Whether your new website is for your business, your blog, or just for fun, it’s important to have a good domain name. Look at any list of the most popular sites: The top ones all have simple, catchy, easy-to-remember domain names. Just type them and you’re there. It can be harder than it seems to find the right one, though.
The Domain Name Marketplace
Looking into getting a domain name can be overwhelming. As of 1992, the infancy of the internet, fewer than 15,000 domain names had been registered. Today there are more than 250,000,000 domain names already taken, with 90,000 new ones being created every single day. That’s a little more than one every second. As if that weren’t daunting enough, each day 100,000 domain names are transferred and thousands more deleted. With this constant change, it can be confusing to know what’s on the market. And knowing what’s on the market is important, since thousands of disputes over domain names are filed yearly. Most of these cases are decided in favor of the plaintiff, so it’s very important to know if your domain name really is completely available so as not to risk a lawsuit over the matter.
Fortunately, despite the chaos of the domain name marketplace, many are still available. The official sources for domain names are called registrars. Each registrar is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, and maintains a database of all of the names it registers. Most of these go through a network of resellers so that they don’t have to deal with the public directly. These resellers are the people you’ll be dealing with when you need to find your own domain name. Most offer a searchable database and registration assistance. In exchange, you’ll be expected to pay a monthly or yearly fee to continue using your domain name.
Before you go off to search domain names, though, it’s important to get a little background information. Like any business, domain names have their own vocabulary, and it’s important to be familiar with it so that you don’t get lost or taken advantage of. Here are some words you ought to know before you begin:
DNS – Domain Name System. This is the naming system that associates information with domain names, thus making it so that people will get to your site when they enter your domain name.
TLD – Top-Level Domain. This is the industry term for the tag on the end of your domain name. The most common of these is .com, but .net and .org are popular as well. Some, such as .edu, .gov., and .mil, are restricted to organizations with the appropriate qualifications. If you live outside of the United States, you may be eligible to use a country code such as Germany’s .de or Iran’s .ir, but the rules for those vary by country.
Registrant. Also called domain-holder, this is the official term for the person using a particular domain name. Owner is not the correct term, since strictly speaking, you’re just renting the name.
Finding Your Domain Name
Now you’re ready to search domain names. You’ve got two options here: The hard way, and the easy way. If what you’re after is detailed information on who holds what domain name, when they started using it, when their contract expires, and so forth, you’ll want to go with the hard way, which is using the WHOIS database. WHOIS is a specific command that has been around essentially since the beginning of the internet, but it now refers primarily to a database that contains text records about various online resources. The easiest way to use it is to go through a web application such as the American Registry for Internet Numbers ( http://whois.arin.net/ui), which will give you a complete look at the information.
If all you want is to ascertain if your desired domain name is available and then register it, you’re in luck. You can use the easy way, which is to go straight through the domain name sellers. It’s fast and easy; just type in the name you’re interested in, and it’ll tell you which variants are available. You can register the domain name of your choice with a click, with a choice of which .TLD you want.
While searching domain names seems complicated at first, it’s important not to let the information overwhelm you. A little knowledge goes a long way, and armed with the correct information and resources, anyone can make a good domain name choice.