Domain Names

What Are Domain Names?

I like to use an analogy when describing domain names and web hosting. Imagine a house on a street. The house is built on a plot of land and has a plaque with a name on it that says "Sleepy Hollow". In website terms, the name on the plaque is equivalent to the domain name, and the plot of land upon which the house is built is equivalent to the webhosting.

So the domain name is what the website is called and the webhosting is where it lives.

Let's focus on domain names.

There are various places that you can register a domain name, and the registration process will cost you a small fee. Typically, it's a small amount, like $8. However, when you hand over the cash, the domain doesn't belong to you forever. You own the domain only for the registration period. In fact, it's more accurate to say that you are buying the right to use the domain for a period of time. You can register a domain for periods such as 1 year, 2 years, 10 years etc.

Domain Registrars

Here are some of the more popular domain registrars:

There are many other domain registrars.

Just because you have registered a domain name, you don't have to put a website on it. Many people buy domain names and do nothing with them, or simply use them for email addresses. If you are called Frank Zappa, you might like to register and then you could start using the email address

Expired Domains

Beware that domains expire! If you register a domain for two years, for example, you will need to register the domain again when those two years are up. If you don't re-register the domain, it will go into an expiration process, at the end of which the current registrar will take ownership. This means that if you don't re-register, you will lose the domain!

There is a whole industry devoted to the buying and developing of expired domains. Many domain registrars run marketplaces where people can buy expired domains. Expired domains may seem like attractive propositions as many good domain names have already been taken. Imagine that a plumber runs his or her own business and is based in London, UK. The domain is already taken, but suppose it expires. This would be a good buy for our English plumber, so they may be interested in snatching it up when it expires.

If you want to do some more in depth reading, you can read this Wikipedia article about domain names.