Domain Names Explained
So you want a domain name... You want your very own "yourcompany.com" Internet identity. You want to stamp it in your business cards, brochures, and all your marketing communication vehicles. And you want it know. Problem is: you don't know where to start. Let's start from the beginning.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is what you type in the browser's address bar to go to a specific website. For example, our domain name is: http://www.askwebhosting.com (in today's browsers, it is not necessary to type the symbols http:// any more). A domain name provides an online identity and a contact point for your business, organization, or project. Almost every transaction on the Internet relies on a domain name to conduct commerce, display Web pages, deliver e-mail, and more.
Why Were Domain Names Created?
Websites are located (or hosted) in computer servers. The location of a website in a server is really specified by a series of numbers, called the IP address (for example: 220.127.116.11). However, this would be too hard to remember; in fact, it reminds us a little bit of phone numbers: wouldn't it be easier to just dial U-N-C-L-E J-O-E instead of having to remember a ten digit phone number?).
The creators of the Internet took this into account, and domain names were created. Domain names act like an address forwarding service that directs the Internet user to the server, and then looks for the IP address that corresponds to the domain name (geeks like to say: "the domain name resolves to its IP address").
Domain Names Extensions (or Top Level Domains-TLDs)
A domain level extension (also known as a Top Level Domain) is the letter combination to the right of the domain name, after the "dot". Therefore, a domain name like yahoo.com has what we call a "dot com extension". You will also find .net, and .org extensions, along with a host of newly popularized extensions like .biz, .name, .tv, etc., as well as country level domains (.us for the US, .br for Brazil, .it for Italy, and so on.)
Originally, .com extensions were intended for commercial ventures, while .net's were intended for use by Internet Service Providers and .org's by non-profit organizations or groups. Truth is, this orignal classification is no longer accurate, and anybody can register a domain name with those extensions.
If you don't have anything better to do, and you want to see a complete list of domain extensions, click here.
How can I know if a domain name is available?
To see if a domain name is available, you can go to the webpage of any accredited registrar, and type the name you want in the search box. The program will immediately tell you if the domain name you want is available. If the domain extension that you would like is not available (the .com's are almost always taken) you can try others, and chances are that your domain selection will be available (for example, when we chose our domain name, theinternetdigest.com was taken but theinternetdigest.net was available). Another trick is to add dashes to separate the words (for example: the-internet-digest.com).
How do I register a domain name?
Domain names are registered on-line through accredited domain registrars. There are thousands of companies that offer domain registration services. However, some of them are more reputable than others, offer good customer service and provide you with a user-friendly interface. As a rule of thumb, follow these simple rules:
1) Avoid registrars that charge too much (anything above $25/year is too high).
2) Look for registrars that offer you a comprehensive and easy to use user interface. Also, since you will most likely have a question or two to ask, look for those who have an extensive FAQ section and a responsive customer service team.
3) Find a registrar that offer Free Domain Forwarding services (this acts as an insurance policy if your hosting service is down. You can always host a duplicate version of your website somewhere else and forward your domain traffic to that location). We've found three companies that offer all these advantages:
Domain name Registrar
Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest (theinternetdigest.net ), an online collection of web design and Internet marketing articles and resources.