Domain names put a friendly face on hard-to-remember numeric internet addresses. Every computer on the internet has a unique internet protocol (IP) number. A domain name represents one IP number or more. For example, the IP number for the domain name whitehouse.gov is 18.104.22.168. The whole purpose is to give users an easy-to-remember handle so that when sending an e-mail to, let's say, the President of the United States, you can type email@example.com instead of the more unwieldy firstname.lastname@example.org.
A domain name registration is simply reserving your website's name for a specified period of time. The two parties involved with a domain registration are generally the user who is registering the domain and the domain registrar. The domain registrant is the user who actually registers the domain name and the domain registrar is the company who helps that user with their domain registration.
Domain name registrations are priced on a subscription-like model that allows a person or business to register that domain name for a certain period of time (usually in annual increments). At the end of the registration period, you (the domain name registrant) have the option to renew the domain name registration for an additional period of time, or let it expire. It is important to renew your domain name registration, or you may find that all of your work building traffic and views to your site ends up benefiting someone else (in the instance that someone else registers your domain name after you let your registration expire), and potentially costing you more in rebranding.
Note that you can also transfer your domain name from one registration service to another. You'll want to do this if you're not satisfied with your current domain hosting service, if you find a better deal when your current registration is coming due, or, most likely, if you've signed up with a web hosting service that will also transfer your name to its site. Expect to get the transfer for free, but if that isn't offered, search for another domain hosting service.
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.
Technical contact. The technical contact manages the name servers of a domain name. The functions of a technical contact include assuring conformance of the configurations of the domain name with the requirements of the domain registry, maintaining the domain zone records, and providing continuous functionality of the name servers (that leads to the accessibility of the domain name).
Many registrars reserve the right to revoke your domain name for specific reasons, typically if you use the domain for illegal purposes or purposes deemed unacceptable (such as spamming). Many contracts contain a clause letting the registrar delete your domain name for no apparent reason. The implication, of course, is that the domain name is the registrar's, not yours.
Not every registrar sells every top-level domain, so if you want an uncommon TLD like .pizza, you might have to try a few registrars. Unusual TLDs often cost more than a standard .com address, but provide built-in memorability and give you more name options, since far fewer .pizza addresses are already taken. You can check name availability at any registrar that offers the TLD you want.
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’.
1&1 Internet — This is primarily a large web host that is also a domain name registrar. Like all registrars, there are different charges for different domain suffixes. For example, at the time I last checked, you pay $0.99 for a ".com" on your first year, then $14.99 per year thereafter. The fee includes private domain registration, which means that your particulars are hidden from public view (done by registering the domain in the name of a proxy company). You also get a free email account and unlimited email forwarding, DNS management, a free SSL certificate for your domain, etc. Both credit card and PayPal payments are accepted by this registrar.
A fully qualified domain name (FQDN) is a domain name that is completely specified with all labels in the hierarchy of the DNS, having no parts omitted. Labels in the Domain Name System are case-insensitive, and may therefore be written in any desired capitalization method, but most commonly domain names are written in lowercase in technical contexts.