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How to get a good domain name?

Background: What are they, where do they come from, what value is there?
Rent: How to rent a domain name (only if you absolutely must).
Process
: Procedure for registering your own domain name, and the next step to using it.

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Background
:

First thing you need to understand is that a no one really "owns a domain name", though we we often use that phrase. The way it works, is that you register a domain name, similar to registering a trademark, except much much cheaper. If a business registers a trademark and ceases to use it for 10 years, does that mean that that mark can never be used again, 1,000 years from now? NO! In fact if you fail to "use" a trademark, after a few years it becomes fair game for anyone to take over using it. The same is true for "registered trademarks," which offer an easier defense of your trademark.

You have no rights to a domain name whatsoever if you are not the current registrant, except by special agreement with the registrant. For example, a corporation can't register a domain name. It actually requires a living human being. But of course a corporation can hire someone to be in charge of such things and register domain names for them, through their name, etc. In such cases, the person who registers the domain name doesn't really have any rights or claim to the domain name, the corporation holds the rights by contract or "registered in their name by...". If such an employee tried to transfer the domain names to a private account or to someone else, then the corporation would have to take their case to that giant international organization (ICANN) to make their case..., civil action, criminal charges,
etc, etc, enough of that story...

Domain names must be registered and renewed every year, if you let your registration expire, for even 10 seconds, someone else can take it from you permanently, and often will. There is a giant international organization (ICANN) who's job it is to certify and make official domain name registrations. Everyone, and every company who you go to in order to register a domain name, ultimately goes to the same source. It's the only way everyone can be sure that there is only one registrant for each domain name.

You can register your domain name for up to 10 years total at any given time. So for example, I could register a domain name for the next 3 years, all at once. For that three years no one could take it from me. But next year, when I have 2 years remaining, I can renew my registration for a maximum of 8 more years, totaling 10 years in all at that time.

You can buy, sell, and trade domain names as you see fit. Any good domain registration web site will have tools to do just that, but be vary careful that you get what you want, before you give it away. "9 tenths of the law...", if they have it, it's theirs and you would have to prove that you didn't just give it to them for free, and they could claim that! A good domain registration company would have an independent intermediate who's job it would be to take the goods from both traders, and switch them, etc. There are many corporations who's business is entirely dedicated to buying, selling, and speculating on domain names, just like any commodity, such as pork bellies, coal futures, stocks or bonds.

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"Domain names are literally intellectual real estate,"
Richard Smalley

A good name can make or break a business. It's like having an address like:
box 1 on 1st street
versus
box 43789 on qestraughton ave.
If people can't remember your web address, they may visit once due to accident or shear luck, but will not ever visit twice because they can't find their way back.

The shorter, the fewer words, the better! Almost every single 'one word' domain name (examples: won.com, jason.com, microsoft.com, weather.com, google.com), in the English language has already been registered!!!!!!!! That's about half a million. Most 2 word combinations have already been registered. Which is exactly why TechSelfHelp is 3 words, seriously! Think about that. In 20 years it will be almost impossible to create a short domain name to match your business from scratch, that no one else holds registered. It's like the great land grab when the U.S. was formed, people just run out and claimed a plot. That's practically impossible now. As a result property values have always gone up, the same is true for domain names. Already, people and companies speculate on domain names, buying up those they think will be worth millions down the road. Some trademarks have already been sold for millions. A domain name has an advantage over trademarks, because a domain name is also an address. So if people can remember your domain name, it's worth much more than the value of just a trademark.

One person can hold a trademark for say McDonalds and another hold the domain name mcdonalds.com. How much money do you think the fast food restaurant would pay to control that domain name which matchs their trademark? A lot.

What's next for domain names? When all the land is owned by someone, the rent became due! The same thing is happening to domain names, many of which are now rented. If you held the domain name mcdonalds.com, you could retire now on the rent, because tenants like big corporations aren't likely to ever change a trademark name so well developed. More people around the world recognize the name "McDonalds" than President Bush." And more to the point, 50 years from now few will remember the name President Bush, but the corporation McDonalds will still be alive and doing billions of dollars in business. Although if I had the domain name and not the trademark name, it may be possible for McDonalds to prevent me from effectively using the domain name in a way that competed with their corporation. On the other hand, they couldn't use it either. And it is far more valuable to them to pay rent, than is is an opportunity cost for me. Especially when to keep it, all I have to do is pay approximately $10 each year. "Possession is 9 tenths of the law!"

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Renting domain names
is just like renting an apartment. You can't damage the apartment, so you can't damage the value of a domain name, just like you can't damage the value of someone else's trademark. The domain name holder will customize rules in a lease agreement. For example, christ.com may prohibit the domain name from being used for porn, hate, abuse, or spam. On the other hand the holder of porn.com, might actually prohibit the domain from being used for any religious purpose, because it could hurt the domain names value as a widely recognized address to internet porn. Strange as that example may sound, damaging such a domain in such a way is actionable (that means they could take you to court for a fortune).

However, the internet is a wildly fluctuating unpredictable dynamic system and web sites have to change, often. So what if you are worried about doing something that may upset the domain holder? You try a "letter of agreement (LOA)" also known as "memorandum of agreement (MOA)" also known as "memorandum of understanding (MOU)." You write the holder a letter, the holder writes you back saying the same thing and granting permission to take whatever specific chance you asked for, until the such a time the holder gives you notice, matching the stated grace time limit in the LOA, to undue what you did, if they decide they have a problem with it, etc, etc. This way, the choice was the holder's and if it goes south and the holder believes the value of his domain is damaged, it is his or her responsibility, and any judge in the U.S. or Europe would hold that to be true. Essentially it's "get permission" and "get proof of that permission." Any proper permission will include things like the grace period to undo the changes, hold the renter harmless (which means they can't raise the rent to spite a bad choice on his or her part), etc. This would be like a land lord giving permission to paint the property purple. The land lord may worry about the decision, but if he or she gave permission, it's all on them. If you want to know what a domain name rental agreement looks like, look at an apartment rental agreement. The only thing that might seam unusual to some is the requirement for the rental contract to be notarized. This is something done by a professional witness, often done by secretaries holding a government permit to do so, since most of the time you can't walk into the office of the domain name holder, who may be living in Taiwan.

All that being said, renting domain names is still on the bench since there are still good domain names not yet registered. With a little creativity, trial and error, you can probably still register one outright. So don't panic. And if you go to the re-seller market of domain names, it is possible to sometimes buy them from someone else for $100 to $1000, just to give you an idea.

Web site developer,
owner of the web site,
owner of the domain name,
domain registration company,
web hosting company,
all five of these entities may be the same person, or all separate and independent of one another. Rentals from TechSelfHelp would fall into the situation where the domain name holder and web hosting company would be the same entity, and TechSelfHelp out sources the domain registration biz to a 3rd party. For other's who rent domains, owner, registration company, and host can all be the same entity, the wave of the future where large corporations manage millions of domain rentals.

How do you rent a domain name?
1. You find out who holds a domain in whois database, a service offered by any domain registration company you like to use.
2. Send them an email with an offer, they'll let you know.
3. And if all is good, they'll send you a contract for you to sign in the presence of a Notary Public, with instructions on how to set up use of the domain. You mail a notarized copy of the contract back. And your in business...

Offering to buy their domain name is done in the same way. Which sometimes you'll find someone sitting on a domain name without actually doing anything with it. So if someone has already registered the domain name you want, you should go to that site and make sure they're actually using it. If not, make them an offer, sometimes they'll take you up on it.

In general, don't rent a domain name if you don't have to. If you are just learning how to do all this, pick any $10 domain name, like: asdfa345.com. When your just learning that keeps the price down to $10 per year. Right. If you are a large multi-national corporation, it's probably within your budget to buy control of the desired domain name outright.

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Process
: Procedure for registering a domain name or buying one.

1. Pick anyone of a million domain registration companies like, godaddy.com. TechSelfHelp does endorse this host. There are only a few things to think about when picking any one of a million companies:

  • Price to become a member without and until you do buy a domain should be FREE.
  • ONLY FEE should be for transactions such as buying or selling or renewing domains,
    except for special extra services.
  • Look at the fees for several before you pick.
  • They should have a means of "locking" domains in your account to prevent someone from hacking their way in and stealing your life savings in solid gold from you. This usually means more than just your user id and password, which can and often is, stolen, or they will submit a request to complete transfer to them, the register should hold it until they confirm with you, etc, etc. For example, a randomly generated code which must be right on any given day for someone to transfer a domain from you to themselves, or an administrator verifying your intent to transfer to someone else, etc.
  • NEVER USE A PART OF YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS AND A PASSWORD YOU USE FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE. For example, if my email is joedirt@dot.com, then joe or dirt should never be used, in part or whole, as it is too easily guessed. And yes, people can afford to sit around and generate a list of their top 500 good guesses about you, when it can pay off so big!
  • Give yourself a user id and password that is truly UNIQUE FOR YOU, something you've never used before and will never use again for any other purpose, let alone utter out loud to yourself when you're alone, except on your death bed to whomever you wish to transfer your domains to, upon your death... To do otherwise, is like using your name for not merely a key to your house, since anyone can break in if they try hard enough, but a key to your title on the property, which is much worse, actually having your home stolen.
  • The user id & password should be unique for this purpose, having no connection to any id or password used for banking, email, credit cards, amazaon.com, ebay, etc. Other places people might steal or hack that information from. If they steal that information from those sites, it will be limited to damage they can do there. Money in the bank can be replaced, a good credit card company can delete charges, etc. But the account information for domain registration needs to be completely separate for that purpose to isolate what can not be replaced, intellectual property.

2. In the search engine they provide tools to search for potential domains until you find one unregistered by anyone else. A few things you should look for:

  • Fewer words the better
  • shorter the words the better
  • the more specifically relevant to what you want to do with the web site the better.
    For example, porn.com for porn, and chemistrywizard.com for chemistry.
  • the more general and all encompassing without alienating your intended purpose and intended audience the better. For example, fruit.com is better than apple.com, because it allows your business to expand or change to stay in business. It's not apples that's really important, it's staying in business that's important.
  • the easier to memorize the better!
  • if it actually rhymes, excellent.
  • spelled correctly. This may seam counter intuitive on someone's level, but when a visitor is having trouble finding their way back to your site, it would be helpful if all they had to do, was look it up in a dictionary.

3. Before you go through the process, break out a dictionary, check the spelling and just as important make sure it means what you think it means, not just common jargon where you're from. Your market is national and international, not just around your block. And make sure it's really right for what you have in mind. I'm a physics major and yes I carefully stare at a dictionary, one letter at a time, switching back and forth between the book and the screen, to be absolutely sure every time. Once you register a domain, there is absolutely no way to get your money back for a typing error or any error! If you screw up, the only chance you have to get your money back is to sell it, and who would buy "platesandbowels.com"?
If you don't know why that is funny, right now without checking, then you really do need a dictionary!

4. For instructions on using a web host, whether for your own domain or a rental, see here. Even here there are methods which can save you money by preventing you from paying for space you never actually use and email tricks. Really it can save you money, especially while you develop or monkey around with more than 1 web site. If you are starting out, buy only the cheapest, smallest web space, with one email address only. Buy only Linux shared hosting. It will be more than enough for a long time.

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