"Domain Names 101: 3 Quick Questions Explained"
by Syd Johnson
1. What is a domain name?
A domain name is the name that identifies a web site. Your domain name in the online world is the equivalent of our retail name and address in the real world. It is your address because it shows customers and computers online where to find your site, store, products etc. It is your name because you can move your domain name from one web host to another at any time.
2. Who owns the domain name?
When you buy a domain name, you are actually leasing the name. It is a lease because there is no way to own a domain name forever. You pay a fee on an annual or bi-annual basis to your registrar to continue using the name. If you stop paying your annual fees, it becomes a lapsed domain name and goes back out on the market where anyone, perhaps even your competition can purchase the domain for their use.
Note: Online traffic will follows the domain name. If you fail to renew a name, it is basically sending free traffic to another site owner.
3. Who is in charge of the domain name system?
ICANN or Internet Assigned Numbers Authority is the non profit organization in charge of the domain name system. ICANN performs some of the following duties to keep the domain name system running smoothly:
Approves Top Level Domain Names - .com/.biz/.edu etc
ICANN is in charge of approving domain name extensions such as .biz and setting up standards such as which domain names such as .us or co.uk belong to a particular country.
Regulates the domain name registration process and services
ICANN approves registrars who are who are responsible for keeping track of registered names, billing customers, sending out renewal notices and selling top level domain names to anyone who wants one.
There are many reputable resellers on the web that are not approved by ICANN but are simply organizations and individuals associated with a registrar that are allowed to sell domain names on their own. Whether you purchase your domain name through a registrar or a reseller, always find a reputable source for your domain name.
If a registrar or reseller does not maintain an active database, you might find yourself on rare occasions paying for a name that is already registered. If you ever receive such as note from your registrar, or reseller, contact them immediately using an online form or via the phone. Make sure the notice is legitimate otherwise, you might be the victim of a domain name scam. If it is true, your registrar should immediately make a correction, preferably at their expense.
This integrity of a registrar or reseller's database of available names should be maintained at all times.
Sets up conflict resolution policies to prevent domain name theft and copyright (brand name) infringements.
ICANN has setup and is always revising its dispute resolution policy so that web users can have fair access to any domain name while protecting the sanctity of commercial trademarks. You can get any name you want as long as it is not trademarked by another person or organization.
It is always in your best interest to get familiar with the ICANN website as well as its rules and policies. To build a successful online presence is a long term proposition. If you fail to do your due diligence upfront, it can have serious repercussions later on due to lost time, web traffic, money and possible loss of a domain name.
About the Author
Syd Johnson, Editor