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Domain Names and How to Register Them


[Zap!] Updated: Jul 14, 2003

Competitive Registrars

For many years, the only place to go if you wanted to register a .COM, .ORG, or .NET domain was Network Solutions who managed to earn themselves a reputation for high prices and less than fabulous service. Starting in mid-1999, ICANN, the controversial new organization in charge of domain names, started letting other people register domains. There are now dozens of active registrars on ICANN's list. Regardless of which registrar you use, your domain is yours and you can switch registrars whenever you want.

Most of the new registrars charge less than NSI, with the going rate now being $10 to $15. We've been using OpenSRS, which is available through dozens of resellers. Once you've registered a domain, you'll start getting junk (postal) mail from other registrars trying to get you to switch to them. Frequently their solicitations look like renewal invoices. When you renew, make sure you know who you're renewing with.

New domains

In November 2000, ICANN authorized seven new domains:
.aero Air-transport industry
.biz for businesses
.coop Cooperatives
.info for anyone
.museum Museums
.name For registration by individuals
.pro Accountants, lawyers, and physicians

Of these domains, .aero, .coop, .museum, and .pro are ``sponsored'' which you actually have to engage in the kind of activity the domain is about in order to register. (As you might expect, this has led to tedious arguments along the lines of exactly what counts as a museum.) The other domains are ``unsponsored'' which means that anyone's allowed to register.

The sponsored domains other than .pro are active and all have predictably small numbers of registrants. The unsponsored .biz and .info domains are available and you can register through most of the same registrars that offer .com, .org, and .net. The .name registry offers domains like john.smith.name and e-mail addresses like john@smith.name. You're only supposed to register your own name, but they make no attempt to verify it. Again, the same resellers can sell you a .name domain. The .pro domain is supposed to be for doctors, lawyers, and accountants, with domains like johnsmith.law.pro, but still doesn't seem to be active. This may be due to the fact that every doctor, lawyer, and accountant who wants a domain name already has one in .com.

In case you were wondering what the differences among .com, .biz, and .info are, the practical answer is nothing, and vast numbers of people with .com domains to grabbed the matching .biz and .info domains, just in case. Although there are some real .biz and .info domains such as mta.info where you can find subway and bus schedules for New York's MTA, the registrants in the .biz and .info domains seem to be generally sleazier than the ones in .com.

Vanity domains

The market has leapt into the breach to provide other vanity domains. It turns out that under long-standing rules from IANA, the authority in charge of all domains, every country in the world gets its own two-letter top level domain. There are a lot of teensy-weensy countries, many of which will let anyone register using their domains.

Some of the vanity domains include:

Residents and citizens of the United States can also register names in the .us domain. Most .com, .org, and .net registrars also handle .us. All of the cool domains like nervo.us and bog.us are already taken.

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