What Is “Registering a Domain Name”?
Registering a domain name means listing it with a domain name registrar, which is, in many instances, where you find it in the first place. There are two types of domain name registrars. For generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, etc. the domain name registrars are organizations accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). For country code top-level domains (cTLDs), each country or territory designates domain name registrars, which in some cases include the same organizations who are accredited for gTLDs. You must use a designated registrar to register your domain names.
When you register a domain name, it is entered into the domain name system (DNS) and related to an IP (Internet protocol) address. In addition, your information (as legal user of the domain name) is entered in the WHOIS database (whois.net).
Domain name registrars sometimes offer other services, like web hosting. Web hosts are not necessarily domain name registrars and domain name registrars are not necessarily web hosts, but there are many companies that both register domain names and host sites.
How Do You Register a Domain Name?
After choosing a domain name registrar (see the articles “What Can You Do With a Registered Domain Name” and “Our Favorite Registrars”), you go to the registrar’s website or use the WHOIS database (whois.net) to check that the name you want is not in use. Type in the domain name, with the proper TLD extension chosen. If the name is available, meaning that it is not currently registered to someone else, you will be able to register it, upon payment of the appropriate fee.
If you find that the name is not available, you may need to use your imagination to come up with a name that works for your purposes and that is open. See the articles “Choosing a Domain Name,” “Which Domain Extension?” “Spelling Your Domain,” and “Dashes or No?” for help in this area.
You will have a choice of the number of years you would like to have the registration for (up to ten), with some TLDs requiring a minimum time span. Then you will provide personal and contact information, set up your billing, choose any extra services that you would like to have, and/or specify the ISP (Internet Service Provider) that you have chosen.
Once I Pay for a Domain Name, Do I Own It?
Even though some of the folks who deal in domain names are called “resellers,” when you register a domain name you are purchasing a lease, rather than ownership. Your right to use the domain name is only temporary and is specified in years. You may renew your domain name for a subsequent period once your original registration period has expired.
What Happens After My Registration Time Is Up?
Most likely, as the end of your registration period approaches, the domain name registrar will send you a reminder so that you can renew it, if you choose. If you do not renew the name, it will again become available to other potential registrants.
Does My Domain Name Have to Stay With the Domain Name Registrar I Start With?
In short, no. Whether you would simply like to use a different domain name registrar yourself or are selling your domain name to someone who wishes to use a different registrar, you may transfer from one domain name registrar to another, with some limitations (see the article “Transferring Domain Names” for more information.