Getting a domain name involves registering the name you want with an organisation called ICANN through a domain name registrar. For example, if you choose a name like "example.com", you will have to go to a registrar, pay a registration fee that costs around US$10 to US$35 for that name. That will give you the right to the name for a year, and you will have to renew it annually for (usually) the same amount per annum.
There are organizations that are called registries that manage each TLD option. When you register domain names, you would first visit a domain registrar who would in turn check with the registry that manages that TLD to see if the domain is available. If the domain for the TLD you want discovers that it is in fact available, the registry adds it to their registry and gives you access to it. If the domain has already been registered by another user for that TLD, you will be shown during the domain registration process that the domain isn't available.

Is your domain name portable if you change service providers? I’m starting a non-profit and I want to hold the name, but eventually I will fire someone to do the website development and want them to be able to use the platform they think they can work most effectively in. If I were to register with GoDaddy for services and get a free domain name… do I lose it if I switch to another web-hosting provider?
NameCheap offers domain names to individuals and businesses, including a wide range of new TLDs that can draw further attention to your particular business segment. They also have a user-friendly control panel for buying domain names as well as offer hosting and tools for building your website. I personally used them to transfer over 25 domain names at once, and it took a few days and about three clicks. They're my go-to processor for names I'm just looking to hold.
Note that you can also transfer your domain name from one registration service to another. You'll want to do this if you're not satisfied with your current domain hosting service, if you find a better deal when your current registration is coming due, or, most likely, if you've signed up with a web hosting service that will also transfer your name to its site. Expect to get the transfer for free, but if that isn't offered, search for another domain hosting service.

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1&1 Internet — This is primarily a large web host that is also a domain name registrar. Like all registrars, there are different charges for different domain suffixes. For example, at the time I last checked, you pay $0.99 for a ".com" on your first year, then $14.99 per year thereafter. The fee includes private domain registration, which means that your particulars are hidden from public view (done by registering the domain in the name of a proxy company). You also get a free email account and unlimited email forwarding, DNS management, a free SSL certificate for your domain, etc. Both credit card and PayPal payments are accepted by this registrar.
However, this can be a great way to start your online journey. Especially if the domain you’re purchasing already has a strong backlink profile to give you a boost in the search engines. Once you purchase a domain from Flippa you’ll need to register the domain with a new registrar and choose a host as well. Depending upon the details of the sale and where the current domain is registered and hosted.
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