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A domain name registrar is a corporation that performs both domain name reservation and IP address assignment for such domain names. Domain names are alphanumeric aliases used to access websites; the domain name of Google, for example, is 'google.com' and its IP address is 192.168.1.1. Without having to memorise and input numeric IP addresses, domain names make it easier to access websites.
It should be noted that registrars do not directly handle and manage domain names; a domain name registry performs that portion.
Registries are top-level domain (TLD) management entities, such as domains ending with '.com' and '.net'. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), an Internet Organization for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) agency, maintains these registries.
Registries assign commercial sales of licences of domain names to registrars. For instance, the registry for '.com' domains is VeriSign. If a registrar sells a domain registration for '.com' to a customer, in order to properly reserve the domain, the registrar must notify VeriSign. The registrar must also pay a fee to VeriSign, which is factored into the price paid to the end user by the registrar.
It's a lot like car dealership. A customer who is interested in purchasing a car walks into the showroom and a professional sales associate shows the available vehicles. If the customer wishes to purchase a car (for example, not one already in stock), the dealer must then order the car from the seller. Ultimately, the customer picks up the vehicle and gets customer service from the dealership.
A registrar is like a domain name dealership, and the registry is like a maker. The registrar shall facilitate the transactions and provide support services and the registry shall be responsible for the development and distribution of the products. It should be remembered that the key difference between registering a domain and owning a car is that cars can be purchased by customers, which is impossible for domain names.
Although individuals frequently talk about purchasing and owning domain names, the fact is that registries own all of their domain names and registrars simply give consumers the opportunity for a limited amount of time to purchase such domain names.
For a domain name, the maximum reservation duration is ten years. For more than ten years, users can hold onto domain names, as registrars allow them to indefinitely renew reservations, but users never really own the domains; they only lease them.
There are also resellers that offer domain name registrations, in addition to registrars. In exchange for a finder's fee, these resellers sell domain names on behalf of a registrar. Although these resellers are legal, they are typically more of a side company, and dedicated customer service may be lacking.
The websites of resellers rarely specifically state that they are resellers and telling them apart from registrars can be difficult. Fortunately, if a company is a legitimate registrar, there's a simple way to know - ICANN has a published list on its website of every licenced and successful domain name registrar.
For that domain, anyone who reserves a top-level domain name must fill out WHOIS information. This is information, including name, email address, physical address, and telephone number, about the person who registered a domain (the registrant). The choice of private registration is offered by certain registrars; the registrar's information is provided in the WHOIS listing for that domain in this process, and the registrar serves as the registrant 's proxy. This private registration is just as reliable as the registrar, as the details of the actual registrant is kept in the records of the registrar.