Opinions differ widely on how to select a
domain name. One thing that is clear is that research should
be done so as not to infringe on the trademark of others as
registering a domain name does not necessarily confer the
legal right to use it. This lack of understanding has caused
some domain holders to relinquish their domains. see more
in the dispute section.
It is probably best if the domain name is
similar to the business name. That will reduce confusion among
potential customers, and they may be able to guess at the
domain if they become acquainted with your business name.
Some people suggest keeping it short, but that can cause complications
of its own, for you and others. It is probably better to use
full words and have a domain name similar to what people would
pronounce, than to worry about brevity.
For example. Dacor Computer Systems registered
the domain dacor.com rather than one more accurate, like dacorcomputers.com
or dacorcomputersystems.com when the Dacor corporation (a
manufacturer of scuba diving equipment) finally got around
to registering a domain name, they selected divedacor.com
since dacor.com was taken. It might be possible that if they
chose to pursue legal avenues, they might be able to force
Dacor Computer Systems to release dacor.com since Dacor it
is the corporate name of Dacor Inc. and they might have a
more valid claim to dacor.com than Dacor Computer Systems.
If the business name has not been established
yet, or may be changed to match the domain name, we suggest
choosing as unique a name as possible. That can help make
it a trademark and eliminate the need to register it under
every county code TLD, and every possible variation of spelling.
Otherwise, someone may hyphenate your domain name, use an
underscore, a plural version, or some other permutation for
It might not be possible for you to choose
a unique name. In that case, you may want to register variations
of it so that no one else may benefit from your efforts in
publicizing your site. For instance, in our earlier example
of frenchwines.com, variations include frenchwine.com, french-wine.com,
french_wine.com, french-wines.com, and french_wines.com, as
well as the .net and .org domains. These could be pointed
to the same site as frenchwines.com so that entering any of
these variations would direct users to the same location.
Who owns them
That is partly dependent on who you use as
a registrar and whether it infringes on any trademark. Assuming
you've done your homework and chosen a name that no one else
can lay claim to, choose your registrar wisely. Some, including
Network Solutions (NSI), the only choice of registrar for
years (until 1999), have restrictions in their fine print
that make it clear that you do not own your domain name, that
they do. NSI is being taken to court over not releasing expired
domain names and auctioning them instead.
It is possible to transfer domains from one
domain to another, and we suggest you do so if yours are presently
at NSI or any other registrar with oppressive policies. Most
are also less expensive, and they improve greatly on the ease
with which changes and registrations can be made. We like
000domains.com for their low prices, convenient control panel,
free services, and fair policies. When you register with them,
you own your domain name and they have no claim upon it.
There are many other registrars now, and some
match these policies. Just be sure to read all the terms before
you use them. Don't be taken in by the low price specials
some registrars have for the first year registration. They
may be much more costly than the few dollars you will save
Choosing a registrar
The selection of a registrar is nearly as
important as the selection of a host. As with a host, you
can't shop by price and promises alone. You can pay a lot
(up to $35 a year) and get poor service, and you can pay very
little and get poor service.
Network Solutions (NSI), was the only registrar
for years and probably still has the bulk of the registrations,
at least more than any single registrar. Many people have
reported difficulties in changing to a new host when the e-mail
address of the admin contact was no longer available. This
is because the most common way of verification for requested
changes is by verifying the e-mail address of the sender.
This could have been avoided if the domain holder had selected
one of the other 2 verification methods, password or PGP encryption.
However, many did not and have difficulties effecting change.
The faxing of documents as an alternative is fraught with
delay and problems of its own.
Some of the newer registrars are even worse,
even if cheaper. Alldns.com, as an example, was totally unprepared
for handling an important activity like domain registrations.
Submissions were made to them and neither an error message
nor acknowledgment was received. You could lose domain names
waiting to find out what happened if someone registered them
first. Furthermore, they have a departure fee of $20 (if you
transfer to another registrar) that is not disclosed when
you register with them. Their registration fee of $12.75 seems
overpriced for the poor service they give.
That is what makes registrars like Open SRS
so attractive. They have many RSPs (essentially, sales agents)
that all tie in to their online Domain Manager. When you register
through any of their RSPs, you are really opening an account
with Open SRS (owned by TUCOWS) and can access Domain Manager
from any RSP's site, or directly at Open SRS,
You can register a domain and not even have
a host selected yet. They park the domain on their servers
by default (provide the server technical information). You
can log in at any time and change any information, from the
registrant to the contacts and server host information. If
you change the registrant (say you incorporate), many registrars
will charge you to do so. With an Open SRS registration, you
can change even that at no additional cost.
Furthermore, any changes you make can be acknowledged
instantly while you are online. There is no more waiting and
wondering if it will go through. The Open SRS RSP we use and
recommend is reghub.com. The service is excellent (fast response
to e-mails - under 30 minutes when we contacted them), and,
at $15.95, the price is right. There are other registrars
that charge less, and some have 1 year low prices to entice
you to sign up for them. Just be sure you know what you are
getting into (and what you're not getting) when you sign up
with any registrar.
Disputes over names
We mentioned disputed domain names earlier.
The organization in charge of domain names, ICANN - The Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has a Uniform Domain-Name
Dispute-resolution policy (UDRp). They may be able to help
in the case of some disputes. For others, it may be necessary
to consult an attorney familiar with trademark law. It is
a complex issue and every case is different. Many problems
have been caused by people and organizations shortening their
names to one word and then problems arise when another entity
with the same first word in their business name claims infringement.
What's in a name? To trademark attorneys,
a fair amount of money. Choose wisely, and not too briefly.
Registering under other TLDs
There is no doubt that ICANN has moved much
too slowly in creating new TLDs, and in managing the present
ones. They are years behind. There may be new ones in January
2001, but it is still not certain. In the meantime, registrars
for specific country codes have been doing their best to convince
people to register under their country code domains as well.
They are not advertised as country code TLDs, but that is
what they are. Possibly the first was .cc (Cocos Island),
followed by .ws (Samoa), advertised as World Site, .hm (heard
and McDonald islands), advertised as Home Site, and others.
Moldavia/Moldava, holder of the .md domain, registers doctors
at a hefty premium.
Network Solutions is authorized for several
countries, and they try to convince people to register under
each, at $199 each. That's almost $600 per country
per year, as they recommend registering under the
.com. .net. and .org domains with the country code appended.
That would be thousands of dollars a year to register your
domain name under every possible permutation for every country
Is it worth it? For small and medium size
businesses, we don't think so. The money can be much better
spent elsewhere. Some of these registrars will point out that
major corporations like Intel are registering under country
code domains and suggesting you do so as well. It might make
sense for corporations like Intel. They have trademarks like
Pentium to protect and registering the domains is cheaper
than legal costs over a trademark infringement. It also helps
protect their reputation by ensuring that they retain control
over any domain with the name Pentium or Intel in it. They
also have the money to afford these multiple registrations.
For small businesses, however, it would make
more sense to register under some of the forthcoming TLDs
than bother with the country code TLDs that are a solution
in search of a problem. They are a source of income for small
countries rather than a legitimate need for businesses. Any
hope of them establishing themselves will be dashed by the
new TLD's due in a few months (January 2001), and at much
more affordable rates.
Looking up Trademarks
While not a substitute for a thorough trademark
search, the following links may be helpful in eliminating
some domain names from consideration that might infringe on