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All About Domain Names

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All About Domain Names

By JamieD
Published: March 23, 2010 Updated: February 10, 2011

Online businesses have become extremely popular in that last few years. While many steps of starting an online business are the same as those for a traditional business, several additional requirements are necessary to create your website. To understand the basics of starting your website, you must understand what a domain name is, how to select one, and how to register it.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the web address of your online business. For example, Business.gov is the domain name of the U.S. government's business portal. Choosing and registering a domain name is the first step in starting an online business.

How do I choose an appropriate domain name?

For business purposes, choosing an appropriate domain name can be almost as important as knowing how to properly register it. As the internet identity of your business, your domain name should representative, unique, easy to remember, use keywords, and have an appropriate extension (.com). To help users create appropriate, business-ready domain names, the Small Business Matters blog has published a two part series:

Where and how do I register my domain name?

After you've chosen an appropriate domain name, the registration process is easy and cost friendly. Domain name registration is completed through an organization called InterNIC - Public Information Regarding Internet Domain Name Registration Services*. Individual businesses may choose which registrar that they would like to use to complete their registration. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (I-CANN)* has created an approved list of Certified Registering Authorities* to help you choose a legitimate registrar.

Once you select your registrar, their website will take you through a short process to officially register your name. You will generally encounter small fees and registration periods depending on your selected registrar.

Be sure to comply with the United States Patent and Trademark Office's laws regarding Abusive Domain Name Registration of Personal Names, which involve domain names that intend to be confusingly similar, or mislead others, into the true ownership of that domain name. For more information, check out Business.gov's guide to Registering a Domain Name.

Are there any security risks to look out for when registering my domain name?

Unfortunately, there are scams that target individuals attempting to register a domain name. In one instance, scammers attempt to take advantage of news that the I-CANN* has made certain top level domains public. New domain names include .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro. Because the general public isn't aware of the new changes, it could be easy to fall victim to this scam. Take precautions to protect yourself when registering a domain name and review the Federal Trade Commission's guide to avoiding domain name scams.

What is cybersquatting?

Registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with a negative intent to profit from a trademark or name belonging to someone else is known as cybersquatting. Once they control a particular domain, a cybersquatter would attempt to sell the domain to the person or business who owns the trademark or name at an inflated price. U.S. federal law prohibits cybersquatting through the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

Additional Resources:

Note: Hyperlink* directs reader to non-government Web site.

Message Edited by JamieD on 10-13-2009 10:45 AM

About the Author:

Comments:

To ease the pain, I would like to personally give out my recommendation and suggestions when it comes to domain name registration. Cheap place to register domain names I have always liked using GoDaddy (http://godaddy.com) to register domain names. If you search around online for godaddy coupon, you can sometimes register a new domain for as low as $2.99. And no, I'm not affiliated with Godaddy nor do I work for them. I am a customer though, and so far I am fairly happy hosting my domains with them. Hosting with them is an entirely separate matter and requires a separate article that is relevant to that subject. :) Domain name privacy and risksOne thing I came across that I really don't like is how fast spammers can harvest my domain registrant contact information. You may not know this, but every domain requires you to provide accurate contact information. This includes both the registrant's address, phone #, and email address. And guess what? This contact information is public record! Anyone who searches for your domain name can find your contact information. Now, if this info was used for legitimate purposes, then I'd have no qualm about showing my info. But there are spammers out there that capture this information to send you spam. Worse, they probably just sell this information to 3rd parties who can spam you some more. I hate that! People have tried posting fake contact information. But under ICANN's terms, you must provide accurate contact information where you can be reached. Otherwise, you would be violating their terms and your domain would be subject to cancellation if the information is not corrected. To protect your privacy, most of the registrars out there will offer you a way to 'anonymize', or hide, your contact information by allowing you to use an 'agent' that acts as your proxy registrant. When people search your domain, they will see the agent's contact information. If anyone sends your agent email or letters, your agent can then forward this to you. The fee for this is normally charged on annual basis. I normally see fees of $10-25 a year to have use a proxy to hide your contact information. Alternatively, you may also use a PO Box or online postal mailbox service to protect your privacy. By using a PO Box, you get the benefit of keeping your home/business address private and protected from spammers. However, this option usually tends to be more expensive than the former option above. I have seen PO Boxes rented for as low as $12 a year, but that's only if you live in a place where PO Boxes are very unpopular. :) My area's PO Boxes goes for about $24 for 3 months. But here's the benefit! If you own 10 or more domains like I do, then having a po box is well worth it. If I were to go with the former option, I'd probably have to pay at least $100 a year. But if I were to go with a PO Box, I will probably pay much less. In addition, I can even use this PO Box for other purposes, ie. mailing address for my bank/credit statements, etc. One of the downsides to a PO Box is that you have to go to the Post Office to check your mail. That's actually ok though since you rarely get any mail that comes from your domain registrations. I think I have received maybe 1 letter out of the 10-12 years I've been owning domain names and I own an average of 15-20 domains. An alternative to PO Boxes is online postal mailboxes. These mailbox services will scan incoming mail for you and allow you to view them online. They are normally more expensive, so I would not recommend these services unless you plan to use these services for other purposes, such as a 'portable' mailing address for your business, your home business, or your personal mail (ie. you're a big time traveler). I mentioned a few in another post of mine, but the ones I listed were UsaMail1 (http://usamail1.com), Virtual Post Mail (http://virtualpostmail.com), and NYMail (http://nymail.com). Conclusion I do agree with JamieD that you should take care when it comes to registering domain names, and to watch out for domain name scams. In addition, do make sure to check trademarks. You don't want to be registering a domain name that MAY violate someone's trademark. Even if you do have legal rights and perhaps win any litigation casees, starting a business and having to pay money for lawyer fees is just not worth it in my opinion. It'd be much better to just find another name to use as a domain. And yes, cybersquatting is something you also need to watch out for. The easiest way to avoid this is not to profit from cybersquatting. If you show any intent to sell a domain name for profit, cybersquatting may come back to bite you in the buns. Consult a lawyer when it comes to this issue. Message Edited by JamieD on 10-13-2009 10:50 AM
You can begin checking domain trademarks by entering the domain name into search engines. This way you can find companies with the same or similar names. Than you can visit the USPTO website, their you can search for trademarks.
Good Jamie. But how do you check for the domain trademark? is there any place to do that?
This can be a very touchy issue. It's relatively easy to purchase a domain name that infringes on someone else's trademark without you even knowing about it. If there is even a small flicker of doubt in your mind, consult an attorney. The only real way to be safe is to have a qualified attorney review your domain name to make sure you're in the clear. It's much better to begin building your online business with a domain name that you know is good than have someone hit you with a cease and desist after you've spent two years building your business! Jon SeldenAustin Injury Lawyer ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices. Message Edited by ChristineL on 02-09-2010 08:49 AM
To ease the pain, I would like to personally give out my recommendation and suggestions when it comes to domain name registration. Cheap place to register domain names I have always liked using GoDaddy (http://godaddy.com) to register domain names. If you search around online for godaddy coupon, you can sometimes register a new domain for as low as $2.99. And no, I'm not affiliated with Godaddy nor do I work for them. I am a customer though, and so far I am fairly happy hosting my domains with them. Hosting with them is an entirely separate matter and requires a separate article that is relevant to that subject. :) Domain name privacy and risksOne thing I came across that I really don't like is how fast spammers can harvest my domain registrant contact information. You may not know this, but every domain requires you to provide accurate contact information. This includes both the registrant's address, phone #, and email address. And guess what? This contact information is public record! Anyone who searches for your domain name can find your contact information. Now, if this info was used for legitimate purposes, then I'd have no qualm about showing my info. But there are spammers out there that capture this information to send you spam. Worse, they probably just sell this information to 3rd parties who can spam you some more. I hate that! People have tried posting fake contact information. But under ICANN's terms, you must provide accurate contact information where you can be reached. Otherwise, you would be violating their terms and your domain would be subject to cancellation if the information is not corrected. To protect your privacy, most of the registrars out there will offer you a way to 'anonymize', or hide, your contact information by allowing you to use an 'agent' that acts as your proxy registrant. When people search your domain, they will see the agent's contact information. If anyone sends your agent email or letters, your agent can then forward this to you. The fee for this is normally charged on annual basis. I normally see fees of $10-25 a year to have use a proxy to hide your contact information. Alternatively, you may also use a PO Box or online postal mailbox service to protect your privacy. By using a PO Box, you get the benefit of keeping your home/business address private and protected from spammers. However, this option usually tends to be more expensive than the former option above. I have seen PO Boxes rented for as low as $12 a year, but that's only if you live in a place where PO Boxes are very unpopular. :) My area's PO Boxes goes for about $24 for 3 months. But here's the benefit! If you own 10 or more domains like I do, then having a po box is well worth it. If I were to go with the former option, I'd probably have to pay at least $100 a year. But if I were to go with a PO Box, I will probably pay much less. In addition, I can even use this PO Box for other purposes, ie. mailing address for my bank/credit statements, etc. One of the downsides to a PO Box is that you have to go to the Post Office to check your mail. That's actually ok though since you rarely get any mail that comes from your domain registrations. I think I have received maybe 1 letter out of the 10-12 years I've been owning domain names and I own an average of 15-20 domains. An alternative to PO Boxes is online postal mailboxes. These mailbox services will scan incoming mail for you and allow you to view them online. They are normally more expensive, so I would not recommend these services unless you plan to use these services for other purposes, such as a 'portable' mailing address for your business, your home business, or your personal mail (ie. you're a big time traveler). I mentioned a few in another post of mine, but the ones I listed were UsaMail1 (http://usamail1.com), Virtual Post Mail (http://virtualpostmail.com), and NYMail (http://nymail.com). Conclusion I do agree with JamieD that you should take care when it comes to registering domain names, and to watch out for domain name scams. In addition, do make sure to check trademarks. You don't want to be registering a domain name that MAY violate someone's trademark. Even if you do have legal rights and perhaps win any litigation casees, starting a business and having to pay money for lawyer fees is just not worth it in my opinion. It'd be much better to just find another name to use as a domain. And yes, cybersquatting is something you also need to watch out for. The easiest way to avoid this is not to profit from cybersquatting. If you show any intent to sell a domain name for profit, cybersquatting may come back to bite you in the buns. Consult a lawyer when it comes to this issue. Message Edited by JamieD on 10-13-2009 10:50 AM

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