This page gives an introduction to website domain names and the procedures surrounding their acquisition, use and maintenance.
It is highly desirable that you have control of your domain name. To this end you should register the domain name in your own or business name at a reputable registrar. Costs vary but a ball park figure should be in the region of £13 per year for a .com name and £10 for a .co.uk domain, plus VAT. Many registrars have an introductory offer so check the ongoing costs.
You will then normally be prompted to renew the domain name by the registrar before expiry, annually or at the end of another period.
After creating an account and registering a domain name your web designer will supply the details of the nameservers to allow your domain name to be pointed to the website hosting server. Typically the nameservers will look like this: ns1.americurium.com and ns2.americurium.com (for americurium hosting).
It may take up to 72 hours for your domain name to be ready to access your website across all the Internet after the nameservers are updated. In reality it is usually much quicker, depending where you are located in the world.
To check if a domain name is available please use the tool below.
Once registered correctly a domain name cannot be changed. To overcome this where a change of name is required a new domain name must be purchased and pointed to your website and the old domain name be allowed to lapse as it cannot be cancelled until natural expiry. The old name is normally left pointing to the website for the duration to pick up out of date users.
We have used the domain name registrar FastHosts for a number of years without any problems and you may register a domain with them here: Fasthosts: Domains.
Once you have decided on a domain name do not tell outsiders or use search engines or any “convenient” tools on the Internet to check the name before you register. Use the check tool on a reputable registrar’s site to search.
Searches for domain names may be intercepted at many points and you could find someone registers the name prior to you. You may then be expected to pay a high price to buy the domain name or it may be denied to you by a rival.
Every domain name has an extension in the form of .ext where this could be .com, .co.uk or other.
Sometimes you may be encouraged to purchase many combinations of your domain name and extensions. This may be more of a marketing exercise than being of any useful value and can soon become expensive. There is a list of some of the types here:
Generic Top Level Domain names are often called GTLDs or international domain names. These are used to describe the organisation, without specifying the country of origin, some examples are:
As well as generic domain names, two digit domain names were assigned to individual countries, providing more versatility in the domain name structure. Some of these you may recognise, others are in less common usage, but some examples are shown below:
In 2015 a new list of domain extensions was made available. This allowed businesses to choose more specific domain names for their business. Examples include:
County code top level domain names are administered by country–code managers. Some ccTLD providers follow ICANN’s process but also have their own policies and processes in place. Some of these country codes are regulated. For instance you are unable to register a .eu domain name unless you are based within the European Union.
Some country code domain names do not have this restriction in place and are available to anyone to register for any purpose. They are still under the control of the originating county. Some examples of country codes with generic usage are:
As the distinction between domain name types became blurred, some industries started sponsoring their own generic top level domain names. This enabled them to keep domain name integrity and regulate who could register a domain name. Examples of sponsored domain names are:
Nominet are the registry for all .uk domain names and have arranged these into a structure reminiscent of the early days of domain names.
Additionally, there are other second level domain names that are available to specific industries.
Generally a .com extension is sufficient for most businesses and individuals, plus an optional extra location specific extension such as .co.uk if in the UK or vice versa. There are a number of organization and business type generic top level extensions being released now and you may consider one of these to be appropriate or able to be incorporated to match your business name. For instance a company called Digital Smart Solutions could use digitalsmart.solutions as it’s website address. More than one domain name can be pointed to your website so you could have yourdomain.com and your yourdomain.co.uk both pointing to the same website.
You will sometimes see a website address in the form sub.yourdomian.com. This is just a unique content area within the website denoted by the sub. prefix, which can be any combination of letters and numbers, and not something registered as part of the domain name. The site is still generally accessed as yourdomain.com
Commonly termed a URL, and is the web site address that specifies it’s location on the Internet. You type this into your web browser address bar to access a site. In most cases, the www prefix is largely outmoded and unnecessary, in the same way that we no longer have put http:// on the front of every URL. Most sites will automatically redirect you to the top level domain (TLD) name and prefix of their choice, whether or not you type in www or not. Technically the domain name should be suffixed with a period e.g. americurium.com. although in reality this is not required when entering the address in your browser bar.
Another point to note is that many browsers have a website address box, normally top left, and a similar looking search engine box, normally to the right of the address box. Always use the address box when entering a website address as using the search box will take you to the search engine page where the website link, and supporting text, may or may not show depending if it has been indexed by the search engine; you could also be directed to another site which is trying attract viewers from the real site for various reasons.
As for business owners including the www when promoting their on–line presence, the fact that you are referring to a website is generally implied by the .com, .co.uk, .org or other web extension. When used on business cards and marketing, it just adds more visual clutter.
The Internet uses numbers to address a website on a hosting server, so some means must be in place to convert a domain name typed into a browser address bar to a number. This is achieved by Domain Name Servers (DNS) which are the Internet’s equivalent of a phone book. They maintain a directory of domain names and translate them to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in the form of numbers such as 234.567.891. This is necessary because, although domain names are easy for people to remember, computers access websites based on IP addresses.
You may receive a friendly reminder by email from what appears to be the registrar of your domain name. Please check the content and source of these emails as they may not be what they seem. Often a rival registrar will check the list of expiring domains and send a “friendly” reminder email to people on the list. Often these originate from dubious registrars with high prices – so check carefully!
Do not use any links in these emails to access what may purport to be your registrar; login to your own registrar using a direct URL e.g. fasthosts.co.uk in your browser.
Once you lose control of your domain name it may prove impossible to get it back in the interim or ever. You may have to pay a large sum to regain ownership.
The process that occurs when a domain name expires is shown below.
At the end of 80 days from expiry the domain name becomes available on the open market and can be registered. There may be some variation in the term so it is advised that you start to check daily (morning and afternoon) after 75 days until the release. Some desirable domain names may be snapped up quickly by a new user or a domain sitter. A domain sitter will then try and sell the domain name on at at inflated price. Generally the domain name will become available at approximately 2-3 AM EST (GMT 6-7 AM and BST 7-8 AM). If you had previously registered the domain and it has expired then you can re–register it again, at any registrar. To re–register click here: Fasthosts: Domains
This tool may only give an indication and should not be relied on as the definitive source of availability. Domain registrars will have a similar tool on their sites and this should be used as a further check.
Check and register a domain name Fasthosts: Domains.