Domaining For Beginners, Part 6: What's the Difference Between a Registry and Registrar?

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Welcome to Domaining for Beginners, where we’ll focus on the basics of domains and look at everything from how to choose a good domain name to how new top-level domains are affecting the industry.

45% of NamesCon attendees in 2016 and 2017 were first-timers, so we’ve created this “Domains 101” content series to help newcomers make sense of our exciting industry.

In Part 5 of Domaining for Beginners, we looked at the relationship between branding and domaining, and the two things are more intertwined than one might think!

Part 6 of Domaining for Beginners will look at the difference between registries and registrars.


Registry, registrar, regist-whoa!

Getting a domain name registered doesn’t have to be hard, but some of the jargon can be a little confusing for some. Three terms in particular—registry, registrar, and registrant—are very similar and without a little more understanding, can make entering the domain name business seem a bit complicated. Today, we’ll be looking at the difference between registries and registrars.

Registrar

A registrar is an accredited organization that sells domain names to the public. It’s a service that allows you to officially register your site. To be legitimate, they must be accredited by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a private and non-profit corporation that allocates IP addresses and manages the DNS. For clarification over terms like IP and DNS, check out this Domaining for Beginners piece.

Some registrars can sell top-level domain names (TLDs) that include .com, .org, .net, and ccTLDs like .ca. Since a number of domains with popular TLDs (e.g. .com, .net) are most likely already taken, a registrar’s job is to only allow you to register one that hasn’t already been taken by someone else.

GoDaddy is an example of a registrar. And now, registry.

Registry

A domain name registry is any organization that manages a database of domain names. They actually create and organize domain extensions, and work alongside registrars to sell those domain names. Registries make all the big decisions regarding registrations and settings, determining the rules for sets of domain names.

Example of domain name registries include Radix and Afilias.

How Do They Come Together?

The hierarchy places ICANN at the top, followed by registries, registrars, resellers, and finally, registrants. It looks a little something like this:

ICANN: Imposes rules and regulations, and coordinates management of the Internet’s naming system
Registry: Creates, enforces rules for individual TLDs (.com, .org, etc.)
Registrar: ICANN-accredited organization that issues domain licenses to registrants
Reseller: A business that sells domains to registrants
Registrant: Individuals or businesses that register domain names

OpenSRS has a great analogy for how these things interact and engage with one another, placing the world of the Internet into that of a dairy farm:

The Government (ICANN) regulates the production, distribution, and quality of milk. Farmers (registries) need to raise cows to produce milk and supply it to distributors (registrars). The distributor then stocks the grocery stores (resellers) with milk, which is purchased and consumed by customers (registrants).

Though these words are very similar, they clearly operate in wholly different ways. If you need an extra tip to help you remember the difference between a registrar and registry, feel free to use our little tip: once you learn to associate a wild bloodthirsty lion with the dedicated pursuit of sales, registrar becomes regist-“ROAR!” It works to help you remember the difference… and now you’ll always look at your sales team like the ruthless pack of animals they really are.


Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between a registrar and a registry, stay tuned for our next instalment of Domaining for Beginners, which will explore the world of new TLDs.