Friday, August 19, 2005

Getting your domain name

Domain names first; they're easy. The first thing to learn is; they are never free. Stop searching now. ICANN does not hand out free international domain names to anyone, nor do the individual countries.

Apart from the well-known endings of .com, .org and .net, there are a few other international endings such as .name and .info . There is also a country-specific ending for each country, for example .th for Thailand. These are controlled by an appointed body for each country, which operate under their own laws, and you'll have to find out for yourself the procedure in that country. In many cases you need to have a registered business in the country. The rest of the article applies to the international endings only.

You can save money by shopping around for a cheaper registrar - the company that registers the domain on your behalf. ICANN is an independent organisation, they just make the rules and set the fees for the registrars. Bear in mind that once you register your domain with them, it's not so easy to move your domain to another registrar. Most registrars offer lots of extra services such as website design, hosting and email. You do NOT want to be tied to the registrar for these - generally they are poor value for money. Check that it is possible to "set your own nameservers". That last bit means "point the domain name at my own hosting space (and I'll take care of everything else myself, thanks.)"

One registrar to avoid is Network Solutions. Originally they had a monopoly, and as they still hold the largest share of the market, they have a reptuation for practices that many regard as unfair. I may as well say who I use (and I've registered a number of domains) - Godaddy.com. Have I any complaints? Yes, their website is slow and cluttered with so many adverts for their own services that it's hard to find anything on the page. And when trying to actually pay for something, they push so many "special offers" that I have to closely inspect the total at the end to ensure it's what it should be. Recently I renewed a domain and counted nine extra pages between click-here-to-finish and actually finishing. However, apart from that, they are one of the cheapest at $8.95 per year for a .com domain. Since you don't deal with your registrar very often, that's good enough for me. Europeans should note that most registrars require payment by credit card or Paypal. If anyone knows one that accepts debit cards, please post a comment.

Oh and of course you need to choose a name. You'll need your imagination on this; all the obvious ones were taken years ago. You can't check by typing potential names in your browser - often, they are already taken but don't yet have a website - or went out of business. Any registrar will let you check from their front page. A useful tool is Nameboy, who offer suggestions based on two starting words that you give them. Then there are companies such as DeletedDomains.com, who let you search their list of domains that someone else once thought worthwhile registering, but then allowed their registration to expire.

A word of warning - don't allow your own domain to expire. When setting up an account with the registrar, use an email address that you'll be sure to still have next year, to receive a reminder to renew your registration. You're also required to put an email address on public view in the domain registry - that guarantees it to be on every spam list forever, so I recommend keeping a separate spam-only (i.e. free) email address for that.

If you're still following my story of setting up a new site, thank you for your patience. Ironically, I started my site on an existing domain that I had - one which I use as a general purpose hold-all, like a spare room full of the furniture that you weren't sure what to do with. At that stage, I wasn't too concerned with outward appearances. I wanted to spend some time deciding if I was happy with my chosen tool, Drupal, and generally trying things out. So I put it here: rubberbucket.com/drupal.

Comments:
Great blog, keep up the good work. Glad to see sites like this.

Here is another good site I said I would pass along.
Domain Names For Sale
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