If you wish to establish a website, this implies that you need a domain name. A domain is a human-memorable name that you write in your web browser's location bar when you would like to go to a given web site.
Why Do You Require a Domain Name?
This is a topic I bring up because this past week my boss proposed the idea of setting up a site for our new project. That itself is not an issue, the issue is that he needs a site, but has not reached a decision yet about what it should look like, what it should consist of, etc. All that he mentioned to me was the name of the website - its domain name. Thus, we now have an address for a yet-to-be-built web site and nothing else.
The Domain Name
Each website is hosted on a physical machine. That physical machine has its own physical address, known also as an IP address. Reaching a website by writing the IP of the physical server in your browser, however, is not the best and most appropriate thing to do, so that was how and why domains came into existence. Thus, a domain pertains to an IP on the Internet. After it has been registered, that is.
Registering a Domain
To register a domain, you first need to pick a domain name registrar. FreeHostia.com offers an optimal solution for my present and future projects - they offer a Domain Manager plan, which can be easily upgraded to a hosting plan at a later time - when my boss eventually makes up his mind about what purpose the web site will serve.
Hence, to register a domain name, you need to pick a name for your website. After that, you need to pick a top-level domain name - this is what follows the dot. For example, in 'ask.com', '.com' is the Top-Level Domain (TLD). Apparently, '.com' is an abbreviation for 'company', '.net' is an abbreviation for 'network', '.org' is an abbreviation for 'organization', and so on.
After you've selected your domain name and your future domain name registrar, you have to verify whether the domain you wish to register is available for registration, since someone else might have taken it already, no matter how embarrassing it might be. Each registrar, including FreeHostia.com, offers a search tool at their sign-up page, which checks the availability of a given domain name. To move ahead with the registration of a domain name, you have to fill out some registrant information - the name, the place of residence, the mail address and the phone number of the domain's owner.
You've Registered a Domain... Now What?
I registered .com, .net, .org and .biz domain names for our venture, according to the request of my still-hesitant-about-the-purpose-of-the-future-site boss. I tried out the domain administration dashboard FreeHostia.com is offering and found it extremely convenient - everything is logically organized and, from what I noticed in the Control Panel demo at their web site, once we upgrade to a shared web hosting plan, it will stay the same, just with a lot more features. This, thank heavens, will save me quite a bit of discomfort from having to manage my domain name and web site hosting account separately. So, while waiting for the boss to determine at least what the website should comprise, I was pleased to discover that the domain administration interface contains DNS administration and domain renewal options, and - a very convenient feature (!) - a parked domain template, which I used in order to create a "Coming Soon" page for our domains.
I was quite happy to find that FreeHostia.com is offering plenty of country-specific Top-Level Domains, as the project the site is meant for is international. Country-specific top-level domain names are handed over to domestic registries, which allow domain name registration providers to register domain names, typically at rates that are lower than those offered to the end clients. There are different country-code domain names: .co.uk for the UK, .me for Montenegro, .de for Germany, .us for the United States, .ca for Canada, .com.au for Australia, etc. This, I believe, will make my boss happy since we will be able to set up a local version of the web site for each country where the project will be presented.