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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Domain, Sweet Domain

ONCE YOU START MAKING A HOME FOR YOURSELF on the Web, you may want to get your own domain name. (A domain is a unique Web address, such as techcrone.com.) You certainly don't have to do this: There are lots of sites that will let you have what's called a subdomain, or your own piece of a larger website, for free. This blog, for instance, is hosted at http://www.techcrone.blogspot.com, making it a subdomain of the blogspot.com domain. This is not a bad address; it's a bit long, but on the other hand it's free. If your place on the Web is going to be strictly for personal use, a subdomain is probably all you need. You can stop reading this post now. (But don't miss the post below it, which is about how to get your own blog.)

It is certainly fun to have your own domain name. When I'm not the Tech Crone I go by Wild Flora, and I'm very glad I grabbed wildflora.com domain a decade ago when I had the chance. I haven't done anything with it yet, but it hasn't cost much to keep it, either. Recently I also purchased wildflora.net, just to make sure that nobody else did. You should probably purchase any domain name you can get if you think you might want it or even if you just want to use it as a nickname (or netname); for instance, the minute I decided to do this blog I went to my favorite web host, Lunar Pages, and bought techcrone.com.

If you think you might ever want to make money from your work on the Web, you almost certainly need your own Web address(es). If you can find a name that hasn't already been taken, purchasing one is very inexpensive. I pay about US$8 a year for the ones I own through Lunar Pages, a bit more for the ones I own through Network Solutions. You should also plan on paying an extra fee for what's called "private registration"; this keeps your personal information out of the public eye and helps to keep spammers at bay.

Unfortunately, when you try to buy a domain name today you're going to find that most of the good names have been taken. It's widely believed that the "dot com" names are the most valuable, if not the only ones that are valuable, with the "dot net" names coming in second. Many of these names are owned by speculators who purchased all the names they could think of that have any commercial potential and now hope to resell them at a profit. As a matter of fact, I was surprised to find that any name with the word 'tech' in it was still available, but I got lucky. Apparently, it never occurred to speculators that anybody would want to call herself a 'crone.'

Before paying a speculator's price, try to find a name that will work for you and has not yet been purchased. Think of some names--this can be an amusing game to play with friends--then go to GoDaddy.com or any other web host (but GoDaddy has a good search tool), enter the names you want in the "domain search" box, and hope to strike pay dirt. This can be fun, like playing a slot machine. If you can't get the name you want in a dot com form, consider dot net. If that's not available, some people try dot org. But I would probably try a different name.

Have your credit card ready and, if a name you like is available, grab it. (If you change your mind, you can always let it go in a year when it comes up for renewal.) If you plan to create a website this year, I recommend that you purchase your domain through Lunar Pages. They have a terrific, inexpensive hosting package that includes one free domain registration for life and free Website design software. (Full disclosure: Lunar Pages pays for referrals, so if you buy a hosting package from them please tell them that I--Flora Johnson, wildflora.net--sent you. I promise I would not recommend these people if I did not use their services myself and believe that this is a very good deal.) If all you want to do is buy a domain name, however, I think GoDaddy is probably the least expensive option.

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