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.
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.
If you do not have a web host, you can always allow the registrar to park your domain name at a temporary website specially set up for you. This way you can quickly secure your domain name before it's too late and still take your time to set up the other aspects of your site. As far as I can tell, most registrars (or probably all) automatically park your domain by default whether you ask them to or not, so if this is your situation, you probably don't have to do anything special to get it done. Some of those registrars also provide you with a free email address at your own domain name while it is parked at their site, like firstname.lastname@example.org (where "example.com" is your domain).
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’.
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.
A great domain name is a concise, easy to type, and memorable URL that reflects your brand or your website’s subject matter. Avoid using hyphens, strings of numbers, or unnecessary words to make it easy for your visitors to remember and find your website. Remember: A great domain name is one that your visitors can type correctly on their first try.