The 411 on Web Domains

Tech Talker outlines what exactly a web domain is and how you can buy one for yourself.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #44

The 411 on Web Domains

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been buying domains for projects I’m working on. I want to be sure to grab them before someone else does. If you aren’t really sure what a domain is, it’s your standard web address such as www.QuickAndDirtyTips.com. This extends to websites that have endings such as .org, .gov, .net, .edu, and so on. To a computer, the domain www.Google.com simply means, which is the IP address of Google.com. Humans don’t easily remember strings of numbers, which is why domains were developed. They make the internet more user-friendly. Imagine if you had to recall a 13-digit number each time you wanted to look up a web page!

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So when you type in “quickanddirtytips.com” into your web browser, a DNS or “Domain Name Server” will look up which set of numbers the name corresponds to and then direct you to that address. I realize that this is oversimplifying a complicated process, but that’s basically the gist of it.

What’s in a Name?

You’re probably thinking, “All right, cool, I think I get it. But how does this affect me?”

Well, let’s take the following scenario: Say you have a job interview with a big company. What’s the first thing that company is going to do? Google you! What do you think will come up? A story you wrote for your high school newspaper? Your Facebook page? Or maybe that MySpace page you created back in the day?

The stuff that comes up while searching for yourself online can be pretty scary, especially if your Facebook page is public.

But if you were to buy a domain with your name in it, you could set up your own email, blog, and website. So when that large company searches for you, in all likelihood your website will be one of the top results and what they would see is a professional summary of yourself and your accomplishments. Of course, that is provided your website has content that a search engine can grab onto, such as your name and other identifying features about you.

Not only would this look much more professional, but it would allow you to create a positive image of yourself for prospective employers. For good placement in search engine results, your page would need to be Search Engine Optimized, but I’ll go over that in another podcast.

How to Buy a Domain

So now you’re thinking, “OK, I want to look at what domains are available to me right now. But where the heck do I even start?” The easiest thing to do is to go to a domain registrar such as GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com. These websites will allow you to search for any domain you have in mind and see if it’s available. If the domain you’re looking for is fairly abstract, you might get lucky and grab it right away. I bet something like “randomhamstersintoastyigloos.com” is probably available. However, more often than not, premium domains will already be registered. In fact, buying up registered domain names is a big business. For example: Beer.com sold for $7 million in 2004 and Toys R Us bought Toys.com for $5.1 million in 2009.  

If the domain you want is already registered, GoDaddy or Network Solutions will show you the contact information of the domain owner, when it was purchased, and when it will expire. If you really want a domain, I would suggest contacting the owner to see if they’re interested in selling. Another good option is to see if the domain will expire soon, freeing it up for purchase. This is oftentimes a long shot but I’ve picked up two domains this way!

So how much does a domain cost exactly? This will vary depending on which website you use to register your domain, but the price is usually anywhere from $5 to $40 per year.

Also, in recent months ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), has decided to allow more top level domains. Right now the main top level domains are .com, .net, and .gov, but ICANN’s announcement allows companies and individuals the ability to apply for new top level domains. So you can apply for anything such as .apple, .book, or even .yourname! Of course this is only for those of you out there with deep, deep wallets because the application itself costs somewhere in the ball park of $185,000! If you want to learn more about these new domain endings, be sure to check back later this week when I’ll post an article with much more detail.

Now time for your Quick and Dirty Tips about domain names:

  1. If you’re interested in buying a domain, check out GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com to see if it’s available for purchase.

  2. If the domain is already taken, look at the “Who Is” information and contact the owner of that domain.

  3. If the domain is set to expire soon, try to buy it right after the expiration date.

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Well, that’s it for today. Be sure to check out all my posts at http://techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com/. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post your comments on the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Woman on computer and Money Bag imagse from Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.