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How Much Does It Cost: Domain Registration?

(An earlier version of this article first appeared in NABE News, January 2004)

A frequent question is "How much does a web site cost?" One somewhat smart-alecky answer is "How much do you want to spend?"

A more useful (and much longer answer) points out there are three different things you need to spend money on: domain name registration; web hosting fees; and developing content. This article will look at the first.

Managing Domains

Domain name registration is the process you need to secure the name of your own site on the Internet – your own dot-com, dot-org, dot-whatever. It’s actually more like a lease, which you can renew before it expires.

At one time, you had no choice in where to register a domain name. Network Solutions had a monopoly, and if you wanted a dot-com, you went to them. They no longer have this monopoly; how they got it and how they lost it is a long story in itself. To stay on topic, you just need to know that there are a number of other companies, and this has promoted some price competition.

The longer the term of your registration, the cheaper the cost per year. At Network Solutions, one year costs $35, but a five-year registration costs only $19 a year. (You pay for multi-year registrations up-front with a lump sum.) At Register.com, one year also costs $35, but their long-term discount is not as good. A five-year registration still is $30 a year. The shortest term at Domain.com is two years, which is also $35 a year, while a five-year registration is $25 a year. DomainMonger.com has a one- year price of $17, and at five years it drops to $15 a year. These are the prices for a new registration; renewals are often a bit cheaper.

These prices are just for the right to use the name for the specified period of time. This doesn't cover the cost of actually renting space on a web server somewhere.Notice that some of these registrar companies have tie-in deals with different web hosting companies. We will cover those costs in some later column.

A full list of accredited registrars is maintained at the InterNIC site, part of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. (They are the technical co-ordination body of the Internet – if anybody is “in charge” of the Internet, it’s them.) There are over 60 listed for the United States alone. Not all the services for these companies are strictly comparable, so as you shop around make sure you read their terms.

Extensions

As you shop for a domain, remember that you don’t have to be a dot-com. As the list of easy-to-remember dot-com names dwindled, a number of new extensions (formally called top-level domains) were created. These include: .aero (for the air-transport industry), .biz (for businesses), .coop (for cooperatives), .info (for all uses), .museum (for museums), and .name (for individuals). In addition, there are a large number of two letter domains, corresponding to country names, where you can get registrations. While some countries may control who uses their top-level domains, others have turned it into a source of cash. Not all registrars have the right to register in all top-level domains, so you may have to look around.

Squatting

At one time, the domain registration process resembled the Oklahoma Land Rush – whoever got to a domain first could use it; many individuals (who probably later went into the spamming business) registered well-known brand names, and waited to be bought off by the big companies. Those days are over, and ICANN now has a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. In essence, if you have registered a domain name, and someone else can show they have a valid trademark or service mark to that name, they will be able to take it from you.

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