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 domain name is, quite simply, the name of your website. The domain can be found in the URL and is used in order to locate the website of a specific person or organization. Each domain name or URL directs users to a specific IP address. Domains are easier to remember than a long and complicated IP address, which takes the form of a series of numbers. A domain can be divided up into three different elements: a subdomain, a domain name, and a top level domain (TLD). Take about.1and1.com as an example: the 'about' element is the subdomain, the '1and1' element is the domain name itself and the '.com' part of the URL is the top level domain. It is also possible to have multiple subdomain levels, info.about.1and1.com for example, which you can use to segment your website into separate categories. The length limit of a complete domain name is 255 characters. With 1&1, you can choose a domain name that best suits you or your business, or you can transfer an already existing domain over to 1&1. Next, customers can select a TLD from a wide variety of domain extensions on offer. When choosing a domain name, it is important to select something that properly reflects the ethos of your business in a concise and catchy way. A good domain should be memorable, brandable, and should have a suitable extension.
Hostt is a just-launched free web hosting company that includes domain name purchasing and registration. They've a suite of offerings, such as one where you'll pay $13.99 per year for domain names with extensions that include .com, .net, .org, .us, .biz, and .info., but have unlimited bandwidth, web space, sub-domains, parked domains, sub-domains and email accounts, among other things. Like HostGator, they include domain locking and automatic renewal, along with a user-friendly management portal (which, believe me, is pretty rare) and 24/7 technical support. This isn't a bad price considering the amount you get, and their $3.95 and $5.95 a month packages both offer fairly balanced domain-inclusive packages.
NameCheap offers domain names to individuals and businesses, including a wide range of new TLDs that can draw further attention to your particular business segment. They also have a user-friendly control panel for buying domain names as well as offer hosting and tools for building your website. I personally used them to transfer over 25 domain names at once, and it took a few days and about three clicks. They're my go-to processor for names I'm just looking to hold.
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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."
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.