Domains are nonmaterial goods. When sold, the only transaction taking place is transfer of domain rights from one user to another. Barring any form of copyright or trademark violation, virtually any domain name can be bought or sold. Generic domain names, such as car.com or computer.com, are not legally protected and can therefore theoretically be reserved by anyone.
Web hosting services, on the other hand, run servers that are typically assigned only one or a few addresses while serving websites for many domains, a technique referred to as virtual web hosting. Such IP address overloading requires that each request identifies the domain name being referenced, for instance by using the HTTP request header field Host:, or Server Name Indication.
The dispute was over the innocently-named Site Finder Service, launched by Verisign in 2003. With traffic to every .com domain going through Verisign, the Site Finder Service redirected anyone accessing an unregistered domain (via a typo, for example) to a Verisign website with sponsored links. The company argued that this was more useful to Internet users than seeing a generic error page. Whatever their reasoning, this made Verisign the de-facto owner of every unregistered domain (what else does it mean to own a domain?), and skyrocketed them from 2,500th into the top 10 most visited websites. The best part? Verisign launched this without running it past anyone.
When done right, the domain trade is an enterprise that lends itself to particularly lucrative deals. The tactic is simple: domain names are purchased with the prospect of reselling them for a wide profit margin. But the trick of this trade lies in securing domains that may later be valuable to well-endowed buyers, such as a large company. We have laid out all the important facts and terms on the topic, including some of the highest sale prices on record for a publicly traded .com domain.
The market-driven principles of the domain trade mean that a domain is only worth as much as the buyer is willing to pay. It is for this reason that criteria such as market potential and usability play such central roles in determining prices. Values can change at the drop of a hat. The price of a domain that was once of little interest to anyone in years past can skyrocket once, for example, a newly founded company takes interest in that same name.
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.
Note: You can order domain transfer once you are already a SiteGround customer. The one time-charge for domain transfer is equal to the price for new domain registration (see tabs Popular Domains, Country Domains, Special Domains). Depending on the TLD and domain registrar policies, there are differences in the domain expiration term after the transfer (refer to link See all domains you can transfer).
Don’t get discouraged in your domain name search if what you’re looking for is already taken. We have a couple of ways for dealing with such a situation. You can try our Domain Buy Service, where we negotiate acquiring the domain from its current owner. We also offer a Domain Backorder service, where you purchase a backorder credit to give you a chance to get the domain when it goes into auction.
If you already have a web host, obtain from them the names of their primary and secondary nameservers. Don't worry if you don't understand what these things mean. Just save the information somewhere. The information can usually be obtained from their FAQs or other documentation on their site, usually under a category like "domain name" or "DNS" or "domain name transfer" and the like. If you can't find it, email them. You'll need the information to point your domain name to your website after you buy your domain. Having said that, if you don't have a web host yet, don't worry. Just read on.
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.