When it comes to the domain industry, there are a few key players that play important roles in the registration and management of domain names. These players include Registrants, Registrars, Resellers, Registries and ICANN. Understanding the role of each of these players can help you navigate the process of registering and managing a domain name.
A Registrant is the person or organization who has registered the domain name. In order to register a domain name, the registrant will usually apply online to a domain registrar or one of their resellers. The registrant is bound by the terms and conditions of the registrar with which it registers its domain name, called a Domain Name Registration Agreement (DNRA). Registrants have certain responsibilities that are incorporated into these terms and conditions like payment of registration fees and submission and timely update of accurate data.
A Registrar is an organization accredited by ICANN and certified by the registry operators to sell domains. Registrars are bound by the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) with ICANN and by their agreements with the registry operators. The RAA sets out responsibilities for the registrar including maintenance of WHOIS data, submission of data to domain registries, facilitating public WHOIS queries, ensuring registrants details are escrowed, and complying with RAA conditions relating to the conclusion of the registration period.
Some registrants may opt to register through a reseller. Resellers are organizations that are affiliated or under contract with registrars, and usually offer other services such as web hosting, email mailboxes, etc. GoDaddy, for example, offers a Reseller Program for domain names, web hosting and email hosting. Resellers are bound by their agreements with the registrar(s) whose services they sell; they are not accredited by ICANN. However, the registrar for whom they are re-selling will still be the sponsor for the domain name registration and accountable for the domains sold by the reseller.
While registrars are contracted to conduct the day-to-day business of selling domain name registrations, Registry operators are responsible for maintaining the registry for each TLD. Registries are bound by the Registry Agreement (RA) with ICANN. The responsibilities of the registry operator include accepting registration requests (whether from registrars or directly from registrants), maintaining a database of the necessary registration data and providing name servers to publish the zone file data (i.e. information about the location of a domain) throughout the Internet. In order for a registrar to sell domains of a registry, they must enter into a Registry-Registrar Agreement (RRA). This contract governs the relationship between the registry and registrar.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a non-profit organization that plays a critical role in the domain industry by coordinating the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers, including domain names, IP addresses, and protocol numbers. ICANN’s main role is to ensure the stability and security of the Internet’s unique identifiers and to ensure that the domain name registration process is fair and transparent.
ICANN’s relationship with Registrants, Registrars, Resellers, and Registries is defined by several agreements and policies. Registrants, who are the individuals or organizations that register domain names, must abide by the terms and conditions of their registrar, which is defined by the Domain Name Registration Agreement (DNRA). Registrars, who are organizations accredited by ICANN and certified by the registry operators to sell domains, must abide by the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) with ICANN. Resellers, who are organizations that are affiliated or under contract with registrars, must abide by their agreements with the registrar(s) whose services they sell. Registries, who are responsible for maintaining the registry for each TLD, must abide by the Registry Agreement (RA) with ICANN.