The way that competition is supposed to work between registries, is that lots of companies go to ICANN and say “We think we can reliably manage .com, and we think it would cost us [$5] per domain.” ICANN reviews these bids and awards the .com contract, which lasts for a fixed period of time, to whomever they deem best-suited to the job. In this time, other companies can think of ways to manage .com better/cheaper, and try and win the next contract. This, in theory, would provide an incentive for registries to innovate, a big part of which would be in lowering costs.
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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.
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. 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.
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.
In order to register any domain, you must provide certain personal information that you may not wish to be publically searchable in the Whois database. Signing up for WhoisGuard is a great way to keep your registration data private. WhoisGuard acts as a "shield" for your searchable information, displaying the address, phone number, and email of the domain registrar (Namecheap, e.g.) instead of your own. Keep in mind that WhoisGuard is an optional security add-on that must be renewed separately when you renew your domain.