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Private Domain Registration – Is Domain Masking Appropriate?

What are the pros and cons of private domain registration? What is it? How can you do it?

I purposely do not share what I do online with close family and friends for several reasons.  I had also written about why your family and friends will resist your side gigging activities if you told them about it.

Couple weeks back I was at a dinner with some of my wife’s friends.  One of the attendees worked in the IT field and is passionate about operating in the online space.

Somehow during dinner the topic of social media came up and the discussions around it picked up some steam. I had made some comments that intrigued some individuals, and some questions followed after.

To best convey my point, I demonstrated the cause and effect of incorporating social media in one’s business by giving an example pertaining to one of my niche websites.

Couple nights back I received a message from this individual.  One of his questions was around the privacy of my domain registration. He had apparently done his research to see that the website I provided as an example during dinner had a masked domain, in other words public records do not reveal my identity as the owner of the private domain.

Domain Research – WHOIS Database

If you don’t already know, domain registration records by default are publicly available through the WHOIS database.  Simply type in the URL of any website or blog you want to learn more about and the results will provide you various details such as the owner of the URL, the server/host location, the registration date, expiration date, etc.

I like this tool because I have used it extensively in the past to contact web properties that I have been interested in acquiring. I have also used it to snatch up some popular domain names over the years on back order.

I once used it to purchase a domain name of a Fortune 500 company, only later to give it up for $2,000 after receiving threats from the company’s legal department.  Still, I got $2,000 for a domain I paid $9.99 for, not too shabby :)

Benefits of Private Domain Registration

As it relates to the title of this post, whether you should mask your domain depends on your situation and long term objectives.

There are a handful of pros and cons to a private domain registration through domain masking.  Some of these are as follows:

Employment – If you are employed and are not allowed to pursue other interests in your spare time, you may still be able to operate on the hush-hush with a private domain registration.

Even if you are allowed to, you may decide it is in your best interest to stay under the radar either because your website or blog conflicts with your employer’s interest, your industry or profession.

Acquisition Opportunities – I used the information in the WHOIS database to contact domain owners directly when I was interested in acquiring their website or blog.  I suspect many do the same.

Many times the email ID that is registered in the WHOIS database is the owner’s personal and direct email address.  Many times, they have another email address on their website or blog, one which they often times check a lot less frequently.

Think about your objective.  Do you want to be an acquisition target? Do you want to make it easy for potential buyers to contact you?  Even if you decide to go the private domain registration route, make sure there are ways to get in touch with you via your websites and blogs at least.  You never know who is looking.  I have sold two websites without having to solicit a buyer, including one for $250,000.

Cost – Private domain registration is not free, however the cost is minimal compared to the benefits of masking your domain if that supports your objectives.

Typically, private registration costs just as much as the actual domain does.  If you purchase a domain for $9.99, chances are the registrar you bought your domain from will charge you another $9.99 for masking it.  This is an annual fee similar to the fee for the domain itself.

Hide & Seek – Many also choose to mask their identity simply just because they can.  Many don’t want family, friends and other colleagues to know what they do in their off time, at least until they become successful in many cases.

Some may not want their identity revealed, ever. Think about it. An activist or strong opinioned soul may decide to have their voice heard publicly without revealing their identity for safety and security purposes.

There can be countless other reasons, but because the process is so easy many decide to opt for private domain registration, at least in the initial stages.

Concluding Thoughts

I have all my domain names registered privately for a combination of many reasons. I do however have a way anyone can get in touch with me via my websites and blog.  I have always used either GoDaddy or Site Build It! for domain purchasing, both of which offer the ability to mask domains.

There are other advantages and disadvantages as well involved with private domain registration that are not discussed in this post. But the few above should give you some of the more important key points to think about when registering your domain.

What about you. Did you opt for a private domain registration? Why or why not? What are some of the other pros and cons that come to mind?

Privately Registered

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17 Responses to “Private Domain Registration – Is Domain Masking Appropriate?”

  1. SLee says:

    Another great post. I’ve been curious about the benefits of a private domain.

    You can actually register a domain privately for no additional cost with 1&1.

    • Sunil says:

      Thanks for the resource. Curious- once registered, can the domain be transferred to another carrier (i.e. GoDaddy)? What’s your overall experience been like with 1&1?

      • SLee says:

        I don’t have any personal experience transferring domains with 1&1, but from their documentation, it seems to be a pretty simple process.

        As far as a web hosting goes, I have been very satisfied with them.

      • Herbert says:

        I had a bad experience with 1&1, their support is very lousy, since then I canceled my subscription their services :(

        • Sunil says:

          Herbert – welcome to the blog. I had a feeling. Typically those who cut corners on price points have to compromise elsewhere to level the playing field. As a customer, it is up to us to choose what we can live with vs without. Most of this blog’s audience are individuals who are successful in their professions looking to develop passive income streams, many of which are online. Your input is extremely valuable and well appreciated. Looking forward to interacting with you more.

  2. Honestly, I have been thinking whether to register a private domain or not. I have been weighing the pros and cons and your post helped a lot. I may come up with a decision in a couple of days.

  3. Tauseef says:

    we all have 24hours and it limits what we can do. One of my friend told me that when you get employed – the employer indirectly assumes control of your off the work timing. I asked how? He said, if you work after office hour also along with managing family it disrupts your efficiency which in turn may prove to be counter productive to your employer. But, at the same time, there are several quotes which emphasizes on the need to be self-employed. And, that’s why wearing a mask of disguise is needed

    • Sunil says:

      You make some very good points my friend. Your friend clearly speaks from experience. We all indeed share the same amount of time, and how we choose to use it is what differentiates us from each other. Some employers frown upon our initiatives to get ahead of the others.

  4. Geoff says:

    Sunil, I sign up for private registration for all my blogs (even though it’s a scam and I think registrars should make it a free option :)).

    I do this to avoid getting put on more spam lists and junk mail lists than I already am. Plus, there are a lot of crazies out there and you never know who you might accidentally piss off in your blog posts…or if you share personal details about yourself that might make you a target….I don’t want any of those people knowing where I live!

    • Sunil says:

      Excellent insights added Geoff. I didn’t even consider those two: spam and crazies targeting the blogger. Thank you for that. I am totally with you, as well as on the fact that private registrations should be FREE!!!!

  5. Ben says:

    Private registration is not free with most US based hosting companies. But there are many overseas ones that offer it as a free service. For example – they even have domain locking service for free (making sure that no one unauthorised transfers your domain).

    Also domain prices seem more reasonable than with most US based hostings. I have few domains registered with them but pointing DNS elsewhere and now considering to move even my hosting there. Their support is sometimes a bit slowish, but usually they respond within 24 hours.

    Another good thing I like about them is that all payments are initiated by you via PayPal. They don’t store your credit card so don’t charge whenever they feel like… But you have to remember when to renew your domains otherwise they may get disabled if you forget to do it on time.

  6. Ben says:

    I Would not say that there are specific risks with foreign providers, just issues to be aware of, like:

    1. Site speed – it’s wise to do some tests before you commit yourself to moving. The speed of a particular provider in that country can be great but connection from US or elsewhere to that country may be limited.

    2. Provider’s reliability – is it long established provider? Will it be here 1, 2 or 5 years from now? You don’t really want spending weeks on putting up your sites again.

    3. Do they do backups? Provider I mentioned claims that they do. I have just 1 website hosted with them (others are DNS redirects). That 1 site was defaced. luckily it was only parked site with no real content on it, so no big damage here. however, their Control Panel does not have automatic backups so I would have to contact them to restore the site. Some of my other hosting providers in Europe offer daily backups for the last 14 which I can use at the click of a button. Very handy – if you have many websites, backing them up manually would use lots of your time.

    So, there are many things to considers. To sum it up:
    – speed of the provider
    – connectivity from your country to the provider’s country
    – off course price
    – backups (automated vs. manual)
    – added FTP security (ability to limit from which country you can log into FTP)
    – payment options (do they require to store your credit card?)
    – support
    – private registration
    – reputability and reliability
    – ease of Control Panel use (many do not have CP, instead use own interfaces, some good, some not so good)
    – mutlihosting
    – traffic or disk space limits?
    – many more…perhaps it would be for a separate post

    The best way is to get 30 or 60 day trial and try more providers before you decide which one is best for you. For example the which I mentioned has many great features, but I am still a bit worried about security and reliability.

    Another options if you have many web sites is to diversify and use at least 3 different providers, even in different geo locations…

  7. Ben says:

    Yes, you are right. If you someone has just few domains it’s probably not worth the hassle. But if you have let’s say 100 then saving 100x$10 = $1000 a year for private registration may become worth it.

    Another compromise would be to register your domains there and redirect their DNS to your US based hosting. The speed (and other) problems would disappear and you still can save significant amount of money.

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