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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Where have all the good DNS registrars gone?

I have been trying to register a couple of domain names, a .CO.UK and a .EU, and have them set up with my name servers with Glue Records (IPv4 and IPv6).

Should be simple right? But it has so far turned out to be a mammoth task.

I started out by looking for a not-too-expensive registrar who could cope with .CO.UK and .EU names, and who would process the initial registration automatically (and immediately), as opposed to requiring a message to be submitted to a human for processing whenever they saw fit.

After searching around, I landed on NamesCo. Their automated system processed the initial registrations straight off.

Unfortunately they rather messed-up the registrant's (i.e. my) e-mail address as recorded with EURid, putting their own e-mail address instead of mine — VERY naughty. Also it look a LOT of jumping up on down on them via several support tickets to get this fixed. In the end it looked like they had to do (what EURid call) a "trade", presumably at their expense, to get the domain ownership transferred to me. Eh? Yes. From EURid's point-of-view, the domain wasn't actually registered to me at all! So it looks like NamesCo were being extremely naughty and registering names requested by customers to themselves — seems to me to be really quite illegal.

Anyway, I eventually got around to wanting the nameservers and Glue Records set up. So I put in two support tickets, one for each domain name.

The .CO.UK was processed correctly within one business day and I was all set.

After a while, they came back to tell me that the .EU was done. I checked. It wasn't. I queried. A different person waded in on the support ticket and made a comment that was total nonsense. I queried. They made another nonsense comment. This went back and forth a few times before the original person re-surfaced and told me to disregard all the comments from the other person, and made a comment which made sense. Professional? Not really.

This first person made some enquiries, and finally came to the conclusion that they could not support IPv6 Glue Records on .EU domain names because the company which actually processed their .EU registrations (Register.IT) did not support IPv6 Glue Records on .EU domain names.

This was bad as it was. But it was made even worse by the fact that I had deliberately asked, in a support ticket a few weeks earlier, whether they supported IPv6 Glue Records for .EU domain names. Their reply was that their ability to support IPv6 Glue Records was limited only by the ability of the relevant registry to support them. So having said "yes", they now said "no".

I checked the sample agreement which is agreed between EURid and registrars. In section 2.5 it says that registrars must offer all the services to end-users that EURid offers. I also telephoned EURid in Belgium (English +32 2 401 27 60) and asked them if they supported IPv6 Glue. The chap I spoke with didn't know, but he telephoned me back later to say that they did. So it would seem that Register.IT is actually obliged to support IPv6 Glue on .EU domains, but doesn't. So what is that? Probably a civil wrong toward EURid. Ah well.

Eventually I decided that NamesCo was not for me and started to have a look round for another registrar. After looking around I found that AAISP have a domain name "", and that was registered through an outfit called Nominate.

"Nominate"? Odd. Sounds like some kind of play on "Nominet", and really quite a silly name. Ordinarily I would not have any truck with a company which (a) has such a silly name and (b) appears to be deliberately trying to confuse people into thinking it might be some other organisation (Nominet). But, I thought, hey ho, if it's good enough for AAISP, it's good enough for me.

So I spoke with Nominate to see if (a) they did deal directly with the registries Nominet and EURid, and (b) if they would support IPv6 Glue. They said that they did deal directly with those two registries. On the subject of IPv6 Glue, they said that whilst it was not something they had done much of, they did have access to most registries, and doing "unusual" things with domain registration was something that was well within the sort of thing that they would do.

So I took a chance and promptly transferred my .CO.UK and .EU to duly took over the domain names. I then asked them to set up the .EU with the desired nameservers and Glue Records. Within a short while they had managed to get those set up correctly. Fantastic.

At this point both domains were set up and from a DNS point of view, all correct and returning the correct nameservers and Glue Records, including IPv6 Glue Records. In addition, the information recorded with the registries legally identifying me as the registrant owner was correct. Fantastic.

So Nominate were starting to look reasonbly good.

However their web control panel does leave quite a bit to be desired. For example the Postal/geographic address bit doesn't really have the right layout for UK postal addresses, and unless you have an unusually brief address you end up having to cram it in and shove bits of the address into what is really the wrong box.

Also, Nominate are incapable of accepting e-mail addresses which don't happen to fit into their own private definition of what is acceptable. RFC5322 doesn't seem to have reached as far as Longfield, Kent, and they will not accept an e-mail address with a plus symbol in it. Clang!

Even worse was the reason they cited. Something to do with their system treating e-mail addresses as regular expressions! Bizarre! So if the e-mail address contains a plus symbol, this will be interpreted as "match one or more of the previous entity"!

Now, I can tell you, as an I.T. professional with 20 years experience in the business, that this is HIDEOUSLY, HEINOUSLY BROKEN, and indicates that their technical staff (if they have any at all) are hideously incompetent and any company that is this technically incompetent should not be touched with a bargepole.

So in summary: I'm still looking for a DNS registrar which is at least a quarter decent. If you do have any suggestions, please do let me know.

Results so far:

NamesCoTechnically incompetent. Don't touch with a bargepole
Nominate a.k.a. BB-OnlineTechnically incompetent. Don't touch with a bargepole

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