Domain names serve to identify Internet resources, such as computers, networks, and services, with a text-based label that is easier to memorize than the numerical addresses used in the Internet protocols. A domain name may represent entire collections of such resources or individual instances. Individual Internet host computers use domain names as host identifiers, also called host names. The term host name is also used for the leaf labels in the domain name system, usually without further subordinate domain name space. Host names appear as a component in Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) for Internet resources such as web sites (e.g., en.wikipedia.org).
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?
Domain names disappear extremely fast. Many people claim that all the good domain names are gone. I doubt that — but it is probably true that most good domain names that are descriptive of products and services have been taken. If you want a domain name for your site, I suggest you act now, or face the anguish of having lost that name later. After all, US$10 (more or less) for a year's ownership of the name is rather cheap when you realise that you're securing a good name for your website.
Absolutely. Owning 'yourname.com' (as well as related domains such as yourname.tech or yourname.me) is a great way to brand yourself and retain control over your name's online presence. With a personal domain name, you can set up a portfolio, blog, or hobby site that’s associated with your own personal life. You can also set up a custom email address like john@johnsmith.com allowing your visitors an easy and memorable way to reach you. So even if you have no immediate use for yourname.com, it's wise to register a personal domain to ensure that you (and not some stranger) control your name online.
When registering a domain, the name, address and phone number you submit must be published to the WHOIS directory. Your information is public and accessible to anyone, at any time and is required by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as part of the domain registration process. To protect yourself against a potential spammer, hacker or cyber criminal Dyn offers a way to display the a proxy server's information instead of your own personal information.
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.
Official marketplaces offer a third possibility for domain traders to peddle their product. Domain marketplaces, such as Sedo, GoDaddy.com, or BuyDomains.com, 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.

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

Your domain name is how visitors easily find you online. It is often the first step in getting your website started because it is like establishing your website’s street address on the internet. If you did not have a domain name, you would have to give out your IP address to everyone who wanted to visit your website, which would get confusing and be easily forgotten.
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.
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.
Keep in mind, however, that free domain names are usually free only for one or two years, after which the registrar will bill you for the annual or biennial fee. In other words, the provider of the free domain name pays only for the first billing from the registrar. Also take note of whether or not the provider charges a fee for setting up a domain name. Most services offer to transfer an existing domain name to their servers at no cost, but sometimes you'll find a setup fee over and above the registrar's fee.
Finding the right domain name is the first step in building a website that people return to time and time again. Buying a good domain will inevitably boost your online presence, and therefore boost your success as a business or blog. Although it may seem like an investment of time as well as finances to build up a good domain, it's worth the effort. Content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress offer a good platform to build up a blog – 1&1 offers a WordPress CMS package, which includes a free domain for the first few months to get you started. 

Choosing the right domain name is essential for a successful online presence. Without a good domain name, you run the risk of being forgotten or lost amongst the masses of websites. If you're setting up a website to complete your social media profile, i.e. a personal website, then this will function differently to a blog or an online shop. It's important to know what the aim of your site is in order to pick the right name. There are two main things to watch out for – general tips, as well as tips for specific kinds of website. You can find these recommendations in the sections below.
Namecheap is a solid choice for registering your domain name. Plus, their site is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, especially on their domain management pages, which can be incredibly helpful. They offer reasonable priced domains, and have a free DNS service, and WHOIS protection. They also offer SSL encryption, for those looking to beef up the security of their domains.
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 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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