Organizations which handle domain name registration
All names for the .com, .org, .edu, and .net top level domains are registered with the InterNIC (InterNetwork Information Center). The InterNIC installs all domain information into the DNS (domain name system) root server every day, so it controls all names deriving from those root servers.
While the four TLDs handled by the InterNIC constitute the most popular domains, they are not the only ones. .gov is handled by the Governmentwide Registrations Services Home Page for US Federal Government civilian agencies, and the Department of Defense Network Information Center for US military agencies. Every country, including the United States, also has a two-letter country code that can serve as a TLD for domains from that nation; more information on registrations by country codes is in the InterNIC FAQ.
The rest of this document will explain registration procedures for the InterNIC only.
Overview of the registration process
The following flowchart (from the InterNIC's registration services site) illustrates the basic process:
To give the process an everyday, physical-world analogy, we can liken the process to creating a new building and giving it a street address.
Finding an acceptable domain name
All domain names must be unique for the same reason street addresses must be unique: if two entities share the same name (or two buildings share the same address), it would be impossible to distinguish them for the purpose of delivering things. The InterNIC provides a web-based search to determine if a domain name is currently being used. The search is much like looking in a street address directory. All domains are stored in the database, and as part of preparing to register a new domain, registrants can and should look up their desired domain to determine is acceptable and available.
Note as well that there are restrictions to acceptable domain names. Names may be at most 26 characters, including the TLD. The second level domain (e.g., nba in nba.com) must consist of alphanumeric characters and hyphens. Similarly, street addresses tend to be restricted to numbers and letters. Domain names registered with the InterNIC consist only of the second and first level domains, since third and higher level domains are simply sub-divisions of the second level domain. For a building, it would be unnecessary to check that any given room or floor in the building would generate a valid name, since those are just subdivisions of the building itself.
Some examples as of March 14, 1998:
Other required preparation
In addition to finding the desired domain name, a registrant must find two sources of domain name service for the new domain. This would be analogous to finding street directories which were willing to list a new building. Without domain name service, it would be impossible to reliably contact the new domain. The InterNIC requires two for safety: should one server at any time be unavailable, it wants to know that a second will do the job.
Registering the domain name
Once preparations are completed, the registrant must electronically submit the registration form to the InterNIC. This is done via email; however, the InterNIC has provided both step-by-step and single page web interfaces to simplify the process. The registration form requests the domain name; the registrant's data (name, address, and plans for the domain); information for the administrative, techn ical, and billing contacts; and name server data.
If there are any errors, then the InterNIC will not process the request. If the error is one of a number of common errors (for example, omitting contact information), it will automatically return the form with an explanation. Otherwise, someone at the Int erNIC will contact the registrant to complete the form.
If the form is correct, then the InterNIC will automatically process the request and notify the registrant.
Network Solutions, Inc., the company that handles domain name registration for the InterNIC, has also established WorldNIC. WorldNIC is a commercial website which offers basic registration services (basically takes the registrant's information and regi sters with the InterNIC), as well as additional registration services (which consists of acting as temporary DNS and administrative, technical and billing contact on a registrant's behalf, until he or she has found a permanent Internet service provider).
Another company, Internic Software (not afilliated with the InterNIC), has established a similar site to WorldNIC's, and provides essentially the same services.
Paying for the domain name
The InterNIC charges $100 for each domain name registered. This reserves the name for two years. After that, it charges $50 per year to renew the registration. Of this money, 70% is kept by NSI to pay for operation costs, and 30% is spent on the "intellectual infrastructure of the Internet."
The other two services mentioned above essentially collect information from the registrant, register the service with the InterNIC on the user's behalf, and add some other services. Thus, for all of their prices, $100 of the cost is paid to the InterNIC.
WorldNIC charges $110 for its basic service, and $149 for the additional services. Internic Software charges $250 for its service.