Finding Your Domain Names
These Guides will Help You Find the Perfect Domain Name for Your Website
I have been buying and selling domains for over fifteen years, so I’ve got a bit of experience in this area.
While domain name trading is a very interesting sphere with plenty of opportunities, it is not the aim of this tutorial section and therefore I will not dive into it here.
What I will be concentrating on, in the following tutorials will be, the best practices to follow when choosing a domain name for your website and the process to acquire a domain name and registering it.
I have categorized the Domain Name tutorials in chronological order of the process you will need to follow.
Click on any one of the below to follow the step-by-step process.
- Buying Your Domain Name
Find a domain starting at $0.99
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What is a Domain Name?
A Domain name is the digital address of your website. While we see a domain name as a website name, behind the name there is a numeric IP address.
So, a domain name is, technically, a set of numbers that tells the system, on which domain name server the website is located.
When you input the domain name on your computer, the web browser will see an IP address that leads it to the server where the relevant website is hosted and pulls up this website on your screen.
The different parts of a domain name
A domain name is made up of 3 distinct parts. These are
- Subdomain: the ‘www’ before the domain name. This is optional. You can opt to have your website start directly from the second level domain part.
- Second Level Domain: the actual brand name of the domain before the dot, example Amazon in amazon.com.
- Top Level Domain (TLD): the letters behind the name, or the extension to the right of the dot. Most common TLD is .com, however, nowadays there are hundreds of TLDs you can chose from.
You might assume Domain Names are bought to create a website, however, even though that should be the main reason of buying a domain name, the reality is that millions of domain names are brought for investment purposes.
Domain Names are like rare collectibles, and if you buy a very good, brandable or generic domain name that ends with a popular TLD, such as .com, then that domain can be worth alot of money.
So some people buy domains for the purpose of reselling them at a much higher price.
Securing a Domain Name
To secure your domain name you can either buy it, or lease it.
Buying a Domain Name
In most cases, you can buy a domain name quite easily, online, from one of the many domain registrars on the Market. The most popular are Name.com, GoDaddy and Sedo.com.
If you buy a domain name that is not already registered, and therefore available as new, you can usually get this for less than $15 a year.
Yes, that’s right. It’s a cost per year. Why?
In reality you can never buy a domain. What you are doing is buying a license to use that particular domain name. Once you register the domain and buy the license you can renew it every year without limit.
In fact, the big brands like Google, Amazon, Coke etc. would have pre-paid the renewal for their domain license for the next 10 years. This ensures they never lose their domain because they forget to renew it!
Leasing a Domain Name
Leasing domain names is not very popular, however it is an option that exists.
Domain names which are leased are usually high-value domain names. What happens here is that a Domain Name trader would own a valuable domain name but they won’t have a website associated with it.
If an entity wants to use that domain to create a website but they cannot afford to purchase the domain name outright from the seller, then they can agree to lease for a long term period, say 18 months to 5 years at a fixed prices per month.
at the end of the Lease period, the Lessee usually has the option to renew the lease or buy the domain at a set price. Alternatively they can decide to stop the website and terminate the lease.
ICANN, which stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is an international non-profit corporation, that was originally set up, in 1998, by the US Department of Commerce.
The ICANN organization is responsible for coordinating the DNS (Domain Name Systems) of the world. Remember, the DNS gives a corresponding IP address to each domain name.
Each registrar that sells domain names online, such as GoDaddy or Name.com, has to be licensed by ICANN, which oversees how they operate.
ICANN is also responsible for all Top Level Domain (TLD) management, be it generic extensions, such as .com, .net, .org, or country code extensions, such as .co.uk, .us, .de etc.
History of Domain Names
The first concept of a domain name was created when Ray Tomlinson invented the email in 1971. He had created the idea of the @ symbol to separate the user name from the computer name. In this instance, the computer name which comes after the @ symbol effectively acts as a domain name.
In 1984 the Internet Protocol (IP) allowed the number of computers connected to the internet to grow rapidly. The domain name system (DNS) was created to make it easier for people to locate content over the internet.
The DNS allowed an IP address to be connected to a sequence of letters, also known as the Domain Name.
Top Level Domain names (TLD) were then created to be able to sort out these domain names.
The initial categories of TLDs were created to separate domains based on country, organizations and category. The .com TLD was the first to come about, and the oldest registered .com domain is symbolics.com.
During the 1990-1991 period the internet was launched commercially, followed by the world wide web. In the same year, domain name registration was opened to the public.
Up to 1995 domain name registration was free, however in 1995, the National Science Foundation awarded domain registration responsibility to Network Solution which at the time charged $100 for a 2-year registration.
In 1998, the US Department of Commerce created ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). This is a non-profit organization in charge of administering registries of TLDs and internet IP addresses.
In 2007 a new record for domain name price was established. VacationRentals.com was sold for $35 Million, making it the most expensive domain to date. This gives an indication to how valuable the domain name market can be.
In 2013, all 4-letter names finishing with a .com TLD were taken up.
In 2014, over one hundred new Top Level Domain extensions were created.
Nowadays new Domain Names can be bought from hundreds of online registrars, with prices starting from $0.99.
Domain Name auctions are rampant with millions of dollars spent every year to trade Domain names.
.com is still the most premium type of domain names sold around the world.
What is a Domain Name Registrar?
A registrar is an organization/agency that sells domain names to you and me (the registrants). They must be licensed by ICANN and have a certificate to operate the different TLDs they sell, issued by the various TLD Registries.
Examples of Registrars, include, GoDaddy and Name.com.
Registrars do not necessarily always sell directly to clients. In fact, many Domain registrars would have reseller agreements with various agencies to act as their intermediaries.
These resellers would usually offer other types of services, including Web Hosting, WordPress installations, email mailboxes and all other website related services.
The resellers themselves would not be accredited by ICANN, however they have a contract with the accredited Registrar, who, in the end, is the responsible party for the domain names sold by the reseller.
what is a domain registry?
Registry Operators are the organizations responsible for registering and maintaining the registry of each Top Level Domain (TLD).
In other words, they are the gatekeepers of all domain names registered under the TLD/extension which falls under their remit.
Examples of Domain Registries include VeriSign and Uniregistry.
A domain Registry would have a Registry Agreement with ICANN, whereby they are responsible for maintaining the database of domain names and accepting registration requests from both the registrants (individual domain buyers) and the Registrars (authorized domain sellers).
The database they compile should include, among other things, the domain registration date, domain holder name and domain name servers, which are then published through ICANN on the internet and are accessible to the general public.
A domain Registry can also be licensed to act as Registrar that also sells domain names.
To simplify the distinction between a Domain Registry vs Domain Registrar vs Domain Registrant, think of it in transaction flow terms as per below picture.
What is Whois
Whois, is the central database of domain name information and it is accessible to the public for free.
A search for a domain name and its relative information is called a Whois Lookup.
Most registrars will allow you to perform a free Whois lookup, however I prefer to do this by using the official ICANN website for domain name information.
To can find the official ICANN Whois portal here.
Through a Whois lookup you will find the following information for a domain name;
- Date of original Registration – creation date
- Date of Changes in Registration – update date
- Date when domain will need to be renewed – expiration date
- The Registrar where the domain is registered – Registrar information
- The domain name status, i.e., is the domain available for transfer, is it restricted, is it in grace period, etc
- The Domain Name servers (DNS), i.e., where the domain is hosted. This is usually shown as the corresponding IP address.
- The Registrant Contacts. This section usually includes four contact positions,
- the Registrant contact details – this would usually be the owner of the domain.
- the Admin contact details – this would be either the owner or the webmaster of the domain, which in many cases is the same person.
- the Tech contact details, usually for domains held by large corporations, would include contact for their Head of IT, or Dev
- the Billing contact details, again for larger corporations, this would include the Finance Department contact details.
For domains owned by individuals, like you and me, all 4 categories of contact details would usually be the same.
All this information is made publics so that users can try and get in contact with the owners of the domain, if no contact details are available directly on their website.
This info is also used to report abuse, in cases of illegal websites, or content that has been copied or used without permission from the original creator.
It must be noted that certain Top Level Domains allow for privacy setting. In this case, domain contact information will not be shown. This service is known as Whois Privacy.
Whois Privacy Service is a service offered by all domain name registries whereby the official name of the domain owner is hidden behind the registries name.
So if the public needs information about a domain that is covered by WhoIs Privacy service, will need to contact the registry directly.
Domain owners usually opt for Whois privacy for various reasons, including
- to protect their personal contact details.
- to protect themselves from spammers
- to have an extra security layer for their domains.
It is importnat to note that ICANN allows Whois privacy, as long as the domain in question is being used for Legal purposes.
If there are any illegal activities connected to the domain in question, then ICANN will require the request the domain registrar to close down the website.