How to Acquire a Domain Name

It's very easy to register a domain name.

Things to know

  • There are a multitude of Domain Name Registrars. Pick a company you like and stick with it, especially if you will have multiple domains to manage. Some Domain Name Registrars offer other services like web hosting, email, SSL Certificates and more.
  • Don't purchase more than you need. Some of these companies give the hard sell on other services like email, web hosting, and more.
  • Realize that you have the option of keeping your personal or business information hidden from the global database that keeps the record of ownership of all domains. Some registrars offer this with the sale of the domain, other registrars offer private registration as an add-on for additional cost.
  • Some domain names are already registered, but are for sale by their owners. In these cases, you'll likely pay much more than the competitive annual rate that most registrars offer. If your research shows that a name is registered but you don't see a web site at that address, the owner of the domain may entertain purchase offers. Contact the domain's owner through the Registrant contact email address that you will find in the Whois database.

How to Find Domain Availability

Most registration companies offer a place to search for available domains on their web site, but most don't offer much information about the domain aside from whether its available or not. Once a domain name is searched for on a private company's web site, they have the opportunity to store and analyze that information. They could then purchase that domain name in order to sell it for a higher price to an interested party at a later date. This is perhaps a paranoid way of thinking, but stories have been related about searching for a domain one day, not purchasing right away, and then the domain being unavailable the next day. There is an alternative to searching on the domain name registration company's site for domain name availability.

The simplest way is to access the Whois Database is through a command line prompt. For Mac users, this can be done by opening the Terminal Application. (Go to Applications >> Utilities >> Terminal.app). Once Terminal is open type:

whois domain.com

You will be greeted with information about the domain. If the domain is available, you will see something like:

Whois Server Version 2.0

Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net for detailed information.

No match for "DOMAIN.COM".

If a domain has already been registered, you'll be able to see when it was registered, when it expires, and who owns it. If the owner has purchased private registration, you'll see proxy information.

Unfortunately for Windows users, there is no simple way to access this information through the Command Prompt program without downloading and installing other utilities. There is, however, a web site that offers Whois information searches, although I can't vouch for the safety of potential domain names with this method! Thankfully, cocacola.com has been registered already, so the competition for your domain name may not be so stiff.

How to Purchase

There are so many domain name registrars to choose from. Some are better than others. Here are the ones I use:

  • PairNic. They are a subsidiary of a reliable hosting company that I've enjoyed using for many years. Private registration is included with the price. At the time of writing, they offer 5 year registration for $65 ($13/year.) One year is $19. Since they are a subsidiary, they only offer domain name registrations.
  • GoDaddy. GoDaddy is a big company that offers all kinds of services. If you think you'll need other things for your web presence, like SSL certificates, GoDaddy can keep your services in one place. Watch out for buying more than you want. They will offer you a bunch of similar domains for a song, but do you really need .net, .info, and .biz? I do not recommend their hosting or email services, especially if I will be building your web site. At the time of this writing, GoDaddy charges $11.99/year for domain registration + $11.99/year for basic private registration. I've found that if one enters "Domain Name Registration" into Google Search, there is generally a sponsored ad at the top of the search results that offers GoDaddy registrations for a "sale" price. Clicking on that sponsored ad will take you into the site with that discount already applied to the domains you put in your cart.

The checkout procedure is self-explanatory, like any other online purchase. You will be creating an account with this company, generally with a username and password. Please write down all of this information and keep it accessable. You or your web developer will need access to managing the domain.

There are four types of contact for each domain. The Registrant is the owner of the domain. You'll want to enter your own or your business' information for the Registrant information. Use an email address that you know will be stable, especially if you register the domain for five years. Generally, most people can use the Registrant information for the remaining contacts, which are Administrative, Technical and Billing. The Administrative contact is used for the main point of contact for the domain. If the domain ever needs to be transferred to another registrar, it will be essential to have access to the Administrative contact's email.

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Kerry Shamblin Photography