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Your domain name is like your own little piece of real estate on the web. It’s your street address in cyberspace. It is also known as your Internet identity. And to safeguard your online property, you MUST ensure that you hold the keys!

While it is true that you cannot own a domain name, it’s the registrar who owns the rights to use it for a defined period of time. Renewal is the method used to insure that you do not lose control over the domain name.

But what if you were never the registrar? Yes, believe it or not, this still happens.

Scenario One: Pass on the service
Early in the web design years, companies offered domain name registration services to help clients get on the web. An ethical company should have offered to transfer your company domain name to you. If not, many will do the paperwork when you request the change.

Scenario Two: When free is NOT free
There were also companies that offered clients free domain names when they signed up for hosting or purchased a website – and some still do. What does that mean? They own the rights to your URL. Since this was “free”, requesting a transfer to yourself often becomes a difficult task.

Scenario Three: Not your name
While the first two scenarios relate to business domain names (i.e. www.yourcompanyname.com), the third one has to do with your personal name (i.e. www.firstnamelastname.com). Your company registers your name as a domain – often done for marketing purposes. This has huge implications for you. Without having access to your personal domain name, this can seriously hinder your ability to manage your reputation online. Plus someone else owns your online real estate. What happens if you decide to leave your company for another opportunity?

Protect your domain name. The registrant (and administrative contact) should always be you – not your web developer, host provider, company or anyone else.

Who owns the keys to your online real estate?