This is a question many people will suddenly need to answer – how do I register a web address to protect my business name, to protect an idea I have had, or to use my own personal name for a new website? Or, you may want to buy a web address simply as an investment for the future.
‘How do I register a web address’ is not the right question though. What you should be asking is ‘How do I buy a domain name?’
Registering or buying your domain name of choice is what you have to do. It doesn’t matter if you simply want to ‘reserve’ a web address for later use, or put up a web site immediately, you will have to actually register and buy the web address name from a domain registration service. All you need is your credit card or a Paypal account.
We will recommend the best and easiest services to this at the bottom of this article, but whatever service you choose, you will have to pay about $9-$20 a year to have a domain registered in your name – which means that you own it, and no-one else can put up a web site with that URL. You will pay this whether you intend to put up a web site or not.
The first thing to find out is whether the name you want is available or not. To check if it is already taken, simply type the address you want into the address bar at the top of your web browser – for example, iwantthisaddressrightnow.com (use the actual name you want to own). Two things might happen – the browser will open a web page, in which case you are too late – someone else already has the name. Or, you get a message that your browser can’t find the server. This usually means the name has not been taken, and you are in luck. You can now go to a domain registration service and buy it.
Of course, all the domain name services we will tell you about will also allow you to check the availability of domain names directly.
What you should never do is to allow a web hosting service to control your domain name. Many hosts offer a ‘free’ domain name of your choice when you sign up for a year’s hosting with them. Several notorious recent cases have shown that if the hosting company collapses, it is difficult or impossible to retrieve the domain name and register it directly yourself. Many people have lost their precious domain names this way.
If you register with a reputable domain name service you won’t have this problem, since you will own the name outright, from the start. Having bought the name, you can usually ‘park’ the domain with your registration service. You can then sign up for a hosting service, and switch the name servers when you are ready (this is all explained by your new web host).
So, how do you register a web address at one of the online services? Having checked that the name is not taken, simply proceed through their online order form. Default registration includes a record of your name and address, which will be publicly available to anyone who wants to check ownership of your address. You can get a private registration of your domain by paying a little extra if you wish.
That’s all there is to it!