Registrars offer a wide variety of registration durations—one year, three, five, and even ten. Be careful about registering for more than a year, though. First, there might be restrictions on your ability to transfer the domain name should the registrar give poor service. Second, the registrar could go out of business, leaving your domain name without a host. Check the policies closely.
Next, someone has to tell the rest of the Internet that google.com points to 22.214.171.124. This is done by a “registry”, which is also the wholeseller that provides domains to registrars. Each top-level domain (TLD) — .com, .net., .org etc — has a registry that manages it. The .com TLD has been managed by the same registry since the beginning of time — an extremely profitable monopoly called Verisign. More on that later.
GoDaddy — This extremely popular registrar (probably the biggest today) offers .com domain names for $9.99 (plus 20 cents) per year (or $6.99 plus 20 cents if you transfer from another registrar). They have a web interface to manage your domains, free web redirection (where people who visit your domain will get transferred to another web address of your choice), free starter web page, free parked page or free "for sale" page, and an optional private domain registration where your domain is registered in the name of a proxy company. Besides .com, they also sell .us, .biz, .info, .net, .org, .ws, .name, .tv, .co.uk, .me.uk and .org.uk, etc. Note that (as with all registrars) the exact price varies depending on which domain you are registering (for example some domain suffixes are more expensive than others). Both credit card and PayPal payments are accepted.
Some domain name registries, often called network information centers (NIC), also function as registrars to end-users. The major generic top-level domain registries, such as for the com, net, org, info domains and others, use a registry-registrar model consisting of hundreds of domain name registrars (see lists at ICANN or VeriSign). In this method of management, the registry only manages the domain name database and the relationship with the registrars. The registrants (users of a domain name) are customers of the registrar, in some cases through additional layers of resellers.
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.