A domain name registrar is a company that reserves domain names. It is also responsible for assigning IP addresses to the domain names. Domain names are what you type into the browser URL bar to visit a site.
Unlike IP addresses, which are numerical and hard to remember, domain names are alphanumerical. An example of a domain name is xyz.com, while its IP address will look like 126.96.36.199. If a site doesn’t have a domain name, you will have to use its IP address to access it, which can be tedious.
How Domain Names Work
After entering a domain name into a web browser, it sends a request to the Domain Name System (DNS), which consists of a global network of servers. The DNS will search for a name server that matches the entered domain name and transfer the request to the appropriate name server.
DNS servers are computers managed by hosting providers. After receiving a request, the web host will transfer it to the computer hosting your website. The computer’s web server software (Apache, Nginx, or another) will fetch the requested web page from the hard drive and send it to the browser that sent the original request.
The Difference Between a Domain Registrar and Registry
Think of a registrar as a retailer and the registry as a manufacturer. The registrar sells domains to consumers and provides support services, while the registry produces domains and supplies them to the registrar.
Domain registries manage top-level domains (TLDs), such as domains that end with .org, .com, or .net. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) manages the activities of registries on behalf of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
A domain name registrar needs accreditation from a generic top-level domain (gTLD) registry or country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registry. If a registrar lacks accreditation, it must pass its domain name registrations to another registrar.
When a user purchases a .com, .net, or .org domain registration from a registrar, the registrar must inform the registry. Otherwise, the registrar cannot properly reserve the domain name.
Owning a Domain Name
While people buy domain names, they don’t technically own them. Regardless of how much you pay, ownership of a domain name will remain with the registry. In exchange for your payment, what the registrar gives you is the opportunity to reserve and use the domain name for a specific period—much like a lease.
The longest you can reserve a domain name is ten years. After that, you will have to renew your reservation if you want to keep using it. Since you can renew domain name reservations as many times as you want, you don’t have to worry about losing the domain.
Who Else Can Sell Domain Name Registrations?
While registrars traditionally have the authority to sell domain name registrations, you can also buy a domain from a reseller. A reseller is a third-party company that offers domain name registration on behalf of a registrar. After selling a domain name, a reseller gets a finder’s fee.
Even though a reseller isn’t ICANN-accredited, transactions completed by them are still legitimate. If you have issues with a domain name after buying it from a reseller, contact the domain registrar the reseller was representing.
Alternatively, avoid the hassle of dealing with an unaccredited reseller by reserving domain names only with registrars listed on the ICANN website.
That’s everything to know about what a registrar is.
To recap, registrars sell domain names. Make sure you only buy domains from an accredited registrar. Also, when you buy a domain name, what you get isn’t full ownership. Instead, like a lease, you get the right to use that domain name for a specific period. After your domain name reservation expires, you can renew it.