Can you register a domain name directly with ICANN instead of through a middleman?

Can you skip the domain name registrar?

Can you register a domain name directly with ICANN instead of through a middleman?

by Christopher Heng,

I was recently asked by a visitor if he could buy a domain name directly from ICANN instead of having to go through a middleman like a domain registrar. This article answers that question.


Before continuing, let me make sure that we are all talking about the same thing here. A domain name is, loosely speaking, the address of your website. For example, is the domain name of this site. If you type "" into your web browser, you will land on my main page. A person typically gets a domain name by paying an annual fee to a registrar.

The visitor that asked me this question probably read somewhere that domain names are regulated by an organisation ("organization" if you use a different variant of English) called ICANN, which stands for "Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers". I assume he then wondered if he could deal with them directly, instead of buying domains through a registrar.

The Answer: Yes and No

While it's true that ICANN ultimately controls the allocation of domain names, they don't actually sell them at a retail level to webmasters. In a sense, they work like factories in the brick and mortar world that sell their products wholesale to retail shops.

Therefore, on one level, the answer is "no". You cannot buy a domain name directly from ICANN the way you do a registrar.

That said, it's possible to get accredited with ICANN as a domain name registrar. I mentioned some of the requirements for this in my other article, "Can I Be My Own Domain Name Registrar So That I Can Avoid Paying Domain Renewal Fees Every Year?"

If you were to read that article, however, you will notice that the annual expenditure that you will have to make is not insignificant, especially if all you want are a few domains. In the latter case, your expenses will be far in excess of what you will normally pay to a registrar. I suspect that ICANN wants to deal with companies that become registrars because they expect to make a profit from selling domains, not with a zillion small-time webmasters who want to skip the middleman.

In other words, if you are a gigantic Internet company with so many domain names that all the fees, insurance and the technical infrastructure costs are less than what you would have to pay a registrar, then the answer is "yes". You can deal directly with ICANN instead of a middleman, if you can be bothered to do all the hard work. And of course it's also a "yes" if you actually want to be a registrar yourself.

But just to be clear, for the typical person hoping to set up a new website, this is unlikely to be the route you are looking for. Like me, you will probably just want to take the easier, faster and cheaper route of buying a domain from a registrar, and devote your time and energy to the site itself.

Other Questions on Domain Names

For those who have more questions on domain names, you may be interested in some of these other articles.

You can find more articles on domains in the main index of domain name tutorials. I don't want to list everything in this section, to avoid it becoming too long. And of course, if you are buying a domain as a precursor to setting up a website, don't forget to read How to Create a Website, since there's more to designing a site than buying a domain name.

Copyright © 2016-2020 Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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