Getting a domain name involves registering the name you want with an organisation called ICANN through a domain name registrar. For example, if you choose a name like "example.com", you will have to go to a registrar, pay a registration fee that costs around US$10 to US$35 for that name. That will give you the right to the name for a year, and you will have to renew it annually for (usually) the same amount per annum.
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., 220.127.116.11.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.ip6.arpa, which is the reverse DNS resolution domain name for the IP address of a loopback interface, or the localhost name.
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.
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.
Just because a domain has expired, doesn’t mean it has to be kicked to the curb immediately. It is worth considering turning the internet address into a parked domain for a certain period of time in order to generate advertising revenue. This allows domain owners to bide their time and come up with a new web project for the domain or to find a suitable buyer.
Next, someone has to tell the rest of the Internet that google.com points to 18.104.22.168. 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.
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.
More controversially, the new agreement guaranteed the renewal of Verisign’s contract in 2012 unless they were in “fundamental breach” of their obligations as a registry. A similar presumptive renewal clause in the 2012 agreement recently sealed Verisign’s control over .com until 2024. This kind of arrangement, ICANN say, incentivises registries to make long-term investments in infrastructure that benefit the Internet community.
Hostwinds remains a user-friendly option for registration and hosting, even if you're transferring from another service. It lists out all the extensions to create your domain name with prices to register, transfer, or renew for each extension, unlike some services that bury these within the website. You simply enter the domain name you want and check the availability, and can theoretically get going in a few clicks (if it's available or taken). It will then tell you if it is available or taken. They've also got live chat, email, and phone technical support before purchase too, which is rather rare.
Registrars offer a wide variety of registration durations—one year, three, five, and even ten. Be careful about registering for more than a year, though. First, there might be restrictions on your ability to transfer the domain name should the registrar give poor service. Second, the registrar could go out of business, leaving your domain name without a host. Check the policies closely.
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.
Hostt is a just-launched free web hosting company that includes domain name purchasing and registration. They've a suite of offerings, such as one where you'll pay $13.99 per year for domain names with extensions that include .com, .net, .org, .us, .biz, and .info., but have unlimited bandwidth, web space, sub-domains, parked domains, sub-domains and email accounts, among other things. Like HostGator, they include domain locking and automatic renewal, along with a user-friendly management portal (which, believe me, is pretty rare) and 24/7 technical support. This isn't a bad price considering the amount you get, and their $3.95 and $5.95 a month packages both offer fairly balanced domain-inclusive packages.
Every time you visit a website, your computer performs what's called a "DNS lookup". When you manage a domain with us, you get to use the same DNS servers as Google. This means your domain name will connect quickly and reliably to your website. We include 10 million resolutions per year for each domain you register with Google Domains. Learn more in the Help Center.