E-Commerce Fundamentals (I) - Domain Name - Establishing Your Presence in the Internet

Do you need a website or web pages ? Three years back, a straight answer could have been difficult, but not today. It is unequivocal 'Yes' for most businesses, specially those who are seriously considering e-commerce.

Owning a website is considerably easier and cheaper today than it was even a few years back. It is also quite cost effective to have a website-catalog than printed one. In this article we discuss the first step in marking your presence in the Internet - your own domain name.

What is domain name ?

A domain is a unique identity on the Net - something like brand name or trademark. However, what makes it different from trademark or brand name is that the domain name is also your address in the Net. Every registered domain name has a unique number associated with it called IP (Internet Protocol) Number, using which a computer can locate your website from million others. For example, 'infobanc.com' is a domain name and its corresponding IP number is While we humans find it difficult to remember long numbers, computers can communicate only through numbers. So the dual use of domain name and number make the identification process simpler for both human and computer.

How does the Identification Process Work ?

You enter an Internet address or URL (Universal Resource Locator) http://www.infobanc.com Now - http stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. This is the protocol, or set of instructions, the browser is to use to handle what's coming up. What's coming will be hypertext, thus the need for hypertext transfer protocol. That makes sense. "://" is some leftover UNIX command which means "everything that follows should be handled this way." Put the two together and you can see that the beginning is saying "The following address is to be handled using hypertext transfer protocol." "www.infobanc.com" is the actual address. In Internet lingo it's the URL (Universal Resource Locator).

Now what does the computer do to identify that part of Internet known as 'infobanc.com' ? Somewhere between you and the site you want to find is something called a DNS server. That stands for a Domain Name Server. It has a really, really long list of domain names and the corresponding IP numbers. Usually, the ISP that you have your page on, has its own DNS server. If not, they are attached to one close by. The DNS server reads the text you put in, changing that text into the corresponding IP number, then sends the request off and into cyberspace. Have you ever put in an address and received a message back that the server you requested didn't have a DNS entry? Well, now you know what that means. The DNS server can't find a number that lines up with the text you entered.

Who Allots these Numbers ?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a technical coordination body for the Internet. Created in October 1998 by a broad coalition of the Internet's business, technical, academic, and user communities, ICANN coordinates the assignment of domain name and corresponding IP numbers.

How do I Register a Domain name ?

First of all, you need to find out whether the domain name you want for your business is available. whois database, available with every domain registrar, helps you find the domain names available for your business.

Once you decide the domain name, visit any of ICANN accredited Registrars. The worldwide list of ICANN accredited Rregistrars is available at http://www.icann.org/registrars/accreditation-qualified-list.html

The fee varies from USD 10 to 35 per year, depending upon the registrar you select. If you wish to pay in Indian Rupee, select an Indian Registrar. The Domain Name Buyer's Guide at http://www.domainnamebuyersguide.com performs the service of ranking these registrars on the basis of price and the terms of their contracts. The site also includes Consumer Alerts about particular issues of concern to those choosing a registrar.

Key Points to Remember While Registering a Domain Name

  • There are several top level domain (TLD) names like .com .net .org .biz .name etc. However, the most desirable and sought after are the .com domain names. If you are unable to get a satisfactory .com domain name - try .biz (business)

  • An interesting feature of web-based business is that, for the most part your address is your name. So, if your company is 'Durga Exports', prefer domain name durgaexports.com or durga-exports.com

  • Though long domain names are acceptable now, select a name not longer than 8 characters. If its long, break it up with '-' (e.g. glass-beads) or a number 'ties4family'

  • Always make sure that you and only you are the 'owner' of the domain name. Each domain name has multiple contacts associated with it - make sure that you are the 'Administrative Contact' and 'Billing Contact'. Your consultant or ISP could be the 'Technical Contact' but certainly not 'Administrative Contact' or 'Billing Contact'.

  • If you wish to change your Registrar, you can always do so.

Related Links:

Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol II, Issue 17; September 26' 2001

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at amit@infobanc.com )

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