Domain names were created to make IP addresses easy to remember. Every computer has an IP address assigned to it – much like a street address. But instead of having to memorize each IP address number, we assign domain names to these numbers so we can easily remember them. The domain name system, or DNS, takes domain names and translates them into their IP addresses so that computers can communicate with one another. When you enter a domain name into your web browser, the browser simply uses that domain to locate its corresponding IP address and then shows you the website associated with it. If you own a business, GoDaddy can help you find a domain name that best suits the business so you can easily promote your website.
GoDaddy — This extremely popular registrar (probably the biggest today) offers .com domain names for $9.99 (plus 20 cents) per year (or $6.99 plus 20 cents if you transfer from another registrar). They have a web interface to manage your domains, free web redirection (where people who visit your domain will get transferred to another web address of your choice), free starter web page, free parked page or free "for sale" page, and an optional private domain registration where your domain is registered in the name of a proxy company. Besides .com, they also sell .us, .biz, .info, .net, .org, .ws, .name, .tv, .co.uk, .me.uk and .org.uk, etc. Note that (as with all registrars) the exact price varies depending on which domain you are registering (for example some domain suffixes are more expensive than others). Both credit card and PayPal payments are accepted.
Many registrars reserve the right to revoke your domain name for specific reasons, typically if you use the domain for illegal purposes or purposes deemed unacceptable (such as spamming). Many contracts contain a clause letting the registrar delete your domain name for no apparent reason. The implication, of course, is that the domain name is the registrar's, not yours.
A domain name is, quite simply, the name of your website. The domain can be found in the URL and is used in order to locate the website of a specific person or organization. Each domain name or URL directs users to a specific IP address. Domains are easier to remember than a long and complicated IP address, which takes the form of a series of numbers. A domain can be divided up into three different elements: a subdomain, a domain name, and a top level domain (TLD). Take about.1and1.com as an example: the 'about' element is the subdomain, the '1and1' element is the domain name itself and the '.com' part of the URL is the top level domain. It is also possible to have multiple subdomain levels, info.about.1and1.com for example, which you can use to segment your website into separate categories. The length limit of a complete domain name is 255 characters. With 1&1, you can choose a domain name that best suits you or your business, or you can transfer an already existing domain over to 1&1. Next, customers can select a TLD from a wide variety of domain extensions on offer. When choosing a domain name, it is important to select something that properly reflects the ethos of your business in a concise and catchy way. A good domain should be memorable, brandable, and should have a suitable extension.
My personal preference is to register the name directly with a domain name registrar rather than through my web host. I've heard stories, in the past, of less-than-reputable web hosts that registered the domain under their own name, making them the owner of the domain rather than you (although I don't know if such web hosts still exist today). Registering direct with a domain name registrar allows me to make sure that I am registered as the owner, the administrative and technical contacts. Being the owner is vital — if someone else places himself as the owner (such as your web host), he can always decide to charge you some exorbitant fee for the use of the name later, and there is little you can do. The various other contacts are less vital, but may still play important roles, depending on your registrar. For example, for some registrars, the administrative contact's approval is required before a domain name is transferred out of a web host (or at least, it used to be). If he/she cannot be contacted, the technical contact is used.
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.