Your web site needs its own unique domain name (web address) if you want to provide a professional appearance to visitors. The domain name should reflect the unique content of your web site. For example, you wouldn’t use your name, e.g., JohnDoe.com, unless you are well known. This would work for Donald Trump or Oprah but not for the majority of us “regular” people. On the other hand, if you are working on establishing yourself as an entrepeneur and your own personal domain, then using your name for the domain is a great idea. It lets you try different things without locking yourself into a specific product or service.
Let’s look at the anatomy of a domain name: http://www.intergalacticwebs.com. Another name for a web site address is Universal Resource Locator or URL (pronounced “erl”). The first part of the URL is the protocol. Usually this is http, which stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol, but it could also be https, same as http but secure, or sometimes ftp, for File Transfer Protocol. The next part of the URL, “www”, is short for World Wide Web. This part of the URL is optional now. Most web sites entered without the “www” will work. The third part of the example URL, “intergalacticwebs” is the domain name which isn’t case sensitive but may contain only letters, numbers and the hyphen character. The last part of the URL is the top-level domain. The three most commonly used top-level domains in the United States are .com, .net and .org. You have probably also seen .gov, .info, .tv, etc. Another type of top-level domain is based upon geography. The above URL could also have been something like http://www.intergalacticwebs.henrico.va.us.
At one time individuals in the US could only register domain names through InterNIC. “InterNIC, short for Internet Network Information Center, was the Internet governing body primarily responsible for domain name and IP address allocations until September 18, 1998 when this role was assumed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It was accessed through the website internic.net which was run by Network Solutions, Inc and AT&T.”1
Today their are many ways you can get a domain name registered. One easy way is through your hosting provider if they provide this service. You will probably pay a little more per year for this service if done through your hosting provider but if you are not a “techie” this may be the best route to take. If you decide to register the domain name yourself, I highly recommend that you do so with a licensed registrar. My favorite company is GoDaddy.com. I don’t like their advertisements but they offer excellent service and frequently have sales.
1 Quoted from Wikipedia on November 24, 2008.