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Domain name registration overview

by Derek Phillips

The goal of this article is to demystify the process surrounding domain name purchases.

The concept of domain names and what they represent in physical terms can be a bit confusing to the layman (and even to many web design veterans). A domain name is simply an alphanumeric 'label' that referencs an IP address of a server on the internet. The goal of the domain name process is to provide users an address which is easier to remember and more aesthetically pleasing than the physical IP of the server itself.

Example: classicwebmaster.com vs 205.234.239.66

 

Who handles all of these 'labels'? ICANN, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. How do they do this? The Domain Name System (commonly referred to as 'DNS') managed by ICANN verifies unique distribution of IP addresses and their appropriate domain names through each Registry- Verisign (.com and .net), PIR (.org), Afilias (.info), Neulevel (.biz), Neustar (.us), SITA (.aero), and DotCOOP (.coop) to name a few. The Registries are the organizations who actually maintain the Top Level Domains.

 

Domain names are registered through a Domain Name Registrar who is simply a company that has been accredited by ICANN and has the authority to register domains on the behalf of the end user. Registrars can be thought of as the 'middle-man' in the domain name registration process and all domains must be registered through an accredited Registrar, rather than directly with the TLD Registry itself. Any modifications made to the domain (such as DNS or contact changes) are done through the Registrar as well.

 

So how does one go about the actual registration process? The first step is usually the hunt for the perfect domain name. Simply typing the desired name into a web browser will not be a good indicatior of it's availability. A website which offers a 'WHOIS' lookup is the best place to begin (see below). Once an available name is found, the user enters their contact informatiuon and the DNS info of their web server (if applicable). If no DNS is specified, Registrars default their own DNS information and the domain is pointed to a 'parked' page until the user specifies their own DNS. The Registrar shares the TLD information with the appropriate Registry and adds zone files to the root servers (which allow other servers to locate the site). These changes do not occur immediatly, as there is a 'propagation period' during which the changes to the DNS information are distributed throughout the system.

Sunday, Aug 20th, 2006