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.
Note that you can also transfer your domain name from one registration service to another. You'll want to do this if you're not satisfied with your current domain hosting service, if you find a better deal when your current registration is coming due, or, most likely, if you've signed up with a web hosting service that will also transfer your name to its site. Expect to get the transfer for free, but if that isn't offered, search for another domain hosting service.
FatCow has one of the cheapest offers for an entire website package, with hosting and domain names for just thirty cents during your first month. After, that the price is $10.99 a month or $59.88 for the whole year, in a shared hosting package with enough bandwidth for most people. This is a limited promotion I found, but they still sell fairly well-priced packages (their "fat" options come with extras like marketing and advertising credits), and will gladly offer you perks for transferring your domains and hosting to them.
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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.
If you do not have a web host, you can always allow the registrar to park your domain name at a temporary website specially set up for you. This way you can quickly secure your domain name before it's too late and still take your time to set up the other aspects of your site. As far as I can tell, most registrars (or probably all) automatically park your domain by default whether you ask them to or not, so if this is your situation, you probably don't have to do anything special to get it done. Some of those registrars also provide you with a free email address at your own domain name while it is parked at their site, like email@example.com (where "example.com" is your domain).
Name servers. Most registrars provide two or more name servers as part of the registration service. However, a registrant may specify its own authoritative name servers to host a domain's resource records. The registrar's policies govern the number of servers and the type of server information required. Some providers require a hostname and the corresponding IP address or just the hostname, which must be resolvable either in the new domain, or exist elsewhere. Based on traditional requirements (RFC 1034), typically a minimum of two servers is required.
Domain names are organized in subordinate levels (subdomains) of the DNS root domain, which is nameless. The first-level set of domain names are the top-level domains (TLDs), including the generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as the prominent domains com, info, net, edu, and org, and the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). Below these top-level domains in the DNS hierarchy are the second-level and third-level domain names that are typically open for reservation by end-users who wish to connect local area networks to the Internet, create other publicly accessible Internet resources or run web sites.
A few companies have offered low-cost, below-cost or even free domain registration with a variety of models adopted to recoup the costs to the provider. These usually require that domains be hosted on their website within a framework or portal that includes advertising wrapped around the domain holder's content, revenue from which allows the provider to recoup the costs. Domain registrations were free of charge when the DNS was new. A domain holder may provide infinite number of subdomains in their domain. For example, the owner of example.org could provide subdomains such as foo.example.org and foo.bar.example.org to interested parties.
Absolutely. Owning 'yourname.com' (as well as related domains such as yourname.tech or yourname.me) is a great way to brand yourself and retain control over your name's online presence. With a personal domain name, you can set up a portfolio, blog, or hobby site that’s associated with your own personal life. You can also set up a custom email address like firstname.lastname@example.org allowing your visitors an easy and memorable way to reach you. So even if you have no immediate use for yourname.com, it's wise to register a personal domain to ensure that you (and not some stranger) control your name online.