CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, September 18, 2000


Staking your claim to a name is more than a game

So, what's in a name? A great deal, apparently, when it comes to domain names, since people madly are registering everything from legitimate businesses to beloved pets for a plot on the Internet. Personal identities, toys, sports, hobbies, anything the mind can fathom are available as unique Internet handles.

Domain names are a system of ad  dressing used for identifying and locating sites on the Internet, such as ceeprompt.com or hagginmuseum.org. These are easy-to-remember addresses, which can be translated by the Domain Name System into numbered IP addresses that are used by the Internet. Domain names also can be used as part of your e-mail address to promote your identity, such as fritz@geofschuler.com

In this global society, the Internet has become a ubiquitous presence, and its potential for information exchange has been a siren song for the masses. Establishing a domain name creates a personalized, unique address on the Internet and stakes your claim to a piece of virtual real estate.Once you've registered a domain name, you can build your own Web site or simply retain the "property" for future use.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the nonprofit group responsible for domain-name system management. Generic top-level domains -- .com, .net and .org -- can be registered by anyone. Country-specific domains, such as .uk or .au, usually require a local authority to register the name. The new .tv domain being hawked on the Internet is really the country extension for the small Pacific island Tuvalu, which has authorized the dotTV commercial site.

ICANN also grants accreditation to become a registrar of domain names. In the United States, there are a number of accredited registration sites, but Network Solutions is probably the most popular and well-known. (See www.icann.org/reg istrars/accredited-list.html for a complete list.)

The process of obtaining your own domain is easy and inexpensive, which partially explains its popularity. Simply log onto Network Solutions and see if your desired address is available. Then follow the prompts to register your new domain. The fee is $35 per year for each address you own.

Each domain name must be associated with an Internet service provider which hosts the address. If you don't already have an ISP to host your name, you can "park" it at Network Solutions for a nominal fee, or opt for one of their package deals that includes Web page development. 

If you're contracting with a third party to register your domain, ensure that you are listed as the registrant or account holder. This is essential to maintaining control of your domain and averting headaches down the road if you decide to change your hosting arrangement. Many unscrupulous third-party registrants prey on the ignorance of their clients and actually list themselves as the account holder or registrant, thereby giving them control of the domain, not you.

If your desired domain is already taken, you can see who owns it by clicking the WHOIS button on the NS home page. Beware there are plenty of cyber real estate agents who've already helped themselves to millions of domain names in hopes of profitable resale. In a random search of dot-coms, I discovered that www.ruthwilliams.com was for sale for $1,000. As an alternative at www.raggedyann.com, Patrick Flynn is willing to lease this site for a fee, rather then sell the name. Dogs-health.com can be purchased for a mere $16,900.

It's illegal to cybersquat on legitimate trademarks, but personal identities are in a gray area and subject to legal wrangling. For some interesting reading on trademark domain-name disputes, go to www.skippy.com and follow the legal battle between food giant Bestfoods, maker of Skippy peanut butter, and Percy Crosby, creator of Skippy cartoons.

Since we're actually running low on generic top-level domains, new ones are up for consideration by ICANN. Before long you may be able to register your domain name under .travel, .law, .shop, .web or .info. When approved, these new domain levels are sure to spark a feeding frenzy of new domain-name registrations.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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