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How to Register a Domain Name



By Alan Zisman 2000
Originally published in Business In Vancouver's  How-to book
February, 2001

There's no company too big or too small to have a presence on the Web. But only 19% of Canadian small businesses were online in 1999.

Right now, you've probably got a personal Internet account with an Internet Service Provider. And along with your e-mail address, you can probably post a web page there, and even carry on business from that site. 

The problem is your Internet address. My address, azisman@home.com is okay as an e-mail address, pretty memorable in fact. But the webpage I get, http://members.home.net/azisman/ is anything but. Tagging my business name, onto the end would make it even more clumsy.

Better would be to be able to get an Internet address for your company that more clearly reflects your company's name or business identity. Instead of http://members.home.net/azisman/adhoc/, how about www.adhoc.com? Or the Canadian www.adhoc.ca? Those last two or three letters are the domain, the Internet analogue of a virtual Province or country. So for my business, adhoc.com would be my domain name, if I could register it. And there's the catch.

With the exploding business presence on the Net, there's a growing shortage of addresses in the popular .com domain. To try and cope, the non-profit ICANN, keepers of the Internet registry recently added seven additional domains: .biz, .pro, .museum, .aero, .name, .coop and .info.
 
This may not help much, however. You can't register those names yet. And you can bet that many holders of existing .com domain names will try to register the same names in the new domains.

.com and the rest are US-based domains, though they're popular with businesses world-wide. The Canadian national domain, .ca was up originally administered by a UBC-based volunteer committee. Control has been recently transferred to the new Canadian Internet Registration Authority (www.cira.ca). A number of other nation's domains have achieved niche fame, such as  .tv and .md. (Tuvalu and Moldova, respectively). You can register a name in a .com, .ca, or other domain without living there. Want to own www.marcuswelby.md ? How about www.cbc.tv ? 

To get the Internet address of your dreams and not of your nightmares start by deciding on your desired name and check whether it's available. Decide on the domain you want to join. But be prepared to make some compromises. 

Adhoc.com and .ca are taken, as is ad-hoc.com. But I could still grab ad-hoc.ca, for instance.

While most simple names are long-gone, multi-word names are often still up for grabs, even in the popular domains. Jacktheplumber.com is taken, but when I checked, you could register vancouverjacktheplumber.com. Alternatively, jacktheplumber.ca was free.

One of many places to check availability of the US-based domain names is: www.icthus.net/CGI-City/demo/ccwhois/. Check Canadian names at www.cira.ca. Most domain registration companies will also let you check on current registrations for the popular domains You can find a list of other national domains and links to their registrars at: www.norid.no/domreg.html. (cbc.tv, ctv.tv, and global.tv were all taken, but  marcuswelby.tv was available).

Don't give up if the name you need is taken. The whois services listed above may tell you how to contact them the owner of the name you want. They may be prepared to sell it to you. (Some people have bulk-registered domain names just for the resale value). Web sites exist to broker domain name sales or to appraise or auction domain names. (A search for the words 'domain' and 'broker' got over 122,000 results). 

Once you've found a name to register, shop around for a domain name registrar. Up until recently, Virginia-based Network Solutions was the only official registrar for the .com domain (along with the less-common .org and .net). Now the field has opened up. Assuming your name is available in the domain you've chosen, the registrar will handle the messy details. That's what you're paying them for. Check ICANN's list of official (US-based name) registrars at: www.icann.org/registrars/accredited-list.html or the list of .ca registrars (once again) at www.cira.ca. Note that not all registrars can handle all domains, especially the various national domains.

Shop carefully. With total registration cost around $100 or so (part going to your registrar, and part to the official organization that manages the domain where you're you plan to reside), price shouldn't be your only object. Carefully read the registration agreement. Are you locked into that registrar? Will you have to continue with them forever? Can you choose where your eventual website will be hosted? Some registrars will happily re-direct your name to the actual location of your choice, others are tied closely to a particular web hosting service. Most important: who owns the name? You? Your registrar? Your Web hosting service?

Once you've got your domain name, you've just begun. You've got the name, but you still don't have the web site. That's when it's time to start looking for Web hosting services. But that's another column!

 


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan