Domains are nonmaterial goods. When sold, the only transaction taking place is transfer of domain rights from one user to another. Barring any form of copyright or trademark violation, virtually any domain name can be bought or sold. Generic domain names, such as or, are not legally protected and can therefore theoretically be reserved by anyone.

The way that competition is supposed to work between registries, is that lots of companies go to ICANN and say “We think we can reliably manage .com, and we think it would cost us [$5] per domain.” ICANN reviews these bids and awards the .com contract, which lasts for a fixed period of time, to whomever they deem best-suited to the job. In this time, other companies can think of ways to manage .com better/cheaper, and try and win the next contract. This, in theory, would provide an incentive for registries to innovate, a big part of which would be in lowering costs.
The hierarchy of domains descends from the right to the left label in the name; each label to the left specifies a subdivision, or subdomain of the domain to the right. For example: the label example specifies a node as a subdomain of the com domain, and www is a label to create, a subdomain of Each label may contain from 1 to 63 octets. The empty label is reserved for the root node and when fully qualified is expressed as the empty label terminated by a dot. The full domain name may not exceed a total length of 253 ASCII characters in its textual representation.[6] Thus, when using a single character per label, the limit is 127 levels: 127 characters plus 126 dots have a total length of 253. In practice, some domain registries may have shorter limits.
Administrative contact. A registrant usually designates an administrative contact to manage the domain name. The administrative contact usually has the highest level of control over a domain. Management functions delegated to the administrative contacts may include management of all business information, such as name of record, postal address, and contact information of the official registrant of the domain and the obligation to conform to the requirements of the domain registry in order to retain the right to use a domain name. Furthermore, the administrative contact installs additional contact information for technical and billing functions.

Just days after Verisign launched the Site Finder Service, ICANN wrote a strongly worded letter ordering them to disable it. Verisign complied, but not without writing a strongly worded letter of their own, in the form of a lawsuit. Verisign argued that ICANN overstepped their bounds in trying to control their activities, and ICANN argued… that Verisign overstepped their bounds in performing those activities.
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The market-driven principles of the domain trade mean that a domain is only worth as much as the buyer is willing to pay. It is for this reason that criteria such as market potential and usability play such central roles in determining prices. Values can change at the drop of a hat. The price of a domain that was once of little interest to anyone in years past can skyrocket once, for example, a newly founded company takes interest in that same name.
Official marketplaces offer a third possibility for domain traders to peddle their product. Domain marketplaces, such as Sedo,, or, link potential buyers with domain holders hoping to sell their prized virtual property. These platforms function as a kind of domain real estate agency and are known to demand somewhat high prices for their services.
Keep in mind that these are the highest value cash only sales that have been reported to us in the past week. This column is meant to be an educational tool, not a complete list documenting ALL high value domain sales. Such a list is impossible to produce because many sales are kept private at the insistence of buyers, sellers or both. Our procedure for verifying the accuracy of domain sales reports is available here.

Who is in charge of all of these processes? Most countries manage a Network Information Center (NIC). An NIC is the main database that has all the information regarding what domain names have been registered and the IP address associated with each of those domains. The nonprofit organization the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is in charge of creating and managing the procedures for internet namespaces.
The right to use a domain name is delegated by domain name registrars, which are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization charged with overseeing the name and number systems of the Internet. In addition to ICANN, each top-level domain (TLD) is maintained and serviced technically by an administrative organization operating a registry. A registry is responsible for maintaining the database of names registered within the TLD it administers. The registry receives registration information from each domain name registrar authorized to assign names in the corresponding TLD and publishes the information using a special service, the WHOIS protocol.
In the first quarter of 2015, 294 million domain names had been registered.[17] A large fraction of them are in the com TLD, which as of December 21, 2014, had 115.6 million domain names,[18] including 11.9 million online business and e-commerce sites, 4.3 million entertainment sites, 3.1 million finance related sites, and 1.8 million sports sites.[19] As of July 2012 the com TLD had more registrations than all of the ccTLDs combined.[20]
An important function of domain names is to provide easily recognizable and memorizable names to numerically addressed Internet resources. This abstraction allows any resource to be moved to a different physical location in the address topology of the network, globally or locally in an intranet. Such a move usually requires changing the IP address of a resource and the corresponding translation of this IP address to and from its domain name.