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What’s In a Name?

With the World Wide Web gaining wider and wider acceptance, the battle for catchy, easy to remember domain names is heating up. A domain name can be one of the most important parts of developing your Web presence; as your address on the Web, your domain name is the primary way that individuals will locate your site. Sounds like a simple principle, right? Yes… and no! Reserving, using, and managing a domain name can be a complicated process. However, there are companies who can help, but in many cases be prepared to pay a fee for these services.

Who Can Help Me Find a Domain and Register My Selected Domain?

So you are looking for that catchy .com domain name, but do not know where to start. To find out if someone else has already snagged your domain name, be sure and check the WHOIS services provided most domain registrars. The results of your WHOIS query will let you know if the domain is available and if it is already taken, who owns it. Sometimes, you can negotiate a selling price for the domain with the current owners. This process has been highlighted in recent news articles, with domains selling for prices ranging from $100 to almost $10 million!

Once you have found your domain and determined that it is available for registration, you will need to employ the services of a domain registrar. These companies provide the means through which domains are entered into the massive domain name databases that form the address book of the Web. When searching for a domain registrar, you will find that there are many to choose from. In addition to the wide selection of registrars, you will also notice that the prices for the actual domain name registration services vary significantly. Some registrars allow you to register domain names for as little as $10 per year, while others provide the same service for nearly $40 per year.

What Exactly Am I Paying For?

When you register your domain with a registrar, you are purchasing services that include entry into the domain name database, record keeping regarding your domain name over a specified period of time and the storage of DNS information regarding your domain name. It is important to search for an ICANN accredited registrar when selecting a domain name registrar. ICANN accreditation means that the registrar has passed a pre-selected set of criteria (set forth by the international governing body ICANN) in regards to operating procedures, and financial commitment. Additionally, most ICANN accredited registrars allow the domain name registrant to maintain full ownership of the domain name. Be careful when using non-accredited registrars, as some may actually become the owners of your domain, only releasing the domain to you after you have paid a substantial fee.

Read the Fine Print

Since your domain is one of the most important assets involved in your Web presence, it is important to make sure that you have a firm understanding of who has administrative privileges to your domain, who actually owns your domain, and what procedures are necessary to move the domain, etc. The last thing that you want to have happen is to find out that you do not actually own the domain, or cannot make changes to the domain records when needed. When using any registrar, be sure to read all of the terms of the service agreement, and ask specific questions prior to registering the domain.

Trademark Infringement and Protection

So you want to go and register a domain name that is also the brand name of a major national manufacturer of consumer goods. On the surface this sounds like an easy way to make a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Think again! Cybersquatting the process in which an individual or organization registers a domain name that uses trademarked or copyrighted terms with the express intent to profit from the sale of the domain name, is not allowed in the U.S. Unless the individual or organization can prove that they have a legitimate right to use the domain name, the domain name will be turned over to the trademark or copyright owner.

Many individuals have still found ways to profit from the registration and sale of desirable domain names without breaking the law. Many keen Web users have registered general interest names that describe business types, hobbies, animals, and others. These domain names include examples like www.dog.com, www.business.com, and www.sewing.com. While these domains do not infringe on trademarked and copyrighted names, they are still of high value to special interest groups and content providers. These domains are descriptive and effective for drawing in a large number of visitors, while also being easy to remember. Sales of this type of domain name have brought in some of the highest prices paid for domain names.

If you already have a domain name or are registering a new domain name and want to protect yourself from other individuals or groups that may register variations of your domain name, or use the same business name, you will want to look into a domain name protection service. One provider of this type of service is NameProtect.com. NameProtect.com provides customized reports showing who owns variants of your domain name, who is registering trademarks with your name in it, and more. This service is a handy way to keep a vigilant eye on what is going on regarding your domain name and its variants. Additional services allow you to perform trademark searches and trademark protection. These services combine a large amount of research into a single, easy-to-read report that will keep you up to date on potential threats to your domain name.

Expired Domain Names

If you are looking for good domain names that have already been registered and are not particular about the specific name, there are several online resources that provide extensive lists of expired domains. An expired domain is a domain that has been registered, but the renewal payment was not received by the registrar. The delinquency in payment has resulted in the domain again becoming available to the general public for re-registration. This can be an excellent way to snag a great domain name that would not have otherwise been available.

Registering Multiple Domain Names

Many registrars have programs that allow users registering multiple domains to take advantage of discounts and enhanced domain management tools. If you are registering ten or more domains each month, be sure and ask your registrar about their programs for higher volume customers. Having a Handle also allows you to speed up the domain registration process by allowing you to enter the handle instead of all of your personal information. Your domain handle will typically consist of five characters and will often be in the format of two letters followed by 3 numbers. If you have a high volume of domain names, these discounts and shortcuts can really add up in terms of both monetary and time saving.

Conclusion

Your domain is the cornerstone of your Web presence. As such, it needs to be selected with care, properly maintained, and carefully controlled. Each of these processes can be complex for new users, but help abounds in the form of service providers that specialize in domain name registration, domain name protection, and other key services. By simplifying each aspect of the domain name process, these providers make it easy for both new and experienced users to maintain a domain name both effectively and efficiently. By facilitating each aspect of this process, these providers allow you to focus your time and resources on developing your Web presence.