A domain name consists of one or more labels, each of which is formed from the set of ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, -), but not starting or ending with a hyphen. The labels are case-insensitive; for example, 'label' is equivalent to 'Label' or 'LABEL'. In the textual representation of a domain name, the labels are separated by a full stop (period).
Second-level (or lower-level, depending on the established parent hierarchy) domain names are often created based on the name of a company (e.g., bbc.co.uk), product or service (e.g. hotmail.com). Below these levels, the next domain name component has been used to designate a particular host server. Therefore, ftp.example.com might be an FTP server, www.example.com would be a World Wide Web server, and mail.example.com could be an email server, each intended to perform only the implied function. Modern technology allows multiple physical servers with either different (cf. load balancing) or even identical addresses (cf. anycast) to serve a single hostname or domain name, or multiple domain names to be served by a single computer. The latter is very popular in Web hosting service centers, where service providers host the websites of many organizations on just a few servers.
There are organizations that are called registries that manage each TLD option. When you register domain names, you would first visit a domain registrar who would in turn check with the registry that manages that TLD to see if the domain is available. If the domain for the TLD you want discovers that it is in fact available, the registry adds it to their registry and gives you access to it. If the domain has already been registered by another user for that TLD, you will be shown during the domain registration process that the domain isn't available.
A handful of domains will have restrictions on them, which means you can only purchase them if you meet certain criteria or have authorization (some examples are .gov, .edu. and .mil). But most extensions are available to everyone. In fact, most country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) are available for anyone to purchase, even if you don’t reside in the country in question.
There are numerous domain name registrars. Listed below are just a few, along with my comments, if I know anything about them. Note that the domain name industry is highly competitive, with prices wildly fluctuating throughout the year, every year, so it's impossible to really mention accurate prices below unless I spend all my time updating this page. Please check their sites for the latest rates. All prices below are in US dollars.
Even if the term isn’t trademarked, don’t buy domains that are just a variation of another domain name. This means avoiding plurals if the singular is taken (mediatemple.net vs. mediatemples.net), hyphenating a phrase (media-temple.net), or adding “my” or some other preposition (mymediatemple.net). Alternately, you might consider buying these variations yourself and set them up so that if someone types one of the variations, they are redirected to your main site.
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.
An important function of domain names is to provide easily recognizable and memorizable names to numerically addressed Internet resources. This abstraction allows any resource to be moved to a different physical location in the address topology of the network, globally or locally in an intranet. Such a move usually requires changing the IP address of a resource and the corresponding translation of this IP address to and from its domain name.
With over 25 million .com domains registered with Google alone, this top-level domain is by far the most popular choice worldwide. According to the domain marketplace Sedo, the average sales price for a .com domain name during the second quarter of 2015 was 4,701 dollars. The most expensive publicly traded domain names have been known to fetch eight-figures. But don’t quit your day job just yet: such sales are the exception rather than the rule.
HostGator is a company I used for many years with an old firm, and I've found them to be fairly reliable as a rock-solid grounding for a bandwidth-heavy site. Their control panel is also fairly powerful, allowing you to automatically control your fleet of names, as well as locking them down so that nobody can snipe them if you accidentally let a renewal lapse. Their prices are competitive but not the best, but I've found them to be immensely reliable in the past.  Read our HostGator Review.

For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as Senior Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out web... See Full Bio
Critics often claim abuse of administrative power over domain names. Particularly noteworthy was the VeriSign Site Finder system which redirected all unregistered .com and .net domains to a VeriSign webpage. For example, at a public meeting with VeriSign to air technical concerns about SiteFinder,[23] numerous people, active in the IETF and other technical bodies, explained how they were surprised by VeriSign's changing the fundamental behavior of a major component of Internet infrastructure, not having obtained the customary consensus. SiteFinder, at first, assumed every Internet query was for a website, and it monetized queries for incorrect domain names, taking the user to VeriSign's search site. Unfortunately, other applications, such as many implementations of email, treat a lack of response to a domain name query as an indication that the domain does not exist, and that the message can be treated as undeliverable. The original VeriSign implementation broke this assumption for mail, because it would always resolve an erroneous domain name to that of SiteFinder. While VeriSign later changed SiteFinder's behaviour with regard to email, there was still widespread protest about VeriSign's action being more in its financial interest than in the interest of the Internet infrastructure component for which VeriSign was the steward.
Now it’s time to see if your domain name choices are available. Once you’ve come up with a few strong domain candidates, it’s time to plug them into Namecheap’s domain name search bar. We will search available domain names for you and let you know if your first choice of second-level domain or TLD is available. We’ll also suggest some alternate TLDs you might try if your first domain choice isn’t available.
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