Are you ready to stake your Internet territory (or do you want to know why you should)? If you've even considered creating a domain name, you're on the right track. But you certainly aren't in the fast lane--domain names are disappearing by the millions. The time is now to express your individuality and show the world what you have to offer (even if you're not sure what it is yet!). This is especially true if you own a business or are offering a service.
But what exactly is a domain name? Here's the basic breakdown.
All computers connected to the Internet have an IP address, which is made up of a series of numbers (like telephone numbers). Since it's more intuitive for people to remember words, domain names were created to serve as convenient aliases. Each domain name is unique, and no two computers can have the same one. The domain name in our Web address, http:// http://www.infobarrel.com, is " infobarrel.com". The ".com" is a suffix that denotes what top-level domain, or branch, of the Internet the site falls under.
First you have to choose a name. It can be your company name, a service it provides, your own name, or even just some spiffy word you like. You'll also need to choose a top-level domain, such as .com. You might also consider registering the same name with different top-level endings (.com, .net and .org are the most popular). In this way, you can ensure no one registers the same name with a different top-level ending.
This writing will show you how to register for a standard .com, .net or .org address through the InterNIC. The InterNIC is a project that originated and operates under an agreement between the U.S. Department of Commerce and Network Solutions Inc. It administers domain name registration for addresses ending in .com, .net, .org and .edu. Step 7 covers the alternatives to InterNIC.
While you can register with the InterNIC from most countries, each country has its own rules and standards for domain registration. One resource where you can find domain name standards for countries outside the U.S. is http://www.netnation.com/.
Step1: Decide If You Need a Service Provider
While it's possible to register a domain name yourself, you'll need two domain name servers (see keywords) to do so. This means you need two computers that are hooked up to the Internet. If possible, the servers should be in separate locations and on different networks. This way, if one server fails, the other can take the reins.
If you don't have this type of setup (most home users don't), you'll need to contact an Internet service provider (ISP) or a domain registration service. Most ISPs can help you register a domain name and will take care of most of the details. If yours doesn't, find one that does.
A good ISP or registration service will have:
- Competitive pricing
- Email, a web browser, and server space for a web page
- Fast connection speed
- A server your modem can reach as a local (free) call
- Proper technical support and customer service
- Unlimited reservation and domain name services
- Low-cost domain name registration (any more than $100 [U.S.] or so, beyond InterNIC costs, discussed later, is questionable).
Step2: Choose a Unique Name
Your domain name can be up to 26 characters long (including the four characters used to identify the top-level domain, such as .com, .org, etc.). It can only consist of letters, numbers, or standard hyphens. It can't have any spaces, nor can it begin or end with a hyphen. Special characters (such as punctuation or underscores) are not allowed.
You can use your provider or visit InterNIC's web site (http://www.internic.net) to find out if the domain name you want is available. If the search results in a "no match" response, your name is available for further pursuit. If it displays information about a person or company, or says a name is "on hold," you'll need to choose another name.
Being "on hold" can mean several things. For example, the name might be pending, the "owner" might be late paying his or her bill, there could be an administrative problem, or a legal dispute could be surrounding the name. Unfortunately, the only way to find out if the name is no longer on hold is to keep checking on it each day. Save yourself a headache and just choose another one.
Note: InterNIC's Whois database can only check names ending with the top-level domains of .com, .net, .org or .edu. Information on top-level domains including .int, .mil, .gov or country codes must be obtained elsewhere. Anyone can register for .com, .net or .org. The rest have specific qualifications for registration. Step 7 has further information.
Step3: Fill Out The Registration Form
Once you've found a name to use, you'll need to fill out a registration form. Go to the InterNIC Accredited Registrar Directory (http://www.internic.net/regist.html) and link to the registrar of your choice.
The registration template will ask for information about yourself and your company, as well as the names and addresses of technical, billing, and administrative contacts. Unless you have an actual staff, just use your own name and address in each contact field. You'll also need the IP addresses and domain names of the two name servers you'll be using. Unless you have your own servers, contact your ISP and find out what its policy is for providing this info. Most ISPs will charge for this (in addition to the other charges).
If you aren't going through an ISP and you don't know your servers' IP addresses off-hand, they're easy to find. If your computer is running on Windows (and you have a standard setup), its C: drive should have a program called WINIPCFG.EXE that will report your IP address. If you are on a Macintosh, navigate to your Control Panels from your Apple Menu, then choose TCP/IP. Your IP address will be displayed.
Once you complete the registration template, it becomes your contract with your chosen registrar. It's up to you to keep your records up to date. This is very important, as you wouldn't want to lose your domain name because the bill was sent to an outdated address and didn't make it to you in time (they're extremely picky about getting payment on time).
Step4: Submit the Form
Complete and submit the online registration form. If you are registering through a provider, it may send you the form, which you must then forward to your chosen registrar. If it has any mistakes or questionable information, your provider or registrar will work with you to correct them.
Once the template is processed, you'll receive a confirmation notice, along with a tracking number, via email. This will happen within a week (sometimes within one day). Your domain name will then be added to the InterNIC's Whois database. Keep the tracking number, as you'll need it for corresponding with your registrar. Also keep in mind that during this "limbo" period (while you're waiting for confirmation), there's always a chance someone else may be checking the same name you are, and it's a first-come, first-served basis for registration. So the name isn't "yours" until you get confirmation and it's added to the Whois database.
Step5: Pay for It
Your registrar (or your ISP) will send you (or your billing contact) an invoice. This fee covers your initial registration and updates (such as changes to contact information) to your domain name's record for two years. What you can update is limited, so read the contract agreement for details.
It's very important to pay the invoice on time, otherwise your domain name will be up for grabs once again.
Following the initial two-year period, you will be billed an annual fee on the anniversary of your initial registration. This fee renews your registration for one year and covers specified updates.
Step5: Keep your Web Page Active
Once you're registered, the InterNIC requires your domain name to be active. This means that when people type the URL into a web browser, they find an actual web page. If you're not ready to create an interactive site just yet, you can just put up a page that has your business name, what services it provides, and contact information. Or it can just say "under construction" or "coming soon."
If you cannot build the page yourself (or find someone to do it for you), your ISP should be able to set up a simple "under construction" page for you. This should be included in its basic service contract.
Step7: Know Your Options
Although this writing discusses how to register through the InterNIC specifically, you can register in several other ways (several heated debates are going on surrounding the subject). You might want to look into some other alternatives before you begin.
If you want to register for a .gov, .edu, .mil, or .int code, you'll need to register through something other than the InterNIC. Here are a few examples:
- The .gov domain registers U.S. Federal Government civilian agencies. More information is available at http://www.registration.fed.gov.
- The .edu domain is for four-year educational institutions that grant degrees.
- The .mil domain is used by the U.S. military.
- The .int domain is for organizations established by international treaties or databases.
You can register under the .us domain from any computer in the U.S. But the breakdown is a little different. For example, you won't be able to have an address of: yourdomainname.us. Instead, you'll need a state name and a city name space. So your address might look something like: yourdomainname.city.state.us.
To register for a .us domain, you must fill out the .us domain template. For a copy of the template, you can email a request to the domain registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also apply through certain ISPs or registration providers.
For most people, it's a good idea to shoot for a .com, .net, .org, or country code address. These are the most common and recognizable. And after all, the whole idea behind obtaining a domain name is so people can easily find you or your company over the Internet.
Now for setting up that fabulous web page...