A growing number of hosting companies are offering free domain names to customers who sign up for hosting accounts. The list of providers bundling free domains with hosting plans includes some of the industry's largest hosting specialists, some of whom are including multiple domains with entry-level plans. Major hosting companies have been slashing domain name prices for more than a year as a strategy for attracting small business customers. The widespread use of free domains in hosting packages extends the trend, and is at least partially a response to competition from domain registrars seeking to expand their hosting operations.
1&1 Internet includes a free domain with its $4.99 a month starter hosting plan, and three free domains with its $9.99 a month plan. Yahoo bundles a free domain with its small business hosting accounts, which start at $11.95 a year. Interland includes a free domain with its Value Hosting plan if customers prepay the first year. Netfirms, which sells stand-alone .com domains for $4.95 a year, is offering two free domain names with a $9.95 a month hosting plan.
Pricing on new stand-alone domain names was largely stable this month, with no major changes in leading providers' pricing for one-year .com names.
It didn't take long for popesquatters to try and cash in on domains related to the new pope, Benedict XVI. The PopeBenedictXVI.com domain is for sale on eBay, with a starting price listed at $100,000, and a "buy it now" price of just $250,000. The domain owner is Total Interest Ltd., a Bahamas-based domain company that grabbed the name in February.
Other variations on the papal name taken by former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger are being auctioned at Sedo, where popesquatters Chris and Linda Dunaway of Gatlinsburg, Tenn. are offering an entire portfolio of Benedictine domains, including PopeBenedict.net, PopeBenedict.org, PopeBenedictXVI.net, Pope Benedict.info and PopeBenedictXVI.info.
While Internet betting sites set odds on the identity of the next pope, domain speculators are buying up domains connected to names that might be adopted by the new Catholic leader. Blogger and technology author Rogers Cadenhead admitted to participating in "popesquatting" potential papal domains. "My money's on one of these six names - BenedictXVI, Clement XV, Innocent XIV, Leo XIV, Paul VII, Pius XIII," Cadenhead wrote on his blog. "I mean this literally. I registered all six of these as dot-com domain names earlier this month, which I feared was tacky - to say nothing of soul-imperiling - until I read about the vacant papal see stamp. Clearly I'm not the only baptized Catholic who gets geeked about this process."
Cadenhead has plenty of company. PopeBenedict16.com is already for sale on the domain auction site Sedo. But speculators who are just now thinking about papal names are arriving late to the game. The JohnPaulIII.com domain was registered in 1999 while JohnPaulIII.net was bought last November.
EV1Servers has been approved as an ICANN_accredited domain name registrar, the company said today. The Houston provider was approved for top level domains (TLDs) including .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info and .us. The ICANN approval follows a similar move by The Planet.
"This is great news - for both EV1 and our customers," says Robert Marsh, the company's CEO and Head Surfer, who is on the mend after undergoing open heart surgery last month. Marsh said the company plans to introduce an enhanced domain registration system with new features including DNS management and URL forwarding, which will be available to both new users and owners of the 200,000 domains EV1 currently manages through its reseller relationship with Tucows/OpenSRS. The company will also offer an integrated reseller interface for domain names, SSL certificates and website builder software.
A growing number of large hosting companies are becoming ICANN-accredited registrars, allowing them to sell domain names directly instead of relying on third-party wholesalers. The Planet is now accredited and is selling domains to existing customers for just $5.99 a year. Another huge dedicated hosting company, EV1Servers.net, says it is also seeking registrar status, citing the approval process as a factor in an extended outage for its online domain registration system.
Becoming a registrar allows hosting companies to eliminate the middleman and capture the fees being paid to their wholesale registrars on each domain. Some may be able to lower their domain prices and pass the savings along to customers. Germany's 1&1 Internet AG, the world's largest hosting specialist, is an accredited registrar and offers .com domain names for just $5.99 a year.
The domain price wars are finally being felt on the high end of the pricing spectrum, as Register.com has lowered its price for a one-year .com from $35 to $30. The move by the second-oldest registrar follows recent decision by the oldest registrar, Network Solutions, to offer price-slashing promotions. Register.com says the change is a "limited time offer." But after years of refusing to lower prices, the industry pioneers seem to be recognizing that the pool of folks who'll pay them $35 for a domain is shrinking.
In other pricing moves, Yahoo has ended its $4.98 a year offer, raising its one-year .com price to $9.95. Also moving to $9.95 this month is RegisterFly, which had previously been at $14.95.