Domains & Alternatives
What Is A Domain Name?
A domain name is basically the name which people can type into their browser to get to your site. The most popular domain names are of the form www.yourname.com or www.yourname.net (where yourname is the name of your website etc.). For example Microsoft have the domain name: www.microsoft.com and Yahoo have www.yahoo.com.
All domain names are prefixed by a protocol, for example http:// which means HyperText Transfer Protocol. This basically means it is a web page and not an FTP server (which is prefixed by ftp://) or a news server (which is prefixed news://) etc. Most browsers add this in for you so it is not normally written in an address when it is shown as text (like in the examples above). Domain names can usually be written with or without the www.
Why Do I Need One?
This is probably the most asked question about domain names. With so many free alternatives to a dedicated domain name people don't really understand why you need your own domain. There are several very good reasons to get one, though:
- Easy To Remember
To illustrate this here is a simple test. Which is easier to remember:
If you were told these two by different businesses you are much more likely to visit the second.
- Address Never Changes
If you move your site to another server without your own domain name all links and search engine submissions will need to be updated. With a domain name your site's address never changes wherever it is hosted.
- Domain Names Are Going Fast
Thousands of new domain names are registered every month. It is only a matter of time before the one you are looking for is taken. Once someone else has your domain it can be very hard to get it from them (the BBC had to pay $30million for www.bbc.com) and some may refuse to sell you the name.
- No Advertising For Host
All the time you are using a subdomain or /yourname domain with your host they get free advertising e.g. www.myhost.com/yourname. Every time someone visited your site they would see your host's name and may decide to visit their site instead of yours!
When you have your own domain name you can have your own e-mail address (and sometimes unlimited ones) as well: email@example.com!
- Options For Subdomains
Once you have your own domain you may be able to host subdomains on it which means that instead of having www.yourname.com/yourproduct you could have yourproduct.yourname.com which is easier to remember.
Does Someone Have My Domain?
One of the problems with the amount of sites on the internet is that there are not enough domains to go around. With millions already registered there is not much chance of getting the one you want e.g. if your site is about computers you probably can't get:
which are probably just the ones you were thinking of getting! The good news is that there are other options. There are now many international domains like: .co.uk (UK), .hk (Hong Kong) .de (Germany) and .fr (France). A full list is available from ICANN. There are also new top level domains which have just been released (like .info and .name) which still have many good names available.
If you can't get one of these you will need to think of a different choice or try and buy the domain name from the owner. Some people are cleaver and think up domain names which haven't been taken but are still very desirable by using hyphens etc. There are generators available (such as NameSpin) which will do this for you.
If you are trying to get a domain name which is like y
our company name e.g. www.mycompany.com it is more likely to be free. The only problem with this is that you won't get many visits by people typing in random names but most of those domain names (as mentioned earlier) are taken.
To check whether you domain you will need to use what is known as a Whois lookup tool. Whois is the database which records what domain names are taken and the contact information for them all. There are many whois tools on the web but many do not provide full information, all though all will tell you if a domain is taken.
How Do I Get One?
Before getting a domain name you need to understand how they are registered. Until recently Network Solutions registered all top level (.com .net and .org) domain names. Recently several other companies are registering domain names (For a full list visit ICANN) You can just go to them to get one but they will need to know primary and secondary server locations for your site unless you use their parking option where they will redirect your domain to another site or place an under construction site on it.
You don't really need to worry about this, though, as the company who host your site will probably allow you to register a domain name through them. They will then deal with Network Solutions (or another registrar) and in a few days your site will have its own domain name. Some will charge an additional fee for this but most will do it for free.
There are also several companies who will register your domain for you and set it up to point to your site even if they don't host it. Some charge a fee but others do it in exchange for a banner on your page.
How Much Will It Cost?
The cost of a domain name is quite varied and depends on two things, namely what type of domain it is and which registrar you use. Different countries charge different amounts for registering a domain name. This is generally known as the Naming Authority Fee. This is the basic fee for registering a name and the registrars will then add to this to cover profits and running costs. Some examples of costs of domain names are .com/.net./.org which can vary between $10 and $35 a year (depending on who you buy from), .co.uk which ususally costs between £5 and 310 a year and .fr names which cost around $500 a year.
As well as paying for the Naming Authority Fee you may need to pay a company to host the domain and point it to your site. Many web hosts will do this free of charge (even free hosts) and this is probably the best option. If it is not offered free then there are many companies who will set up the domain for you. The fees they charge vary greatly from free up to about$115. These sometimes include free extras like e-mail forwarding.
Some web hosts offer free domain registration, free unlimited e-mail forwarding and will direct it to your website (which they also host free). Getting your domain from your web host is probably the best option as they will probably do it free and will set it up with your account
Even with the low prices of domain names many people are interested in the alternatives, and these are covered in part 2.
1999 - 2003 David Gowans