Domain registration is the process by which a company or individual can secure a website domain, such as www.yoursite.com. Once you have completed domain registration the domain becomes yours for the period of the contract, usually one year. Before registration expires it must be renewed, or the domain reverts back to being available to the general public.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the international Domain Name Server (DNS) database. ICANN insures that all registered names are unique and map properly to a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. The IP address is the numerical address of the website that tells other computers on the Internet where to find the server host and domain.
Domain registration is available to the public via a registrar. Fees and services vary from company to company, but the process is generally inexpensive. Before a domain registration can be approved, the new name must be checked against existing names in the DNS database. The online registrar provides a field into which you can enter your desired name and hierarchy —- that is, the letters that come after the "dot." Familiar hierarchies are .com, .net, .org, .name, .info and .biz. If the name is not already taken, it is available for domain registration.
During the domain registration process, you will be required to give contact information that will be publicly available through the WHOIS database. Anyone can go to a WHOIS search engine and enter a domain name to see who has registered it. Registrars require that this information be accurate and true. If you feel uncomfortable providing personal information, there are some registrars that will act as your proxy, supplying their information in place of your own as the contact for the domain. There may be a small fee for this service and potential drawbacks to balance against the ability to maintain your privacy, so read the Terms and Conditions carefully before deciding to opt for a domain by proxy.
Also important, be sure you will own the domain name, as some registrars maintain control over the domains they register. And be sure you retain the option to transfer the domain to another registrar, if you wish. There might be an initial period after which this becomes possible. Look for any fees that might be incurred as a result of transferring the domain. This could become important down the road if you wish to take advantage of another registrar's products or services.
Upon completing the domain registration process, it will take a period of hours to a few days to be able to see the domain online. The domain can be "parked" with an "in construction" page that acts as a kind of placeholder. Parking a domain is very inexpensive and most registrars offer this service for a small fee to give you time to come up with content. Once a registrant is ready to supply content, a web server must host the domain. The registrar might also provide hosting services, or you may wish to transfer your domain to another web hosting company.