When you register a domain name you usually go through an authorised registrar.
There are many registrars around the world and to make money for some and work lighter for registrars, the term “reseller” means anyone can now sell domain names on behalf of the registrar. Once you sign a contract with a registrar you can become the reseller for domains and usually make a small profit form sales and renewals.
Many Web developers or ISP’s are resellers and they bundle their products with a domain and web hosting. Once you buy a domain through a reseller or sometimes refer to as a Service Provider the reseller will take responsibility of renewing the domain in the future. You don’t deal with the Registrar directly. In most cases the reseller will give you access to the control panel provided by the Registrar as a Branded “Reseller” interface.
With every domain you will have to provide contact details and technical contact details. In some cases you may require do specify the billing contact details. Most cases you are the owner and the technical contact will be the DNS provider or the reseller/registrar. The best practice is to specify the technical contact as the DNS provider. Should someone need to make a DNS change or have issues with the domain they will usually contact the Technical contact. In general the Technical contact looks after the workings of the domain and DNS.
When you do a whois lookup on a domain name the results don’t always clearly show you who the reseller or service provider is. The best is to confirm with the owner to obtain details of where they managed to register the domain. In some cases they may have gone in and changed the technical contact to themselves or another third party provider. Sometimes it’s a good indicator on who the reseller might be. Looking at the DNS can also provide a clue as to who the reseller is.
Another option to find the reseller will be to contact the registrar directly. This should be the last option if all the above failed. Many people do not keep their contact details up to date and it can be virtually impossible to track them down unless you can find out who paid for it last. Many people also get a web developer involved that will make changes and even take control or ownership of the domain. By giving someone else access to the control panel where you manage your domain can be fatal as they now have the ability to change contact details and email addresses etc. When a web developer or designer gets hold of a domain the first thing they usually do is to transfer it away to another provider or their own web host. This results in a DNS change and loss of all email and previous website pointers.
Many people get confused when transferring a domain. You can transfer DNS only which means the registrar/reseller stays the same. The new provider will only do DNS and maybe provide web hosting. You now pay 2 separate companies. One for the yearly registration of the domain name and one for using their web space. In more extreme cases if your mail goes somewhere else you may even be paying a third provider for email!
Looking at the whois details of a domain gives you the following info:
Registrar/reseller – Who the domain was registered through
Admin/owner/ registrant – Details of person or company who owns the domain.
Technical Contact – The person or company who looks after the workings of the domain, website or email.
DNS – The name servers which are authoritative for the domain.
Other valuable info:
Date registered: The date when the domain was registered.
Last update: Last time an update was done to the domain name and not the DNS.
Expiry date: When the domain expires and will no longer operate.
Status: Indicates various parameters as well as if the domain is active or not.
More on Status:
An OK status indicate normal operation
Registry lock: May indicate inactive, check the expiry date
Registrar hold: Also can indicate an inactive state, usually after expiry date.
Registrar lock: Indicates the domain can not be transferred or altered unless the parameter is removed/changes by the registrar in the control panel
Other status indicators can be detailed as in: transfer prohibited
A quick browse of the status, Expiry date and DNS usually give you a good indication of where a problem lies with a domain if any.