Since the beginning of time, businesses have competed on price. “My lettuce is cheaper, which makes it better!” Unfortunately, this race to the bottom leaves room for very few survivors — you either win with scale and “interesting” revenue streams (like charging for WHOIS privacy, which we believe should be a free service), or you sacrifice service and quality to get by.
At iwantmyname, we do our best to stay out of that game. Perhaps an investor would scold us for not prioritizing growth over all else, but our model is to make our business and livelihoods sustainable. Our prices are largely based on the margins needed to grow the business and provide livable wages to our employees. And we don’t think it’s something to apologize for — cramming hundreds of low-wage employees into sterile call centers just isn’t our vision of the future.
But like many businesses, our prices aren’t simply determined by a fixed cost plus margin. Domain prices are primarily determined by domain registries, each of which run their operations in very different fashions. Prior to 2014, there were only a handful of domain extensions available — .COM, .ORG, maybe .BIZ if you were feeling frisky — it kind of forced a competitive pricing detente among registrars.
Then the new TLDs started to launch. And as you may have noticed in the last year or so, price inconsistencies are becoming frustratingly common. Some come in the form of marketing campaigns that make initial registrations inexpensive (or basically free in the case of pre-Alphabet .xyz) but renewals the opposite. Others come from strange fees, such as .mu (the TLD for Mauritius) charging $1900 USD to restore an expired domain. Then you have TLDs like .voting, which recently went up in price by 1,963.72%. Yes, nearly two thousand percent.
We manage these irregularities as best we can, but we can’t always just swallow registry price increases without updating our prices as well. And this puts us in an awkward situation — we can pass along information in a timely fashion to avoid unreasonable renewals, but it’s impossible to predict price fluctuations far enough in advance to say, ”Actually, yes, next year the price will be 50 cents more per registration.” We just don’t have any control over registry business models or when they deliver information.
Ultimately, while it may not seem like it, reasonable price increases are a good sign. They’re a sign of a maturing industry — of companies figuring out sustainable business models, taking care of their staff, and working on improving their networks and feature offerings. It’s unfortunate that wild price fluctuations exist, but these new TLD registries are quickly going to figure out that it’s hard to compete when people can’t count on a clear valuation.
Whether they like it or not, there’s a lot of TLD competition out there, and over time the wheat will separate from chaff, so to speak.