Sooner or later, most web users will decide that they want to own their own domain name. Whether you want to own a domain name for an online web business, for a hobby site, or to 'reserve' your personal name or the name of a child, you need to find out how you actually go about getting the name you want.
So, how to register domain names – in simple terms, what do you have to do?
The process is very easy. You will have to be prepared to pay from about $ 8 to $ 20 a year to 'own' a domain – this is the ongoing registration fee, so that you are registered as the owner and as the contact person for the domain. This applies to all kinds of domain names, whether they are .com, .net, .info or any other.
You can do this at an online domain registration service – we will recommend the best one to use below. What you should not do is sign up with a hosting service which includes a 'free' domain name of your choice as part of its service. If the hosting service goes out of business in the future, getting control of your domain name may be difficult or impossible. Hosting services, outside of a handful of well-known companies, are notoriously unreliable and short lived, and some can be outright scams, and you do not need to take the risk of them controlling your domain name. We know this from painful personal experience.
So if you want to set up a web site, keep this clear: you should register your web address first, as a completely separate process from setting up your web hosting.
At the online domain registration service, you will first type in the domain you want to use. Usually there is a legitimate 'Start a domain search' or similar field to use for this. If the domain is already taken, you will see this immediately. If it is not taken, then you can register it yourself. Double check at this point that the domain is spelled exactly as you want it. You will have to register as a new customer, then give your name, address and phone details, and pay the annual fee for the domain using your credit card or PayPal account.
That's it! You have registered a domain name, and you can either do nothing more (the domain is simply 'parked' by the domain service, and anyone who types the URL into a browser will see it is taken), or you can set up hosting to use the domain name for a new web site. When you buy a hosting package, you will simply replace the Name Server URLs that came with the domain with the new ones that your hosting service will give you. This is all explained, both by the domain registration service and by the hosting service. It usually takes about a day before your new domain name can be used for a new web site.
A good domain registration service, as well as making it easy to register the domain names you want, will also offer additional features like automatic renewals, a way to bid on other domains you might want which are already taken (if they become free) private registration, bulk purchasing deals, and more.