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For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as Senior Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out web... See Full Bio

Anyone can buy a domain name. To do so, you visit a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy or Namecheap, key in the domain you want to buy, and pay a fee. You can't buy just any domain, of course—only one that isn't already registered by another person or business and that bears a valid domain suffix. In general, you'll want to buy something that is catchy and short so that it's both easy for people to remember, and easy for them to type in—like "PCMag," for example. That good search engine optimization (SEO) and it's also common sense. You might also want to do some research on key terms for your business. If you can get a good one into your site's name, that's all the better, from an SEO perspective.
HostGator is a company I used for many years with an old firm, and I've found them to be fairly reliable as a rock-solid grounding for a bandwidth-heavy site. Their control panel is also fairly powerful, allowing you to automatically control your fleet of names, as well as locking them down so that nobody can snipe them if you accidentally let a renewal lapse. Their prices are competitive but not the best, but I've found them to be immensely reliable in the past.  Read our HostGator Review.

My personal preference is to register the name directly with a domain name registrar rather than through my web host. I've heard stories, in the past, of less-than-reputable web hosts that registered the domain under their own name, making them the owner of the domain rather than you (although I don't know if such web hosts still exist today). Registering direct with a domain name registrar allows me to make sure that I am registered as the owner, the administrative and technical contacts. Being the owner is vital — if someone else places himself as the owner (such as your web host), he can always decide to charge you some exorbitant fee for the use of the name later, and there is little you can do. The various other contacts are less vital, but may still play important roles, depending on your registrar. For example, for some registrars, the administrative contact's approval is required before a domain name is transferred out of a web host (or at least, it used to be). If he/she cannot be contacted, the technical contact is used.


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While numbers like the ones seen above are impressive, most domains sell for significantly less extravagant prices and are generally in the two or three-digit range. Not long ago, those who were able to secure general terms (like icecream.com or pizza.com) not protected by trademark rights often found themselves sitting on virtual gold mines. The glory days of this boom have long since passed, and those looking for a profit in today’s market need a keen sense for coming trends.
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.
If you’re still with me then you might be wondering who came up with all of this. The answer is ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is a non-profit whose role is to coordinate all the names and numbers that keep the Internet online. They outsource a lot of the heavy domain name lifting to registries like Verisign, who pay ICANN for the privilege.
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.
If you register a domain with Bluehost when signing up for a hosting account, there is a domain fee that is non-refundable. This not only covers our costs, but ensures that you won't lose your domain name. Regardless of the status of your hosting service, you'll be free to manage it, transfer it after any required lock periods, or simply point it elsewhere at your convenience. You retain ownership of your domain until the end of its registration period unless you elect to extend it.
Domain names were created to make IP addresses easy to remember. Every computer has an IP address assigned to it – much like a street address. But instead of having to memorize each IP address number, we assign domain names to these numbers so we can easily remember them. The domain name system, or DNS, takes domain names and translates them into their IP addresses so that computers can communicate with one another. When you enter a domain name into your web browser, the browser simply uses that domain to locate its corresponding IP address and then shows you the website associated with it. If you own a business, GoDaddy can help you find a domain name that best suits the business so you can easily promote your website.
If you register a domain with Bluehost when signing up for a hosting account, there is a domain fee that is non-refundable. This not only covers our costs, but ensures that you won't lose your domain name. Regardless of the status of your hosting service, you'll be free to manage it, transfer it after any required lock periods, or simply point it elsewhere at your convenience. You retain ownership of your domain until the end of its registration period unless you elect to extend it.
Registering a domain name lets you create a personal presence on the web. With your own web address, you can control your online identity by linking to any other site with more information about you. For example, you can register a domain name and forward it to a website, blog, or social profile page like your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter pages. A domain name can protect your personal brand and help your career.

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]
Next are third-level domains, which are written immediately to the left of a second-level domain. There can be fourth- and fifth-level domains, and so on, with virtually no limitation. An example of an operational domain name with four levels of domain labels is sos.state.oh.us. Each label is separated by a full stop (dot). 'sos' is said to be a sub-domain of 'state.oh.us', and 'state' a sub-domain of 'oh.us', etc. In general, subdomains are domains subordinate to their parent domain. An example of very deep levels of subdomain ordering are the IPv6 reverse resolution DNS zones, e.g., 1.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.ip6.arpa, which is the reverse DNS resolution domain name for the IP address of a loopback interface, or the localhost name.
When done right, the domain trade is an enterprise that lends itself to particularly lucrative deals. The tactic is simple: domain names are purchased with the prospect of reselling them for a wide profit margin. But the trick of this trade lies in securing domains that may later be valuable to well-endowed buyers, such as a large company. We have laid out all the important facts and terms on the topic, including some of the highest sale prices on record for a publicly traded .com domain.
Domain names are often seen in analogy to real estate in that domain names are foundations on which a website can be built, and the highest quality domain names, like sought-after real estate, tend to carry significant value, usually due to their online brand-building potential, use in advertising, search engine optimization, and many other criteria.
If you already have a web host, obtain from them the names of their primary and secondary nameservers. Don't worry if you don't understand what these things mean. Just save the information somewhere. The information can usually be obtained from their FAQs or other documentation on their site, usually under a category like "domain name" or "DNS" or "domain name transfer" and the like. If you can't find it, email them. You'll need the information to point your domain name to your website after you buy your domain. Having said that, if you don't have a web host yet, don't worry. Just read on.

The root is the upper-most part of the DNS hierarchy, and involves delegating administrative responsibility of “top-level domains”, which are the last segment of a domain name, such as .com, .uk and .nz. Part of our tasks includes evaluating requests to change the operators of country code domains, as well as day-to-day maintenance of the details of the existing operators.
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 example.com as a subdomain of the com domain, and www is a label to create www.example.com, a subdomain of example.com. 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.
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