Namecheap review

Namecheap is a US-based ICANN-accredited domain registrar that has been around for more than a decade. They started as a reseller of the registrar eNom and used eNom’s ICANN-accreditation. During 2018 all new and existing domain registrations are now under their own ICANN-accreditation. Over the years they have generally received positive reviews and are often recommended by customers. I have used Namecheap for many years and used to have most of my domains with them. Besides domain registrations Namecheap also offers different hosting plans. This review is solely about Namecheap as a domain registrar.

Review

Namecheap offers domain registration under more than 400 top level domains (TLD’s). Price wise Namecheap is an affordable option charging in the 10-15$ range for major TLD’s such as .com, .net, .org, .info etc. It is certainly possible to find cheaper registrars out there, but often it will be worth it to spend a bit extra by using a solid well-established registrar, Namecheap is in that league. They often have attractive promotions, but be aware that these prices most often only cover the first year of registration.

The purchasing process is pretty straightforward and simple, and Namecheap accepts most major credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin. While Namecheap does show several upsell options during purchasing, they are not as aggressive as many other registrars, and it’s easy to skip upselling by clicking “View Chart” when you have selected the domain you want. If you need free whois privacy, you need to add it from the list of upsell options. Don’t worry if you forget it during check-out. You can add whois privacy afterward.

During my time as a customer at Namecheap, I have had one bad purchasing experience. During a promotion, I was given free e-mail accounts for a year. I didn’t need them and never used. Unfortunately, auto-renew was on by default, and I ended up paying for yet a year of service and was unable to receive a refund. It seems Namecheap has since turned auto-renew off by default for such promotions. Anyway, I will recommend checking the auto-renew settings on both domains and add-on services to make sure they align with your needs.

Namecheap’s control panel has improved over the years, and the current version is quite simple and easy to learn. Most users with experience from other registrars will be able to manage registered domains quickly. The control panel provides self-service for most domain configuration options. Only some special configurations are unavailable such as adding an IPv6 glue record. Changes, for example, changing DNS are processed quite fast, typically within minutes. My only concern with the control panel is that it can be a bit slow at times.

I have been quite pleased with the process of both transferring domains in and out of Namecheap. Over the years I have transferred quite a few domains, and so far I have had no issues. I once needed to transfer out an expired domain. This was not possible through the control panel, but after contacting support, the transfer was initiated and went through. If the domain in question only recently expired it is technically still possible to transfer the domain to another registrar, but not all registrars will allow this. I was happy to discover that Namecheap will.

Namecheap offers 24/7 support through their knowledge base, support tickets, and live chat. My few encounters with NameCheap support has been positive. Overall the support staff seems to be competent and interested in solving problems.

Pros

  • Affordable pricing, typical in the 10-14$ range for major TLD’s. Namecheap often runs attractive promotions.
  • Offering domain registration under more than 400 TLD’s.
  • Satisfying and fast support through 24/7 tickets and live chat.
  • Decent and fairly easy to learn control panel.
  • Free whois privacy (if allowed by the TLD registry.)
  • Free DNS service (with some limitations), this service is even free for domains not registered with NameCheap.
  • Trustworthy, Namecheap has proved to be trustworthy and rock solid over the years.
  • Easy to transfer domains in and out of Namecheap.
  • Accepts PayPal and Bitcoin besides most major credit cards.

Cons

  • No phone support. Support is provided through a 24/7 ticket system and live chat.
  • Some special configurations are not supported, for example, adding DNS glue records for IPv6 addresses, and DNSSEC is not yet supported for all domains. Other special configurations require a support ticket.
  • Free add-ons such as e-mail account, SSL certificates, etc. provided as part of a domain registration sometimes have auto-renew enabled. It’s easy to accidentally end up paying for unwanted extra services initial free during domain registration.
  • Domains previously transferred out of Namecheap cannot be transferred back using promotional offers.

Verdict

Namecheap will continue to be on my list of preferred domain name registrars. It is possible to find slightly cheaper alternative registrars, but Namecheap is affordable, and they are a long-term player that has proved to be stable and trustworthy. The Namecheap website and control panel is simple and straightforward with a simple interface. Over the years they have continued to improve their interface and self-service. Overall, I recommend Namecheap as an option for a primary or secondary registrar.

Rebel.com review

Rebel.com is a Canadian based ICANN accredited domain registrar (registered in Barbados). Besides providing domain name registrations they also offer e-mail and webhosting, but I have only used them as a domain registrar. They are from time to time running some pretty good promotions for both registrations and transfers, this is what initially caught my attention. After having used Rebel.com for about 18 months, I am now in the process of moving my few remaining domains away. All in all, I do not recommend Rebel.com. More details about my experiences are outlined below.

Review

The control panel is “messy” and takes a while to get used to and figure out. Especially the WHOIS contact information manager is painful to work with and the entire control panel is calling for a major makeover. Instead of providing a smooth and easy to use control panel, it looks like it was mainly designed as an advertisement for add-on products such as WHOIS privacy and webhosting.

By default, domains are set to auto renew. Personally, I prefer to turn auto renew off, so I can decide manually if I want to keep a domain with a given registrar, transfer it to another registrar, or if I just want to let the domain expire. To turn auto renew off you must contact support. This is annoying and something you easily can forget to do until it is too late. Clearly, this feature could easily be integrated into the control panel like the majority of other registrars have done.Rebel.com will automatically charge the renewal fee 45 days prior to a domain’s expiry date unless auto renew is turned off. It looks like an attempt to get recurring customers through obscurity.

If you forget to renew a domain, they charge up to $100 in “processing fees” to reactivate the domain. This is an extremely high fee in comparison to other major registrars that charge a considerably lower fee.

I have both transferred domains in and out of Rebel.com. Transferring in was smooth and easy, but transferring out domains was more complicated. Firstly, getting the authorization code (EPP code) and unlocking the domain took a while to figure out and is not documented in their help section. Secondly, they do not provide an option to explicit accept the transfer on their end. Not even their support team is capable of accepting a transfer out request. As a result you have to wait a minimum of five days before ICANN will force a transfer. My experience from other major registrars is that a transfer can be completed within a couple of hours.

My experience with support is one of the more positive aspects. I have contacted support a couple of times through e-mail, and they responded fairly fast, even during weekends. However, at times it looked like I was getting canned responses not addressing my question. Unfortunately, the reason why I had to contact support in the first place has been because of the troublesome control panel…

Pros

  • Fast response from support.
  • Free DNS with full control.
  • Attractive promotions from time to time.
  • Reliable registrar.

Cons

  • Registration and renewal costs are higher than other reputable registrars.
  • “Messy” control panel missing several features.
  • No free whois privacy (not even for the first year.)
  • Auto renew is turned on by default, to turn it off a support ticket is required.
  • Difficult and slow transfer out process.

Verdict

In conclusion, my meeting with Rebel.com has been mixed and I will not recommend them. They offer a standard domain registration service and are trustworthy, but in comparison to other well established registrars such as NameCheap, NameSilo (affiliate link) etc. their domain service is more expensive, more troublesome, and with less features. Especially the hefty processing fees when reactivating expired domains nailed the coffin regarding my decision to move away all domains. I could be tempted to use them as a secondary registrar when they are running some good promotions, but only to transfer the domains out as fast as possible.

Fighting spam with fake MX records

No junk mailSpam is a well known problem to all users of the Internet, especially technical administrators of Internet services. I own several domain names for different purposes. Some are used for websites, some are used for e-mail, some are used for both, some are used for infrastructure (e.g. mapping easy to remember hostnames to IP addresses), and some are just sitting for future use. Most of my domains are not used for receiving e-mail. However, spammers don’t care and will still send spam mails to these domains. Even without Mail eXchange (MX) records a domain is still not safe as many e-mail servers will instead tryout the A record of the domain. With several domains not used for e-mail, this can at times be annoying to manage and causes extra server load.

To minimize the problem, using fake MX records, known as ‘nolisting‘ has been proposed as a trick to reduce spam.

I’m currently using a free service offered by Junk Email Filter Inc. They are running the project Tarbaby, essentially a cluster of fake MX servers. The project has two goals: 1) to help reduce incoming spam, and 2) to support the ongoing work of maintaining the Junk Email Filter blacklist of known spam sources.

The service is very simple to setup and use. Simply add the following hostname as the only MX record of the given domain:

tarbaby.junkemailfilter.com

You can set any value as the priority, for example, 10.

Every time a mail is received the system will respond with the code 550, which means that the message was not deliverable. Genuine senders will receive a reply with an error message and know that a given address is not available, and spam bots will move on and get registered in the blacklist.

Another free service is Fake MX. Add the following hostname as the MX record of the given domain:

mx.fakemx.net

Set any value as the priority, for example, 10. If you use more than one MX record, set the Fake MX record with a higher priority than the primary MX record. Also remember to read their terms of use before adding their mail server.

Using fake MX records is no ultimate solution to avoid all spam from getting in touch with your severs, but anecdotical experiences reported from different forums indicate that fake MX records significantly reduces spam.

More information about using fake MX records can be found at “Nolisting: Poor Man’s Greylisting” and “Other Trick For Blocking Spam.

As it is the case with most tricks also the nolisting strategy has some drawbacks. Especially if using a fake MX setup on a domain intended for receiving e-mail. Some of the drawbacks can be found at the Wikipedia page ‘Nolisting‘.