Monday, January 5, 2009

How to change ownership of .NZ domains

There are three main "players" in a domain name. The registrant (the nominal owner), the registrar who sells the owner the domain name and the hosting service that provides web and mail services for it. When you buy a domain name, the owner definitely changes, and depending on the deal you strike, the other two players may or may not change.

Buying .coms is easy. You transfer them to your account (or get the seller to "push" them) at the registrar of your choice and the registration information is changed to yours. This includes the registrant, of the domain name.
Buying New Zealand domain names isn't quite so simple. Although both the .com rules and the DNC rules for the .nz name space recognise the rights of the registrant, the .nz ones are designed to protect the rights of the registrant as much as possible. You can easily transfer domains from registrar to registrar using a magic key called a UDAI, change nameservers through your registrar, and change almost all of the contact information through the registrar, but the one thing you usually can't change on-line is the registrant. Without changing that the name belongs to a greater or lesser extent to the previous owner.

The registrant can only be changed by your registrar and most registrars require a paper form signed by both the old registrant and the new. They typically also charge a processing fee of approximately one year's registration.

Strangely enough the DNC rules don't require these pieces of paper, but they have been written with some scary language that has discouraged most registrars from implementing on-line change of registrant. One registrar who has implemented fully automatic changes of registrant is Discount Domains and when I am buying or selling a new Zealand I much prefer to make the change of registrant and transfer via them.

The process is pretty straightforward.
  • Both the buyer and the seller need to create an account at Discount Domains. They identify customers with an 8 digit account number and a password.
  • The seller needs to know the buyer's account number, but not their password. Never give anyone your password.
  • The seller selects the change registrant option from the domain management console and enters the buyers account number.
  • Click OK a couple of times and the domain's transferred to the new registrant and will appear in their control panel.
  • Once it's transferred, the buyer can leave it at Discount Domains, who are in my experience a thoroughly professional company, or transfer it to their registrar of choice.
  • Regardless of where they intend to have your registration, the first thing the buyer should do is request a UDAI from their registrar and file it safely away.
And where, you might ask, is the hosting company in this process? The simple answer is they aren't. Your web developer and hosting company provide services, they should be able to do everything they need for your domain by your setting the nameservers to their hosting. If they ever ask for your UDAI, ask why they need it, if they don't have a very good reason ask them for their nameservers and set your domain to use them. Apparently some web hosting companies make a practice of transferring domain registration to a registrar they are associated with for their convenience and this can lead to inflated registration charges, or result in the domain name being manipulated in a way that is not always in the best interest of the registrant.

No comments: