Categorized | Domain Name Registration

Web and Ecommerce 7.6. Domain Name Registration

Domain Name Registration

We discuss domain name registration in great detail in our very first chapter since your Web domain name is an inseparable part of the process of naming your company. A great company name does not mean anything if you cannot match it with a reasonably close domain name!

Domain name registration, however, is one of the key elements of Web site development, so it makes sense to include the resources here, as well. The process of domain name registration is pretty straightforward:

  1. Check the WHOIS database through a domain name registrar or reseller to find out if a domain name is available. You may need to try several different versions of your name.
  2. If your domain name is available―or one that is comfortably close―register your domain name at a domain name registrar.
  3. If the name is not available, check to see if it is owned by a legitimate business or is being held by a “squatter” who will transfer the registration to you for a fee.
  4. If the name is registered by a legitimate business, you can make an offer directly to the owner. However, if the domain name is attached to an ongoing Web endeavor, consider it gone.
  5. If it is owned by a squatter or squatter company (so-called “domain name real estate companies,” but you can call them “dens of thieves”), your best bet is to go to a domain name marketplace or hire an online brokerage service. They will often try to negotiate a lower fee for the transfer.

When searching for a domain name, you must include a top-level domain, like “.com.” There are five common top-level domains: .com, .org, .net, .edu, and .gov. The latter two are only assigned to organizations that are legitimate educational (.edu) and government (.gov) organizations. There are also a number of commercial top-level domains administered by private companies, such as .us, .biz, .info, and .tv. These often can be purchased at half or less the price of one of the major top level domain names―largely because no-one wants them.

Follow these general rules-of-thumb when choosing a top-level domain name:

  1. If available, you should choose a .com name before any other. Browsers are programmed to automatically add the .com to any address if a user types in the name alone.
  2. If available, you should choose a common top-level domain name (.com, .org, or .net) over any of the commercial names for your main URL.
  3. Commercial top-level domain names should be your last resort and you should choose one of the more common commercial names (.biz, .info, or .tv) before any others.
  4. You should, however, consider commercial top-level domains in addition to your .com, .org, or .net name―this prevents other folks from using your name if your business takes off. For instance, suppose you have a Web site called youtube.com and suddenly it takes off. If you have not locked up youtube.biz or youtube.tv, some unscrupulous competitor will snatch up the names to offer up a rival service. (By the way, the vast majority of commercial top-level domains are purchased only for this reason. Quite a racket, eh?)

You do not actually “own” a domain name―ICANN, the international non-profit that administers the domain name database, in reality, “owns” the name. You are simply “renting” the privilege to use the name on your site for one to ten years. “Using” a domain name means attaching it to an IP address on a computer attached to the Internet using a Web port somewhere. And, of course, you can only attach the domain name to one IP address, that is, one and only one computer.

All domain name registration happens through domain name registrars. These registrars bill you for the costs of registering your domain―the yearly fees charged by ICANN, the costs of administering your registration, maintaining your records, sending you email advertising (yep), plus a pretty good chunk of profit. Depending on the registrar, you can get domain name registration for as much as $40 per year to as little as $9. There is really no difference in quality or dependability―the only thing that matters about domain name registration is what ends up in the ICANN database . . . and they all do that.

7.6.1 WHOIS

WHOIS is the database of registered domain names kept by ICANN. No matter what domain name registrar you use to register your domain name, it will eventually be plonked into the WHOIS database. Each record within the WHOIS database has a “handle” (a unique identifier assigned to it), a name, a record type, and various other fields, including contact information of the company or individual who has registered the name. You can search WHOIS for domain names or information in any of the other fields recorded in WHOIS. Search results give you registration and expiration dates, contact information (if public) for the registrant and, if available, a thumbnail of the Web site home page with traffic ranking, meta descriptions, keywords and more. If a domain name is not in WHOIS, it is available for registration.

All domain name registrars offer you tools to search the WHOIS database.

Be careful! Not everything that calls itself WHOIS (like whois.com, whois.org, or whois.net) is WHOIS. Nor does every WHOIS search you see online actually search the WHOIS database. Your best way to access WHOIS is to go to one of the three domain name registrars below and use the tools that directly access WHOIS.

7.6.2 Domain Name Registrars―Network Solutions, Dotster, GoDaddy

Domain name registrars will register your domain name with ICANN as your property for the duration of the registration; they all charge a fee for these registration services.

  1. i. Network Solutions http://www.networksolutions.com

Network Solutions is the oldest and most reputable seller of domain names. The Network Solutions site allows you to quickly search the availability of a name, search WHOIS record, and register your domain name if it is available. It is, however, the most expensive domain registry service and charges $40 per year to register a domain with a common top-level domain name (.com, .org, or .net). They also include as part of their service a pretty rigorous reminder system―when your domain names are coming up on their renewal date, they will begin peppering your email box with a whole scrum of emails starting two months out. If you need reminders, Network Solutions is the best of the bunch. Network Solutions also offers a number of other services, such as certificates, payment gateways, Web hosting, and Web site design, but you will almost certainly use the site only for domain name registration.

  1. ii. Dotster http://www.dotster.com

For many years, Network Solutions had a monopoly on domain name registrations because of a special arrangement with ICANN. When ICANN opened up domain name registration to other companies in the late 1990’s, Dotster was one of the first to offer lower-priced registration. It has grown into a highly reputable company whose Web site allows you to search domain names, search the full WHOIS database, and register and manage your domain names. Dotster charges a maximum of $15 per year to register a name with a common extender (.com, .org, .net), but you need to keep on top of your expiration dates because Dotster is not as rigorous in sending you reminders. Like Network Solutions, Dotster offers a variety of Web services including secure certificates.

  1. iii. GoDaddy http://www.godaddy.com

There are tons of “low-price” domain name registrars, but the only low-price domain name seller that enjoys a high reputation is GoDaddy. This company offers all the same services on its site as Network Solutions and Dotster, but domain name registration with common top-level names sell for a maximum of $10 per year.

  1. iv. Bulk Register http://www.bulkregister.com

In addition to the domain name registrars mentioned above, there are sites that allow you to “bulk register” a whole passel of domain names all at once. You, as a small business, may find little use for bulk registration―the services are designed for squatters, brand managers, corporations, and marketing professionals―but if you do require pretty serious troop strength in domain names, then bulk registrars save you both time and money. Bulk Register is one of the premier services for bulk registration and offers tools for managing the large domain name portfolios that bulk registrations require. In contrast, the Web tools offered by Network Solutions, GoDaddy, and Dotster are designed for small domain name portfolios. Bulk Register charges a yearly fee ($99) to use its services and charges a minimum of $12 per year for top-level domains.

7.6.3 Domain Name Brokers and Marketplaces

This section is also repeated in the first chapter since domain name registration is a key element of naming your company.

Life, unfortunately, is not perfect. Your ideal domain name is probably already registered to someone else. That does not mean the game is over, because many domain name owners are perfectly willing to “sell” their domain name. In fact, the majority of domain names are owned by people who only want to sell them to the people who want to use them.

These artful dodgers call themselves domain realtors, but the rest of the world calls them domain name squatters. If a domain name is being squatted, you can always contact the squatter and ask for the price, which will be pretty high (and will go up the minute someone shows any interest―if you ask a second time, the price will have magically increased!). However, most squatters sell their domain name collections through brokerage services run by popular domain name registrars or through domain name marketplaces.

1. Domain name broker

A domain name broker is just like a real estate broker. The broker represents the buyer or the seller and provides a market value appraisal of the domain name value and negotiates with the other party to maximize the value for the client. A buyer’s broker tries to negotiate the lowest possible price; a seller’s broker tries to negotiate the highest possible price.

2. Domain name marketplace

Most “brokers” are actually marketplaces. These sites allow sellers to list domain names they have for sale and buyers to look for domain names―a kind of classified ads for domain names. These sites will sometimes offer mediation services, that is, they’ll broker the negotiations between buyers and sellers by allowing them to communicate and negotiate through the site. Some marketplace companies do sell brokerage services and will help you track down domain name owners even if they are not registered on the site.

Be careful about the fee structure that brokers charge. Any fee structure, whether commission-based or just a flat fee, produces goal incongruence, that is, the broker has very different goals than you have. If the broker charges a commission on the final price, it’s in their best interest to close the sale at the highest possible price, which conflicts with your goal of getting the lowest possible price. If they charge a flat fee, then they’re motivated to spend as little time working on negotiating the price down. They want to maximize their hourly return, not maximize your savings.

  1. i. Sedo.com http://www.sedo.com

Sedo.com is a marketplace of domain names sold by a variety of companies and sellers. A huge number of squatters put their domain names up for sale on Sedo. You search the site, find a domain you want, contact the seller, and negotiate the price online. If a domain name is not registered in their marketplace, Sedo will initiate contact with the owner to mediate the transaction. Sedo takes a flat fee of $69 for mediating domain name transactions through their Web site.

  1. ii. BuyDomains http://www.buydomains.com

BuyDomains is another marketplace where sellers put their domain names up for sale; unlike Sedo, they do not contact sellers if the domain name is not listed. BuyDomains charges sellers a yearly fee and a percentage commission on each sale; these costs, of course, are passed on to you by the seller even though the site is “free” for buyers. Expect to pay $200 or more extra in pass-through fees for a domain name.

  1. iii. Impressive Domains http://www.impressivedomains.com

Impressive Domains is another marketplace where squatters and others list domain names they’re offering for sale. In addition, they offer market value domain name appraisals for sellers and negotiating services. Although “free” to buyers, the site charges sellers a 10% selling commission on the final domain name transfer price. Smart sellers, of course, figure in this commission when deciding on a final price, meaning you pay it, not the seller.

  1. iv. Website Broker http://www.websitebroker.com

Website Broker allows domain name sellers to list domain names and provides an online transaction service to mediate the sale and transfer of domain names. Website Broker also offers brokerage services, that is, you can hire the company to represent you in a negotiation with a seller. The site typically charges a percent commission on the sale whether it represents the buyer or seller.

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