The Fundamental Knowledge Needed to Expand Your Business Online
How easily can new customers find you online? Is your domain name an exact match to your company? How much time have you spent planning your domain name strategy? With 4.66 billion internet users and an increase in domain name registrations by more than 4% year over year, domain names have never been more important to business. A specifically curated set of domains can guide customers to your websites instead of competitors’, and it can ensure a strong defense against trademark infringement.
Organizations inevitably grow to the point where they need to scale up their domain name presence. During this stage it is crucial for them to learn to consolidate their domains and operate them more efficiently. By learning about the domain industry and the key elements of domain name management, you will be taking the first step towards maximizing the returns of your digital assets.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is your address on the Internet. Without domain names a search query would come up empty. Without domain names your email would never reach its intended destination.
There are three main parts of a domain name – the top level, the second level, and the sub level.
- Top-Level Domain (TLD) – The portion of the domain name right of the dot. E.g., ‘.com’ in fairwindspartners.com.
- Second-Level Domain – The specific name that represents the website, and usually reflects the registrant’s organization, brand, service, or industry. E.g., ‘fairwindspartners’ in fairwindspartners.com.
- Subdomain – An add-on to a domain name, which directs to a separate part of the website. E.g., ‘blog’ in blog.fairwindspartners.com.
The four categories of TLDs are:
- Legacy TLD – Original TLDs with widespread use, including .COM, .ORG, and .NET.
- Generic TLD (gTLD) – Subsequent TLDs that often add additional details to a domain name, including .LAWYER, .CLUB, and .SHOP.
- .Brand gTLD – TLDs that are owned by a specific organization and usually relate to a specific brand. The organization can choose to restrict outside registrants from registering a domain (closed TLD) or allow external registration (open TLD). E.g., .GOOGLE, .APPLE, and .WALMART.
- Country Code TLD (ccTLD) – TLD that is operated by a country’s national registry, and indicates that the domain is intended for use in that area. E.g., .UK, .CN, and .MX.
Internet Timeline 1971 – Present
As the timeline below illustrates, the Internet started with the introduction of emails that needed an address or a domain name to go to.
Who Makes Up The Domain Name World?
How Do You Manage Domain Names?
Your set of domain names, known as a domain portfolio, needs to be actively managed by a Domain Name Administrator. Your organization should set a strategy for domain registrations and acquisitions, and ensure that they are renewed at the end of their lifespan. Once the domains are added to their portfolio, they should resolve or redirect to a specific website in order to display the desired content.
Register – Initial purchase of an available domain name for a set period (usually one to two years).
Renewal – Agreement to pay for continued ownership of a domain, for one to ten years.
Transfer – Movement of a domain name from one registrar to another for a fee.
Acquisition – Purchase of a registered domain from the current registrant.
Lapse – The removal of a domain name from a registrant’s portfolio due to lack of renewal.
Redirect – Setting a domain name to send the user to a different, specified domain.
Modification – A change made to a domain record, e.g., updates to contacts or DNS records.
Drop Catch (AKA Snapback) – The auto-registration of a domain name the moment it becomes available due to its non-renewal and deletion.
What is the Life Cycle of a Domain?
What is a Registrar?
Domain Name Administrators must interact with companies known as registrars to register, renew, or transfer their domain names. There are two types of registrars:
- Retail Registrar – A lower cost registrar that only provides basic services.
- Corporate Registrar – Provides a dedicated account manager to manage client portfolios, for a higher price.
Registrars execute domain actions, and charge a price for each domain. There are two main pricing methods:
- Standard – A set price charged for the majority of available domains in a TLD.
- Premium – A higher price that a registry operator can charge for specific domains, which are perceived as more valuable. This often applies to two- or three-letter domain names, or generic terms like “cars” or “paris”.
Commonly Used Domain Name Terms and Definitions
By expanding your knowledge of the key principles of the domain industry, you will form a greater understanding of the context in which your domain portfolio exists.
A Record – The most basic type of DNS record. Used to point a domain or subdomain to an IP address.
DNS (Domain Name System) – If a web browser does not have the address for a domain that it queries, it contacts the DNS which provides the address. The majority of domain names are registered in the DNS.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – Law implemented in 2018 that expanded domain owner’s abilities to protect their personal data.
Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) – Web address in a language or character sets other than English/ASCII.
IP (Internet Protocol) Address – A unique numerical identifier assigned to every device that accesses the internet.
- IPv4 – Addresses with a 32-bit format, generally used on older machines. The length of the codes provides a finite number of addresses (~4.3 billion), which is lower than the current number of devices on the internet.
- IPv6 – 128-bit addresses that were implemented to resolve the demand for additional IP addresses. They additionally include security and privacy improvements.
Name Server – A server that stores DNS records.
Privacy/Proxy Service – Service that domain registrants use to display a third-party as their administrative and technical contacts in the WHOIS database when registering a domain, thus protecting the registrant’s personal information.
Registry Agreement – The formal agreement between ICANN and a TLD applicant that states the rights, duties, liabilities, and obligations of registry operators.
Restricted TLD – TLD where a specific requirement (e.g., location or business interest) is needed to register a domain.
Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) – A process for to resolve domain name registration disputes. It is often used in cases of trademark or copyright infringement.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL) – A web address that specifies the location of a web page, file transfer, or email address. E.g., http://www.fairwindspartners.com.
WHOIS – A query and response protocol used for querying databases that store information on internet resources, including domain names and IP addresses. Queries return information such as domain registrant, administrator, etc.
Zone File – A text file that describes a DNS zone and contains mappings between domain names and IP addresses.