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SAVVY COMPUTING

Making a Name for Your Site

 

by Reid Goldsborough

 

Some people don’t care what
you call them as long as you call them. Some Web site owners feel the same. Yet
a Web site’s domain name can be a powerful way to get people through your virtual
door.

 

A domain name, as it’s most
commonly understood, is a Web site’s address expressed in an individual and
easy-to-remember way, such as <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>yourcompanyname.com
. Anyone can obtain a
domain name, from multinational companies to grade-school children.

 

If you have a Web site or work
with one, you may know what the domain registration process is. You first find
out if the name you want is already taken by going to a Whois server, such as
InterNIC’s Whois Search (www.internic.com/whois.html) or Whois.com (<span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.whois.com
).

 

Once you know that a name you want
is available, think carefully about how it might read before you adopt it.
Mistakes have been made, sometimes with humorous results, although not
necessarily for the domain name holder. Experts Exchange, a site for computer
programmers, initially could be found at <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>expertsexchange.com
. Pen Island, a
vendor of custom-made pens, chose the domain name <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>penisland.net
.

 

One easy solution is to use a
hyphen. Experts Exchange changed its domain name to <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>experts-exchange.com
. Pen Island has
kept its domain name as is. Based on the layout of its Web site, it apparently
regards its customer base as primarily male.

 

After you’re happy with a domain
name that isn’t already being used, it’s best to act quickly. Hackers have been
known to intercept Whois queries and register the domain name, offering it to
you at a significantly higher price than you would have had to pay if you had
registered it yourself.

 

In the Domain-Name
Marketplace

 

During the years after the World
Wide Web went public in 1991, you had to type in <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>http://
and <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>www.
before the domain name to get to a
site, with the letters http
standing for Hypertext Transfer Protocol (the way Web pages are transmitted
over the Internet) and www
obviously short for World Wide Web. Today, in most cases, all anyone has to
type is the domain name, and sometimes you can even leave out the <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>.com. Domain
names are case-insensitive, so there’s no need to capitalize.

 

The part at the end of a domain
name—such as .com—is
called the top-level domain. Other examples include <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.biz
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.edu
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.gov
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.info
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.int
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.mil
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.name
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.net
, and <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>.org
, although the most popular remains <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>.com. Many
countries also have their own top-level domain, from <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>.af for
Afghanistan to .zw
for Zimbabwe.

 

Today you can register a domain
name with any of more than 500 domain name registrars. Before 1999, the only
domain-name registrar was Network Solutions (<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>www.networksolutions.com
), which had
been granted an exclusive contract by the National Science Foundation. Network
Solutions is still the registrar for such well-known domain names as <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>nytimes.com, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>ebay.com, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>amazon.com,
and myspace.com,
among the more than 7 million domain names it manages.

 

Many individuals and businesses
have taken advantage of the competitive marketplace for domain names, sometimes
after experiencing problems with customer service, registering new domain
names, or transferring current domain names to other registrars.

 

Among the registrars recommended
in an online discussion about the subject by those who write for a living about
the Internet are GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com), Dotster (<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>www.dotster.com
), DomainDirect (<span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.domaindirect.com),
and Sibername (www.sibername.com).
Prices are generally between $10 and $15 per year, with exotic top-level
domains costing more. Bundled or extra services include domain forwarding,
email forwarding, and Web space.

 

Cybercrime Cases

 

Problems can arise when
individuals or companies register domain names similar to trademarked business
names, a practice known as cybersquatting, which is now illegal, a violation of the
1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. One scheme was to try to sell
the domain name to the trademark owner.

 

Another scheme, still active, is
to create a page full of pay-per-click ads whose domain name is similar to a
trademarked name, which people may wind up on by misspelling the name.
Microsoft recently filed suit against three cybersquatters who have done this
with Microsoft’s trademarked names, registering 324 domain names.

 

Other times trademarked names are
used in phishing scams, the gambits criminals use to try to trick consumers
into revealing credit card and other personal information at a site with an
official-sounding name.

 

On the other hand, some companies
have engaged in reverse
cybersquatting
, registering domain names such as <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>xyzcompanysucks.com

to prevent critics from using it. Verizon, for instance, registered <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Verizonsucks.com.

 

In response, one critic registered
the domain name Verizonreallysucks.com,
which got the attention of Verizon’s lawyers. Typically when confronted by a
high-powered legal team, individuals throw in the towel. The parodist mentioned
above registered the domain name <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>VerizonShouldSpendMoreTimeFixingItsNetworkAndLessMoneyOnLawyers.com
.

 

Reid Goldsborough is a
syndicated columnist and author of the book <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway
.
He can be reached at reidgold@netaxs.com or members.home.net/reidgold.

 

 

 

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