Who regualtes DOMAINS on websites?

I wish to start my own website to start a business here in China. I research how to do this on the internet and I come across services that charge a “fee” (how I hate this word) to register a “domain” name. I take it a DOMAIN name is a www.@@@.com.

The last place I researched wanted to charge me a monthly rate for doing this. Why do I have to pay anyone if I have the expertise? If I know how to do design this website myself (I don’t), why should I pay these companies anything?

Who or what regulates who and what has and keeps domain names?

You need to pay a fee to have exclusive rights to use a .com or .biz domain name (or any domain name, for that matter). People need to keep your name in the registry and put your record in the DNS servers.

You don’t if you don’t want to use a domain name, in which case your website is just the IP of your server.

You’re basically renting the use of the name. A registry was required to keep track of the names, as well as to rigidly determine who possesses teh right to use the name for their website - basically, it is first come first served, though some countries differ on that.

Each country has their own official registry groups that are delegated from a main group whose name I forget. It’s possibly one of the best organised aspects of the whole net.

As GuanoLad mentions, the registration of a domain name boils down to something quite akin to renting. It is a two-step process:

  • you register the domain through your ISP (Internet Service Provider) with the appropriate registry organization for the TLD (=Top Level Domain=suffix, such as .com or .uk) of your choice.
  • you sign a hosting contract with an ISP to ‘host’ your website on their servers, and notify the registry organization that your website www.blah.com can be found at IP-address a.b.c.d. (the address should be provided to you by your ISP).

The Top organization that rules everything is ICANN
As you can see here, only so-called Registrars are allowed to submit registrations. Most major ISP’s are Registrars. For other TLDs see this page, in particular the top box.

Any questions left?

Sorry, I should have read the OP more carefully.

The monthly fee that the ISP wants is comprised of two components:
[li]hosting the website,[/li][li]administration fees for administrating (sp?) your domain name.[/li][/ul]
The last part is bogus; these costs should be negligible (sp?) but unfortunately you need a Registrar for communicating with ICANN or other TLD administration organisation. The first part is significant: the ISP has to provide space on a server, take care of backups, proper performance (bandwidth) and security measures. That you have to pay a fee for this is not unfair.

The fee therefore is not primarily for building the website but for hosting it, providing space and bandwidth on a server.

If you do not like this, you can try contacting a Registrar for only administrating your domain name, then set up your own server and do the hosting yourself. I’m not really sure how to do this, but I have heard individuals (other than companies) do this.

The cost of registering a domain name varies from company to company (and domain) from $10 per year on up, usually for an initial two years.

Hosting can vary from free (with ads) on up depending on web site size and amount of data transfer, hits or ftp requests.

If you have dial up there is even a domain service (hn.org) that will direct request for your domain to you when you are online and give a standard away message when you are offline.

Domain Names come in two main forms, generic top level domains (gTLDs) which consist of com/net/org/biz/info/name domains and country code top level domains (ccTLDs) of which there are about 250 including .uk (United Kingdom), .de (Germany) etc.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the governing board that regulates the basic workings of the Internet, assigning IP numbers and domain names. For example it was ICANN that authorized the newer gTLDs such as biz and info.

The domain name system consists of registries (the organizations that manage the database for a particular TLD), registrars (organizations that are authorized to register a domain name) and registrants (the slobs like you and me who register them). The almost similiar names are really annoying and confusing but that is what is used.

A seperate registry is generally responsible for each TLD. The main exception is the com/net TLDs which is run by Verisign (because it bought the Network Solutions monopoly) They also used to run org but that transition to another group at the start of 2003. The .cn TLD (for china) is run by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Most of the ccTLDs are run by non-profit/academic centers although a few such as .tv, .cc and .ws are run as for-profits. Most ccTLDs have a requirement of some kind of “nexus” with a country (physically being there, registered as a business, etc) but it differs with each one.

By far and away .com is the most popular TLD (~22 Million) vs the next .de (~6 million). It is very easy to find a registrar with which to register a .com domain and they will charge you anywhere from $8.95 to $35 a year to do so. It is perfectally possible to register a domain (at least gTLDs) directly with a registrar without involving an ISP at all.

Generally what you get for that amount is the “rights” to a domain for one year. You can generally register a domain for lengths up to ten years but out-right ownership is not permitted (although defacto ownership/copyright issues will generally prevent anyone from snagging an accidentally deleted domain).

But having the “right” to a domain does not mean that it is “usable”. To make it work as an email address or website there needs to be properly configured nameservers. This is where an ISP or hosting service comes into play although it is possible to setup your own nameserver if you have the know-how. Basically it means getting an entry in a database so that when someone types www.mynewdomain.com into a browser the Internet will know the proper IP address ( to go to. The Internet could function perfectly well without domain names and rely on IP addresses but we humans would find it a bit more difficult to remember and use.

Some registrars provide a number of services when registering a domain name such as hosting and nameservice…generally you have to pay for this though. My own domains are with gandi.net (the 7 or 8th largest registrar) and they will provide email forwarding and web aliases (which makes the domain name usable) for free. It is not a true nameserver setup tho. If you want to set up a e-commerce website and be taken seriously (not look too much like a small time operation) you need to spring for a hosting service which start at around $100 a year.

Hope this helps…