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Choosing a domain name

A "domain name" is that part of a network address that identifies the owner of the address; it’s usually the bit of the website address just before ".com" (or ".org" or ".edu" or ".info" or similar).

For example, the domain name for this site is "jeanweber". If I didn’t have my own domain name, my address would look something like "" (where "server101" is the domain name and "jeanweber" is a subdomain) – or like "" (where "bigpond" is the domain and "~jeanweber" is a directory or folder).

Do you need a domain name?

Some reasons for having your own domain name:

  • It adds to your credibility as a "real" business.
  • If you change ISPs or web hosts, you don’t have to change your web site address.
  • You can get a more easily remembered web address.

A few years ago, domain names were relatively expensive; today, you can get one for US$10 or less a year. That’s a trivial amount compared with some costs of doing business.

What domain name do you want?

Your choice of domain name depends on two things: what you’re promoting and what names are still available. Many people register their own name or the name of their existing business. Others choose a domain name that helps promote what they sell.

Many websites have search boxes where you can check if the name you want is available. If it’s taken, you could consider variations using hyphens between the words; for example, if "jeanweber" had been taken, I might have considered "jean-weber". Some people prefer to use hyphens to make the name easier to remember.

How do you register a domain name?

All website hosting providers have some way for you to register your domain name, usually at the same time you sign up for website hosting, or before or afterwards. It’s a very competitive market.

What if you already have a domain name?

You can move your domain name from one webhosting company (or ISP) to another, usually without cost. However, it can take a day or two for the change to become known to all the machines on the Internet that look up domain names and point visitors’ browsers to the correct address.

Last updated 1 January 2004