How to get

How Domain names work

The Internet is composed of a network of computers sited all over the world linked to each by telephone line or high speed data link (co-axial or optical fibre cable). To contact a particular computer, it needs to be identified, to have an address. The address system set up consists of a set of 4 numbers separated by dots (the IP), and as with postal addresses each part of the address narrows down the location of the computer. The first number normally relates to the country where the computer is situated, and so on down to the last of the four numbers which identifies the particular website.

Numbered addresses can be hard to remember, easy to mis-type, and are no fun, so Domain names were devised which use words and abbreviations to make accessing the right site easy, producing an address such as: (for example

The exception to the rule are sites based in the USA, where, as they invented the whole thing, they don't bother adding the country identifier (like the UK with stamps). There is a .us code, but it is restricted to specific geographical locations using a state identifier before it. You don't come across it much.

Current Domain endings include:

USA registered UK registered  meaning
.net an internet service provider
.com a company (commercial) a limited company* a public limited company*
.org an organisation (non-profit)
.gov a government site
.edu an educational site (school) further educational (eg university)
*only available to limited/public limited companies, and they have to use their registered business name as the rest of their address.

These names are then cross-referenced to the number style addresses in Domain Name Servers (the DNS you see in the software), computers which keep complete records of all the addresses on the Net. Each time you put a Domain name in your browser, your ISP searches one of these servers to get the actual number address of the site you want.

What name should you use?

If your business name is snappy enough then, providing it has not already been taken by a similarly named business, you might as well use it. You could use a product or service description instead, so in place of you could register, but as people normally use directories and search engines, and very rarely guess at internet addresses, it might not be as good an idea as it first seems. If you feel it is worth it there is nothing to stop you registering both names and directing them to the same site.

.com or

Although notionally a US company ending, .com has become pretty international, helped by its lack of a .us ending. Many UK businesses register a .com address, it's as easy as registering a and similarly priced, but with the greater use of the internet in the US you may find your chosen name taken. For most companies, unless they feel associating themselves with a particular country may harm their business prospects, the (or possibly is the ending of choice.

Is the address you want available?

For UK addresses (, etc) go to Nominet, the UK naming authority, and put the name you want in its 'whois' database search at, and it will tell you if it's free, and if not, who's got it.

For .com addresses, a searchable index is at

Registering your new address

Although it's possible to deal directly with the naming authorities, because you have to arrange for two Domain Name Servers to list your name prior to registering, its easier to arrange for your ISP or website host to do it. Both naming authority fees are in the region of £20 per year (first two years in advance), which are normally charged in addition to any fees.

A second option is to register the domain through a third party that then instantly redirects customers to the address given to you by your web space provider. This allows you to use ISP's (such as Aol and many of the free providers) who will not allow you to use your own domain address. Another benefit is that if you change your webspace supplier it is a simple matter to get your address redirected.

Webby Foot provides a full registration/redirection service for domain names, see details.