Getting a Domain Name

Friday, January 13, 2012

Choosing a domain name should be one of the early decisions you need to make when thinking about implementing a website. A domain name is a "friendly" name that maps back to your website's address. While a domain name is not required when accessing a website, it is a lot easier to remember a name than an IP address. In any case, you really wouldn't want your users to access your website via its IP address. For one, it is hard to remember an IP address and may change your IP address in the future. Having your users access your website via IP would not be in your best interest.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is your website's "friendly" address. An example of a domain name is Domain names that will be publically available on the internet must be registered, with a registrar, such as Network Solutions, or GoDaddy. There are many domain registrars on the internet. Which one you choose depends on what services you are interested in. Prices for registering may vary from a few dollars, depending on the top-level domain you choose such as .com, .net, .org, etc.. to about forty dollars. Additionally, if you decide to host your website with a provider, they sometimes include the cost of registering the domain name.

Once you purchase a unique domain name, the registrar will need to know where you will be storing information about the domain, specifically DNS information. DNS stands for Domain Name System. A DNS server is responsible for storing information about the domain such as host names that map back to IP addresses. The most common host name is "www". While most of us open a web browser and type "", some may not be aware that the host for "www" is merely a record sitting on a DNS server on the Internet that maps back to one or more IP addresses. The IP address that is mapped from the "www" record is that of the web server hosting your website. If you do not have access to your own DNS servers at that moment in time, most registers will simply allow you to "park" the domain name. That is, they will host the DNS zone and map some basic records to a generic web page that may inform web users that the domain name is active, but a website has not been deployed by the owner as of yet.

Do I own the domain name?

Not really... It's closer to renting than owning. As long as you continue to pay the yearly fee to your registrar, you are free to use the name as you wish. Rather than deploying a website, some people buy domain names in hopes that they can turn around and sell the name for a profit. As long as you do not violate any legal or trademark laws, you have the right to do so. Keep in mind, once you stop paying the yearly fee for the name, it will expire and go back into the pool of available names. So, if you register a name, and you plan on using it sometime in the future, hold on to it and pay that yearly fee. Most registrars allow you to pay for multiple years at a time, and sometimes offer discounts when you do so.

Can I get a free domain name?

Yes, but not a second level domain. It's common now for blogging platforms and websites that offer free services to provide a free subdomain of their domain. For instance, if you are interested in setting up a blogging site with Blogspot, you can either use your own domain name, or choose a free name that they have available. Here is an example of a free domain name that is registered with Blogspot: You should immediately notice that the second level domain name belongs to Blogspot, not ITGeared. This name did not require a registration with any registrars. The name belongs to Blogspot and they simply provided a subdomain by creating a record on their DNS systems.

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Recommended Books & Training Resources

Internet World Wide Web: How to Program How to Host Your Own Web Server