Category Archives: Domain Names

Domain names and discussion of the domain name system and domain registry ratings.

Domain Registration Ratings

An independent domain registration rating list of the top domain registration services comparing features and value.  Each domain registrar allows the user to register domain names with all the global registries (.com, .net, .org, etc) and most allow domain name registration with other country registries.  Use this domain registrar ratings list to match your domain name needs to the appropriate registrar.  You can also resell domain registration.

Top Domain Registrars

Domain Registrar Description Price
ICANNwholesale •  FREE  Blog
•  FREE  Hosting
•  FREE  Complete Email
•  FREE  Forwarding / Masking
•  FREE  Change of Registration
•  FREE  Starter Web Page
•  FREE  “For Sale”/ Parked Page
•  FREE  Domain Name Locking
•  FREE  Total DNS Control
$6.95 .com
GoDaddy •  Online Photo Filer
•  Quick Blogcast Hosting with Web site builder
•  Personalized Email Account
•  Starter Web Page
•  Domain Forwarding & Masking
•  Total DNS Control
•  Change of Registration
•  Domain Locking
$9.99 .com
Yahoo! Domains •  24 hour support
•  Starter Web Page
•  Private domain registration available
•  Domain Locking
•  Domain Forwarding
•  Complete DNS Control
$9.95 .com
Register.com •  Starter Site
•  Free submission to Google and other search engines
•  $60 of Free Yahoo search advertising
•  Basic URL forwarding
$35 .com
Network Solutions • $19 transfers
• $12 domain forwarding with masking
• Free Under Construction page.
• Easy-to-use account management tools.
• Free transfers within Network Solutions.
• Free added security with Domain Protect and Auto Renew.
• 24/7 customer support.
$34.99 .com

Domain Reseller Accounts
Company Description Price
ICANNreseller Allows organizations or individuals to sell domain names, web products, and e-commerce tools.  Resellers benefit from a well established backend with a top-notch support and product development staff.  Site templates and management tools make the establishment of a non-profit or for-profit domain registration and web product system almost instantaneous. $89.95

How to Choose a Domain Name

In general, you wan to choose a domain name that reflects your organization, is easy to type, is easy to remember, and has a TLD extension (.com, .org, etc) appropriate for your use.

1. The best place to begin is a domain name registry such as ICANNWholesale to help determine what domain names are available. You may have a name in mind already that you think is perfect for your business but it may already be registered by another business. Use the tools provided to search different variations. The tools come up with some great variations you may not have considered.

2. In general, if you are a business, and concerned about driving traffic to your site then try to find a .com address that matches your business name. People are so used to typing .com that your traffic may go to another business that owns yourbusinessname.com.

3. Try to choose a domain name that matches your organizational name. People may remember your business name and if they know you have a web site they will first try to find you by typing yourbusinessname.com.

4. If you are a non-profit of any kind you may want to consider getting both the .org and .com domains for your organization. Many just naturally type .com to the end of domains so you won’t lose that traffic. You may also run into the problem, if you become very popular, that people will buy the .com address that matches your site to get some free traffic. E-sword.net is a very popular free Bible software program. I’ve found myself, on several occasions, accidentally typing esword.com only to be taken to another domain. It is quite easy to forward the .com address to your .org address to take advantage of the added traffic.

5. Domain names can have dashes in them. If the domain name, thebagelfactory.com is taken, you may be able to buy the-bagel-factory.com. If you can get the domain name without dashes, choose that one. Use variations in capitalization to promote your domain name vice dashes. People forget to put dashes in domains.

6. It is key to choose a domain name that is memorable. People may find you on a search engine and if your domain name easily “sticks” in their head they will likely return to your site. If they constantly have to find you via a search engine, because they can’t rember your domain, then you will lose visitors. There are a couple of key factors to being memorable: brevity and relation to product or service.

a. Brevity: Short domain names are generally better than long domain names. The-best-chiropractor-in-town.com makes it difficult to type but also to remember because of all the words in it and it has dashes as well. Domain names that are too long will also get cut off in many forms or other internet apps. Keep it short.

b. Relation to Product: If you can get a domain name that people will naturally think of when they think of you they will more likely remember your domain. It’s a balancing act to find a domain that makes people think of you while keeping it short too. I always forget, for instance, that Merrill Lynch’s domain name is www.ml.com because, while brief, I don’t think of ml immediately.

7. Some will tell you that having keywords in a domain name helps you in the search engines if it relates to your topic. The domain best-temecula-chiropractor.com has targeted keywords in it but it is long, has dashes, and will be hard to remember. It used to be true that the search engines gave a bonus to keyword domain names in search engine results but the algorithms have improved. Keep your domain name related to your content but don’t sacrifice being memorable in the process.

8. Domain names are not case sensitive. TheBagelFactory.com resolves the same as thebagelfactory.com but is more readable. Try variations in Capitalization to see how your domain name reads. It helps when promoting your domain, to capitalize certain letters so people will see the distinct words in the domain rather than a bunch of letters run together.

9. Some domain names just don’t look right. Make sure you look at your domain name typed out before you settle on it. The domain name websiteexplained.com just looks weird because it has two contiguous vowels. There’s no hard and fast rule here but most people can “see” when a domain name just doesn’t work. One of the reasons Merrill Lynch chose ml.com, I would guess, is that merrilllynch.com just doesn’t “work” with three l’s run together.

10. Use a Thesaurus! If a domain name is taken, use a thesaurus to find synonyms to terms that you wanted in your domain name. You may find some memorable variations you had not considered.

11. For personal use or for other organizations where .com is not a requirement, don’t forget about all the other domain extension options available. There is .net, .org, .biz, and .us just to name a few. I find the .us domain to be a great domain extension for people who want to set up personal domains such as lastname.us. Just remember, though, people usually remember the first part of domain name and “default” to a .com extension. Always go with .com if you can get it.

What is a Domain Name?

Background

The World Wide Web (WWW) has become such a normal part of life, with browsing so simplified, that the vast majority take for granted that when they type in an address (aka URL), they load a page.  Why is it, however, that http://www.websitemaven.com leads a user to my site?

Information on the internet is routed according to Internet Protocol Addresses (or IP addresses for short).  Every web server that hosts web pages to be viewed has a unique IP address, such as 192.0.34.35.  You can actually browse to websites using IP addresses but what if you had to remember to type 192.0.34.35 every time you wanted to visit a web page?  This is where the Domain Name System comes in?

In the early days of the Internet, there were few computers connected to the Internet and a central database was maintained that listed every computer on the Internet.  With several thousand computers connected, the database became too large to manage centrally and in 1983, the Domain Name System was invented at USC to distributed databases, decentralizing management while maintaining central control of domains.

The Domain Name System (DNS) uses the familiar address of www.somedomainname.com and translates (or resolves) the name into an IP address.  People naturally remember names or “mnemonic” devices more easily than numbers (which is why we sort telephone books by last name to find phone numbers and not the other way around.)  The goal of the DNS is for any Internet user any place in the world to reach a specific website IP address by entering its domain name.  Domain names are also used for reaching e-mail addresses and for other Internet applications.

In an Internet address – such as icann.org – the .org part is known as a Top Level Domain, or TLD. So-called “TLD registry” organizations house online databases that contain information about the domain names in that TLD. The .org registry database, for example, contains the Internet whereabouts – or IP address – of icann.org. So in trying to find the Internet address of icann.org your computer must first find the .org registry database. How is this done?

How the Domain Name System Works

At the core of the DNS are 13 special computers, called root servers. ICANN coordinates their operation and they are distributed around the world.  All 13 servers contain identical information; this allows the workload to be spread as well as to back each other up.  Reflect on the elegance of the design that allows the central resolution of domain names for millions of people with only 13 servers!

The 13 servers are called root servers and they contain the IP address of all the Top Level Domain (TLD) registrars.  These TLDs include global registries such as .com, .net, .org, etc. and the 244 country specific registries (.tw, .ca, .uk, etc.)

Scattered across the Internet are thousands of computers – called “Domain Name Resolvers” or just plain “resolvers” – that routinely cache the information they receive from queries to the root servers.  These resolvers are located strategically with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or institutional networks.  They are used to respond to a user’s request to resolve a domain name – that is, to find the corresponding IP address.

When a user types a domain name for a web page or to send an e-mail, a domain name request is forwarded to a local resolver to figure out where to send or look for name.com.  The resolver knows how to find the .com registry as it has copied its IP from a root server beforehand.  The resolver then goes to the .com registry and “says” “Can you give me the IP address for name.com?”  The .com registry returns the IP address of name.com which is sent back to the requesting server so it can make a connection using the IP address provided.  It all happens in fractions of a second (usually) without the user needing to know (nor caring) what the IP address of name.com is.

Top-level, second-level, and third-level domains

The domain name system is a hierarchical system.  You may have encountered domain names like www.usa.xerox.com.  That domain name has different domain levels within it.  The top level domain is .com, controlled by ICANN’s root server.  Moving to the left of .com, xerox.com is a second-level domain – the .com registry contains the IP address of xerox.com.  Moving further left, usa.xerox.com is a third-level domain.  Xerox has its only domain name system (DNS) server that has the IP address of usa.xerox.com.  Xerox’s DNS system also knows where to resolve www.usa.xerox.com where www is at the fourth-level position though is not a domain.  It is rare to see domain names beyond the third level.

Who cares about this domain name stuff?

I thought you did since you clicked on What is a Domain Name and you’re reading this page.  For many, ignorance is bliss as they need not understand the system to use it.  If you are going to purchase or think you want to own a domain name it is useful to understand it.  When you purchase a domain name on the Internet, that domain name is yours – you can point it whereve you want and if you understand how the domain name system work then you have great flexibility as to who you pay to register your domain as well as who you choose to let host your domain.

For instance, I have several websites hosted at Lunar Pages and own several domain names for personal and professional use.  I registered the domain names at the registry of my choice and I can choose where I want to point those domain names to.  I point several to Lunar Pages but if I ever wanted to change Web Hosting companies, I can do so within minutes by pointing the domain names to a different host.  More discussion on managing your domain is available on this site but the main point is that if you understand the fundamental principles of the domain name system (DNS) then you have much more power and flexibility as an Internet user.

Managing your Domain

When you purchase a domain from a registrar or host a domain with a web hosting company, you will have a control panel that allows you to configure aspects of your domain.  Once you purchase a domain, the domain is yours to do with as you please.  If you become unsatisfied with the support or performance of a domain registrar or a hosting company then you can take your service, and your domain, elsewhere.  This page describes some of the common domain management tools and some considerations for their use.  Managing your domain is not a difficult thing to do if you know the basics.

There are other options, in addition to the below when managing your domain but I have limited discussion to the fundamental “must knows”.  ICANNwholesale has some great tutorials on their domain management interface, which, while it differs slightly from other domain registrars, the concepts are the same.

Contact Information

There are three types of contacts with a domain name: Administrative, Technical, and Billing.  Of the three, the most important is the Administrative contact.  It is the Administrative contact that controls the domain and has authority to change Technical and Billing contacts.  Make sure you are the Administrative contact at a minimum.  There is no reason why you should not be the billing and technical contact as well though sometimes web hosting companies will list themselves as the technical contact while they host your domain.  I recommend you make yourself the contact for all three types.  Contact your web hosting company or use the control panel of your domain to make appropriate changes.

Of all the contact fields, you want to make sure that the e-mail address is one that comes to you.  Domains can be managed by any number of domain registries authorized to do so.  There are those who try to transfer domains to themselves.  Transfer requests use e-mail and, if not responded to, will go forward automatically.  Discussed later are some domain security settings you should set to prevent this but suffice to say that you should make sure the e-mail address in the Contact Information is yours.

One drawback to contact information on for domain names is that it is publicly available.  While it is necessary to keep your domain contact information pointed to you to protect your domain from being pilfered, the drawback is that marketers and spammers use the e-mail and mailing addresses to bombard you with unsolicited offers.  Some domain registrars, like RegisterFly, offer a service that allows you to hide your contact information from the world wide web and eliminate this major nuisance.

Nameserver Information

On the page what is a domain name? you can find an explanation of the domain name system.  A nameserver is a server at a registry, a web host, or any company that contains a list of domain names and their associated IP addresses.

When you register a domain with a registrar (RegisterFly, Network Solutions, etc.), the registrar creates a record in the domain registry that says “Customer X owns domainname.xxx” with all the contact information of the customer. The different registries (.com, .net, .us, …) now know that the registrar is the place to send queries about that domain name.  As an example, suppose I register websitepundit.com with RegisterFly.  RegisterFly tells the .com registry that I know own the domain and the .com registry is updated to tell the WWW to go to RegisterFly any time it needs nameserver information for websitepundit.com.

When a record is first created it will have the nameserver information for the registrar.  You can change the nameserver information to any nameserver you desire.  For any organization there is typically a primary domain nameserver (DNS) as well as a backup.  You can enter either the server’s domain name (ns1.domain.com) or the actual IP address if you know it.  The nameserver information needs to be set to whoever is hosting the domain.  Web hosting companies will provide nameserver information in the FAQ typically.

Hosting Options

This option will be only be available in a Domain Registry control panel if the nameserver information is still set to point to the domain registrar.  This option allows the user to control what the world will see.

Parked:  Used when you’re not actively using your domain or building content and not ready to make it go live yet.

Redirected (with Frames aka Domain masking):  Sends the user to another location when they type the domain name.  The address is the address bar is your domain name but a different domain name is actually loaded.  It’s sometimes called with frames or domain masking because it creates a “frame” around the actual website and masks to most users where they are actually visiting.

Redirected (with no Frames):  Sends the user to a different website but doesn’t mask where he has been redirected to.  For example, if you type www.chevy.com, you are redirected to www.chevrolet.com and that is loaded in the address bar.  www.chevy.com is an alias for the company’s main website.  Sometimes companies will buy variations of a domain name and redirect them to their main site.

For Sale:  Some domain registries allow you to select this option so that when a user types your domain, they get a for sale sign letting them know you’re willing to sell them the domain.  Some companies charge thousands of dollars for popular domain names.

E-mail Forwarding: There is much to say about this topic so I made it a separate web page under setting up domain e-mail.

Transfer Security

Domain registrars allow you to set tight security for your domain to prevent domain thieves from transferring domains to themselves.  Registry settings allow you to automatically reject all transfer requests.  Default setting should be high security to prevent the transfer and set back to normal only when you are in the process of changing registrars (which is rare).  When managing your domain, this is one of the most important security steps you can take.  Don’t neglect this.

Domain Nameserver Information

When you register a new domain name, the domain name is given default nameserver information by the domain company you register the domain with or by the hosting company who you bought the domain through.  A nameserver is shorthand for domain nameserver.  Every domain on the internet, in the ICANN registry, has attributes called nameservers.  The nameservers information is, in some sense, a map or directions that tells the internet:

“Go to this domain name server and they’ll be able to tell you where to go to find my internet files…”

When you establish an internet account with a hosting company to have them host a domain for you, what is really happening on their servers is they set up a directory on their server called “yourdomain.com”.  In order for your domain to actually work, however, you have to set the nameserver information to their nameserver information which, in turn, points browsers to your directory once they reach the nameserver on their end

Let’s run through a scenario:

1.  I purchase a web hosting account through Lunar Pages.

2.  I already own the domain solideogloria.com so I tell them I want to host the domain name solideogloria.com on their servers.

3.  They build a directory on their servers for my account and load, in their namservers, a “pointer” that says whenever anybody comes looking here for solideogloria.com point them to that account directory.

4.  During signup, they tell me “Rich, our nameservers are ns1.lunarpages.com and ns2.lunarpages.com.”

5.  I now have to go into my domain control panel at ICANNwholesale and set my nameserver information for the domain.  Initially they are pointed at park at the parked nameservers for ICANNwholesale but I have to set them to point to Globat’s nameservers.

6.  I unlock my domain, set the nameserver information for the domain and, Voila!, the internet now knows to look to Globat every time my domain name is typed.

Typically, each hosting company has two nameservers.  This is for redundancy, if one nameserver is down, the other will likely be up to answer nameserver requests.

Keep in mind when you buy a domain name as part of your web hosting package, because many packages offer free domains or you can purchase one for a nominal fee, the web hosting company takes care of setting your nameserver information for you.

Some might think knowing this information is pointlessly detailed and nitnoid but let me assure you that understanding how to control your domain is most vital.  If you ever want to switch hosting companies, knowing how to manage your domain will help you if you find a better hosting package elsewhere.  Also, knowing this information will give you the flexibility to transfer your domain to different domain registrars because, why pay $35 a year for a domain when you can pay only $7.85 for the same or better features?

There are some great free tutorials that ICANNwholesale makes available for its users.  While the “managing your domain” articles are somewhat geared toward their interface, every domain registration entity has the same basic controls even if they look a bit different on the control panel.

Domain Redirection Explained

When you register your new domain with a domain registrar the control panel for that domain hosting account provides many features that are free with the service. Among these features is the ability for domain redirection.

When you first register the domain with the registrar, the registrar will set up the DNS entry for that domain to point to them. In layman’s terms this means that if somebody types www.yourdomain.com then that domain is set up to point to their service. In order to point it to a web host or company server you have to edit the nameserver (DNS) settings for that domain through the control panel.

Let’s say you cannot afford a web host or your own DNS and server farm and still want your domain to point to (redirect) a web page you’ve developed. Perhaps you’re a small Church and your website is at http://www.aol.com/~smithrj because you got free web space from your ISP and that’s all you can afford. You can still purchase a domain name for less than $10 a year and use domain redirection to a free web page so you can advertise your church website

You register the name www.greatchurch.org and when your account is set up you can enter the domain control panel. Go to the nameserver settings for the domain and choose Redirect with Frames or Redirect without Frames. The panel will then allow you to enter the site URL that you want your domain to be redirected to. Redirecting with Frames places the destination site within a Frame or “envelope” that hides the actual destination of the URL while Redirect without Frames just takes you to the domain name. If you want an example of domain redirection without Frames visit the URL http://www.websitepundit.com (a domain I own) and you will notice you are redirected to my site. It’s a way for me or anybody to alias as many names as desired to locations.

For small organizations with shoestring budgets, it’s a way to show their website with their own name at a very low price.

Setting up Domain E-mail

Many do not understand the capabilities that come free with their domain and take advantage of them.  How many times have you visited a site for www.localcompany.com and in the Contact Us page the sales or customer service personnel have e-mail addresses like joesmith@aol.com?  It certainly is not the main measure of the quality of the business but the Average Joe is probably thinking, “Geez, what is that, their personal e-mail address?”  Why not use domain email which is free with every hosting account?

The bottom line is that if you have paid money to own a domain than you should, at the least, buy from a domain registrar that offers e-mail forwarding for their accounts.  Further, many web hosting providers include one domain registration with their setup (many of the those rated here) and you have another avenue to have a unique domain email address.

What do you mean by a domain e-mail address?

If you register a new domain, widgets.com, one of the features that comes with the domain (from the domain registry or the web host or both) is the ability to set up e-mail accounts for that new domain name.  Now instead of georgesmith@aol.com, the company or individual can set up e-mail addresses like sales@widgets.com or support@widgets.com.  Those new e-mail addresses can be POP3 accounts or just forwarding accounts.  Either way, these domain e-mails are included with your cost and setting them up is not only free to you but gives the impression to the outside world “…this business is professional because it has its own e-mail addresses.”

What is e-mail “forwarding”?

E-mail forwarding is a feature that allows incoming mail to a domain email account, such as sales@widgets.com, to be redirected or forwarded to another e-mail address (i.e. georgesmith@aol.com).  This is the easiest way to set up a new e-mail address without having to change your e-mail program.  These are sometimes called “aliases”.  An alias is another name that refers to the same person.  In our example, George Smith has an e-mail address with aol – georgesmith@aol.com.  He has just purchased the domain name widgets.com and sets up a forwarding rule which “reads”: Whenever an e-mail comes in to sales@widgets.com forward the e-mail to georgesmith@aol.com.  sales@widgets.com is an “alias” for georgesmith@aol.com as all traffic goes to the same destination.  

Many services allow hundreds for forwarding rules or aliases to be created.  Suppose George is a small business but wants to give website visitors the confidence that they are dealing with a solid company.  He could create forwarding rules for support@widgets.com, questions@widgets.com, complaints@widgets.com, etc. and have them ALL get forwarded to georgesmith@aol.com.  As George adds employees he can change the forwarding rules to go to other e-mail addresses.  The point is however that you can have as many Aliases as you want pointing to the same destination e-mail.

“Catch-all” Address

The “Catch-all” address is a form of the forwarding rule.  In fact, you can set up just the “catch-all” address in lieu of any other forwarding rules.  The catch-all address form is usually in the form of “*@widgets.com will be forwarded to georgesmith@aol.com”.  What this tells the server is that, unless any other forwarding rule is specified, any e-mail that is sent to widgets.com will be forwarded to georgesmith@aol.com.  The * is a wildcard that means that I can type “anythingIwant@widgets.com” and it will be forwarded to the aol account.  This is a very quick way to set up e-mail aliases if they’re all going to the same person.  With a single catch-all rule, George ensures that anyname@widgets.com will come to him so he can give different e-mail addresses out and produce the confidence that he is a large company.

POP3 e-mail accounts

A POP3 e-mail address is a unique e-mail address with its very own storage space.  While forwarding addresses are pseudonyms for actual e-mail addresses, most hosting accounts allow you to create hundreds of unique POP3 e-mail accounts that are stored on the web hosting company’s servers.

From the control panel of the service, the provider allows its customers to set up POP3 accounts with usernames and passwords.  They usually have very generous storage limits for each e-mail account.  Outlook and Outlook Express allow a user to log into multiple e-mail accounts and the web hosting companies provide the details on how to set each POP3 account in these and other programs.

Instead of mere aliases, widgets.com may need unique e-mail addresses for each of its employees or business sections.  The hosting companies rated provide more POP3 accounts than most businesses or individuals will ever require.

Giving a family (or Church) their own e-mail addresses

Domain names are so cheap now, at only $9.99/yr that families can benefit from registering a domain name familyname.com or familyname.net or familyname.us.  Once the domain name is owned, think about the power of adding an alias for every member of the family.  Joe Schnelly has just bought Schnelly.us.  In his forwarding rules he creates e-mail addresses for sally@schnelly.us, jim@schnelly.us, pete@schnelly.us, etc. for all the cousins, parents, brothers, etc. in the family.  Each alias goes to the actual e-mail address of the family member but now there is an easy way for everybody to remember the e-mail address of another member of the family.

The same idea could be used for the local church that buys cornerchurch.org.  I set up aliases for every member in my local church so members can e-mail each other my sending e-mails to lastname@cornerchurch.org.

Your imagination at using the power and flexibility of the tool is your only limitiation in many instances.