When you register a domain name, you are inserting an entry into a directory of all the domain names and their corresponding computers on the Internet. Organizations accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are the registrars of domain names. Generally, registration through the registrar is straightforward: a proposed name is submitted online, is checked by the registrar for availability and an answer is returned, often with alternative available names if the proposed name has been taken.
ICANN is the non-profit corporation that is assuming responsibility from the US Government for coordinating certain Internet technical functions, including the management of Internet domain name system (DNS). ICANN is responsible for managing and coordinating the DNS to ensure that every address is unique and that all users of the Internet can find all valid addresses. It does this by overseeing the distribution of unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and domain names. It also ensures that each domain name maps to the correct IP address.
Choosing a Registrar
Domain names ending with .aero, .biz, .com, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, .net, .org, or .pro can be registered through many different companies (known as "registrars") that compete with one another. A listing of these companies appears here. Registrars are listed alphabetically by company name, by location and by language supported.
The registrar you choose will ask you to provide various contact and technical information that makes up the registration. The registrar will then keep records of the contact information and submit the technical information to a central directory known as the "registry." This registry provides other computers on the Internet the information necessary to send you e-mail or to find your Web site. You will also be required to enter a registration contract with the registrar, which sets forth the terms under which your registration is accepted and will be maintained.
Name and Contact Information Publicly Available
Information about who is responsible for domain names is publicly available to allow rapid resolution of technical problems and to permit enforcement of consumer protection, trademark and other laws. The registrar will make this information available to the public on a "Whois" site. WHOIS (pronounced "who is") is a directory of domain name information that allows users to query a database of registrants published by ICANN-accredited registrars.
Top Level Domains
The right-most label in a domain name is referred to as its "top-level domain" (TLD). TLDs with two letters have been established for over 240 countries and external territories and are referred to as "country-code" TLDs or "ccTLDs." TLDs with three or more characters are referred to as "generic" TLDs, or "gTLDs." Click here for a list of all TLDs.
The .com, .info, .name, .net, and .org TLDs are open and unrestricted. Traditionally, however, names in .net have been used by organizations involved in Internet infrastructure activities and .org is frequently used by noncommercial organizations.
Cost of Registration
Each registrar sets the price it charges for registering names, and prices vary significantly among different registrars. In addition, some registrars offer discounted or free registration services in connection with other offerings, such as web hosting. To see what offering best meets your needs, you should go to the web sites of several registrars.
Length of Registration
Each registrar has the flexibility to offer initial and renewal registrations in one-year increments, provided that the maximum remaining unexpired term shall not exceed 10 years.
Changing Registrars after Registering a Domain Name
You may change the registrar sponsoring your domain name beginning 60 days after initial registration. For details on the transfer process, contact the registrar you would like to have sponsor the registration.
Registrars not Accredited by ICANN
Many companies that are not accredited by ICANN offer domain registration services. Some of these companies are reselling names obtained from accredited registrars.
The InterNIC Web site is operated by ICANN to provide the public information regarding Internet domain name registration services. You may search domain records in the Registry Whois, find register contact details, file a registrar complaint and report inaccurate Whois data on the site.
Domain Name Registration Disputes
All ICANN-accredited registrars follow a uniform dispute resolution policy. Under that policy, disputes over entitlement to a domain-name registration are ordinarily resolved in a lawsuit between the parties claiming rights to the registration. Once the court rules on who is entitled to the registration, the registrar will implement that ruling. In disputes arising from registrations allegedly made in an abusive manner, there is an expedited administrative procedure to allow the dispute to be resolved without having to file a lawsuit.