A Domain Name is what you type into your browser to get to a particular web site; for example www.ripoff.com or www.ripoff.co.uk. A domain name can often be used as part of your e-mail address too: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A domain name is usually set up to point to a particular server which houses your web site, but some companies offer the service (at a price of course) of forwarding your domain name to another web address. For example, when someone types www.ripoff.co.uk in their browser, the request might go to one of the forwarding companies who will then invisibly send the user on to another address which actually houses your pages. There are some advantages and some disadvantages to the forwarding of domain names which you should take into account. The biggest advantage is that you can point the domain name to any server (even one of the free web page hosts) without needing permission from the owner of the server. You can also change the server which your domain name points to quite easily. The disadvantage is that it may not be possible for the user to request a particular page on your site using the domain name (for example http://www.ripoff.com/bargains.html).
The Domain Name Itself
The domain name consists of three parts, for example www.ripoff.com. The www is the hostname - the name the owner has given to the server on which the web site resides (www is the most common, but it could be any other name). ripoff is the domain name chosen by the owner of the web site. Often it will be the name of the company, but again you can (within the limits given below) choose any name. The final com says that this particular web site is a commercial site, probably (but not necessarily) based in the USA. This is known as a top-level domain, but you could choose instead to have a country domain. The next section gives more details about this part of the domain name.
Originally all domain names were "top-level" domains. Nowadays, because of the large number of domain names needed on the internet, there are also country domains. Top-level domains do not tell you what country the site is in - it is often assumed that they will be United States sites, but this is not necessarily so; anyone can register a top-level domain name. Examples of top-level domains are:
Country domains come in two parts. The first part is something like the top-level domains mentioned above, but use different codes. For example:
The second part of the country domain consists of a two-letter code denoting the country - for example .uk for the United Kingdom, .fr for France, .de for Germany and so on. So a country domain name would look something like www.ripoff.co.uk.
Registering a Domain Name
The procedure for registering a domain name is roughly the same for both top-level and country domain names. You cannot register a name directly yourself - you must go through an accredited agency who will deal with the registering authority for you. The first step in registering a domain name is therefore to find one of these agents. It pays to search around as the fees charges can vary widely. Probably the best way is to use a search engine, Yahoo for example, and search for "domain name registration" uk - note the quotation marks around part of the search text; this will give a better result.
For those visitors resident in the UK, one company which I have used myself is Easily.co.uk. Like all the registration agents they offer the service of searching for a domain name to see whether it is available. I have also found their services to be cheap but efficient. Use the form below to search for your own domain name.
Last major revision: 17 February 2002 at 23:33 BST
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