The first step to starting your website is registering your domain name. Think of your domain name as a street address for your website. Without a domain name, you would have to tell customers to visit your website at a temporary url such as 18.104.22.168/~yourwebsite instead of yourwebsite.com. Get your own domain name to lend your site a professional look and establish your online brand!
In the first quarter of 2015, 294 million domain names had been registered. A large fraction of them are in the com TLD, which as of December 21, 2014, had 115.6 million domain names, including 11.9 million online business and e-commerce sites, 4.3 million entertainment sites, 3.1 million finance related sites, and 1.8 million sports sites. As of July 2012 the com TLD had more registrations than all of the ccTLDs combined.
Domain name registrations are priced on a subscription-like model that allows a person or business to register that domain name for a certain period of time (usually in annual increments). At the end of the registration period, you (the domain name registrant) have the option to renew the domain name registration for an additional period of time, or let it expire. It is important to renew your domain name registration, or you may find that all of your work building traffic and views to your site ends up benefiting someone else (in the instance that someone else registers your domain name after you let your registration expire), and potentially costing you more in rebranding.
Before you sign up for Web hosting and start building a website, you need to buy the domain name where visitors will find your site. Hundreds of different registrars sell domains, so first and foremost, know that domain names work the same no matter which registrar you use. You don't need to buy your domain from the same company that will host your site. Aside from picking a registrar -- and, of course, your site's name -- you also need to pick a top-level domain like .com or .org.
A domain name can be used for a variety of purposes. Many people who are not ready for a website simply register the domain name of their choice to ensure it doesn’t get snatched up by anyone else. They may use it to create a professionally branded email address, or as a Web address that can point customers to an alternate online presence, such as their social media page, if they don’t yet have a website.
Domain names are often simply referred to as domains and domain name registrants are frequently referred to as domain owners, although domain name registration with a registrar does not confer any legal ownership of the domain name, only an exclusive right of use for a particular duration of time. The use of domain names in commerce may subject them to trademark law.
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Anyone can buy a domain name. To do so, you visit a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy or Namecheap, key in the domain you want to buy, and pay a fee. You can't buy just any domain, of course—only one that isn't already registered by another person or business and that bears a valid domain suffix. In general, you'll want to buy something that is catchy and short so that it's both easy for people to remember, and easy for them to type in—like "PCMag," for example. That good search engine optimization (SEO) and it's also common sense. You might also want to do some research on key terms for your business. If you can get a good one into your site's name, that's all the better, from an SEO perspective.
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.
Next are third-level domains, which are written immediately to the left of a second-level domain. There can be fourth- and fifth-level domains, and so on, with virtually no limitation. An example of an operational domain name with four levels of domain labels is sos.state.oh.us. Each label is separated by a full stop (dot). 'sos' is said to be a sub-domain of 'state.oh.us', and 'state' a sub-domain of 'oh.us', etc. In general, subdomains are domains subordinate to their parent domain. An example of very deep levels of subdomain ordering are the IPv6 reverse resolution DNS zones, e.g., 22.214.171.124.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.ip6.arpa, which is the reverse DNS resolution domain name for the IP address of a loopback interface, or the localhost name.
There is also what is called a ccTLD, or country code top-level domain. These are designed to signify sites located in or associated with certain countries or territories. Most of the ccTLDs actually don't have restrictions regarding who can register domain names. In fact, many ccTLDs are commonly misinterpreted as TLDs. For example, while .tv is commonly registered by television and media related websites, .tv is actually the ccTLD designated for the country Tuvalu. Domain hacks are also a popular use of both TLDs and ccTLDs. This involves creating a full word or phrase when combining the domain name with the TLD to create something your audience will easily remember. A popular example is using the .me ccTLD for Montenegro and combining it with "aweso" to create the domain aweso.me.
Avoid having numbers in your domain name. People can get confused about whether the numbers is a digit (3) or a word (three). If you want a number in your domain name because there’s a number in your company name, buy both versions (digit and word) and redirect one to the other. Be especially wary about using the number “0” in a domain name as people may see it as the letter “O.”
Registering a domain name lets you create a personal presence on the web. With your own web address, you can control your online identity by linking to any other site with more information about you. For example, you can register a domain name and forward it to a website, blog, or social profile page like your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter pages. A domain name can protect your personal brand and help your career.
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.
DNS is essentially a database of IP addresses. Each IP address is a series of numbers that allow computers to communicate with each other. A website is identified on a server by its IP address. Instead of your visitors having to remember an IP address to type into their browser to access your site, they instead use your domain name. When your domain is entered into their browser, DNS translates it into an IP address because that is what computers understand.Your computer is able to connect to your web hosting and show your website on the browser once the IP address is found.
If you ever change your web host (the actual physical location of your website files), your domain name goes with you. Your regular visitors or customers who knew your site name as (say) www.thesitewizard.com would not have to be informed about a change of web address (also known as "URL"), since as far as they are concerned, the site is still at the same place. They would simply type your domain name and they'd be transparently brought to your new location.
Many desirable domain names are already assigned and users must search for other acceptable names, using Web-based search features, or WHOIS and dig operating system tools. Many registrars have implemented domain name suggestion tools which search domain name databases and suggest available alternative domain names related to keywords provided by the user.
The way that competition is supposed to work between registries, is that lots of companies go to ICANN and say “We think we can reliably manage .com, and we think it would cost us [$5] per domain.” ICANN reviews these bids and awards the .com contract, which lasts for a fixed period of time, to whomever they deem best-suited to the job. In this time, other companies can think of ways to manage .com better/cheaper, and try and win the next contract. This, in theory, would provide an incentive for registries to innovate, a big part of which would be in lowering costs.