What is a Domain Name?

May 11, 2008 business
This post is more than 18 months old. Since technology changes too rapidly, this content may be out of date (but that's not always the case). Please remember to verify any technical or programming information with the current release.

What is a domain name or a dot com name? And why are they needed? Let’s find out.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is a pointer to a website. Whenever you hear someone say www.yahoo.com or www.google.com, they’re referring to the domain name of that website. Domain names are controlled by an official registry which allows websites to purchase the right to use that name, reserve it, and point it to a specific website.

Certain companies, called Registrars, provide the interface to this registry. These companies are licensed to provide this service – which is sometimes bundled with additional services. Prices can range from $9 to $35 annually, depending on the company providing the domain name and the extra services they might provide.

Why are they needed?

Every computer on the internet has a numeric address assigned to it. It is far easier to remember the name and type http://www.yahoo.com instead of typing the equivalent Also, depending on the type of web hosting, many websites can be served from the same computer with one numeric address. Because of this, multiple domain names are assigned – one to represent each individual website at that numeric address.

What are the restrictions and types?

The most common domain name ends with ‘.com.’ You might also be familiar with .net, .org, .co.uk, .info, .biz – the list goes on and on. The domain name has to be 255 characters or less. There are other restrictions on certain domain names – such as .gov has to be a verified government entity. Finally, they can only contain certain special non-alphanumeric characters. Generally speaking, most people with commercial business entities online choose .com (dot com for commercial). Others may also choose .net. Organizations and non profits tend to choose .org. The .com is the most popular domain name type.

Do I Own the Domain Name?

When you purchase registration of a domain name through a registrar, make sure that they register the domain name in your name. This generally happens now, but in the past this was sometimes not the case. Once you’re listed as the administrative contact, you have the ability to modify – with the registrar’s help – any of the settings on your domain name including which computer the address points to. Technically, you do not OWN the domain name – it’s more of a lease. For the most part, domain names fall under trademark and copyright laws – so if you have a registered business, you should have no problem hanging on to your domain name for as long as you want it.

What Should I Keep in Mind When Choosing a Domain Name?

Domain names are on a first come – first serve basis. It may make sense to register your domain name as soon as possible – even if your website is not available. This should guarantee that no one else can register your domain name, potentially disrupting the design process of your website.

Generally, a shorter name is better. Try not to use contractions or hard to spell words. Too many acronyms, especially if it is not common in your industry can be confusing.

Let’s see an example. Your company name is XYZ Stairs and Doors. Your target market is North Eastern Wisconsin.

xyz.com – awesome – probably taken because it is so small – but would be easy to remember.

xyzstairsanddoors.com – the full company name. Highly targeted.

xyzstairsndoors.com – users might type in ‘and’ instead of ‘n'

newstairsanddoors.com – North Eastern Wisconsin is commonly abbreviated as NEW – so this is targeted.

northeasternwisconsinstairsanddoors.com – not good – too long – doesn’t say much about your company – but is targeted.

qualityentrances.com – interesting idea. May work better with creative companies, but not so well with technical/industrial companies.

What to Do Next?

If you have a business name and are getting your website ready, you may ask your firm to investigate into your options for domain names. You might also ask them for specific ones – and they can do research for you. You might want to pay up front for the domain registration so that they can register it immediately for you. You may also suggest they register alternate spellings of your domain name. It is not necessary to get all the different types of domain names for your company – however some have found success registering both the .com and .net versions of their name.

If you need to register a domain name with your project, contact 102 Degrees. We’ll be glad to provide this service.

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