In the previous installment of the “Getting Started can be Tough!” series, we talked a bit about the first step in building a Web site: Choosing a Web hosting company. And last week we talked about the changes to the ICANN 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). Fundamentally, the RAA deals with Internet domain names and, therefore, it deals with the single most important aspect of the Internet: domain names. So it only seems logical that — in this installment of “Getting Started can be Tough” — we’ll talk about the single most important factor in the popularity and the success of the Internet — the Domain Name System (DNS) — and the second step in building a Web site: Registering a domain name.
DNS: The Unsung Hero of the Internet
The single most important factor in the popularity and the success of the Internet has to be the Domain Name System (DNS). Without the Domain Name System there would be no dot-com’s; no dot-net’s; no dot-org’s, and; no dot-gov. Without any of these generic Top Level Domains (gTLD’s) there would be no Google.com; no Slideshare.net; no Wikipedia.org; no Whitehouse.gov; and; ironically — there would be no Whitehouse.com. To make the point more directly: How would anyone access Google without using the Google.com domain name? Without domain names, there would only be raw, numeric Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the Internet would still be a research project because the average user today simply can’t live without those easy-to-remember, hard-to-forget domain names. e.g., Which is easier to remember: “Google.com” or any of the approximately 143,360 public IP addresses assigned to Google?
What is the Domain Name System?
Simply put: The Internet Domain Name System turns a user-friendly domain name (e.g., “Rocket-Powered.com“) into the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that computers use to identify each other on the network (e.g., 188.8.131.52).
What’s an IP Address?
IP addresses are analogous to phone numbers: Every computer on the Internet has an IP address that it uses to communicate with any other computer on the Internet, and; Each and every IP address is globally unique (i.e., No two computers can have the same IP address).
Thanks to DNS, though, you don’t have to keep your own address book of IP addresses. Instead, you use a DNS server, also just called a “name server”, to convert domain names to IP addresses.
Registries, Registrars, and Resellers
The Domain Name System is composed of many individual components but the three that we’re going to talk about are registries, registrars, and resellers:
- A domain name registry is a database of all domain names [in a particular top level domain] and the associated registrant information. Registries are operated by Network Informatoin Centers (NIC’s). e.g., Verisign operates the .com, .net, .name, .tv and .cc registries and NeuStar, Inc. operates the .biz, .us, & .co registries.
- A domain name registrar is an organization or commercial entity that manages the reservation of Internet domain names. i.e., Registrars sell domain registration to the public.
- A domain name reseller is an organization or commercial entity that resells the services of a domain name registrar. e.g., Rocket-Powered.com is a reseller of the registration services of Tucows Domains, Inc.
How to Register Your Domain Name
There are a few different criteria for choosing between the nine hundred and ninety-six registrars currently in the official list of accredited registrars but cost and brand-recognition are generally the distinguishing feature that most consumers focus on. Convenience is another distinguishing feature that most consumers don’t easily grasp as most consumers tend to form a life-long relationship with their registrars, renewing their domain name habitually and rarely giving a second thought to the services that form the foundation of their Internet presence.
So – once you’ve found the domain name for you – How do you choose a registrar? What we recommend to all would-be Internet authors and entrepeneurs is simple: Use the registration services of your Web hosting company. Any markup that your Web hosting company may add to the cost of the domain will likely be negligible and the added convenience of managing your domain name alongside your Web site is money well spent in our opinion.
What About DNS Service for Your Domain Name?
Web hosting companies all provide DNS service along with Web hosting service. When you register your domain name, you’ll also need to provide the registrar with the names of at least two DNS servers that will answer requests for your domain name. Most likely, your Web hosting company will serve as the DNS server for your domain name. e.g., When you host your Web site at Rocket-Powered.com, the Rocket-Powered.com DNS servers will answer any/all inquires for your domain name.
What Happens Next?
When you register your domain name, the registrar takes care of recording the domain name with the registry operator and then the registry operator enters the domain name and the DNS server that will answer requests for your domain name into the Internet’s Root Zone, the central authoritative database for the Internet’s Domain Name System. Once that’s done, visitors will be able to use your newly-minted domain name to find your Web site, send you e-mail, etc.