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    Domain name dos and don’ts

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver February 17-23, 2009; issue 1008

    High Tech Office column

    At its most basic, in order to have a webpage online, you need two things: one is the right to use your chosen domain name – “,” “,” etc.; the other is a place to store it on a web server connected to the Internet.

    You or your business may have its own web server. If not, there are lots of companies that would be happy to host your website for a monthly fee. Domain names ultimately come from various national organizations: the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) manages the .ca domain; the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the ultimate authority for .com addresses. But you can’t deal with CIRA or ICANN directly. Instead, you must register your domain name through a domain registrar – a company that contacts the appropriate agency on your behalf, getting you the rights to that domain name for a limited period of time.

    I’ve got a number of domain names registered, and because they expire at different dates throughout the year, I’m in regular contact with my registrar: Vancouver-based NetNation, which also hosts my various websites.

    So I was surprised recently to receive what looked like an invoice from someone called the Domain Registry of Canada. The “Domain Name Expiration Notice” pointed out that registration for one of the domains I manage is due to expire in mid-June. It promised me “best savings” if I reply in the next few weeks: $40 to register the domain for a year, $70 for two years and $160 for five years for savings of $40. Sounds like a deal, especially if I register for multiple years.

    Instead, I logged into NetNation. On its website, I could renew that same domain name for $9.95 per year. Renewing for five years would cost $49.75 – saving $110.25 compared with the “best value” price promised as Domain Registry of Canada’s “best savings.”

    Needless to say, I didn’t follow up on the offer in the letter. I did, however, ask CIRA what it knew about the company. CIRA’s chairman, Paul Anderson, referred me to the website of the Competition Bureau of Canada, where there is a June 2004 press release noting that a company then known as the Internet Registry of Canada (IROC) had been fined and issued a five-year prohibition order under the misleading representation provisions of Canada’s Competition Act.

    The company had been accused of targeting more than 73,000 businesses and non-profits with letters “designed to mislead recipients into believing they were existing customers of IROC’s domain name registration service.”
    The company name on my letter was similar but different, and its letter was careful to point out “this notice is not a bill,” rather, it is “an easy means of payment should you decide to switch ... to the Domain Registry of Canada.”
    Nevertheless, it’s too easy to miss that and assume the letter is one more of the many invoices that most of us receive.

    Most of us have received misleading e-mail messages. Hopefully we’ve learned that just because we read something on a computer screen it’s not automatically true. Traditional mail offers – like the Domain Registry of Canada’s “best savings” that are up to 400% higher than what I’m paying for domain registration – might also not be worth the paper they’re printed on. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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