A Beginner’s Guide to Domain Names


Domains. The Internet would be a vastly different place without them.

In the 30 years after the first domain name was registered, the Internet has undergone explosive growth never seen before in history. The latest VeriSign Industry Brief (Q4 2015) showed 314 million active domain names, with a year to year growth of 9%.

You might be asking right now: with that many registered domain names the industry must be slowing down, right? Not even close! The domain industry is growing faster than ever. The introduction of generic Top Level Domains, or gTLDs, in the first quarter of 2014 flooded the stale domain market with hundreds of new domain extensions. With the addition of these gTLDs, companies and users are no longer limited to the old .COM, .NET, .ORG cycle. Instead, a marketing company can now opt to using a .MARKETING domain name, and a plumbing company might use a .PLUMBING name.

Truth is, the domain industry is poised for another explosion in growth as the general public comes to accept and embrace new domain trends. It is your duty to your business to understand how domains work, to be ready to jump on any future opportunities as they arise. That’s where this guide comes in.

This guide will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know when it comes to domain names: what they arehow they work, and the underlying framework of domains and name servers that hold up the entire Internet as we know it.

This guide is intended for everyone, young or old, professional or amateur. You won’t find miles of code or geek jargon in this guide, we will try to present technical details in an informative and entertaining fashion.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading it!

So, what on earth is a domain?

What happened to www?In the Mesolithic era of the Internet, or 1995 to early 2000s in real-life years, almost every website had the www (World Wide Web) as a part of its domain name. This was primarily done to not confuse the user accessible HTML version of the website with the other versions like nameserver, mail, or ftp. The current trend of website URLs is to omit the ‘www’ part of the name, and some sites will even redirect users to the non-www version of their website.

Not a URL, not an IP address.It’s important to note that a domain name is neither a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) nor an Internet Protocol (IP) address. A URL contains detailed information that tells the server exactly what you want to see, like www.hostingcult.com, while the domain is only the highlighted part. How a domain name points to an IP address will be discussed in a later chapter.

A domain name is a way of referring to something on the Internet with a potentially recognizable string of words, letters and numbers. The Internet is set up in a way so that typing a domain into a browser, such as hostingcult.com, will send the user to our dedicated server IP ( This is called the Domain Name System, or DNS.

Before we get further into the topic of domains, we must first explain the components of a domain name. A domain name is comprised of strings separated by dots, and is comprised of two or three parts depending on the website. The general syntax for a domain name is machine_name.subdomain.domain.tld, and it is read from left to right but has a right to left hierarchy.

  1. The Top Level Domain (TLD) is the rightmost part of the domain name. This includes the commonly seen .COM or .ORG, all the country-code TLDs like .CA, and all the new generic TLDs like .GURU.
  2. The Mid-Level Domain is the subdomain.domain part of the domain name. This is the most recognizable part of the domain name, and also the part that sets your domain apart from others. An example would be en.m.wikipedia.org – ‘wikipedia’ is the parent mid-level domain, ‘en’ and ‘m’ would both be subdomains indicating English version and mobile version respectively.
  3. The Machine Name is the very leftmost part of the domain name, and is used to indicate the purpose of the website. For example, ‘www’ would tell the server to bring up the HTML of the website, while ‘ftp’ would tell the server you want to transfer some files to it.

When you buy a domain, you are buying the right to point the domain.tld part of the structure towards your own website. Through code, the domain owner can assign subdomains under the domain that they own. For the remainder of this guide, we will use the word domain and domain name interchangeably to refer to the domain.tld part of the URL and not the URL itself.

As with any other organized information system, domains have a set of rules that govern what can and cannot be a domain name. The rules do not concern the everyday user, but typing a name into your browser that breaks these rules will not get you anywhere.

  • Domains do not allow spaces. In order to give the appearance of a space, a dash or underline is usually used
  • It is not case sensitive, “WebHostingGeeks.com” and “hostingcult.com” will lead you to the exact same location
  • You can have dashes, underscores, and numbers, but special characters are generally not allowed (an exception would be the Internationalized Domain Name)
  • Domains can contain as many as 63 characters not including the top level domain extension

1.1Top level domains (TLDs)

A top level domain is the extension to the name, or part of your domain after the dot. Below is a breakdown of the common types of top level domains and what they represent (in theory).

Country code TLDs (ccTLDs) are also very commonplace on the web. These domain extensions are used by residents or businesses in that country, or if they’re brandable enough, as generic TLDs. Common examples would be the .co, .tv, or .me domains. Originally representing Colombia, Tuvalu, and Montenegro respectively, these extensions are now more commonly used as a replacement for .com, for the television industry, and as a personal brand for businesses (an example would be voat.co or nerdtee.me, catchy and brandable)

Other country code domains are used to shorten the URL of a trademark, like Del.icio.us.

1.2History and usage of domains

The first domain name ever registered on March 15th 1985, symbolics.com, belonged to now defunct Symbolics Inc. There was less than one dot-com registration per month until the spring of 1986, and only a grand total of about 300 domains registered between 1985 and 1988.

Domain registrations were free before the year 1995, and anyone who wanted to register a domain could do so without going through a registrar or paying any money. However, that all changed when the NSF awarded the tech company Network Solutions the ability to charge money for registration. In that regard, Network Solutions was the first ever domain registrar.

Up until 1998, the DNS had been fully controlled by the US government. After much debate and upon the urging of President Clinton, the DNS was partially privatized through the formation of ICANN, not-for-profit organization. ICANN still acts as an organization independent of government oversight to promote competition and develop policy regarding domain names. The domain industry picked up speed after the privatization of DNS.

Other landmark events involved the introduction of new TLDs and the record sales of domains.

1985Introduction of .us, .uk, and .il TLDs
1986UBC volunteers created the .ca registry
1996-1998Introduction and creation of the Internationalized Domain Name system, where domains can be registered in a language’s native script
2000In 15 short years, 21 million domains have been registered in the world
2001Sale of hotels.com for $11M
2003Congress introduced the Truth in Domain Names Act, prohibiting the luring of visitors using domain names with no relation to the content of the web page
2010Sex.com sells for a record $13M
2013ICANN approves of the first gTLDs since the early 2000s
December 2013Internet runs out of four letter .com domains
2014500+ new gTLDs added

Today, in 2016, the domain industry has over 314 million registered names and is growing by 10-20 million names each year.

2Where do domains come from and who controls them?

The governing authority of the domain name system is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. This organization was formed in 1998, and has been coordinating the maintenance and management of the DNS ever since.

Unlike common misconceptions say, ICANN does not rule supreme over the entire Internet. Most of its work concerns the global DNS, including the creation of new TLDs, the operation of the root name servers, and management of IP spaces and assignment of IP blocks to regional Internet registries. ICANN does not register domain names, nor does it control access to the Internet itself. ICANN also cannot help in policing the Internet for spam or settle ownership disputes.

So, what does ICANN actually do?

  1. Assigns registries and accredits registrars for gTLDs.
  2. Allocates IP addresses to the 5 Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).
  3. Introduces new TLDs.
  4. Manages the L-root server, one of the 13 root name servers that powers DNS across the world.

2.1Wait, exactly who registers the domains I want?

To understand where our domains come from, we must first understand the governance structure of the domain name system.

Our story begins, yet again, with ICANN. As a generalization, all the domains come from ICANN. In reality however, ICANN delegates the responsibility of maintaining a certain TLD to an organization or company, called a registry operator. Like the name suggests, a registry operator maintains a registry of active names under their TLD. Registries are not required to be not-for-profit like ICANN. The .com and .net registry operator is VeriSign, who also manages the A and J root name servers.

Registry operators like VeriSign do not register domain names either – that job falls under that of the registrar. A registrar is a company accredited by either the registry or ICANN to sell and distribute domain names for a fee. A registrar like GoDaddy is the company you buy .com domain names from, then they’ll pay a fee to VeriSign to enter your new domain into its registry. For most companies, this process is fully automated, and you own the domain the moment your payment goes through.

For generic TLDs, a registrar must be accredited by both ICANN and the TLD specific registry. The accreditation process is incredibly complex as you must prove competency, resource availability, and cash flow as a company, and it will not be covered in this guide.

2.2ICANN and IP addresses

What’s my IP address?Look up any variation of the phrase “IP address” on Google to see your public IP address. Because your computer is not a server, entering this IP address into the browser bar will do absolutely nothing.

An IP address is a unique, numerical identifier for every entity on the Internet. Like domains, IP addresses are finite and are governed by a set of rules. The technical details of IPv4 and IPv6 are beyond the scope of this guide, but know that since IPv4 can only support a maximum of 4,294,967,296 unique addresses, it is likely the Internet will slowly migrate to the much larger IPv6 structure.

As its full name suggests, ICANN not only oversees the names of the Internet but also the numbers. Much like the way domain names are managed, ICANN also does not run the IP address system. The organization merely manages the supply of IP addresses in order to avoid repetition or clashes. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers also keeps a central database for IP addresses, and will supply to regional registries as needed.

There are 5 regional registries in the world today, and each is assigned an IP address range by ICANN.
Regional Internet RegistryServicing Area
American Registry for Internet Numbers — ARINNorth America Region
Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre — RIPE NCCEurope, the Middle East, and Central Asia
The Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre — APNICAsia/Pacific Region
Latin American and Caribbean Internet Address Registry — LACNICLatin America and Caribbean
The African Network Information Centre — AfriNICAfrica Region

2.3ICANN and the root name servers

Thin registry or thick registry?

For domain owner identifying information (WHOIS information), there are traditionally two ways that information is stored. A thin registry is one where the identifying information is stored by the registrar, and registry WHOIS just holds a referral to the registrar. A thick registry is one where the registrar merely collects the WHOIS information and gives it to the registry to store.

As of 2005, the only gTLDs that are still using a thin registry is the .com and .net registries, both managed by VeriSign.

A root name server (or nameserver) is a server at the highest hierarchy of the Domain Name System of the Internet. This hierarchy is called the root-zone, and there are 13 servers (more accurately, server addresses) that operate in that zone. The inner workings of DNS will be discussed in chapter 4, and this section will outline ICANN’s role and involvement in the root name servers.

Since the privatization of DNS in 1998, the ultimate authority in the root-zone has rested in the palms of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency in the US government. The NTIA delegates this authority to ICANN, who manages it on a day to day basis. The root-zone is maintained by VeriSign on behalf of ICANN.

2.4What happens if a registry or registrar goes out of business?

There has never been a case of a TLD registry going out of business, and thus, nobody really knows what would happen if one does. Historically however, registrars have indeed gone out of business due to bankruptcy or termination. RegisterFly is a prime example of this, a company which had its ICANN accredited status terminated in 2007.

A scary thing happened after RegisterFly’s accreditation was removed. Domain owners who used the WHOIS protection provided by RegisterFly suddenly had no way of proving their ownership. Thousands of domain owners were left stranded after the registrar went out of business, some even helplessly watched as their domains expired and were snatched up by domain hunters.

“Gasp”, you say, “Can this happen to my domains?”

Not likely. After the RegisterFly incident, ICANN has adopted a series of steps to take in case another registrar goes out of business. For thin WHOIS TLDs, registrars are now required to escrow the WHOIS and registration data with another company. In case of another failure, ICANN now requires the going-out-of-business registrar to find and transfer their domains to another company. And if none of that works, ICANN will step in as a temporary registrar to facilitate the process.

The best thing to do to protect your domains is to save a record of everything. Make sure to save any transaction records and emails between you and the registrar. It’s also advisable to save or screenshot a copy of the current WHOIS data as it shows that you are indeed the owner of the domain in question.

Who actually owns my private domain?

ICANN’s rules make it very clear, whoever is listed under the Registrant entry in WHOIS is the legal owner of the domain name. Technically, you’re deferring your ownership to the WHOIS privacy company, who will safeguard it and keep your information private for a fee.

Even though the private registration company is the technical owner, in reality, they have no control over your domain. You will still retain full control of your domain through the registrar.

2.5What if I don’t want my private information be available to the public?

ICANN requires that the true and up to mailing address, phone number and e-mail address of domain owners and administrators be made available through WHOIS. However, this does not mean that to own a domain, your information must be in the public record.

You have the option of registering your domain through a WHOIS privacy service. They’re usually advertised by registrars as an upsell, under the name of “private registration” or “WHOIS masking”. In private registration, the service provider will put their own contact information in the Owner, Administrator, and Technical contact sections of the WHOIS record. You as the owner will be provided a masking email where incoming inquiries will be redirected to your own personal email.

There are many companies that provide these services (like DomainsByProxy and WHOISGUARD), usually for a small fee of less than $5 per year. If you feel that your contact information is sensitive, then opting for private registration may be a good choice.

What’s part of a domain registration?What’s included in domain registration depends entirely on the registrar. All domain registrations will ensure you own the domain, but different companies may offer different features as incentives. For example, NameCheap includes private WHOIS protection for free for the first year as an incentive to purchase. Registrars are not required to provide DNS services, so make sure to find out before buying a domain from a company.

3Costs of a domain name

The price of purchasing a domain varies between registrars and TLDs. For example, GoDaddy has .com domains for $9.99 and NameCheap has the same .com for $10.29 as promotional prices for the first year of registration. Prices for renewal do increase with most registrars.

It’s important to note that the quoted cost for each domain is per year of registration. Domain names are not owned in the traditional sense like land or property – yearly renewals must be purchased in order to retain your ownership. Of course, you can purchase multiple years of registration at once often for less cost compared to yearly registration.

3.1Of my $9.99, how much does the registrar profit?

Domain prices increase too!Verisign will periodically raise the registry fee for its TLDs to match inflation and rising management costs. The last increase happened on January 15th 2012 and resulted in a change from $7.34 to the current $7.85 per year. Dot-net domain names also increased from $4.65 to $5.11.

As the registry for .com domains, Verisign charges $7.85 USD per .com domain per year as of 2015. This is a cost that all .com registrars must pay regardless of how much they charge their own customers for domain registration. This means GoDaddy makes a measly $2.14 every time someone registers a .com domain on their website. The actual average revenue for .com registrations is likely lower because the company has bulk domain buying discounts and other seasonal discounts.

How can companies afford to charge $1.99 per domain then?

Some registrars will have deeply discounted domain names. Charging that low for a .com domain means that the company is willing to take a loss for each sale. This is done in order to get another customer, upsell their hosting/other services, build a portfolio, hope that buyers renew their domains eventually, or any combination of those. The registrar may also have calculated that the cost per acquisition is less than the lifetime revenue of a customer, which makes the massive discounts economical to the business.

Hosting companies often provide a domain registration for free to attract new customers.

This number of $2.14 becomes much more attractive as registrations increase. The accreditation fee and requirement structure for ICANN is below:

  • $3500 application fee
  • $4000 fixed annual fee
  • Variable quarterly fee of $800-$1,200
  • $0.18 per domain name sold or renewed per year
  • Must show proof of at least $70,000 in working capital
  • Must show a minimum of $500,000 of liability insurance
  • Must have sufficient technical systems to operate the registrar

These fees add up to around $8000 per year for the registrar, plus $0.18 per domain sold. Keep in mind that these are just ICANN fees, and does not include marketing and operations costs of the business from a day to day business.

Other recurring costs for a small to medium sized registrar can include:

  • Incorporation and business registration fees (~$500/year)
  • Payment processing and data escrow fees (~$1500/year)
  • SSL certificate fees (~$300/year)
  • Website development, hosting, technical support (~$2000/year)
  • Fees for DNS and Nameservers ($3000+/year)
  • Cost of registrar infrastructure, including servers and support personnel (around $150K/year)



At this point we’re looking at $165,000 of fees alone per year. With $2.14-$0.18=$1.96, we can calculate the break-even number of .com domains for GoDaddy’s $9.99/year deal.


1.96 × a=$165000


What we have calculated means that GoDaddy must renew or register close to 85000 domains for each calendar year just to break even on the fixed recurring costs. This does not include product development or paying staff.

Past the point of break even, the domain registrar business quickly becomes very scalable and profitable. Let’s look at how much profit our hypothetical $9.99 company can make, if all their costs are outlined in the previous part.

4DNS Explained

How can 13 servers power the entire Internet?It’s a common misconception that the root-zone only has 13 servers. It actually contains 13 server addresses, letter coded from A to M. Using technology, each address is hosted by many different servers each with redundant systems to prevent failure. As of 2014, there are 504 root server instances around the world.

By now you might be wondering, what is DNS? After all, the term DNS has been thrown around plenty of times in this guide. We left the technical explanation of DNS to the latter part of the guide for the purpose of continuity. The way the Internet is organized is complicated, which would’ve disrupted the natural flow of the previous chapters.

The DNS is a system of organizing information associated with domain names. In the simplest terms, it is a hierarchy for resolving a domain name. That is, the DNS is a series of steps that your computer takes in order to translate hostingcult.com into The DNS can be thought of as the phone book of the Internet, and serves as an essential component for the Internet to function.

As mentioned before, at the top of the hierarchy exists 13 server addresses that serve as the root-zone of the Domain Name System. Every request for a website, anywhere in the world, will go through one of the thirteen to begin its journey. The role of the root zone is to host a list of authoritative nameservers for each TLD. Each server contains a small root file that catalogues every single authoritative nameserver for each TLD.

After the DNS resolver reaches an authoritative nameserver for the TLD in question, it will request a nameserver that is authoritative for the mid-level domain. It will do that iteratively or recursively until a concrete answer is given.

Let’s look at this in a way that’s easy to understand:

4.1How a web page is resolved

When I change my name servers, why does it take up to 24 hours to show up on the Internet?A significant amount of DNS caching occurs on the Internet, both within your computer and within the recursive DNS servers of ISPs. Caches only refresh a few times a day, so your DNS change takes time to propagate across all of these servers. This time delay is called DNS propagation.

Imagine you’re sitting at home browsing the Internet. You begin to do your daily check of hostingcult.com for updates.

Typing the domain name into the web browser is the first step in resolving the website through DNS. After you press the enter button, your browser will send out a query across the Internet. Quite literally, it will ask “what address can I find hostingcult.com at?”

The query will encounter the DNS resolver provided by your ISP. The DNS resolver is a server that tries to fulfill your request by ‘asking’ other servers, often it will contain a list of authoritative DNS servers that it can direct your query towards, without having to go back to the root. The recursive resolver often acts as a DNS cache, that is, it stores previously queried DNS information for a predetermined amount of time.

If the information for hostingcult.com is not found in the cache, the DNS resolver goes all the way up to the root servers and asks “does anyone have information about .com”?

A Verisign root server will return “I do, here’s some information about .com”.

The DNS resolver then takes the directions given by the root server, and locates the authoritative name server for the .com TLD. The DNS resolver will then ask the .com name server “where can I find information about webhostinggeeks?”

“Try this address!” the .com name server will say.

The address given by a TLD server will not be the address of the website, but rather, the address of name servers provided by the hosting company. A final query is needed to the hosting name servers in order to resolve the IP address of hostingcult.com.

This process appears long and complicated, but it takes place in mere milliseconds. In almost all instances, the DNS resolving process will not impact browsing experience at all – most of the loading time would be the result of the size and number of scripts on the web page.

Right figure shows a simplified way of the Domain Name System resolving a website.

Learn more about the DNS and how it works in our comprehensive guide with illustrations and PDF.

4.2DNS components

Difference between changing name servers and changing host records?When you change name servers, you’re telling DNS to look at a different place for the domain records. When you’re changing host records, you’re changing the domain DNS records themselves.

Registrars allow you to edit your own domain’s DNS records. Through doing that, you can point your domain your hosting servers in a variety of different ways. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the following types of records:

A-recordsNSMXURL Redirect

4 Billion IPv4 addresses is big enough, how many IPv6 addresses are there?

2^128 possible addresses, or… 340 undecillion 282 decillion 366 nonillion 920 octillion 938 septillion 463 sextillion 463 quintillion 374 quadrillion 607 trillion 431 billion 768 million 211 thousand 456.

It’s likely we will never run out of IPv6 addresses.

4.2.1A Record

The A record is an address record. It assigns an IP address to a domain or subdomain, and when a client computer is looking for your website, they will see that the website is at It is good practice to make sure no two A records point to the same IP address.

To enter an A record is simple: go into your registrar’s user panel, click on modify host records or DNS records, and enter the desired IP address. The registrar’s website would then ask for a record type – choose A (Address).

4.2.2AAAA Record

The AAAA record is the 128-bit IPv6 version of the address A record in 32-bit IPv4. AAAA is a mnemonic to indicate that an IPv6 address is four times the size of the IPv4 address. The AAAA record is created to facilitate the transition from an IPv4 Internet to the new IPv6 Internet.

4.2.3NS Record

The NS stands for Name Server. A NS record tells any visitors that the authoritative nameserver for example.com can be found at ns1.example.net. The NS record is especially useful for subdomains that need to be hosted on a different server from the main domain.

4.2.4CNAME Record

The CNAME record, or canonical name record, defines one domain as an alias of another. The aliased domain gets all the subdomains and DNS records of the original domain it’s pointing to.

For example, I can point webhostinggeeks.net towards hostingcult.com with a CNAME record. This would make browsing webhostinggeeks.net the exact same as browsing hostingcult.com. (However, if the redirect is your only objective, then a URL redirect might be a better choice)

A CNAME record is useful for pointing a subdomain to your domain, or to standardize the www and non-www versions of your website. An example for this would be if you were to point a hypothetical blog.google.com towards blogger.com. Set your CNAME record of the subdomain blog towards blogger.com- you’re literally telling visiting machines that blog.google.com is an alias for blogger.com.

4.2.5NS Record

The MX, or mail exchange record, is a DNS record that points to where your email servers for the domain are. The MX record maps a list of mail exchange servers used by the domain, and each MX record points to an email server that’s configured to process mail.

You need not to concern yourself with the MX record unless you’re planning to have @yourdomain.com emails.

4.2.6MX Records

A TXT record allows the webmaster to enter a custom DNS record in the space. There are many other less commonly used DNS records like SOA, SPF, PTR, NAPTR, etc.

4.2.7TXT Records

Strictly speaking, a URL redirect is not a DNS record. However, many DNS providers and registrars provide that option for easy to configure 301 Permanent Redirects from one domain to another. 301 redirects are well known to transfer the domain authority of the old one to the new one for SEO purposes.

4.2.8URL Redirects

Like the URL redirect, TTL is not a DNS record either. TTL stands for time-to-live, and it limits the amount of time DNS information can be cached before it forces a refresh. TTL records are given in seconds, and it is common practice to set it to 24 or 48 hours. A lower TTL can cause extreme loads on an authoritative server, as slave servers and recursors are forced to fetch the same records over and over again.

Webmasters would sometimes lower the TTL before making a DNS record change. This is done to speed up the propagation process.

Beware of domain front-running!

Domain front-running is the act of a registrar reserving or buying a domain name after a user searches for it without buying. Along with domain squatting, some registrars have been accused of doing front-running.

Make sure you’re not a victim by searching ‘[Registrar Name] domain front running’ or ‘[Registrar Name] steals domains’ on Google to find user opinions and complaints about the company.

For added security, only use WHOIS search to determine the availability of a domain unless you intend to buy it. ICANN’s WHOIS search (http://whois.icann.org/) is the most secure for that purpose. An available domain will display “The requested second-level domain was not found in the Registry or Registrar’s WHOIS Server.” When searched.

5Buying and Managing Domains

There are many ways to obtain ownership of the domain you want. In this section, we’ll use yourdomain.com as an example for a domain you desire, and go through the process getting your hands on that domain one step at a time.

Before you can buy a domain name, it is recommended to check the availability of yourdomain.com with a reputable and trustworthy registrar like Namecheap.Domain availability searches allow you to search the most common TLDs at once

5.1Yay! My domain is available!

Congratulations! Once you have determined that your domain is available for purchase, you can approach it in two ways:

5.1.1Buy it through your favourite registrar

Get it for cheaper!Are you buying many domains at a time? Large companies like GoDaddy usually have bulk purchase discounts for 10+ domain names. You can get and renew a .com domain for as low as $8.29/year if you buy more than 100 domain names.

Most domains are bought through a registrar. Simply enter your personal information, pay the registration fee, and the domain Is yours. Make sure to put true, accurate, and up to date information for the WHOIS of the domain, and retain a copy on your hard drive for proof of ownership.

You may also choose to buy the domain at a registrar that’s currently on-sale. Domain prices may go as low as 99 cents for some registrars.

5.1.2Get it for free through a hosting company

Read more here

A web hosting company can sometimes afford to give away domain names for free if you sign up for their hosting. Coupled with the discounts given to new customers, you can often get a domain and a year of shared hosting without breaking the $40 mark. Pretty good deal if you ask us!

The pricings list for a hosting company will show the features, and a free domain is something to brag about for a hosting company.InMotion Hosting’s features and price list

On of our best sellers. See over 1200 customer reviews of Inmotion here.

This method is only useful if you are looking to buy a single domain, however. More expensive hosting packages will include unlimited add-on domains and websites, so it becomes uneconomical to buy hosting packages for the sake of free domains.

5.2No! Someone else already owns the domain I want!

Even if your domain is currently owned by someone else, there is still a chance you can buy it using the following methods.

5.2.1Buy it at expiry

Domain name registrations will all expire sometime in the future. You can see the expiry date and registrar used by searching the domain’s WHOIS data.

If the domain name you’re interested in doesn’t point to a website, nor is it being auctioned off, then there is a high chance that the current owner will not renew the domain when time comes. This is certainly good news for you, but it does not mean you can buy the domain the day it expires.

There is a set of mechanisms that an expired domain will go through, for the owner and registrar’s benefit. Before a domain name is released to the wild (pre-release), most domains go through these 6 steps:

Step 1: Domain registration expiry

If the owner does not renew the domain before the expiration date, domain will enter into a status of RENEWAL GRACE PERIOD. The domain will remain in this status for about a week. This means that the registrar is holding the domain for the owner, and he/she may renew the domain name without competition or any additional fees.

Domains in this stage will still be considered expired, and the expired status will be available to the public

Step 2: End of grace period

At the end of the RENEWAL GRACE PERIOD, the expired domain is then placed under the REGISTRAR HOLD status. This status means the registrar technically holds ownership of the domain, and may offer the original owner his/her domain back for an additional fee. The registrar may also hold auctions to sell the domain to the highest bidder at this stage.

While GoDaddy only auctions their own expired domain names, other registrars have agreements with domain auction services like SnapNames and NameJet. Under this status, anyone may bid on the domain, and as long as the original owner does not renew the domain name, the auction winner will receive the domain name at the end of the REGISTRAR HOLD period.

Step 3: Nobody made a bid – closeout/fire sale

At the end of the expired domain auction, if nobody bids on the domain and the original owner did not renew it, then some registrars will attempt to sell it at a discounted buy-it-now price. Not all registrars do this, and some will release it to the registry right after an auction ends without a bid.

When you buy a domain name at a firesale you still have to wait for the REGISTRAR HOLD period to end. Technically, the original owner can still regain their possession of the domain.

Step 4: Domain name returns to the registry

At the end of the REGISTRAR HOLD period, the domain is released to the registry. The registry will put the domain on a status of REDEMPTIONPERIOD for a maximum of 30 days. During this time the domain cannot be modified – it is also removed from the DNS database rendering the website inaccessible.

Only the original owner may claim the domain during the REDEMPTIONPERIOD, usually for a fee.

Step 5: Almost free – Pending Deletion

After the expiration of the registry’s redemption period, the domain name will be PENDINGDELETE for 5 days, as a buffer zone before it is released. During this time nothing can happen to the domain in question, and the website that it is supposed to point to will be inaccessible. The owner cannot re-claim the name at the PENDINGDELETE period.

Step 6: Deletion

The moment a domain name comes off of the PENDINGDELETE status, it is dropped from all registry records and is available to the public. (Aka released into the wild). A registry will usually release their deleted domains in batches once per day.

While it is possible to wait until deletion to snatch up an expired domain, it is highly unlikely that the domain is still available at that time. It is best to participate in expired domain auctions or closeout sale to get the domain of your dreams.

If your domain is not yet expired, you can put a backorder on the domain in anticipation of the expiry. GoDaddy has a system where you bid on a domain by backordering. It does not guarantee that you’ll get the domain and nor does it guarantee that it’ll expire in the first place, but it doesn’t hurt to try: you’ll get a full refund if you don’t buy through the backorder.

www.expireddomains.net is a good place to find expired, auction, closeout, or deleted domains and to organize them by pagerank or number of backlinks.GoDaddy backorder

5.2.2Buy it through public auction




If your desired domain has no intention of expiring, you can still buy it if the owner is selling it on public domain auction websites. Check the domain name on all of these popular domain auction websites to see if it is for sale.

A particular domain name’s value can only be determined by you, but beware that an auction can go into the hundred thousand range for a valuable domain.

To learn how to value a domain name, see our guide here.

5.2.3Submit an offer to the owner

This is the only option of obtaining a domain name if it’s not expiring or for sale. Depending on the offering price, the domain owner/webmaster may be open to negotiating for their domain. Find the owner’s contact information by querying the WHOIS information of the domain – the owner is usually listed under the registrant.

5.3Managing a domain portfolio

Once you become the proud owner of the domain you want, you must manage it a few times a year. This is usually composed of simple tasks like updating the WHOIS information so that it stays current, changing DNS records as needed, and making sure to renew the domain so it does not expire.

5.3.1I own a few domains

If you own one or two domain names it is likely you got them for free from your hosting provider. As mentioned before, hosting providers usually give a year of free domain registration for new customers.

For managing one or two domains, and you like their hosting services, you should leave them with your hosting company. This option is good for a few domains because you can manage hosting and domain information with the same login. This way you don’t have to go through the messy process of transferring a domain to another registrar.

The downside to leaving your domains with your webhost is that they make it difficult to transfer the domain away from them. This is done in an effort to keep you as a customer. If you’re not planning to continue with the current hosting company, then it’s best to transfer your domain to another registrar when you can. Hosting companies’ do often charge more for domain renewal compared to registrars like GoDaddy – usually around $15 per year to renew.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular hosting providers in 2016.

5.3.2I own a lot of domains

After months of domain hunting, you now own 100 valuable domain names. How on earth can you manage that many domains at the same time?

Your domain registrar will usually provide a good suite of tools to manage a large portfolio of domain names. The registrar is required by ICANN to email domain owners at least twice before their domain expires, and registrars have automatic renewal programs where you check a box and the registrar automatically renews your domain. Domain registrars usually also have options to bulk edit DNS records and nameservers, and to bulk modify WHOIS information.

Want more data and options? Domain management software is perfect for the dedicated domain owner. Domain management software like Watch My Domains or DomainMOD has a wealth of features including scheduled tasks, analytics, bulk modification etc.

6Glossary of Terms

Domain/ Domain NameIdentifying name that points to a website in the form of domain.tld
DNSDomain Name System
TLDTop Level Domain
gTLDGeneric Top Level Domain
ccTLDCountry Code Top Level Domain
ICANNInternet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
IDNInternationalized Domain Name
URLUniform Resource Locator
HTMLHypertext Markup Language
WWWWorld Wide Web
FTPfile transfer protocol
Registry (operator)ICANN accredited operator of a specific TLD
Registry (file / database)Information about all domains under a specific TLD
RegistrarCompanies accredited by registries and ICANN to be able to sell domains
Name server / nameserverServer that contains DNS information
ExpiryDomain that was not renewed by the expiry date
DeletionDomain released into the wild
Domain SquattingThe act of holding valuable domain names until someone buys it
WHOIS(Who Is) Public information about the ownership and status of a domain name
(WHOIS) EscrowEntrusting a copy of WHOIS information with a third party – as required by ICANN for registrars and to ensure data security
SSLSecure Socket Layer – an encryption protocol
IPInternet Protocol Address
IPv4IP version 4: 32-bit IP
IPv6IP version 6: 128-bit IP
AAddress Record
AAAAIPv6 Address Record
NSName Server Record
MXMail Exchange Record
CNAMECanonical Name/ Alias Record
301 RedirectPermanent redirect
Web HostingProviding storage space for websites