Before you sign up for Web hosting and start building a website, you need to buy the domain name where visitors will find your site. Hundreds of different registrars sell domains, so first and foremost, know that domain names work the same no matter which registrar you use. You don't need to buy your domain from the same company that will host your site. Aside from picking a registrar -- and, of course, your site's name -- you also need to pick a top-level domain like .com or .org.
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.
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 character set allowed in the Domain Name System is based on ASCII and does not allow the representation of names and words of many languages in their native scripts or alphabets. ICANN approved the Internationalized domain name (IDNA) system, which maps Unicode strings used in application user interfaces into the valid DNS character set by an encoding called Punycode. For example, københavn.eu is mapped to xn--kbenhavn-54a.eu. Many registries have adopted IDNA.
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.
1and1 have terrible customer service and billing, quite possibly the worst ever encountered. Their billing/invoice system is all over the place, their staff untrained and unwilling to resolve and their pricing is literally plucked out of thin air. Beware, pay 12 months in advance (not monthly) then cancel the direct debit or Paypal auto payment, otherwise they will rinse your pockets when you’re not looking &/or unexpectedly take an extra payment because of an ‘oversight’.
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?