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What's in a Name (Updated 2014)


What is a domain name? A very critical part of your addresses on the Internet. It is also the part you have no control of, unless you have your own domain name. It has reached the point where almost all businesses and organizations need to have one or more. Many savvy individuals and families would benefit from one too. Some common examples of domain names are: aol.com, hotmail.com, ibm.com, msn.com, and yahoo.com.

The most critical Internet address for most people is their email address. You probably have an email address from the entity that provides your Internet access. This might be your company, ISP, school, or some other group. These addresses are good for some purposes, however have a major drawback. They are subject to being changed at any time, perhaps without notice. (Ask the several hundred thousand who last their @home email addresses with little or no notice in 2001.) Notifying all your contacts after your email address has changed can be a long and difficult process. It can also require changes to business cards, stationary, and other written material. All the email addresses in a your domain are under your control for as long as you own the domain name. A potential solution would seem to be acquiring an email address from a major free provider. However, no matter how many times they say "lifetime", they don't necessarily mean yours. Countless "lifetime" services have folded, gone pay, or otherwise gone away. Plus, if you are trying to do business, an address at your own domain projects a professional image that an address at any other provider can't. I personally no longer normally consider doing business with people using a hotmail.com, yahoo.com, or similar as a business email address.

Web address have their own issues. Domain name based addresses are simpler, shorter, more professional, and provide some branding. Also, if you are creating a site that will be linked to by other sites changing your web address becomes very difficult. You will have great difficulty getting some of the sites that link to you to change their links to your new location, costing you traffic. There are still active pages that link to my first site, at my first ISP's address, even though my site hasn't been there in over five years! A related article. The free hosting services have the same lack of control and image issues as free email addresses. Also, many free providers will add banners, pop-ups, and/or other intrusive advertising to your site.

Owning your own domain name used to be a costly undertaking. Registration costs were at least $100 with domain hosting normally adding hundreds of dollars more per year. Now registration is normally $35 or less per year and a number of inexpensive domain hosting options are available. I initially registered domains with Network Solutions (about $35/yr). Then I started experimenting with a number of the bargain registration providers. I have settled on a favorite that I now use as my registrar of choice, eNom. They provide a strong array of free services including up to 100 email address forwards on each domain plus ad-free web/url forwarding. Their retail prices are not much lower (about $30/yr), however there are a variety of resellers that can provide discounts. I am now a reseller and can offer .com/.net/.org/.info/.biz/.us domains for only $14.97 per year. (57% off the $35 price!) [more info]

An important note on timing. There are a tremendous number of domains already taken and lots more are registered daily. I have found several interesting domains names over the years that I found that were right for various future projects. Most of them had already been taken when I returned to pursue those projects.  Now when I find a domain name I want, I'll normally snap it up right away, instead of kicking myself later.

Coming soon: How to choose a name and TLD. Until then, here is a helpful article on the subject.




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Copyright 2006, 2014 Mark Keller, All rights reserved.