Pre-ordering new TLDs is (still) a complete mess.
This morning I tried to give my money to a handful of domain name registrars. I tried really hard.
Some of them refused to take it unless I jumped through a bunch of hoops. Mind-numbing, hair-pulling hoops. Someone pass the Propecia, because I’m going to need some to replace all the hair I just pulled out.
The simple exercise I was trying to complete: pre-registering .website domain names.
Let me tell you, it’s a good thing the general public isn’t trying to pre-register new TLDs. Even as a domain expert, it’s complex. Most domain name registrars have hacked together solutions that simply don’t work well.
Here’s how my journey started…
My journey actually started on Monday when I decided to pre-order .website domains at GoDddy. I think GoDaddy does the best job handling new TLD pre-orders and explaining the options. But it still trips up a bit.
I pre-registered 22 .website domain names at GoDaddy on Monday. I couldn’t find a bulk pre-registration tool on the site, so I searched one by one. Since GoDaddy’s site is fast, this really wasn’t that bothersome. Checking out was simple, too.
Then the Trademark Clearinghouse alerts came via email. Just three of them (all generics, I swear!). So I dutifully clicked the link to acknowledge them.
After logging in to GoDaddy, I got the message “Please come back later to accept the claim(s)”.
Concerned that GoDaddy wouldn’t catch the domains for me unless I acknowledged, I went back today. Only one of my three domains had a message that I was now able to confirm the claims notice:
I clicked the button to acknowledge that one claim. I got an error message.
Whatever the error was, it turns out the claims notice was acknowledged. I found this out when I went to the pre-orders section of my domain control center and saw that the status changed on the one domain.
As for the other two, maybe there’s a perfectly good reason I still can’t confirm them. But the error message doesn’t give me much to work with.
Today I went back to GoDaddy to pre-register one more domain, let’s call it ABC.website. When I checked out I got an error “The basket contained domains that are unavailable. Those domains have been removed.”
I went back to the main GoDaddy.com page and searched for the same domain again. It says it’s unavailable. Then I try it again on the home page and it brings me to the pre-order page, showing the domain is available. Then I go to the new TLD pre-order page for .website to search for the domain. It says it’s available. I click to add it to my cart and checkout and suddenly I’m on GoDaddy’s home page again. My cart is empty.
It was a bit frustrating, but this is one of the best experiences I had pre-ordering .website domain names.
On to 101domain.com. This registrar carries basically every domain name in the world, and I used them to pre-register some .link domains. They also have low prices — just $9.99 for .website compared to $14.99 at GoDaddy and many other registrars.
I tried to backorder the same 23 domain names. There’s no bulk search I can find, so I did it one by one. Again, their site runs quickly, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Despite a reasonably good flow, there are a few issues that pop up with 101Domain and pre-orders.
First, you might get the confusing error message “There is already an open order for ABC.website”. 101Domain only accepts one backorder per domain, hence the message. You will be forgiven for assuming this message means you have already pre-ordered the domain, not someone else.
Second, 101Domain sends a bunch of confirmation emails. Net of domains already backordered by someone else, I pre-ordered 19 .website domains at 101Domain, all in one transaction. I received 40 separate email confirmations.
Third, it takes 101Domain a long time to refund you on domains that it doesn’t grab at launch. It took several weeks to get a refund last time.
Still, 101Domain.com has good prices and it’s fairly painless to pre-order domains there.
I went to 1&1, got very frustrated, and left. I came back to it later (keep reading).
Last time I pre-ordered domains, I noticed that Hexonet (1API) caught a lot of the ones I tried to order at GoDaddy and 101Domain. So I figured I’d try it out.
At first…magic! Hexonet has a bulk search for pre-ordering new TLDs!
Pricing was in line with GoDaddy, so I created an account and went to check out.
The account interface looks like a computer programmer designed it. Still, I figured it was worth proceeding…until I realized that you need to first deposit funds with the registrar and then place orders against those funds. I don’t really want to do this; if they don’t get the domains then I’m stuck with credit instead of a refund.
I went ahead and clicked the credit card payment link to deposit funds anyway. Here’s the message I got:
Your account has not yet been authenticated for creditcard payments. The authentication can be completed easily by following the steps below:
1. Please send an email to email@example.com indicating your username, your name and phone number.
2. Our support will call the number provided for verification.
3. Once verified you will be permitted to process payments via credit card.
I couldn’t figure out how to pre-order a .website domain. I got the message “please try again” every time I searched for a .website domain. I know that eNom (same parent company) takes down pre-ordering well ahead of a launch, so maybe that was the problem.
For all I know, United Domains has a wonderful pre-ordering experience. But at $29 for a .website domain, I’ll never bother to find out.
Back to 1&1. .Website domains are just $9.99 there, so I wanted to figure out how to effectively place pre-orders with 1&1.
1&1 spent $50 million advertising pre-orders for new TLDs. $50 million.
Please Lord, I pray that 1&1 spends just a little money on a UX expert. Oh, and a few extra servers, too.
It blows my mind how f@cked up 1&1’s site is. Truly unbelievable.
First, you have to get past the site moving soooo slooowwwwlly.
Then the usability absolutely kills you. Let me explain what my experience was like today.
Let’s say you go to Best Buy to buy a new Blu-Ray player. You finally (it wasn’t easy!) find the Blu-Ray player you’re looking for and put it in your cart. Then you stroll over to where the accessories are to get an HDMI cable. You find the cable and put it in your cart. Then a Best Buy employee comes up, flicks you off, grabs the Blu-Ray player and runs off.
You’re bewildered, but you really want that Blu-Ray player. So you go back to the shelf. Pick up another. You turn around, and that guy has now stolen your HDMI cable and run off!
You get everything back in your cart, grab a couple Blu-Ray discs, and start going to checkout. Another Blu-Ray disc catches your eye. Just when you add it to your cart, that same damn employee comes over and yells “ILLEGAL!”, dumps your cart over and takes everything away again.
At 1&1, I searched for a .website domain. Clicked the “add to cart” icon. The domain then showed up in this box:
I searched for another .website domain, repeated the same process, and it showed up in the box too.
Searched for a couple more, repeated the process. A painfully slow site, but at least I’m making progress.
Then I searched for another domain and got this message:
Now all but the first domain I added to my cart have disappeared!
I don’t know why certain domains trigger the legal notice. The domains aren’t on the name collision list and don’t match a TMCH record. Even stranger, sometimes when I repeat the search for the same domain, I don’t get the warning.
That’s too much pain and suffering for one day.
I’ll sit content with my GoDaddy and 101Domain backorders. We’ll see what happens.