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A Registrar with a (Euro) Attitude

  • January 14, 2002
  • By Benoît Marchal
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The big news in Europe at the beginning of the year is the arrival of euro coins and notes. (Hopefully, the new pan-European currency will help foster a European identity.) So I've decided to look at what a developer could do with his or her shinning new euros. My suggestion? Go to Gandi and get yourself or your project a domain.

Benoît Marchal

Price Champion

In March 2000, Gandi started selling domain names for 12 euros (around 10 dollars) and the price hasn't changed. "We were the cheapest registrar then. Our goals were to lower prices and to enable individuals and non-profits to own a domain," explains Patrick Mevzek of Gandi.

Today, there are even cheaper offerings, but registrars buy the domains for $6, so 12 euros is about as low as you can go for this single service while still being profitable. Cheaper offerings are often subsidized by other more-expensive services. "At Gandi, we only do domain names to guarantee our independence," says Mevzek.

Why a Domain?

Legal problems around domain names, such as cybersquatting, get all the press (and will keep lawyers busy for many years to come), but domains are important to developers too.

For example, I often hear of unscrupulous contractors that use domains as ransom with their clients. If the customer threatens to move, he'll lose his domain -- his online identity. Oftentimes, the new contractor (that's you and me) has to figure out a solution.

Broadband is cheap, your PC is online all day. It makes sense to call it by its name.

Gandi advocates empowering the customer: "We have a Web interface that lets him or her manage the domain directly," says Mevzek.

Web-mail services, such as Hotmail and Yahoo!, and other so-called lifetime addresses illustrate a more benign form of this problem. People find it hard to move to a competing service for fear of losing their address. Registrars, including Gandi, offer free or inexpensive e-mail redirection that bypasses the problem entirely.

Identifiers

XML namespaces and Java packages cause a more insidious but no less frequent issue. Java prefixes package names with a domain to guarantee uniqueness: com.sun.dialog.Dialog is never confused with com.marchal.dialog.Dialog. XML does something similar with namespaces.

The theory (domains are worldwide identifiers) is great. In practice, I have seen it be problematic. I do a lot XML work and have found that few corporations have a policy on using domains for anything but e-mail and Web hosting. I have found registering an inexpensive, short domain specifically for development to be the answer.

Geek Factor

Finally, there's the pure geek factor. Broadband is cheap, your PC is online all day. It makes sense to call it by its name (it's easy with dynamic DNS such as minidns.net), to run a game server, for example.

"A fair portion of our users run their own servers," adds Mevzek.

Clear Vision

One of the thing that surprised me with Gandi is their unwillingness to compromise on their vision. "Originally, our founders wanted a non-profit organization, but ICANN regulation prevented it," explains Mevzek.

"Yet we believe in independence for our customers and for ourselves. For example, we only support official standards and we only use open-source software. The whole site is written in Perl."

That's a registrar with an attitude -- a perfect trial for those euros.

About the Author

Benoît Marchal is a Belgian developer and writer. He is the author of XML by Example (two editions), Applied XML Solutions, and a columnist for IBM developerWorks. There's more on this topic at marchal.com.






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