchup against Hexonet? +1 on Free WHOIS privacy is awarded to namebright, but Hexonet’s marketplace seems like a slightly more mature model (with Afternic and Sedo integration). Next is pricing, and NameBright again wins this battle. However, NameBright fails to offer a backorder service.
Despite my high-hopes for underdog NameBright, Hexonet is going to win this matchup based on their Sedo and Afternic integration. That integration maybe the most powerful integration offered to domain investors. Despite their higher registration prices, Hexonet advances to the Elite 8.
Final Score: Hexonet 84, NameBright 83
Midwest Regional Sweet 16
(1) dynadot.com vs (4) ud.com
Dynadot is a popular registrar for domain investors, partially due to their outstanding user-interface, ease of use and marketplace. Their aftermarket includes a marketplace, expired domain auction, user auctions and backorder auction. I’ve experienced their great support team as well as their easy-to-use website. They offer extremely competitive pricing (currently $7.99 for the dot com TLD) and combine it with free domain privacy.
United Domains offers .com registrations currently for $20.80 per year, but if you want WHOIS privacy, you’ll have to dig deeper and pay $7.99 per year more. They do not offer a marketplace or other services that may interest investors. Despite defeating Dotster and EasySpace, it appears as if UD didn’t bring enough horses to this race.
This was by far the easiest matchup in the Sweet 16 to be decided. This was a one-sided victory that will allow Dynadot to advance.
Final Score: Dynadot 98, United Domains 77
(10) sav.com vs (11) namepal.com
This matchup features two underdogs, and only one can advance to face Dynadot in the Elite 8. Defeating two-seed Name.com and DomainsOnly in the first two rounds, Sav offers a backordering service as well as an auction platform, in addition to free WHOIS privacy and astonishingly low price of $6.95 for a .com domain.
NamePal arrived to this matchup by defeating Directnic and 101Domain, powered by their expired and closeout domain auction platform. NamePal also offers free WHOIS privacy, with current registrations being offered at $8.99 for the .com TLD.
While Sav will earn points for their extremely good pricing, they also topple NamePal by offering a true marketplace auction, which features (in my estimation) better filtering and searching mechanisms. Like NameBright above, knocking off a top-seed does not punch your ticket to the next round.
Final Score: Sav 93, NamePal 90
That wraps up Domain Name Registrar Challenge Sweet 16 and all the Regional brackets. The final eight registrars will be headed to the Elite Eight in San Antonio, Texas.
Bracket: updated bracket