Before you can send a letter to someone, you need to know his/her mailing address. If you want to visit a website, you also need to know its 'address', which is the domain name. Here are some examples of domain names:
WHAT IS A DOMAIN NAME?
Domain name is case insensitive, which means Google.com, google.com and gOOgLE.coM are the same. A dot act as a separator in a domain name. The part after the last dot is called the Top Level Domain (TLD). From the examples above, their TLDs are:
|#||Domain Name||Top Level Domain (TLD)|
Domain name registrations for the most seen .com, .net, .org are unrestricted and are opened to anyone. They are usually referred to as International TLDs. When the internet started a decade ago, it is recommended that companies should use .com, internet service providers should use .net and organizations should use .org. But today, these rules are no longer engaged and you can register under any international TLDs you want.
Other International TLDs include .aero (for the air-transport industry), .biz (for businesses), .coop (for cooperatives), .info (for all uses), .museum (for museums), .name (for individuals), and .pro (for professions). But they are not as popular as .com, .net and .org.
Choose a .com whenever possible! Most internet users are not familiar or even aware of the other TLDs.
They usually assume all domain names end up with .com.
Two letter domains, such as .uk (United Kingdom), .ws (Western Samoa) and .jp (Japan) are referred as country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) and are corresponded to a country, territory, or other geographic location. The rules and policies for registering domain names under the ccTLDs vary significantly and some are reserved only for the citizens of the corresponding country.
You might notice that for the some ccTLDs such as .uk or .my (Malaysia), the domain name has an extra portion between the name and the ccTLDs. For example chosenname.co.uk or chosenname.net.my. These arrangements are also depends on the rue corresponding country.
Some small countries such as Western Samoa (.ws), Tuvalu (.tv) and Belize (.bz) have chosen to offer domain registration of their ccTLD to the public to raise funds for their countries.
When you register a domain name, you do not need to register the 'www'. When you own a domain name, you can add whatever you want to the front with a dot as separator, such as www.yoursite.com, ftp.yoursite.com, daddy.yoursite.com, mydog.yoursite.com, etc. They are called sub domains.
Every different subdomain can be configured to serve different purposes or as different websites. Following the tradition, the subdomain www.yoursite.com will be used as your main website address which is actually an alias to yoursite.com. That means your visitors will see the same website no matter they visit www.yoursite.com or yoursite.com. Nowadays, people use sub domains as the addresses for other websites, such as setting up dog.yoursite.com as a website for your dog!
WHY DO YOU NEED A DOMAIN NAME?
All domain name must be unique and once your registered it, you OWN it until the expiry date. The minimum registration period is 1 year but you can choose to renew it up to a maximum of 10 years.
You can do whatever you want with the domain name. You can setup a website, setup an email account, or do nothing with it! With all the rights to your domain name, you can decide where to host your site and you can change your host anytime you want, without depending your fortune to any specific host.
Let me tell you a real story. Virtualave.com is once a free web hosts. Many people lauched their first website with them and had their site address as something.virtualave.net, which is a sub domain address. They DO NOT own the address but Virtualave. And what happened now is Virtualave no longer offer free hosting and if you want to keep your address, you need to pay at least $10/month!
Another story is even more scary. Xoom.com is also once a popular free web hosts, actually one of the best. It will be a nightmare for people who have established a site with a XOOM address that look like members.xoom.com/mywebsite (a subdirectory address). WHY? because they are out of business and the address is no longer available even if you are willing to pay $1,000/month for it! For all the time, you are promoting your website with someone else addresses. You make all the references to your website with somebody else domain name. And now imagine if you have 1,000 visitors hitting the old address everyday? You LOST 1,000 visitors just because you didn't choose to promote your site with your own domain name at the very first place!
A domain name will also make you look BIG and professional. Let's say you are a web designer. Do you think your customers will be more interested to take the services from michaelwebdesign.com or davidwebdesign.netfirms.com? Netfirms is currently the most popular free web host, but who can guarantee if they will not end up like Virtualave or Xoom, which were also once POPULAR?
The reasoning above also show you why you shouldn't host your site with a free web host. If you want a free web host, you must look for some that will host your own domain name. Protect yourself and don't bet your live with other's fortune. And keep in your mind, nothing is really FREE and someone will have to pay the bills.
HOW DO YOU REGISTER A DOMAIN NAME?
You register your domain name with a domain registrar.
And there are really a lot of domain registrars available and prices do vary among registrars even for registering the same domain name! That's why if you know where to register for cheaper domain names, you can save a few dollars. I am happy that you have read until here because I will tell you that!
Currently, you can register a domain name! All you need to do is to check your domain availability and pay for it. That's all. ICONS currently offer registration for .com, .net, .org, .biz,.info and .us only.
DNS (DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM) SERVERS
Each domain name must be associated with 2 or more DNS servers. The DNS information act as a bridge between your domain name and your host. That means in order for the internet to know who is your web host, they will need to look at the DNS info associated with your domain name. That's why your web host cannot keep you hostage because you can simply change the DNS info and your domain name will be pointed to your new web host!
Each web host will setup their own DNS servers. They look something like ns1.yourhost.com and ns2.yourhost.com. All you need to do is to enter the 2 DNS servers given by your web host to your domain name. Your domain registrar will have a place where you can fill up these information. It is a simple and straightforward task. If you register your domain name through your web host, they will enter the DNS information for you.
Because the internet is so large, after you register a new domain name or update the DNS setting, it usually takes 1-3 days for the entire internet to notice the new DNS setting. This process is called DNS propagation. That's why new web hosting customers will not be able to see their website immediately after they setup their hosting account. It is normal and don't blame your web host on this! Your website will appear after the DNS propagation is completed.