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How to get your own domain name
(IDG) -- Every 5 seconds a new Net domain is registered. Some domain names lead to fame, fortune, and backslappings at country clubs. Other domain names sit idle like undeveloped real estate that never appreciates in value.
I can't tell you how to attain fame and fortune, but I can tell you how to get started and obtain your own domain name. Since summer 1999, when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) broke Network Solutions' monopoly on domain name registration, the entire business of registering a domain has changed. Now you can choose from almost 20 registrars in the U.S., change registrars at will, and really take control of your domain. Registrars are competing for customers with easier applications and domain management, better service, and in some cases, lower prices.
Sure, if the whole business of registering domains intimidates you, you can pick a hosting service that will take care of it for you. But I recommend you do it for yourself: If you decide to change hosts later on, switching is much easier if you're the one who registered the domain.
And when you come down to it, registering a domain nowadays is a simple task indeed. All you need is a credit card and a game plan--and within two or three days, your new domain can be up and ready to receive e-mail and Web visitors. Got the plastic? Here's the plan....
Pick Your Registrar
Back in the monopoly days of the mid-1990s, you paid Network Solutions $100 and got the rights to a domain for two years. The price later dropped to $70, but there was no real change in the process until ICANN opened the field to new registrars. The first competition came from Register.com in June 1999, and since then, 18 additional U.S. registrars have joined the ring.
Picking a registrar to assign you the domain name and picking a host to house your Web site and/or e-mail account are the first two decisions you need to make. When you register a domain, it must "live" somewhere: You can choose to assign it to a host (a process I'll describe later), or you can "park" it with the registrar.
Parking, as the name suggests, stores your domain until you're ready to roll with it. Parking is often free, but the "parking lots" aren't always equal. Network Solutions' parking plan provides a free, one-page "Dot Com Biz Card" for its registrants; Register.com provides three pages and an unlimited number of aliases (so that www.yourname.com can point to an existing Web page at your ISP, and home.yourname.com can point somewhere else). Both registrars will provide e-mail hosting for a parked domain--but Network Solutions charges $85 per year, and Register.com charges $29. A lesser-known registrar, Names4ever, gives its clients free domain parking, two free e-mail addresses in that domain, and an unlimited number of free Web pages (that serve ads placed by Names4ever).
You can research all the registrars yourself by visiting ICANN's list of accredited registrars. But more details are available at RegSelect, an independent comparison service that lists up-to-date prices and features for U.S. registrars.
TIP: CHECK THE PRICE TAG. Some registrars provide discounts from time to time; others offer volume discounts all the time. One registrar, BulkRegister.com, is specifically geared toward volume buying: After joining the service for $79, you register domains at $19 apiece (a good deal if you're registering more than five domains).
Find a Host
Your domain can't have a Web or e-mail presence unless it's hosted--though your registrar may provide some hosting services for a Web presence and e-mail account at a reasonable cost (or gratis). Once you know which domain registrar you'll have, figure out exactly what you need to attach to your domain. Then pick an appropriate host.
If you want a Web presence but don't care about e-mail boxes and don't have much of a budget, there's no shortage of free domain hosting services. They provide 20 to 25MB of space at no cost, but they also stick their ads on each of your Web pages--acceptable if all you aim to do is show off pictures of your new kid, for instance. Freeservers, Web1000, and WebJump are three such hosts that place no limit on bandwidth (meaning there's no limit to the number of times your pages get served to visitors).
If you have from $6 to $20 per month to burn, you can get a budget Web and e-mail hosting service that doesn't slap ads on all your Web pages. Such a deal might be perfect for a small business looking to establish a simple online foothold. Freeservers provides an upgrade from its free service for a mere $5.95 per month (though it doesn't provide e-mail boxes, just a forwarding service). For full-fledged Web hosting, including FTP dropboxes (for uploading files for your Web site) and a few e-mail boxes, you'll be looking at $30 or so a month.
If you want e-mail but don't care much about a Web presence, some domain registrars can take care of your needs cheaply or for free. ENom will forward up to ten e-mail addresses in your new domain. Names4ever offers two free Web-based e-mail boxes. Register.com will give you that many Web/POP3 boxes for $29 per year.
TIP: SHOP AROUND. Don't jump at the first reasonable host for your Web domain. There could be a better deal with more services or lower charges. Head to WebHosters.com, an independent site that provides a comprehensive search form to help you pinpoint exactly the services you want--and the price you're willing to pay.
NSI simplifies domain name registration
RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
Changing your domain registrar
ICANN's list of accredited registrars
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