A domain name registrar provides top-level domain names to end users for the purpose of creating websites on the Internet. Each domain name must be unique, so the availability of a particular name is not guaranteed. Once an end user finds an available, acceptable domain name, he or she pays a fee to the domain name registrar to lease the domain in the user’s name for a contractual period of one year. A user can optionally elect to pay for an extended contract to hold the name for a longer period of time. Once the contractual period expires, renewal is optional.
Domain name registrars are accredited by ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to disseminate website domains. There are many accredited registrars available online and prices vary widely for their services.
While technically separate from domain name registration, some registrars offer an array of Web hosting services to provide a “one stop shop” where a customer can buy a domain and obtain services to launch it. Templates for easy website building, the ability to include chat forums on the site, multimedia content, and commercial packages that include automatic inventory and credit card services are all examples of possible hosting services.
Many registrars have developed creative marketing techniques to draw in customers. For example, a domain name registrar might offer extraordinary Web hosting for “free” in exchange for registering a domain at $35 US Dollars (USD) per year. Another domain name registrar might take the opposite approach of charging a mere $1 to $5 USD per year for a domain, while hosting is separate and extra. Both types of registrars can come in handy under different circumstances.
Not everyone who buys a domain name wants to develop a website. In some cases people register names they believe will be popular, hoping to resell them. Others want to reserve a name even if they aren’t ready to build a site. In these cases hosting services aren’t required, and such parties can buy from a domain name registrar that sells domains cheap without obligatory hosting services. These registrars usually offer free “parking” for domains. This means a single page is displayed if someone visits the website. The page might say the site is under construction, or it might announce the domain is for sale.
No matter what the plans might be for a domain, one should read the fine print before deciding on a domain name registrar. Buyers should be sure they will have full control over the domain and the ability to transfer it to another domain name registrar if they desire. In many cases transferring a domain is free, but some registrars charge a fee. If you should become unhappy with your domain name registrar, or find that you can get a better deal if you register the domain with another registrar, you will want the option to transfer the domain.
When registering a domain name, the registrar will require personal information that will be available in several public databases, including WHOIS (Who Is). This includes the full name of the domain holder, address, phone number and email address. Some registrars offer anonymous registration. In this case the domain name registrar lists its information in the public databases instead. If one wants to contact the domain name holder, he or she must go through the registrar, which in turn contacts the owner, acting as proxy. Some registrars charge for this service while others offer it as a free option.