What is a Domain Name

Domain name registrars generally sell their services to anyone who is looking to reserve a website name and can end in any number of internet protocol variations. The most popular ending variations for websites are .com, .net, .org and .edu, with the last two most commonly used for educational or non-profit organizations. Cities, states and even countries also have their own endings for domain names, including the .gov, .au (Australia) and .us (United States).

Internet hosting services regularly use a website domain name or URL (uniform resource locator) for internet resources and websites. Anyone looking to own and maintain a website must buy domain name rights from a domain registrar. These purchases are commonly made as part of an internet hosting package from a web hosting source. One of the most important purposes for the use of a domain name is to provide a name for an IP address that is easily recognizable and can be commonly used. The name of a website, or email address, is used in general terminology instead of an IP numerical address.

The history of the domain name dates back to March 15, 1985, when the first commercial internet domain name was registered by a corporation. Symbolics.com was registered by Symbolics, Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts computer firm. During the following 7 years (until 1992), there were only 15,000 domain names registered on the internet. By December of 2009, there were 192 million domain names registered on the internet, with that number growing daily. A major portion of the registered domain names today are registered with a .com address including 1.8 million sports websites, 3.1 million websites related to finance, 4.3 million websites dedicated to entertainment and 11.9 million internet merchant and business websites.

The responsibility for accrediting domain name registrars falls to the ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Registrars traditionally charge an annual fee for the purchase and delegation of a domain name to a particular website. Though the registrant who purchases the name may sometimes be referred to as the domain owner, they are only purchasing the exclusive rights to use the name for a specified period of time. Domain registries maintain the conclusive list of registrants, which is held in an online database accessible through the WHOIS service on the internet.

There are some companies who offer low-cost, or even free, name registration to provide website administrators a path to purchasing a cheap domain name. For most companies providing low-cost or free name registration, the website must be hosted within a framework, or with a portal, that includes advertising for the hosting company. This is the method hosting companies use to recoup their costs in offering the option for registering a name for free or at a very low cost to the consumer.

There is a sub-business to the world of registered domain names on the internet. This sub-business is known as the “domain aftermarket” in which domain names are sold to the highest bidder. The highest dollar amount paid for a name, to date, was $13 million dollars for the name sex.com. With that in mind, website administrators should think carefully on the name they are intended to register. Some names, when put together, just do not look like what was intended. URL names are not case sensitive and the judicious use of hyphens can clarify what the name of the person or company is actually supposed to look like. For instance, Experts Exchange recently changed their web address from www.expertsexchange.com to www.experts-exhange.com to clarify their intention.