Getting a domain name

After going through the top tips for choosing a domain name, and finding one that’s right for you, it’s time to buy it. It’s not as simple as finding a registrar and buying the domain. Registrars have to follow certain rules when selling domain names, and while they try to make the process pretty easy, it can be a bit overwhelming for a novice. Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying your domain.

Find a registrar

As noted in the previous article, there are a lot of registrars and there are a lot of TLDs, but not all registrars are capable of selling all top-level domains. To find a registrar for your chosen TLD, go to TLD-List, and type in the top-level domain you want to use into the search box. This will return a list of registrars for the TLD, as well as showing their prices, the forms of payment they accept, any features, and any special deals that are being offered. The website also shows ratings for the registrar, so you’ll know whether they are a good value for your money.

I’m not recommending any particular registrar, since they all perform more-or-less the same function and the pricing and features are just a matter of quibbling. Personally, I use GoDaddy, but am open to using a different registrar in the future. FWIW, Porkbun looks interesting, but since I haven’t tried them, I can’t recommend them. Maybe in the future, however.

Create an account

Once you have decided on a registrar, you will need to create an account on their website.. Partly because they will want the correct info so they can bill your credit card, but also because domain owners are required to submit accurate information for the administrative, billing, and technical contacts that will be listed in the Whois directory. Submitting inaccurate information can result in the domain being revoked.

After creating your account, search for your domain on their website, and add it to your shopping cart. Most registrars will try to sell you various services, features, and additional domain names. Most of these aren’t necessary, but two are worth mentioning: privacy and hosting.

Privacy

If you live in the EU or certain other jurisdictions, you may be covered by the GDPR [1] or similar regulations, and already have certain privacy rights. For most of the world, however, privacy is a commodity, not a guaranteed right. In these countries, most registrars offer some sort of privacy protection. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it costs. If the price is reasonable, you should probably pay it.

In most of the world, when a whois search is performed on a database, it will show who registered it along with their contact information. From personal experience, it’s led to a slight increase in spam emails and an occasional snail mail letter offering to sell me one thing or another. However, my websites are low-traffic and not very important, so I’m sort of ambivalent about it. If you are worried about stalkers or any other malcontents, you should invest in the privacy protection offered by your registrar.

Another feature to go along with privacy is the anti-transfer feature. If you have a domain name that someone else really, really wants, they might try to steal it from you. The anti-transfer feature is supposed to keep that from happening. If you put a lot of time and money into a website, you surely don’t want someone to steal it. The privacy and anti-transfer features make it much harder to do.

Hosting

In a separate article, I cover how to find a hosting provider in more depth, but it’s worth a mention here because many domain registrars offer hosting or offer deals from hosting providers. Website hosting is very inexpensive and there are lots of good deals to be found with just a little bit of online searching. If you don’t have a website host when you register your domain, it’s not a problem. The registrar will create a parking page [2]. A parking page is a webpage that shows a domain has been registered, but doesn’t have a website yet.

The hosting deals offered by your domain registrar may be good, but don’t commit to them until you have a chance to shop around. A parking page should be sufficient until you find a hosting provider, and the registrar should provide one for free. After purchasing the domain and activating it, it may take a few minutes or a few hours to take effect. If the domain doesn’t show up after a day, you should contact your registrar, as there may be more steps to complete.

There’s something very satisfying about typing your domain name into a web browser and having it show up, even if it is just a parking page.

Final step

After buying the domain and setting up hosting, you will need to log back into the registrar’s website and change the DNS settings for your domain. Your site host should have given you the names and IP addresses of their nameservers. With this information, you can tell the registrar where they will need to look to find your website. The registrar only knows what you tell it, so if domain’s information isn’t updated, it will likely stay stuck on the parking page. Consider this step as the finishing touch of getting your domain name.

References

1 “General Data Protection Regulation.” In Wikipedia, December 17, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=General_Data_Protection_Regulation&oldid=994793795.
2 Namecheap.com. “What is a Domain Parking Page?,” September 7, 2018. https://www.namecheap.com/support/knowledgebase/article.aspx/459/46/what-is-a-domain-parking-page/.

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