Internet hosting service providers very often offer one or more free
domain names to make their hosting packages more attractive. Since
domain names are important to any web site, they become valuable
property. This is especially true when associated with a site with page
rank and high traffic. It takes time and effort to make your domain
Are you aware that you may have expended all that time and energy on
behalf of your internet hosting service provider? If you have accepted
a "free" domain name from your web host, they may have registered it in
their name and not yours. This is especially true if the host has
advertised "free domain for life" as they are responsible for renewing
the registration. This is not a problem as long as you continue hosting
your web site with that host, but things can get sticky if you try to
move your site to another host. Since they own the domain name, you may
have to buy it from them to move your site. You have only "borrowed" it
for the duration of your hosting contract. Thus any time and money you
have spent to make that domain name valuable may have been enhancing
its value for your internet hosting service provider.
If relations with the host of your web site go sour, they may choose
not to release the domain, or they can charge whatever they like to
transfer it to your name. They may also use it as leverage to keep you
tied to their hosting. In my own experience, when I tried to switch
from an $80/month hosting package to a cheaper one, the response
was,"You can't." I did not own my domain name, and I had prepared my
web site with their proprietary web building program. After paying
their $99 price to transfer the registration of my "free" domain name
to me and building a new web site, I was able to change to a cheaper
internet hosting service provider.
If you have accepted a free domain name with your hosting account
you should check the Whois register to find out who the registered
owner and administrator are. If they are not both in your name, you
should request that they both be transferred to you. Even if you are
the registered owner, all communications for transfers must originate
with the administrator. Thus the administrator still has control over
the domain name and that could cause problems.
Also there is the question of what happens to a domain name that is
registered in the name of the internet hosting service provider if that
company should go bankrupt? If a domain name registered to them is
valuable, would the creditors take over that value? If you sell your
business can you sell "your" valuable domain name with the business or
would the internet hosting service provider insist on the profits? One
could come up with a number of situations where the host's ownership of
your domain name could be very risky.
The folly of this situation is not widely known among the
publishers of web sites. Your web hosting company may be honest and
release the domain name to you when confronted, but don't count on it.
When you pick an internet hosting service provider for your web site,
be sure that any free domain name is registered in your name with you
as administrator, and not in the name of the host.
The safest way to avoid problems is to register your domain name
with a registrar (under your name of course) and host your web site
with a different internet hosting service provider.