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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.
Perspective buyers are able to directly contact domain holders in cases where the desired domain is no longer available. Most registries openly publish the names and contact data of domain holders. Once this information is gained, buyers can get in touch with domain holders and make an offer for the name. Sales are also known to occur in instances where the original domain owner had no prior commercial ambitions
Once you've wisely determined that building a website is an essential part of your business, you need to make another important decision, even before you consult our roundup of the best web hosting services: What's your domain name going to be? You know, it's the [yoursitename].com web address by which all your (hopefully) many customers will find you. Furthermore, how do you go about staking your claim for it? Purchasing a name is a relatively simple process (although finding one that isn't already taken can be a challenge), but there are many factors that you should consider. Since your domain name is, in effect, the name of your website, you want to make sure you get a good one. But what makes a good one? And since it's also the address of your website, you want to make sure you understand the contract between you and the domain name registrar. Is it starting to sound a little more complicated? Don't worry: This primer can help you get started.

Many desirable domain names are already assigned and users must search for other acceptable names, using Web-based search features, or WHOIS and dig operating system tools. Many registrars have implemented domain name suggestion tools which search domain name databases and suggest available alternative domain names related to keywords provided by the user.

During the 32nd International Public ICANN Meeting in Paris in 2008,[10] ICANN started a new process of TLD naming policy to take a "significant step forward on the introduction of new generic top-level domains." This program envisions the availability of many new or already proposed domains, as well as a new application and implementation process.[11] Observers believed that the new rules could result in hundreds of new top-level domains to be registered.[12] In 2012, the program commenced, and received 1930 applications.[13] By 2016, the milestone of 1000 live gTLD was reached.

It is also possible to setup a personalised or branded email address that simply forwards email to an existing inbox you may already have elsewhere such as Gmail, Yahoo or similar. This way, you can continue using your existing email address and receive your emails through your branded domain name. To send from your personalised address you will need an email mailbox account.
ICANN publishes the complete list of TLD registries and domain name registrars. Registrant information associated with domain names is maintained in an online database accessible with the WHOIS protocol. For most of the 250 country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), the domain registries maintain the WHOIS (Registrant, name servers, expiration dates, etc.) information.
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.

For the most part, you can pick whichever TLD you prefer, though a few have restrictions -- you can't buy a .edu domain unless you run an accredited post-secondary school. Many, but not all, country-specific domains (.us, .uk, .jp) are restricted to citizens of the country in question. Unrestricted country domains are often used for "domain hacks," where the extension becomes part of the title, such as YouTube's alternate address, "youtu.be."
Domain Privacy prevents these spammers from collecting your personal info. DreamHost’s complementary (yes it’s free for the life of your domain) Domain Privacy service works by masksing your personal information in the WHOIS database with DreamHost’s corporate information, so you’re protected from unscrupulous marketers, spammers, robo-callers, junk mailers, and stalkers.
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.
If you ever change your web host (the actual physical location of your website files), your domain name goes with you. Your regular visitors or customers who knew your site name as (say) www.thesitewizard.com would not have to be informed about a change of web address (also known as "URL"), since as far as they are concerned, the site is still at the same place. They would simply type your domain name and they'd be transparently brought to your new location.
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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.
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?

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.
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.
Registries and registrars usually charge an annual fee for the service of delegating a domain name to a user and providing a default set of name servers. Often, this transaction is termed a sale or lease of the domain name, and the registrant may sometimes be called an "owner", but no such legal relationship is actually associated with the transaction, only the exclusive right to use the domain name. More correctly, authorized users are known as "registrants" or as "domain holders".
Domain names are often simply referred to as domains and domain name registrants are frequently referred to as domain owners, although domain name registration with a registrar does not confer any legal ownership of the domain name, only an exclusive right of use for a particular duration of time. The use of domain names in commerce may subject them to trademark law.
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