Once you've wisely determined that building a website is an essential part of your business, you need to make another important decision, even before you consult our roundup of the best web hosting services: What's your domain name going to be? You know, it's the [yoursitename].com web address by which all your (hopefully) many customers will find you. Furthermore, how do you go about staking your claim for it? Purchasing a name is a relatively simple process (although finding one that isn't already taken can be a challenge), but there are many factors that you should consider. Since your domain name is, in effect, the name of your website, you want to make sure you get a good one. But what makes a good one? And since it's also the address of your website, you want to make sure you understand the contract between you and the domain name registrar. Is it starting to sound a little more complicated? Don't worry: This primer can help you get started.
When you type google.com into your browser, the domain is split into parts by the “dot”, from right to left. The first part is “com”, so your computer checks the root zone file to see which registry manages the .com TLD. It then checks with this registry to see where the next part, “google”, points to. The registry returns the IP address 126.96.36.199, and your computer can then ask Google to send their homepage over.
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.
Domains that are indexed on Google and highly ranked are particularly attractive to traders. Other SEO aspects, such as backlink profiles or the search volume of the keywords in domain names, also play a significant role in appraising value. Design can also positively affect the price of a domain. Short and succinct names that are easy to remember are especially advantageous. Endings are further factors that should be taken into account. Top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com or .org are by far the most sought-after endings.
Just days after Verisign launched the Site Finder Service, ICANN wrote a strongly worded letter ordering them to disable it. Verisign complied, but not without writing a strongly worded letter of their own, in the form of a lawsuit. Verisign argued that ICANN overstepped their bounds in trying to control their activities, and ICANN argued… that Verisign overstepped their bounds in performing those activities.
Classic domain extensions work for both options, as well as country specific extensions to build up local relevance. nTLD domain names such as .design, .business, or the eye-catching .nyc are good, .business especially in the case of a website builder package. There's often confusion surrounding the nTLDs, and it's good to know that the TLDs that imply a geographical reference are classified as generic top level domains by Google. For those who opt for website builder packages, it may be worth registering more than one domain extension, especially the classic extensions such as .com, as many users will remember this one better than the nTLDs – if you own the .com version but prefer the nTLD, you can always set up domain forwarding to avoid competition from other websites.
I’ve tried to be charitable to Verisign in my reading of Site-Finder-gate. Even then it seems quite clear that they were deep within the grey areas of their contract with ICANN, and that they knowingly acted against the spirit of the Internet that they’d been entrusted to build. That said, I respect the hustle — Verisign were, and continue to be, a publicly traded company with a responsibility to deliver value to their shareholders, and this quasi-bait-and-switch was a pretty inspired way to do it.
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