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Keep in mind, however, that free domain names are usually free only for one or two years, after which the registrar will bill you for the annual or biennial fee. In other words, the provider of the free domain name pays only for the first billing from the registrar. Also take note of whether or not the provider charges a fee for setting up a domain name. Most services offer to transfer an existing domain name to their servers at no cost, but sometimes you'll find a setup fee over and above the registrar's fee.
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.
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.
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.
ICANN publishes the complete list of TLD registries and domain name registrars. Registrant information associated with domain names is maintained in an online database accessible with the WHOIS protocol. For most of the 250 country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), the domain registries maintain the WHOIS (Registrant, name servers, expiration dates, etc.) information.
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Next, someone has to tell the rest of the Internet that google.com points to 126.96.36.199. This is done by a “registry”, which is also the wholeseller that provides domains to registrars. Each top-level domain (TLD) — .com, .net., .org etc — has a registry that manages it. The .com TLD has been managed by the same registry since the beginning of time — an extremely profitable monopoly called Verisign. More on that later.
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.
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.