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What is A Domain?
By Richard Lowe Jr.
What is this thing called a domain name?
It is a completely unique address which identifies a collection of web pages (generally called a web site) that are publicly accessible. A
domain name identifies your site and allows people to get to it without knowing the technical details of it's TCP/IP address and so forth. A
good domain name also informs people what your site is about.
Why Do I Need Domain Names?
A domain name is a company's unique identifier on the Internet. Internet computers know how to transmit information with Internet
protocol (IP) numbers. However IP numbers are rather long and do not make sense to individuals surfing the Web. Domain name service
(DNS) that Internet providers offer invisibly turn these long and difficult to remember IP numbers into easy to remember, brandable
domain names. This same unique domain name can be used with a company's Web address and their email addresses. The format for
a professional Web address is usually "www.company.com" while an email address is generally email@example.com. A Web
address does not have to begin with "www" but it has become standard over time and is easy to remember. In this digital age it is not a
good idea to use another company's domain name in your Internet dealings. For example, the email addresses firstname.lastname@example.org or
email@example.com do not properly identify your unique business. Using such domains implies that your company might not be Net
savvy or worse, not taken seriously by customers. Furthermore, it doesn't help you reinforce and market your unique company name.
Similarly, it looks unprofessional and is often difficult for individuals to type in a Web address with the following format: http://www.myisp.
com/mycompany/. Having a domain name that clearly relates to your company will dissolve these issues and allow you to establish a
strong and professional brand on the Internet.
Is a domain name only for web sites?
No. A domain name also is used for email identification. In addition, other kinds of systems such as newsgroups and FTP servers are
often identified by a domain name.
Why is a domain name important?
If you create a web site, you don't absolutely need a domain name. In fact, the vast majority of people create a web site on a free host.
These free hosts typically have many thousands (and in a few cases millions) of web sites on the same domain, each site identified by a
unique name. However, if you have the desire to do anything significant on the internet, then you need to get your own domain name.
Why? It's considered more professional, it is not very expensive, and many of the major search engines will not spider free host sites
which do not have their own domain name.
What are the components of a domain name?
There are two to three parts to a domain name. Let's take a typical domain name − "internet−tips.net". This domain name has two parts.
The first, "internet−tips", is a second−level domain name. The second part, the ".net" is a top−level domain name. You can also have a
third (or even more) part, called a subdomain. For example, "search.internet−tips.net" might be a valid subdomain. The whole thing
together identifies a web site or sites.
What is a subdomain for?
A subdomain is used to drill down deeper into a site. For example, a web host that allows other people to create sites might offer
subdomains. Each subdomain might be a unique site. Subdomains can also be used to identify functions − "search.internet−tips.net" is
a good example of a function oriented subdomain.
What are the valid top−level domains?
The current major top−level domains are listed below.
International Domain Names Domain Usage
.COM − historically was for "for profit" entities − currently available to all
.NET − historically for network service providers − currently available to all
.ORG − historically for nonprofit entities − currently available to all
.INFO − "information" − currently available to all
.BIZ − "business" − currently available to all
.GOV − for government institutions
.MIL − for military institutions
.EDU − for educational institutions
The most recent TLDs to become available to the public are the .US, .INFO and .BIZ. The .NAME is soon to follow. Additional TLDS, such
as .AERO, .MUSEUM and .PRO are also being considered. However, there are already many other top level domains around the world
that consist of country codes such as .WS, .BZ, .NU, .CC, etc. Despite the existence of alternative TLDs the majority of the business world
is buying names and branding companies with .COM and .NET extensions, abandoning other possibilities. Presently the highest
trafficked sites and the easiest sites to remember all use .COM and .NET. Further supporting the universal acceptance of the .COM over
the alternative TLDs and ccTLDs is that the Netscape Navigator and Microsoft IE Web browsers do automatic lookups of only .COM
There are also top−level domain names for countries − these are defined by ISO−3166. In addition, new top−level domains are in the
process of being created − these are described in "The new domains are coming soon".
The intended purpose of the top−level domain is to allow surfers to know, just by looking at the characters, what kind of site they are
examining. For example, a site with a top level domain of ".EDU" is a university or four year college.
Unfortunately, restrictions of the use of top−level domains (especially .ORG) has not been enforced. Thus, the divisions between the
domain names have blurred.
How do people get domain names?
There are hundreds of companies (called Domain Registrars) whose only purpose is to sell you domain names. All you have to do is find
one and give them money. They will take care of the rest.
How much does it cost to get a domain?
It depends upon where you get your domain name. You can find many places that will register for free in return for some service or
product. Some will charge a yearly fee, some will only charge for the registration itself. In general, I would not pay more than $35 a year. If
you look around, you can get this down to under $10.
How many domain names can a person own?
As many as he wants. You do have to be careful about cyber squatting, which is the practice of purchasing a domain only to block
someone else or force them to pay you money (it's could be described as domain name extortion).
Can domain names be sold or traded?
Yes, as long as the rules for cyber squatting are not violated. There are several companies who specialize in the buying, selling and
bidding on domain names.
Can you have more than one domain name go to the same site?
Yes, if your ISP supports it. Actually, some domain registrars will support this even if the ISP does not. This, by the way, is a good idea
under some conditions. Suppose you have a site which is commonly misspelled. You might purchase your domain and the misspelled
domain name, and point them to the same site. It's often a good idea to purchase the ".NET", ".ORG" and ".COM" versions of your domain
name if they are available. This prevents the problem that occurred with the Whitehouse − whitehouse.gov is indeed the Whitehouse, but
whitehouse.com is a pornographic site. Many ISPs or web hosts will charge extra for this feature if you do it using their services.
What are the qualities of a good domain name?
A good domain name should tell your visitors what your site is about. It should be easy to remember and it should be as short as
Can you purchase a domain name just to prevent someone else from getting it?
Yes you can, as long as it does not violate the rules of cyber squatting In fact, many companies will purchase as many variations of their
domain name as they can. For example, if you company was named "AOL" you might want to purchase the domain "AOLSUCKS.COM" to
prevent an AOL bashing site from being set up.
I've heard about long domain names − what about them?
Long domain names were all the rage during recent years. The concept was to get as many long domain names as you could with
keywords related to your site. For example, for "internet−tips.net" you might also get "internet−tips−web−site−help.net" and
"webmaster−helpful−hints.com" as well as "protecting−websites−danger.com". Although it should be obvious that no surfer is going to
type these long domain names, the idea was search engines would see the various keywords. This was touted as important for boosting
your ranking in the search engine listings (ranking is how high up on the list you get − a ranking of 1 means you are first). As far as I can
tell, this is all so much hogwash. Save your money for something useful.
What about the domain names that require my browser be modified to see?
One company decided to offer it's own set of top level domains. It did this by maintaining it's own tables and offering a browser plug−in to
Personally, I believe this is one of the silliest things I've ever heard. I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. These people are
side−stepping the established domain naming system, and it's highly unlikely that they will be recognized throughout the internet. If their
domain name tables ever become recognized by the main top level servers, then I would consider their services. Otherwise, I think I will
save my money.
How do I see if a domain is already registered?
You can check the WHOIS database.
What happens if the registration renewal is not paid on time?
You lose the rights to the domain and it will be considered expired. It can then be sold to someone else.
About the Author: Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at Internet Tips − Visit our website (http://www.domain-
tips.com) any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.
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