Word Crunchers, Etc.

Domain Names
What they are and how you can acquire one

Vicky Vickers

What is a domain name?
It is an individualized name which you select as your Internet address for e-mail and your website. For example, my old web address (URL or Universal Resource Locator) was www.islandnet.com/~vicky and my e-mail address was vicky@islandnet.com. In this case, the domain name is "islandnet.com". After I acquired my own domain name "crunchers.bc.ca", my URL became www.crunchers.bc.ca/~vicky and my e-mail, vicky@crunchers.bc.ca.

To be able to remove the /~vicky from my URL, making it simply www.crunchers.bc.ca, I would have to acquire a permanent numbered Internet Protocol (IP) address. If I was renting an IP address from my Internet Service Provider (ISP), I would have a virtual server, which would allow me to leave off the login part of my URL. Virtual servers are not free, at least not with my ISP who charges $49.95 to set up a virtual server and $9.95 per month to rent an numbered IP address.

What are the advantages of a domain name?
One advantage is being able to change your ISP without changing your URL and e-mail addresses, as you can transfer your domain name to your new ISP. A second advantage is having an address which is unique and readily identifiable with your business name. Also your business card doesn't advertise for your ISP and, your e-mail and website addresses reinforce each other and your business name. This means that if you have a virtual server (or your own server), people may be able to find you on the web by guessing at your URL, e.g. the address for Apple is www.apple.com, MicroSoft is www.microsoft.com, Adobe is www.adobe.com, etc.

How do I get a domain name?
In British Columbia, you can apply for a ".bc.ca" domain name. At the moment, this is a free service, but as they get busier, they may have to start charging for their services. The major place is InterNIC (www.internic.net) which is where the .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, etc. are registered. Until a couple of years ago, they registered domain names for free, but when they started registering thousands of applications a month, they decided to charge for their services. It now costs $100 US for the first two years registration, and $50 US per year to renew your registration after that. The Internet International Ad Hoc Committee (www.iahc.org), a coalition of participants from the worldwide Internet community, is working to satisfy the requirement for enhancements to the Internet's global Domain Name System (DNS). Recently, they added seven new top level domain names.

Your ISP will probably assist you in acquiring a domain name. At my request, my ISP sent me a form by e-mail, along with simple instructions for filling it out, so I could apply for my .bc.ca domain name. They had also filled in the places which required information about them. I decided on a domain name, filled out the form and e-mailed it to the .bc.ca registrar at the University of British Columbia. Once I had approval for the name, which took less than a week, I e-mailed it back to my ISP, along with my credit card information for the $19.95 which they charge for setting up a domain name. It was a really simple process.

Are there any qualifications for a domain name?
The .bc.ca and .ca registrars insist that your domain name reflect your business name in some way. However, when the web first started becoming popular, "way back when" (three or four years ago) and domain names were free, acquiring one was pretty well a free-for-all. As a matter of fact, some people applied for names for registered trade-marks and large companies knowing that these organizations would eventually want websites and would hopefully be willing to pay a lot of money (and I really mean a lot!) to buy their domain name from whoever owned it. There have been several court cases in the United States over this recently, and fortunately the large companies are winning.

Will my old address still work?
Simply, yes. As far as your ISP is concerned, your domain name is an alias of your original address. This means that someone can send a message to vicky@islandnet.com or vicky@crunchers.bc.ca and both will end up in the same e-mailbox.

Is it worth it?
Yes, despite being a business advantage, its kind of fun having your very own domain name, something unique which no one else in the world has. However, as more and more people get on the web and acquire a domain name, approval will become more difficult. If you are thinking you may like to have a domain name sometime in the future, don't put it off any longer - do it now!

Tip
As usual, you should keep in mind KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) when choosing a domain name. When I went to choose my new domain name, I considered several options, such as wordcrunchersetc.bc.ca, wordcrunchers.bc.ca and crunchers.bc.ca. I choose the last one mainly because of KISS. I wanted an address which was fairly easy to remember and wouldn't require a lot of typing to input. I decided the other two choices were rather long and cumbersome and, because of length, may not be approved. Keep in mind also that InterNIC does not allow underscores (ie. word_crunchers_etc), and while dashes are allowed, they will only make the address more complicated.

Acknowledgements
This article was published in the May 1997 issue of the Victoria Macintosh Users Group's monthly newsletter "MACtalk" in Vicky's article "VMUG On-Line" and in the Summer 1997 issue of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria's quarterly on-line newsletter.

Thanks to Tom Brown of Baremetal (www.baremetal.com) for proofreading this article and providing much needed technical advice.

Vicky Vickers is the owner of Word Crunchers, Etc. which specializes in website design and HTML training. She is a past-president (1994-6) and former webmaster (1995-8) of Victoria Macintosh Users Group (VMUG). She also founded and was the first president (1996) of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria (WEAV).

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Call me today at 250-595-6593 to discuss your website design
or e-mail me at vicky@crunchers.bc.ca

Vicky Vickers, Word Crunchers, Etc.
3290 Shelley Street, Victoria, BC, V8P 4A5
Fax: 250-595-7384 (call first)


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