When launching a new website, setting up a new email system, or just buying a domain before someone else does, people often ask, “how much does a domain really cost?”
Let’s start with a non-answer: nothing.
Why’s that? A domain is completely immaterial. There’s nobody you have to pay to manufacture a domain name out of some kind of raw materials. It doesn’t grow from the ground and need harvesting. When you get a domain name, the basic underlying operation isn’t even that complex and consists of a database update and for whoever is making that database update, the domain is free, right?
Well, yes and no.
The whole domain name system depends on the fact that it’s hierarchical. That means that domain name delegation needs to take place in some kind of orderly way. If two people want the same domain name, there has to be some system to determine who gets it. In the early days, years before the .com boom vastly expanded the number of domain names registered and this was only an abstract problem, it was just whoever got there first.
When the powers that be decided to start charging for domain names, there was certainly a lot of opposition, but at the same time, even then, administrators of the domain name system were starting to worry that the number of domain names, specifically .com domains, was getting unmanageably large.
Even without that, at this point there’s an enormous administrative apparatus devoted to maintaining the domain name system, both within ICANN, the regulatory body that is the over-arching manager of domain name delegation, and outside of it, distributed across various registrars and registries.
And while, there’s no raw material to buy that you have to create a domain name out of, you also can’t just create a domain name out of thin air. It requires maintaining a system that’s potentially susceptible to threats from attackers, managing instances of abuse, like domains that are used for spamming, and mediating in the case of intellectual property being abused.
As we’ll see, there are numerous factors that play into the final price of a domain name. These factors add value to your domain, or help sustain the management of your domain name.
The first input in the price of a domain name is the price that the registry charges. A registry is a company that is in charge of a particular top-level domain.
A top-level domain is the part “after the dot” in your domain name. The most popular top-level domain, or TLD, is .com. Other popular TLDs are .net and .org, but there are literally hundreds of them, and their prices vary.
The reason is that each TLD is managed by a different company, called a registry. These companies have all “won” the rights to manage a TLD, and they now face the challenge of finding just the right price that they’ll sell their domain at.
A registry needs to be principally concerned with the “value” of their TLD. As an independent company, the biggest pressure is they have to sell enough domains at the right price in order to make a profit.
But there’s more to it than that. Managing a TLD is more than just adding a line to a database, registries need to maintain the value of their TLD. This can impact the price in that domain names that are priced too low can become “disposable” and get bought up en masse by spammers looking for a domain name to use to send a bunch of spam out before the reputation of each domain gets trashed, at which point they just throw it away.
One of the worst things that can happen to a registry is that the TLD they manage becomes a known haven for spammers. Some people will start blocking all domains in that TLD, and in turn, nobody will buy their domains because doing so will get their emails automatically blocked.
In fact, this is a major impediment generally to the adoption of the hundreds of new TLDs by the general public. There are those who believe that any email coming from a domain other than .com is not to be trusted.
Registries decide on pricing by meshing their business model with these kinds of considerations, and everyone is trying a different approach, hence the price can range widely:
- From 99¢ to almost $1800
Premium domains are the domains that the registry has determined could be in high demand and so they’ve assigned a specific, considerably higher price to these domains.
Registries also run various promotions, typically on the first year of the domain name, but sometimes on the first couple of years.
When you buy a domain name from Gandi, we in turn pay the corresponding registry to register the domain name for you, so the price we’re charged by the registry—which relies on all the factors listed above—is the first piece of the cost of your domain name.
While this varies across registries, let’s take .com as an example. For each .com domain, we pay the registry about $8.
But that’s not all …
When you buy a domain name, we’re not just acting as a middlemen between you and the registry. We’re providing you with all the basic things you’ll need to get going with using your domain name. That is, we sell our domains “batteries included.”
Here’s what you get with your domain name:
Two free mailboxes with 3 GB of storage and email forwarding
When you register a domain name at Gandi, you get two free email mailboxes with 3 GB of storage. That means you can create two email addresses that you can send and receive email to and from free with the purchase of your domain name.
Not only that, but you get 1,000 free email forwarding addresses, which let you forward email sent to 1,000 addresses to any email account you want.
TLD list, a site that tracks domain prices across registries, includes this in their “three year value score” and estimates that an email mailbox is worth $7.50 a year for the first mailbox, and $1.00 per year for every mailbox after that. They peg the email forwarding service at $3.00 per year.
LiveDNS, our DNS service, is top of the line. Distributed geographically using “nanopops” in Paris, Luxembourg, Tokyo, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Ashburn, and Los Angeles, LiveDNS pushes updates immediately and cuts down propagation time.
TLD List estimates that DNS service costs on average $3.50 per year.
The WHOIS is a repertory of who owns what domain names. In the beginning, it was essentially a directory that you could use to get in contact with the owner or administrator of any domain name.
Since that time, spammers and various salespeople have figured out how to cull the WHOIS for personal contact information and use personal information in the WHOIS to spam domain name owners.
You can stop this, however, through WHOIS privacy services.
While other registrars charge extra for WHOIS privacy, at Gandi, it comes free with every domain name. At a time when customer privacy is increasingly important (the point of being a legal requirement in Europe), there’s really no question for us on this one.
Still, TLD List estimates this service is worth about $5.00 per year.
The value of all these “batteries included” features, according to TLD list, comes to about $15.50 per year.
When you register a domain name at Gandi, you not only get the domain name and the batteries included, but you keep your domain name safe. Ultimately, having a domain name requires good, strong security as well. And the more domain names you have, the more important security is.
At Gandi, you can keep your domains safe with the latest security features, including:
Our domain support team consists of 25 team members distributed between our offices in Paris, France; Bissen, Luxembourg; San Francisco, California (US); and Taipei, Taiwan. Someone is always on duty, 24/7, 365 days a year, and they are reachable by email or live chat at help.gandi.net.
Our Customer care team works alongside our 17 member operations team to quickly address issues for individual customers or bigger network issues as they arise.
To provide this level of service, we don’t outsource our support to a call center that’s remote from our offices, and of course that means paying our team members well and making sure they have the opportunities they need to develop professionally.
The quality of our Customer care team is exactly how we’ve been able to get to where we are today, with over 2 million domain names registered, without spending on advertising—the quality of our service speaks for itself. Our Customer care team makes happy customers and happy customers tell their friends.
That’s why, along with continually developing and improving our technical platform, our Customer care team is one of the areas we invest the most in.
How much does a domain cost?
From the baseline price from the registry, in our example, about $8, we figure it costs about $7.50 to provide you with everything you need to get going with your domain once you purchase it, so we charge $15.50.
- Cost at registry: $8
- Gandi price: $15.50
The exact rate varies from TLD to TLD, with some being more and others less, but .com is pretty representative.
And there also economies of scale, which is why our pricing grid translates to progressively lower prices the more money you spend with us.
If you have questions about specifics, feel free to contact our Customer care team at help.gandi.net.
And if you’re ready to buy a domain name, get started here: