Shakespeare may have famously written "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet." But he may not see things the same way if he has to type in www.thesweetsmellingredflowerwiththorns.biz into his browser instead of www.rose.com. Short, snappy domain addresses attract attention and are easier to remember. Today, cheap personalized domain addresses are within the reach of every Web site creator. If you decide to get one of your own, it's worth taking the time to get it right.
Your first step should be to start checking domain name availability. You can start this process even if you haven't chosen a Web hosting company. In fact, the Web abounds with tools that let you check if a domain name is available. These tools will also stop you if you try to use illegal characters (only letters , numbers , and dashes are allowed in a domain name).
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Internet vs. Intranet
As you already know, the Internet is a huge network of computers that spans the globe. An intranet is a lot smallerit's a network inside a specific company, organization, or home that joins together a much smaller number of computers. In fact, an intranet could have as few as two computers.
An intranet makes sense anytime you need to have a Web site that's only available to a small number of people in one location. For example, a company can use an intranet Web site to share marketing bulletins (or the latest office gossip). In your own home, you could use an intranet to let your housemates browse your Web creations from multiple computers. The only limitation is that a Web site on an intranet is only accessible to the computers on that network. Other Web surfers won't be able to visit it.
Setting up a Web site for an intranet is easier than setting it up for the Internet, because you don't need to register the domain name. Instead, you can use the network computer name. For example, if your computer has the network name "SuperServer," you could access a Web page with a URL like http://SuperServer/MySite/MyPage.htm .
To set up your own intranet, you need to start by setting up a local network, and then you need to make sure you have some Web hosting software. These tasks are outside the scope of this book, but if you're eager to give this do-it-yourself project a try, you'll need to start by setting up a home network. Check out Home Networking: The Missing Manual for complete instructions.
Just about every Web hosting company provides its own version of a domain name search tool. Figure 3-3 shows an example from www.domaindirect.com.
After you've performed a search, the Web hosting company gives you an option to purchase one of the available domains. But don't register anything yet. Most people sign up for a Web hosting package and domain name all at once, for the easiest setup and best value.
You'll find that most short, clever word combinations have long since disappeared from the Web. Even if they aren't in use, they've been purchased by domain squatters, who hope to sell them later to a desperate high bidder. Give up on www.worldsbestchocolate.com it's gone. However, you may find success with names that are a little longer or more specific ( www.worldsbestdarkchocolate.com ), use locations or the names of people ( www.bestvermontchocolate.com or www.anniesbestchocolate.com ), or introduce made-up words ( www.chocolatech.com ). All of these domain names are available at the time of this writing.
Anyone who's chosen the wrong domain name knows that there are some clear-cut traps you want to avoid. Here are some mistakes to watch out for:
Dashes . It may be tempting to get exactly the domain name you want by adding extra characters, like dashes, in between the words. For example, you have no chance at getting www.reliablebusiness.com, but www.reliable-business.com is still there for the taking. Don't do it. For some reason, dashes seem to confuse everyone. People are likely to leave them out, confuse them with underscores, or have trouble finding them on the keyboard.
Phrases that look confusing in lowercase . Domain names aren't case-sensitive, and when you type a domain name into a browser, the browser converts it to all lowercase. The problem is that some phrases can blend together in lowercase, particularly if you have words that start with vowels . Take a look at what happens when the documentation company Prose Xact puts their business name into a lowercase domain name: www.prosexact.com . You get the picture.
Names that don't match the business . It's a classic business mistake. You set up a flower shop in New York called Roses are Red. Unfortunately, the domain www.rosesarered.com is already taken so you go for the next best choice, www.newyorkflorist.com. Huh? What you've actually done is created two separate names, and a somewhat schizophrenic identity for your business. To avoid these problems, if you're starting a new business, try to choose your business name and your domain name at the same time so they match. If you already have a business name, settle on an URL that has an extra word or two, like www.rosesareredflorist.com . This name may not be as snappy as www.newyorkflorist.com, but it avoids the inevitable confusion of creating a whole new identity.
Settling for.org . The last few letters of the domain (the part after the last period) is called the top-level domain . Everyone wants a .com for their business, and as a result they're the hardest domain name to get. Of course, there are other top-level domains like .net, .org, .biz, and so on. The problem is, every Web surfer expects a .com. If you have the domain name www.SuperShop.biz , odds are someone will type www.SuperShop.com while trying to find your site. That mistake can easily lead your fans to a competitor (or to a vastly inferior Web site). In other words, it's sometimes worth taking a second-choice name to get your first choice of top-level domain (a.com).
Domain name searches are an essential bit of prep work. Experimenttry to come up with as many variations and unusual name combinations as possible. Aim to record at least a dozen available name possibilities, so you can give yourself lots of choice. Once you've compiled the list, why not make a few late night phone calls to pester friends and relatives for their first reactions ?
Once you've found an available name, you can register it, but you probably want to wait until you're ready to sign up for a Web hosting plan (which you'll read about in the next section), since most Web hosting companies offer free or discounted domain name registration when you rent space from them. That's also the easiest way to set up your domain name, because it's all taken care of automatically.
However, there are some cases where you may want to register a domain name separately from your Web hosting package. Here are some examples:
You don't actually want to create a Web site. You just want to register a name so that no one else can grab it (a tactic known as domain parking ). Sometime in the future, you may develop the Web site for that name.
You already have Web space, possibly through your ISP (Internet Service Provider). All you need to make your Web site seem more professional is to get a custom domain name. This option can get a little tricky, and you may need to use a procedure called domain forwarding (which you'll read about in a moment).
Your Web hosting company can't register the type of domain you want. This can occur if you need a domain name with a country-specific top-level domain.
If you don't fall into one of these special categories, skip ahead to the section "Getting Web Space" to start searching for the right Web host. Otherwise , keep reading for more details about registering and managing a domain name on its own.
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International Domain Names
Some domain names end with a country code. Should I get one?
A .com address is a Web site creator's best friend. Other top-level domains (.net, .org, .biz, and so on), generally aren't worth the trouble. However, there is one exception: regional domain names. If you can't get the .com you need, it just might make sense to go with a country-specific top-level domain like .us (USA) or .ca (Canada).
For example, if you're offering piano lessons in England, www.pianolessons.co.uk isn't a bad choice. However, if you're planning to sell products to an international audience, www.HotRetroRecords.co.uk is likely to frighten away otherwise interested buyers , who may assume it's too much trouble to deal with a British seller.
There are special rules about who can registrar country-specific names. Due to these restrictions, many Web hosting companies can't sell certain country-specific domains. To search for domain names with a specific country code, use Google to find the right registrar. For example, to find a registrar for Australian domains, search for "Australia domain names."
Domain parking (Figure 3-4) is just another name for domain registration. Essentially , domain parking means you've registered a domain name but haven't yet purchased any other services, like renting Web storage space.
Most people use domain parking to put a domain name away on reserve. In the increasingly crowded world of the Web, many people use domain parking to protect their names (for example, www.matthewmalone.com). Domain parking is also useful if you want to secure several potential business names that you may use in the future.
The real appeal of domain parking is that it's cheap. You pay a nominal registration fee (as little as $10/year) and you get to keep the domain name for as long as you're willing to pay for it.
Domain forwarding is a budget option. It makes sense if you already have complimentary Web space that you want to use. For example, you may have free Web space through your ISP, your school, your job, from a (shudder) free Web hosting service (discussed on Section 3.3.6), or from a crazy uncle with a Web server in the basement . In these situations, you can save some money because you don't need to pay a Web hosting company. However, you may still want to use a snappy URL for your Web site. In this situation, you can buy the URL separately, and use domain forwarding to point your brand new URL to your site on your Web space.
For example, if you have Web space on an ISP, you might be stuck with a URL like http://member.magicisp.com/ members /personalwebspace/~henryj420/home , which clearly isn't as catchy as www.HenryTheFriendly.com . However, you can buy the domain name www.HenryTheFriendly.com and use domain forwarding to point it to your Web space.
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A Host Here, a Domain There
Can I buy my domain name and Web space from different companies, and still make them work together?
The best approach is to get both from the same company, but that's not always possible. Maybe you bought your domain name before you set up your Web site, and you don't want to pay the cost of transferring the domain. Or maybe you have a country-specific domain name (like www.CunningPets.co.uk ) that your Web hosting company can't register.
To make this multiple-company tango work, you'll need some technical support from your Web hosting company. Contact their help desk and let them know what you plan to do. They'll give you specific instructions about what steps to take, and they'll configure their name servers (more on what those are in a moment) to have the right information for your domain.
The next step is to change the registration information for your domain. Here are the steps that you'll need to follow:
Due to the way that DNS servers work, the change can take 24 hours to take effect.
When you make this change, you're essentially saying that your Web host company is now responsible for giving out the IP address of your Web site. When someone types your domain name into a browser, the browser will contact the name server at your Web hosting company to get the IP address. From that point on, it's smooth sailing.
Once you've modified your domain name registration, you'll still have the same two bills to pay. You'll pay your hosting fees to the Web hosting company and the yearly domain name registration fee to the company where you registered your domain name.
First you need to register a domain name that comes with forwarding as an included service (see Figure 3-4). Then, you can log in and set the forwarding settings (see Figure 3-5).
With domain forwarding, most Web hosting firms give you the added ability to forward subdomains . Subdomains look like your domain name, but instead of starting with www they start with another word or phrase you choose. For example, if you get a forwarding account for www.PremiumPencils.com , you could choose to create a subdomain named help .PremiumPencils.com for customer support or resume .PremiumPencils.com for quick access to your electronic r sum (see Figure 3-6).
Domain forwarding can come in handy in other scenarios. For example, say you have an account with a Web hosting company and you want to use it to create several separate Web sites (like a personal site, a business site, a site for someone else in your family, and so on). Conceptually, it's easyyou just need to place each Web site in a separate folder. However, this tactic can muck up your URLs. If you have the business domain name www.PremiumPencils.com and you want to create a personal site for your upcoming marriage , you're stuck with something like www.PremiumPencils.com/WeddingForDebbie. A low-cost alternative is to buy one Web hosting account, and buy several domain names (like www.PremiumPencils.com and www.DebbiesWedding.com) with domain forwarding. Then, just direct each domain name to the appropriate subfolder. Prestothe wedding guests will never be asked to stock up on office stationery.