A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System (DNS). Any name registered in the DNS is a domain name. Domain names are used in various networking contexts and for application-specific naming and addressing purposes. In general, a domain name represents an Internet Protocol (IP) resource, such as a personal computer used to access the Internet, a server computer hosting a web site, or the web site itself or any other service communicated via the Internet. In 2017, 330.6 million domain names had been registered.[1]


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.
If you have a web site, you should seriously consider registering your own domain name. A domain name is a name like "thesitewizard.com" or "thefreecountry.com", which you can use to refer to your website. Note that you do not have to be a company or organisation ("organization" if you use a different variant of English) to register a domain name. Any individual can do it too.

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.
FatCow has one of the cheapest offers for an entire website package, with hosting and domain names for just thirty cents during your first month. After, that the price is $10.99 a month or $59.88 for the whole year, in a shared hosting package with enough bandwidth for most people. This is a limited promotion I found, but they still sell fairly well-priced packages (their "fat" options come with extras like marketing and advertising credits), and will gladly offer you perks for transferring your domains and hosting to them.
Namecheap — This company provides .com domains for $10.69 (plus 18 cents) per year ($9.69 if you transfer from other registrars). Along with your domain, you get free email forwarding, free web redirection (where anyone going to your domain is automatically directed to another address of your choice), free domain name parking, etc. For the first year (or at least, at the time I checked their prices), you can also have their WhoisGuard (where your particulars are masked from public view) for free. They have a wide variety of domain name extensions available, including .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us, .co.uk, .co, .de, etc. You can use either a credit card or PayPal for your purchases.
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?
More controversially, the new agreement guaranteed the renewal of Verisign’s contract in 2012 unless they were in “fundamental breach” of their obligations as a registry. A similar presumptive renewal clause in the 2012 agreement recently sealed Verisign’s control over .com until 2024. This kind of arrangement, ICANN say, incentivises registries to make long-term investments in infrastructure that benefit the Internet community.
It's good to decide early on if you want to have a brand domain or a keyword domain. The benefit of a brand domain is that your domain will most likely be considered as trustworthy, and immediately shows visitors that it's linked to your business or personal blog. A keyword domain, on the other hand, has the advantage that it will be better optimized for search engines, and therefore will get higher search results. In recent years, however, the drastic improvement in search results thanks to a keyword domain has begun to decrease.
Even when you register and pay for your domain name, you won't necessarily be able to use the name for several hours or even a few days. The domain must propagate, meaning that the official domain name registry must be updated with your website's Domain Name System information. That's something that occurs on the backend without any need of input from you.
SnapNames is a web domain name marketplace - meaning that they only deal specifically with domains that are currently owned by somebody else. They offer daily and premium auctions, private brokerage of domains, and buy-it-now listings for buying and selling domain names, including over 30 million domain names that aren't all, as you'll find on some services, exorbitant. They have over three million customers, including a significant number of small businesses, which is worth 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.

Next, someone has to tell the rest of the Internet that google.com points to 216.58.214.14. This is done by a “registry”, which is also the wholeseller that provides domains to registrars. Each top-level domain (TLD) — .com, .net., .org etc — has a registry that manages it. The .com TLD has been managed by the same registry since the beginning of time — an extremely profitable monopoly called Verisign. More on that later.
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.

GoDaddy used to be a place I'd recommend only as a joke, but has significantly improved their service. They'll recommend you domains based on certain keywords, which is useful if you've not got the one you want available (they'll actually remove these from the search to try and not break your heart), and they've also significantly improved their hosting offering. They still continue to offer weird things like "email services" that other hosting companies provide too.  Our GoDaddy Review.
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.
Most people assume a domain name ends in .com so if you buy a domain name with one of the other extensions (.net, .info, .org, etc.), you’ll have some extra work to get people to remember that your site has a different extension. Don’t automatically assume you should only buy domains with .com, though. Many sites have done quite well with other extensions. (Look at us!)

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

Domain names can be used in a number of ways. Direct visitors to your website’s home page or use complementary domains to send them to specific areas of your website ( e.g. yourcompany.jobs for a careers page). Or, forward a custom domain to an existing social media account, like your Twitter profile or Periscope channel. With a domain name you can even set up custom email addresses like yourname@yoursite.social, which can be used to conduct business or communicate with your followers. More.
×