How do you purchase a domain name?

Finding and purchasing a domain name can be a fraught process. If you decide on a name without research, you may well become attached to a name and then find it is taken by several other projects in the same space. So it's best to think of a broad range of possible names related to your project, and then research them to see what else is out there which is similar.

Finding the domain

Finding a free domain is the most difficult part of purchasing one. Most of the obvious domains are taken, or worse reserved by registrars and sold at exorbitant prices, so you'll have to get a little creative. Think of combinations of words, rather than just one word, or one word which is an unusual spelling, you might consider for example taking a word like googol (which means the large number 10 to the power of 100), and changing it to google to make it easy to pronounce.

Whatever you choose, make sure it doesn't clash with an established brand, is reasonably short, memorable and easy to pronounce. If you include punctuation, unusual spellings of several words, or an entire sentence, it may be more difficult for people to communicate the domain to others later.

Don't let the .com alone being taken put you off a name - .coms are still the predominant top level domain, but is on the wane as more and more other domains become available, and the .com space becomes more congested for common terms.

gTLDs

There are now many global top level domains to choose from. If you are a global project, and don't want to tie yourself to one country, these are better than country specific domains. If you don't care about global traffic but want to capture traffic from say Portugal in Portuguese, you should consider registering the country specific version of your domain instead of a global one, and it may not matter to you if for example the .com version of the same name is taken, unless your brand grows, at which time you may well be able to afford the .com.

Registering the domain

Registering your domain after you have found a good one is relatively easy. Use a popular registry like namecheap.com, hover.com or name.com. If you shop around you'll find that prices are somewhat arbitrary, and you may be able to find a special deal on a given domain name for a year, but watch out for the renewal price, which may be much higher.

Choosing a Registrar

There are many registrars to choose from, and registering a domain is a relatively simple process, but make sure you check out the backend of a few before deciding which one to choose. Not all have equally usable interfaces. If you have several domains, you might want to locate them all at the same registrar. It's advisable to locate your DNS and hosting elsewhere, so that . Transferring registrar is not too difficult, so if you do decide to move, you can easily do so at a later date. Below is a short list of some of the most popular registrars.

If you choose on price, be very careful to look at the renewal price, this is the most important price for you in the long term, and also about other hidden charges like whoisguard. For this reason it is often best not to choose registrar on price alone, and to be willing to move if a better offering comes along.
  • name.com - provide privacy for $4.99/year per domain, domains from 1.99 USD but much higher renewals.
  • namecheap.com - they provide WhoisGuard for free the first year, but afterwards will charge you for it. Domains from 0.88 USD.
  • domains.google - a better UI, privacy included in the price, from $12.99 a year but no hidden charges
  • hover.com ($2 discount with this link) - a better UI than most, WHOIS Privacy included in the price, domains from 4.99 USD
  • dotster.com - a rather old fashioned site, whois privacy $8.99 per year per domain, domains from 2.99 USD

again, you should try creating an account and perhaps registering domains with a few providers before choosing one to stick with, and be ready to move if their offering changes.

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