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.
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A few companies have offered low-cost, below-cost or even free domain registration with a variety of models adopted to recoup the costs to the provider. These usually require that domains be hosted on their website within a framework or portal that includes advertising wrapped around the domain holder's content, revenue from which allows the provider to recoup the costs. Domain registrations were free of charge when the DNS was new. A domain holder may provide infinite number of subdomains in their domain. For example, the owner of example.org could provide subdomains such as foo.example.org and foo.bar.example.org to interested parties.
ICANN renewed Verisign’s .com contract, this time with an interesting new clause — the $6 cap previously placed on Verisign’s fee was removed, granting permission for Verisign to raise their fee by 7% each year from 2007 to 2010, bringing it to $7.85. The justification given by ICANN was “to allow market forces to determine prices”, which I don’t quite follow, but I’m no Keynes. They also point out, in subtler language, that it’s the US government’s job to worry about Verisign’s monopoly, which is, I guess, fair.
The dispute was over the innocently-named Site Finder Service, launched by Verisign in 2003. With traffic to every .com domain going through Verisign, the Site Finder Service redirected anyone accessing an unregistered domain (via a typo, for example) to a Verisign website with sponsored links. The company argued that this was more useful to Internet users than seeing a generic error page. Whatever their reasoning, this made Verisign the de-facto owner of every unregistered domain (what else does it mean to own a domain?), and skyrocketed them from 2,500th into the top 10 most visited websites. The best part? Verisign launched this without running it past anyone.
Premium domains (also known as aftermarket or pre-registered domains) are short domains, often just one word or even just 3-5 letters. Most of them have a .com extension but many premium domains end with .org, .net, and .biz. These domains include common words and are generally the most memorable. Because companies value short domains that match their company name or products, these domains are typically the most desirable. Additionally, certain domains sold by different registries are considered premium and therefore have a higher price point. In some cases, the renewal costs of these higher-priced domains are also quite expensive. Some high-priced premium domains, though, renew at a regular (lower cost) rate, giving you a better value in the long term. Make sure to research the overall cost of the domain plus renewal to find the right domain for your budget. You can browse Namecheap's premium domains in our Marketplace.