I got a bit upset with my old domain registrar, and wanted to move my .blog domain away from them as quickly as possible. In my rush to transfer to a new registrar, I didn’t do proper research and ended up over at Hover.com.
My first choice of registrar was Namecheap.com. Despite the cheap name, they’ve a better reputation than Hover.com and I was more impressed with what they offered and they’re also cheaper. Unfortunately, Namecheap.com doesn’t support transfers of .blog top-level domains, so they were not an option.
I thought I remembered hearing good things about Hover.com, so I went with them without any further research. Some time later, I realized that I’d only heard podcast hosts praise the service in their ad readings.
Here are my experiences with transferring half a dozen domains as a new customer.
Handing over control of your domains before they know who you are
You can’t register an account at Hover without making a purchase. This isn’t much of a worry when purchasing a new domain name. You don’t have anything to loose, and you’ll give your email address to Hover, and then pay for their domain services. The on-boarding process for new customers is a-okay.
When you want to transfer a domain, the process will put your trust of Hover to the limit. Without having the option to register an account first, you’re asked to input the domain transfer authentication code and click a link in an email sent to the domain owner’s designated contact address. So you’re handing over everything someone would need to take control of your domain who’ve you haven’t registered with before Hover and you’ve agreed on a contract.
This process set off a lot of alarm bells in my mind, but I still persisted through the process. I was worried about my web browser crashing and loosing its cookies, or that Hover would somehow loose track of the transaction. There was also the potential that Hover could just cease my domain name and refuse to return it before I paid a much higher price for the transfer than the price listed on their website.
To put it mildly I found the whole process very uncomfortable. Hover.com haven’t bothered with an Extended Validation certificate for their website either, meaning it was hard to verify that the server I’d connected to was in fact owned and operated by Hover. I spent a good quarter of an hour verifying that I was connected to Hover and that this was indeed the transferal process I should be expecting. It was almost unbelievable to me that they’d ask for all this much information without first getting my email address and credit card on file.
I found it unbelievable that they’d let me put in all this sensitive information without requiring me to agree to their terms of service also. Hover.com shouldn’t teach their customers to be this trusting and willing to give up control of their domain names.
To clarify, the email address Hover sent confirmation emails to was my WHOIS or domain registry information. This address is often invalid or operated by the previous registrar as a privacy measure to protect your actual email address from being picked up by spammers.
I got another unpleasant surprise once I’d confirmed that transferal of my domain, created my account, and paid.
When I last transferred a couple of domains between registrars, the new registrar didn’t complete the transfer until I’d entered my DNS information in their web interface and confirmed I that they should complete the transfer process.
At Hover, however, you can’t set name servers or add DNS entries until the domain transfer is completed. Hover also doesn’t copy over your existing name server or even the bare minimum of your DNS entries when they setup your domain. Meaning your domains will revert back to their default name servers upon the completion of the transfer process. Since your domain’s DNS will be wiped out, you’re left with a domain name that doesn’t work until you can re-configuring the domain.
Hover has a sleek web interface for configuring your name servers, or DNS entries if you wish to host your DNS with them (free of charge). The web interface doesn’t work while your domain is pending transfer, however. When I tried to add an entry, all I got was error messages from their PowerDNS server. This isn’t a new problem either, as I found others complaining about this all the way back in .
I’ve never had this problem with any registrar going back to the first time I moved from one registrar to another some . Historically, my new registrar would clone my entire DNS zone file from the old registrar. This practice is blocked by most DNS providers nowadays over security concerns. However, probing and copying the critical A and MX records to keep the domain functional has always been possible — even if this isn’t a complete migration.
Downtime isn’t entirely unavoidable if you’re willing to put even more blind trust in Hover and their employees.
We’ll take care of it! Just give us your passwords!
Hover offers to solve the DNS migration problem for you for any number of domains with their no-cost Valet Transfer Service. All you need to do is add billing information to your Hover account, give their customer support department a list of the domain names you want to transfer, your account password at your current registrar, and off they’ll go.
I’ve already mentioned that Hover made me feel unease about their security practices. Asking their customers to hand over account passwords to competing services is taking that uneasy feeling to a whole new level.
People will have their credit card information on file with their old registrars. Their personal information will already be available to Hover, and their credit cards too. I do suspect — at least hope — that Hover’s support staff can’t see your credit card information in their own systems. But they may have access to it after you’ve given them access to your account at competing service.
No company should be asking for your passwords and especially not ask you to hand if off to a random employee.
It’s interesting to note that their support staff apparently has the ability to add DNS records to domains before they’re transferred while customers can’t do this with self-service.
Failing to transfer .blog domain
Before the transfer, I checked that my domain’s WHOIS information clearly said “CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED”. Which means the old registrar doesn’t permit other registrars to initiate any requests to transfer the domain. This is called a domain lock, and is something the customer usually have to turn off themselves before transferring the domain name.
Hover incorrectly identified my domain as unlocked and said it was ready for transfer. I went ahead and tried transferring it, and unsurprisingly it failed as the domain was locked. In an automated email from Hover, they even incorrectly misidentified the problem and laid the blame on me: “Your transfer of ctrl.blog to Hover failed because the transfer auth code provided was incorrect.”
I then unlocked the domain at my old registrar, verified that the WHOIS had been updated, and entered the exact same authentication code again to complete the transfer. This time the transfer went through just fine.
Even though my old registrar also had bad processes for domain transfers, the blame for this one clearly lies with Hover. I’m not sure if they just couldn’t parse the WHOIS information properly or if there was some other bug. Whatever the reason, my old registrar did clearly indicate that the domain was not available for transfer and Hover failed to process that information correctly.
I’ve checked with a dozen other .blog domains, and Hover’s transfer tool incorrectly says they’re all unlocked and ready for transfer. It’s making a bit more sense to me now that Namecheap.com said they didn’t support transferring .blog top-level domains. Apparently, you need to do proper testing to verify that things work when you add support for a new TLD. Something that Hover clearly hasn’t done for .blog domains.
Hover.com’s website is pretty to look at, but it’s clear that they’ve spent more effort on making it look good than verifying that things work properly.
I went through an emotional roller coaster when transferring my domain names to Hover. I felt everything from distrustful, uncertain, annoyed, frustrated, and most of all disappointed. I soon had to add anger to that list after learning that Hover’s renewal prices for .com is 15.4 % higher than their already expensive domain prices. This wasn’t at all clearly communicated when I made the purchase! These aren’t the sort of feelings you wish your customer to associate with your brand.
Hover’s premium prices and good looks don’t mean you’ll get a premium domain service.
There’s an honor system among domain registrars. When transferring-in, they’ll only charge a regular 1-year fee for the domain and then add it on top of any remaining expiration time. They’ll honor the expiration time so you as their new customer don’t loose anything by switching domain provider early.
Most of my domain names are now under a transfer lockdown period for the next two months. At the end of this period, I’ll be reviewing other options — more carefully this time — because Hover wasn’t my cup of tea. ?
Update (): You can now read part two about the trouble I’d transferring domains away from Hover. It’s more of the same sort of problems as mentioned here, to be honest.