This article is not intended to decry the knowledge or abilities of readers. As with other semi-‘technical’ information published in this website , the intention is to inform readers of some matters that lie behind what is often taken for granted or even not considered. Nevertheless, it seems wise to have some knowledge of how systems generally used operate. The information may become useful at some stage and may even prevent someone being taken advantage of. It is appreciated many are already experienced and knowledgable in these matters however, new, inexperienced, authors and computer/internet users may appreciate the information.
Note: As always this topic will be discussed from the point of view of an independent (indie) author.
‘A domain name is a unique name that identifies a website.’ (Techterms.com)
‘A name owned by a person or organisation and consisting of an alphabetical or alphanumeric sequence followed by a suffix …………. used as an internet address to identify the location of particular web pages. (Dictionary.com)
‘A series of alphanumeric strings that are separated by periods that is an address of a computer network connection and that identifies the owner of the address.’ (Dictionary.com)
Note: For those accustomed to British terminology; ‘period’ is the American for a ‘full stop’.
Most internet users will be familiar with the usual, recognisable, three parts of most domain names. Nevertheless, it is a fact, some consist of more than three parts. But, as this is only intended as an introductory overview of the subject, these further, more technical, breakdowns will not be considered here. So what are the three most used parts?
First part: Many long term users of the internet will be familiar with the www. prefix (www. is the recognised abbreviation for World Wide Web) that frequently commences a domain name string (address). However, users will note an increasing trend for www. to no longer be included. Nevertheless, names should be checked before inserting them in address bars as some of those that do contain the www. may not open without it being included.
Second part: Unique name that identifies the individual site; network; page; etc. More about names in a moment.
Third part: All domain names have a domain suffix: .com; .net; .org; etc. These help identify the type of website e.g. .com implies a commercial site. Of course, as any user of the internet will appreciate, .com has become the most recognised suffix and has consequently been adopted by multiple users for both commercial and non-commercial sites. There is an unstated implication that a .com suffix grants more authenticity. A misnomer of course but that never prevented anyone. In addition there are suffixes that identify a home country e.g. .fr for France; .de for Germany; etc. Though these may sometimes prove useful, the increasing ease of world wide access means, in essence, they are no longer of any real importance.
The domain name system may be compared to a phone book for the internet.
For transmission purposes, domain names are automatically translated into IP addresses which computer systems use to communicate with each other. Users benefit from the automatic, behind the scenes, conversation as they do not have to know, or remember, an IP address that is usually, primarily, comprised of a series of numbers (never easy to recall). All they require, and all they see, are the alpha or alphanumeric domain name; e-mail address; user account name; etc. as it appears in address bars; in websites; in search results; etc.
Most web and blog service providers enable users to purchase a unique domain name direct from them. There are also multiple domain registration services where a user may purchase their unique name direct. A straight forward search for ‘Domain Names’ or ‘Domain Name Registration’ will return lists of domain registration registries/companies. In most instances, indie authors will find it easier to purchase a name direct from their website/blog site provider. Nevertheless, if they have purchased a name elsewhere, it may still be utilised, with the website/blog.
An annual fee is payable for the registration and use of a unique domain name. However, thankfully for indie authors, the cost is minimal but they must be aware the registration needs to be renewed annually. If it is not, the author will no longer have the exclusive right to use the name (even their own personal name if used in the domain name registration) and it will consequently, become available for someone else to purchase.
Important: A domain name registration does NOT confer any legal ownership of the name. It simply grants an exclusive right of use for the registration period that will fall if the registration is not renewed.
In the past, when the internet was still up and coming, there was a central file of names. Understandably, with the vast increase in websites; e-mail accounts; blogs; etc. this became unrealistic resulting in the requirement for multiple domain name registrars/registries. Domain name registrars are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or equivalent which effectively oversee the world wide allocation of names.
Choosing a Name
Selecting a domain name is of course, a personal/business matter nevertheless, there are some principles that should be taken into account:
- It should be relevant to the overall website/blog aim. e.g. if the website is primarily to do with books having posts/articles about new/used cars would be inappropriate.
- It should be as unique as possible. In the first quarter of 2016 there were over 326 million registered websites (up from 294 million in 2015). Consequently, it is getting harder and harder to gain attention.
- Does a similar name exist. It is best if all the words in the name are as unique as possible. This may be more difficult when using a personal name as first and last names reoccur throughout society. If this is the case, then some creative way of breaking them up may be required.
- How it will look when strung together. Some names can be rather unfortunate when spacing has been taken out and abbreviations utilised e.g. ‘Leisure South Essex Services’ could end up as ‘leisuresexservices’. Perhaps a silly example but it conveys the possible embarrassment if care is not taken. Other examples may be found. If there is the potential for such a hiatus, hyphens may be used between words e.g. ‘leisure-s-ex-services’. Of course, in this example including the complete word ‘essex’ would overcome the matter ‘leisure-s-essex-services’.
For the purposes of discoverability, publicity and marketing, all authors, and those who offer products to internet visitors, it is sensible and wise to set up a dedicated website or blog with a unique name.
To be effective, domain names should be as individual as possible.
Users must remember to renew their domain name registrations annually.
Care should be taken when selecting a name, taking into account how it will appear when all words are strung together.