Finding a domain name that’s available for registration is a sometimes a painful, expensive and overall a long process. One of the steps including finding one of the largest domain registrars.
Why the largest domain registrar?
In short, herd mentality. We believe that millions of people can’t be wrong, and we effectively want others to do the heavy lifting for us. That’s smart because it is important to make wise decisions when it comes to domain names.
Your domain name is one of the first things a visitor to your site will come in contact with, and it is also one of the crucial parts of your branding. Coming up with a smart and memorable domain name is a hassle on its own, but deciding with what company to register the name can be an even bigger one.
A lot of aspects come into play when you’re deciding on a domain registrar. For example, what extensions do they have on offer, how long is the registration valid for, is it automatically renewed, what comes in the domain registration package, how transferable is the domain, and of course, how much do they charge for the registration and the renewal? If you are a bit intimidated or confused with this whole process, that is absolutely understandable, considering the fact that this isn’t a small decision to make, and so many factors have to be considered while making it.
Also, the fact that most domain registrars put the same claims on their site, saying that their services are like no other, only makes it harder for you to make a choice. That is why in this article, we will give you the facts about the largest domain registrars in the world. Who they are, how big they are, how long they have been in business, what they have to offer, and how much they are charging for that offer.
How do we know which is the largest domain registrar in the world?
There’s an “insider joke” going on outside of the US. Start competing in a sport only you play, and then call yourself the world champion. With domain names, since most domain owners, and domain registrars are located in the US, it is safe to say that if the largest domain registrar is in the US, it will also be the largest domain registrar in the world.
With domain names, it is very easy to track with Whois where the domain name is registered. You would assume correctly that there are a lot of registered domain names. According to Verisign Q1 Industry Brief Report, there are 350.5 million domain names (161.3 million .com domain names). Because of such a large dataset, it’s hard to keep track of which domains are registered where. Tens of thousands of domain name expire every day, and even more are registered. A lot of domain names are transferred from one domain name registrar to another.
One research that we did at WhoAPI, which could give a hint on domain registrar with the most domain names, is the research on top 1000 domains. But we can’t completely rely only on this data point because websites with the most traffic (think Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Google, and so on) don’t register domain names like the rest of us. Furthermore, 1000 domain names are too small a dataset. However, as that research on top 1000 domains has revealed, the top 1000 hire special brand protection companies that also handle domain name registration for them. But even with such a small dataset (1000 domain names), GoDaddy was in second place behind MarkMonitor. One thing I am not sure about at the moment is if these MarkMonitor clients and services are under Clarivate or OpSec Security since the acquisition of MarkMonitor in January 2020. MarkMonitor.com redirects to Clarivate even in July 2022.
We have a clear winner with 84+ million domain names registered at GoDaddy.
Back in 2019, Proofpoint conducted research and wrote about a domain registrar market share. GoDaddy was first, followed by… well, technically, we could conclude it’s Alibaba Cloud Computing, but we could also write its NameCheap. Coincidentally, we mentioned Proofpoint in one of our research around professional email solutions and security, they were one of the largest providers. 5th on their list is Tucows Domains, which we won’t mention directly in our post, but we will explain in the end why we decided not to include them. We do mention eNom (15th on Proofpoint’s market share list), which was acquired by Tucows.
These domain name registrar acquisitions are quite often. When we interviewed Paul Stahura, we learned that he launched eNom in 1997 and sold it to Demand Media in 2006. Then in 2017, eNom was sold again, this time to Tucows.
Without further delay, here’s our list of the largest domain name registrars.
GoDaddy – the largest domain registrar
When doing research for this article, we noticed that one registrar always seemed to be in first place on all the lists for the largest domain registrars in the world, and that was GoDaddy. GoDaddy was founded 23 years ago, and as of July 2022 has over 84 million registered domains. In 2005, GoDaddy became the largest domain registrar, and in 2018 it became the biggest web host in the world. GoDaddy owes its popularity largely to the selection of domain extensions it has, which includes the standard ones such as .com, .org, .co.uk, and the more creative ones like .space, .buzz, .app.
GoDaddy domains are divided into 763 categories, with some of those categories containing hundreds of domain name options and new domains constantly being made available. In the future, GoDaddy plans on adding non-English domain names, even in languages like Arabic, Chinese, and Cyrillic-based languages.
There is also an option to do pre-registration for domains that will be open to purchase soon. The pre-registering is done by submitting an application, after which GoDaddy will try to get you your desired domain. In case they don’t, you will receive a refund for the pre-registration.
When you purchase a domain with GoDaddy, you will get a domain that can have up to 100 subdomains. GoDaddy will set up the domain for you, meaning you won’t need to do any of the technical work. Another thing it will be doing for you is monitoring your domain at all times so any downtime is avoided. If you need to forward your domains to an existing site, GoDaddy will also provide you with tools that will enable you to do that. Finally, for any technical issues, GoDaddy will give you support that is available 24/7.
If you want to keep everything in the GoDaddy family, they offer hosting and email plans as well.
Namecheap is an American domain name registrar and web hosting provider. It has about 11 million registered domains. Although the number is quite less than the above-motioned GoDaddy, Namecheap is still one of the largest domain registrars in the world. Being founded around 20 years ago also makes it a little younger than its biggest competitor.
In 2019, Namecheap was voted the best domain name registrar by the Lifehacker blog community, and an interesting fact about Namecheap is that it is one of the first domain registrars to start accepting bitcoin as payment.
At Namecheap, you can register a new domain, but also a previously owned one since it has a whole marketplace dedicated to listing pre-owned domain names. The browsing of Namecheap domains is simplified thanks to the fact that they are grouped in generic and country-code TLDs. Namecheap also supports internationalized domain names, which are the domain names you can use in a local language and script.
If you decide to switch over to their services Namecheap will also help you with transferring your domain. In the case you had time left on your old registrar, Namecheap will include that on top of the time you will now get with the transfer. All transfers are done within 30 minutes to 6 days and with zero downtime.
A purchase of a domain comes with 24/7 customer support, automatic URL and email forwarding, and free BasicDNS and DNSSEC. Most domains will also come with lifetime WhoisGuard protection, but that can vary from domain to domain. You will also get a free email address for two months so you can see if their email services are something that might be of interest to you.
After a domain has expired, it enters a 30-day grace period for renewal. After that, it will enter a redemption period in which you have the possibility of getting back your domain for a $200 redemption fee. Otherwise, the domain will be auctioned to someone else. Reactivation and renewal have the same price as registering the domain.
*Network Solutions did not have a price chart available. Their pricing varies from domain to domain. To view prices for a certain domain, you have to put the domain in your cart and proceed to check out*
Network Solutions offers a range of services besides domain registrations, like web hosting, web design, online marketing, SEO, pay-per-click advertising, and more. It is a subsidiary of Web.com, which is said to have the 4th largest domain registrar. Network Solutions itself has over 7.3 million registered domains and has been around for a very long time (41 years to be exact). Although their entire price chart is not available, their promotional prices can be as low as 2.99$ but can later raise significantly for renewal. For example, the .online domain will cost you $2.99 the first year, but will later get to $49.99 per year.
At Network Solutions, you can buy new domains or enter the domain marketplace where you can place anonymous offers to current owners of specific domains, bid on expiring domains, or browse the premium resale domains. Pre-registration is also available for in-demand domains.
All domains bought with Network Solutions are set to auto-renew. Once renewal time rolls around, which is 60 days before the expiration date, your card will be charged. If there is an issue with the renewal, another automatic renewal attempt will occur in 14 days, giving you time to sort out the issues that stopped the renewal. For issues regarding that or any of their products or services, Network Solutions has expert support ready to assist you.
Support is also given to anyone wanting to transfer their domain, web hosting, or emails to Network Solutions. The transfer fee for each domain is $9.99.
The hosting packages you can buy at Network Solutions all come with a domain name included, except the essential package.
Other notable services include domain forwarding for $12.99 per domain, private domain registration for $9.99, and $9.99 for domain name protection.
1&1 Ionos is a German domain registrar founded in 1988 and is owned by United Internet, which is a global internet service company. It has almost the same number of registered domains as Network Solutions, which is around 7.2+ million. 1&1 Ionos prices a lot of its domains at 1$ for the first year. After that, the renewal fees vary from domain to domain.
Domain names are categorized in geographic, business, web/tech (which includes even the .dev extension), personal, and sport/leisure. At 1&1 Ionos, you can pre-reserve a domain, something that gives you a special place in their database along with information about deadlines and prices. You can also pre-register, which is basically submitting a bidding reservation (no need to do this if you have pre-reserved a domain). Once a domain is up for sale, 1&1 Ionos will immediately place an order in your name in an attempt to secure it for you.
All domains come with free private registration an email address. The email address comes with 2GB of mailbox space with the possibility of upgrading. Every contract made with 1&1 Ionos also comes with an SSL WildCard Certificate. A domain bought at 1&1 Ionos can have up to 10000 subdomains and is protected from unauthorized transfer attempts.
1&1 Ionos has on offer packages, which are all different combinations of their services, such as registering a domain, email hosting, and web hosting. There is even a possibility of hiring a private consultant that can give you guidance and advice on improving your online presence or help you with handling and fixing issues. But of course, 24/7 support is available to anyone that registers a domain with them or uses any of their other services.
Transferring to 1&1 Ionos is free, and their renewal period is the standard one year.
Alibaba Cloud Computing
Alibaba Cloud is a Chinese domain registrar, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group. Alibaba Cloud has been in the domain registration business for 11 years and has around 20 million registered domains. It prides itself in its very competitive prices and offers the possibility to register a domain for 1,3,5 or 10 years off the bat. Their 1-year renewal prices are either the same or very close to the price you paid when registering. The transfer prices vary from domain to domain.
After registering a domain with Alibaba Cloud, you can activate a proxy service free of charge, although some pages of their website say that that service is not currently available. So, it’s best to contact them directly regarding that.
The renewal period of a domain is 30 days. After that comes a redemption period in which you will pay a higher price to acquire back your domain. 24/7 support is available for everyone, while a 1-on-1 consultant service is available for the Asia-Pacific region and enterprise accounts.
Alibaba Cloud has so many services and products on offer that it would take a whole separate article just to list them. Among those services, of course, is web hosting which is the one that would be of most interest to you.
Enom / Tucows
Enom was founded in 1997 and was acquired in 2017 by Tucows, a Canadian domain whole-seller that has a few other registrars such as Hover under its ownership. Enom manages over 15 million domains but also sells email services, web hosting, SSL certificates, and other products and services. Regarding the business of selling domains, Enom sells brand new domains but also does resale through which you can start selling domains and other internet services with Enom. Enom claims to have over 500 domain extensions. For resellers, it has different types of plans available, which each contain Classic TLDs, new TLDs, and other services like hosting, branded emails, a website builder, domain privacy protection, security, and SSL, all depending on the plan.
Enom has a pre-registration program that accepts registrations on a first-come-first-serve basis. Those whose pre-registration doesn’t result in getting the domain receive a full refund. There is even an early access program for pre-registering domains before they hit the market.
Renewals can be set to be automatic. If not, there is a grace period of 45 days after the expiration of your domain, then a 30-day redemption period, and finally, a pending delete period of 5 days.
WHOIS domain privacy protection costs 8$ a year, but free 24/7 support is given to everyone.
Google launched Google Domains 5 years ago with not much success. As a matter of fact, they sold the domain name google.com for $12. But hopefully by 2020 they fixed the chinks in their armor.
Through it, they do domain registration, DNS hosting, domain forwarding, email forwarding, DNSSEC, and DynamicDNS. From its launch till today, Google Domains remains in beta version, but that didn’t stop it from making it on the largest domain registrars list. By some accounts, it hosts more than 4 million domains. A lot of people put their trust in Google Domains thanks to the reputation and infrastructure Google itself has.
A domain from Google Domains can have up to 100 subdomains and comes with free privacy protection, free one-click DNSSEC, 2-step verification, secure Google Cloud DNS, Email forwarding, domain, and subdomain forwarding, and of course 24/7 support.
Their domain extensions collection has over 200 domain endings, which start at 9$ per year. Transferring to Google domains is available, but having it provide hosting for your site isn’t. Their advanced features include domain sharing, multi-domain registration, and DNS exports in BIND or YAML format.
Conclusion of the largest domain registrar list
This list of the largest domain registrars in the world contains the registrars that make sales directly to customers. Some other very large domain registrars that could have been on this list, such as Tucows, GMO Internet, and Public Domain Registry don’t sell domains and services in that way, but rather through their partners, web hosting companies, affiliated domain providers, or their in-house providers.
Those partners, affiliated domain providers, and in-house providers were mentioned on the list since they are the ones you, the customer, will be doing business with. These are all companies that have millions of customers who have put and continue to put trust in not only their domain hosting but also their other services. So with the information from this article and a bit of your research, you will surely be able to find the domain registrar that will fit your needs.
Help me choose! Which registrar should I use?
For the most part it comes down to personal preferences. As you already saw the prices are pretty much the same everywhere so unless you have thousands of domains the difference is negligible. It really depends if you are investing in domains and websites, reselling domain names as a web hosting provider or just looking to occasionally register and renew a few domain names here and there.
It also depends if you want to register mostly .com or not-com domain names.
That’s why we wrote another in-depth post about your best place to register a domain name.
Do I really need any of these services? Can’t I buy a domain directly?
Yes, you do. There’s no other way of buying a domain. For personal use this is as “direct” as possible. You’re not paying any middle-man.
Can I get a free domain?
When you buy hosting services sometimes you get a free domain name. So yes, it’s possible. However, be very careful in those situations and make sure you really own the free domain you got. Also, check if there are any hidden fees. And remember – you’re trying to save $10/year so it might be better to just pay for that.
I heard some domains cost thousands of dollars?
Premium domains can easily cost a million dollars. Those are short domains consisting of only one word like “car.com”. When buying those you’re usually paying for a brand or a domain that already has traffic and definitely not a fresh, newly registered domain.
I got a domain, do I now need hosting?
If you want to have a website – yes. But you can just buy a domain to hold on to a brand name you plan on building in a month or a year. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. People buy dozzens of domains like that and never get hosting for it.
I had a domain, then I didn’t pay for it. Can I get it back?
In theory yes. In practice, it depends how good the domain was. If it wasn’t interesting to anybody else then you just have to register it again. If somebody else grabbed it then it’s theirs and the only thing you can do is contact the new owner and offer him (a lot of) money.